Madman in Chief

By Dokoupil, Tony | Newsweek, August 8, 2011 | Go to article overview

Madman in Chief


Dokoupil, Tony, Newsweek


Byline: Tony Dokoupil

Was Richard Nixon too normal? Abraham Lincoln exceptionally deranged? Why we should look for a little bit of crazy in our leaders.

By now, the 2012 Republican presidential contenders have all been tattooed by the opposition, branded as boring, damaged, or even insane. The entire GOP is "barking mad," as The New Republic recently put it, and the party's White House hopefuls display what The New Yorker calls "crackles of craziness." This kind of talk flows both ways, of course. But what if the big problem with Washington--the real reason that voters are responding with a mixture of disappointment and panic--isn't nuttiness so much as a lack of it?

That's one takeaway from A First-Rate Madness, a new book of psychiatric case studies by Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center. He argues that what sets apart the world's great leaders isn't some splendidly healthy mind but an exceptionally broken one, coupled with the good luck to lead when extremity is needed. "Our greatest crisis leaders toil in sadness when society is happy," writes Ghaemi. "Yet when calamity occurs, if they are in a position to act, they can lift up the rest of us."

If so, then what we need for these calamitous times is a calamitous mind, a madman in chief, someone whose abnormal brain can solve our abnormal problems. Perhaps the nicotine-free, no-drama Obama won't do after all (although, by phone, Ghaemi acknowledges "a little more abnormality there than is advertised"). The good doctor isn't saying that all mental illness is a blessing. Only that the common diseases of the mind--mania, depression, and related quirks--shouldn't disqualify one from the upper echelons of public life, and for a simple reason: they are remarkably consistent predictors of brilliant success.

Ghaemi isn't the first to claim that madness is a close relative of genius, or even the first to extend the idea into politics. But he does go further than others, finding sickness in business leaders (CNN founder Ted Turner), social activists (Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi), and military commanders (Union Army Gen. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Madman in Chief
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.