Crazy Talk

Why Antics by Several Republicans Suggest the Party Needs Therapy

One Republican congressman threatened a reporter with bodily harm. Another quit after admitting to cocaine addiction. Then there’s Chris Christie. Does this party need a shrink?

Just when you think that Republican officials can’t do anything more self-destructive to their own party, they prove that we have underestimated them. How did RNC Chairman Reince Priebus respond to this recent avalanche of bad GOP conduct, ranging from a congressman threatening to throw a reporter off a balcony to insensitive comments about women, gays, and blacks? Did he become outraged with the people who committed these wrongs?

Nope. Instead, he announced a boycott of MSNBC. Why? Because Priebus was allegedly upset over this MSNBC tweet: “Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family.”

This tweet didn’t even mention the Republican Party, but I guess Priebus has become the protector of all things “right wing” in America. (MSNBC did apologize Thursday.)

So what’s Priebus’s real goal with the MSNBC boycott? To me, it’s twofold: first, to get the media glare off the Republican hit parade of asinine blunders; and second, to get MSNBC to stop its daily skewering of Gov. Chris Christie. Keep in mind, this wouldn’t be the first time Priebus tried to bully the media into altering its content. In August, Priebus threatened to ban CNN and NBC from sponsoring any GOP presidential debates in 2016 unless they dropped their plans to broadcast programming about Hilary Clinton. Both networks did ultimately surrender to Priebus’s demands.

If Priebus truly wants to help his party, he should think beyond politicals and address the psychological problems that are causing the self-destructive behavior by certain Republicans. Maybe an intervention or GOP group therapy is needed?

And I’m being serious. In fact, I reached out to Dr. Jack Foehl, a Boston-based psychoanalyst about this very issue. Dr. Foehl was generous enough to offer his professional opinion regarding whether the GOP is manifesting symptoms consistent with a psychological disorder.

Before I reveal the doctor’s diagnosis, let’s take a quick look at just some of the recent antics by several Republican elected officials.

On Tuesday, Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) threatened to injure, and arguably even kill, NY1 reporter Michael Scotto, who asked a question about a federal investigation into Grimm’s 2010 campaign. In response to this question, Grimm stormed out of the interview. Moments later, he returned and angrily told the reporter, “Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony.” Keep in mind that Grimm is a former Marine and an ex-FBI agent, so his threats must be taken seriously. (Of course, this type of behavior may make Grimm a good match for VP with Chris Christie in 2016.)

The day before, Rep. Trey Radel (R-FL) resigned from Congress after his recent guilty plea to cocaine possession. Radel, who has sought counseling, had been arrested for buying drugs from an undercover DEA agent.

Of course, we can’t forget Gov. Christie and Bridgegate, which also implicates numerous New Jersey Republicans. And, as I wrote this week, we have seen a gaggle of random self-destructive comments by GOP officials since December, from Mike Huckabee’s remarks about women’s libidos to Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA) advocating discrimination against gay Americans.

So what did Dr. Foehl conclude? Well, he noted that “the Republicans have a masochistic relationship with the media,” and they keep repeating the very “thing that brings them pain.” From a clinical point of view, Dr. Foehl opined, this behavior would be labeled as a “self-defeating personality disorder.”

Why do so many Republicans do this, you ask? Dr. Foehl explained that certain people thrive on “negative attention,” adding that “they have learned that the way to connect to other people is through their suffering, through doing just the thing that will bring them ridicule or pain.” (Sounds like Doc just described Sarah Palin, Louie Gohmert, and Michele Bachmann.)

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Is there any hope for the Republicans? Well, Dr. Foehl offered a guarded prognosis. He explained that this condition is “very difficult to treat” because many become attached to just the kinds of painful relationships that keep them in trouble.” He concluded ominously: “In short, they are help-rejecting.”

But all is not lost for the GOP. Bottom line: If Reince Priebus truly wants to help the Grand Old Party, he needs to encourage Republican leaders to act and speak more responsibly—not blame others for their mistakes.

And if GOP leaders need motivation to change, all they need to do is take a look at the polls regarding generic congressional matchups. In mid-December, polls found the Republicans with a five-point lead. But since Bridgegate and the rash of idiotic comments, guess what happened to that lead? It’s gone. New polls show it’s now a dead heat and one recent poll even found the Democrats with a lead.

It’s time for Priebus and the Republican Party to stop living in denial and take responsibility for their actions. If not, the GOP’s chances for electoral success in the 2014-midterm elections will be gone quicker than Rep. Grimm after being asked about a federal investigation into his 2010 campaign.