Monday, February 16, 2004

Tom Delay Shenanigans, part 2
Neocons as a Dysfunctional Family
Bush as a Dry Drunk

[Left brain stuff:] This is an example of a neat trick.  Usually, when there is an issue between branches of government, there is rancor over perceived or alleged violations of the concept of the separation of powers.  One branch accuses the other of a power grab.  Tom DeLay, with his trademark cleverness, is involved in the use of the opposite tactic.  One branch of government voluntarily gave up power  (inappropriately, in my view) to another branch (link via the Agonist, article from Yahoo News):

AP: How the White House Shelved MTBE Ban
Sun Feb 15, 3:01 PM ET

By PETE YOST, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration quietly shelved a proposal to ban a gasoline additive that contaminates drinking water in many communities, helping an industry that has donated more than $1 million to Republicans.

The Environmental Protection Agency (news - web sites)'s decision had its origin in the early days of President Bush (news - web sites)'s tenure when his administration decided not to move ahead with a Clinton-era regulatory effort to ban the clean-air additive MTBE.

The proposed regulation said the environmental harm of the additive leaching into ground water overshadowed its beneficial effects to the air.

The Bush administration decided to leave the issue to Congress, where it has bogged down over a proposal to shield the industry from some lawsuits. That initiative is being led by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.  [...]

methyl tertiary-butyl ether
What they did is take a proposed EPA regulation -- rightly within the purview of the Executive branch -- and transfer the issue to Congress.   I am not sure why this tactic was used.  It may have had something to do with Christine Todd Whitman, who was the new Secretary of the EPA.  She was widely regarded as a moderate.  Her selection helped portray the Bush administration as being more centrist than it has turned out to be.  It could have been Tom DeLay's idea.  Whereas the EPA regulation could have been embarrassing to the White House, it could be viewed as a victory (within his constituency) for DeLay to let it dry on a Committee vine. 

Facts About the Gasoline Additive MTBE (AP)

Book CoverThere is some right brain stuff to say about this.  First, it is a good example of creative, non-linear thinking.  Second, it strikes me that there is an interesting parallel between this tactic, and something that often is seen in family dynamics.  (See Monica McGoldrick's excellent book on family dynamics, Genograms in Family Assessment.)  What happened between the EPA and Congress could be viewed using a concept borrowed from family dynamics.  It is a concept used to model some dysfunctional families.  It is the concept of the undifferentiated ego mass, as developed by Murray Bowen at NIMH and Georgetown.  Sometimes the term, fused ego mass  is used.  As far as I can tell, the terms are synonymous.  It refers to a situation in which there is no privacy, everyone is in everyone else's business, and inbreeding is common.

Healthy families, or indeed any collection of people who are supposed to cooperative -- will have an optimal amount of emotional distance between the participants.  If the emotional distance is about right, it is called a good boundary.  If it is too great; it is an emotional cut off.  If there is not enough distance, the boundaries are not good enough, the family members form an undifferentiated ego mass.  This concept grew out of the psychoanalytic notion of differentiation of the self.  Failure of differentiation within a family context leads to all kinds of problems.  There are role reversals, with kids doing the jobs that parents should do; there is enmeshment, with everyone getting into each other's business, etc.  Using this model, we see that Bush and DeLay are enmeshed.  They are too involved in each other's business. 

This is seen also in the Texas gerrymandering case.  DeLay, a Federal representative, took it upon himself to get involved in the State congressional matter or redrawing the state voting districts.  If a functional family, that would not happen.  Everyone would stick to his or her proper role.  In the MTBE Affair, the Executive branch did not take care of its own business, and the Congressional branch stepped in.  This would be an example of enabling.  Enabling occurs when one family member takes care of something that the other family member should be taking care of, in order to protect the other family member from the consequences of inaction.

The alterations of family dynamics (cut offs, enmeshment, enabling) tend to be seen frequently in families in which there is one or more alcoholic(s).  The frequency of these kinds of dysfunction is reduced when the alcoholic is in recovery.  Being in recovery is more that just being abstinent from alcohol.  It means buying into the whole mindset that emphasizes abstinence, systematically eliminates the risk factors of relapse, and ameliorates the harm done by the alcoholic's misadventures.  The final step of recovery is to go forth and use your own recovery to help others.  Note that helping others in not what Bush is about.  He is not in recovery.  He is a dry drunk, a person who has stopped drinking, but who still has the attitudes and all the behaviors of alcoholism except for the actual drinking. 

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