More on the Clintons and Psychotherapy

Writing previously about Bob Woodward’s wildly hyped book, Shadow: Five Presidents and the Legacy of Watergate, Chatterbox criticized a passage that ended a Washington Post excerpt and seemed designed to leave readers with the impression that the Clintons were in couples therapy. (See “Woodward Positions Himself on the First Couple.”) If the president was seeing a shrink, that struck Chatterbox as big news. (Clearly, he should be seeing a shrink.) But Woodward wrote the passage in an annoying way that didn’t really establish whether he was or he wasn’t seeing a shrink, and seemed designed mostly to allow Woodward to take credit for the scoop if some other drudge came along and actually nailed it, while also covering Woodward’s ass if it turned out not to be true.

Now Tina Brown’s wildly hyped magazine, Talk, has taken up the issue again in its much-discussed profile of Hillary Clinton. The profile itself is pretty lame, and has caused a big dust-up over whether Hillary Clinton did or should have indulged in some head-shrinking speculation of her own about the source of husband Bill’s sexual compulsions. The possibility that the connection is the result of some misleading quote-juxtaposition by Lucinda Franks herself is explored by Slates previous Chatterbox columnist, Mickey Kaus, on his excellent new Web site, (Full disclosure: The item also includes some very sensible praise of Mrs. Chatterbox, a k a Vanity Fair and sometime Slate writer Marjorie Williams. And you might as well also know that: a) Chatterbox has been friends with Kaus for close to 20 years; b) Chatterbox and Kaus co-edited an anthology of neoliberal writings in the early 1980s that never got published; c) Chatterbox and Kaus attended the same high school, though at different times; d) Chatterbox and Kaus apprenticed at the same magazine, the Washington Monthly, though at different times; e) Chatterbox first met the future Mrs. Chatterbox at Kaus’ Washington apartment in 1986; f) Kaus was an usher at the Chatterbox nuptials in 1990; g) Chatterbox and Kaus worked at Newsweek at the same time, though in different cities, during the late 1980s; h) Chatterbox has probably neglected to cite five or six additional conflicts of interest, but figures he has to leave something for Brill’s Content to expose.)

Anyway, setting aside Hillary’s own alleged dime-store psychologizing about why her husband is a womanizer, let’s look at what Franks writes about whether the president is in psychotherapy:

Public office has prevented the president from seeking therapy, but friends told me they expect him to after leaving the Oval Office.

This was misreported in the New York Times as “Mrs. Clinton’s statement in the article that Mr. Clinton would seek therapy when he left the Presidency.” As you can see, the statement is Franks’ own, based on what the president’s friends “told me,” a point that seemed to be fully grasped by a reporter who asked about it at the Aug. 2. White House briefing. Is it true the president is not seeing a shrink? The Times thought so. It quoted White House spokesman Joe Lockhart as saying, “My understanding is the President continues to deal with the ministers that he talked about at the outset. I can’t tell you about the details of that because they are private. But he has sought to work with ministers who he is close with and friendly with, and that’s the extent of it.”

But Lockhart left a little wiggle room that the Times didn’t mention. Here’s a follow-up from the briefing:

Q: Some of these ministers have degrees in other areas, like psychological–well, psychology degrees. Is he dealing with ministers who have psychology degrees and deal on other issues–A: I don’t have the slightest idea. I know who the ministers are. I don’t have the slightest idea what degrees–Q: Can you tell us who they are?A: No, because this is something that’s private. Although–although at least one of them has not made a secret of the fact that he’s talked to the President. [This last is a dig at Jesse Jackson.]

In other words, it’s possible (though probably unlikely) that Clinton is in psychotherapy under the guise of seeking “ministry” from a psychotherapist who’s also an ordained minister.