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Pschoanalyzing John Ashcrodt: A talk with Psychotherapist Tina Tessina
Goodbye, Mr. Tits. Of all the decisions George W. Bush made during his first month in office, none was more twisted than the appointment of John Ashcroft to head the Department of Justice. But now, mercifully, Ashcroft is gone. On November 9, 2004, he resigned with a flourish, stating that “The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved.”

What a relief it is to at last be crime-free and terrorless.

As the Federal Government's chief law enforcement officer, Ashcroft counseled the President and represented the United States in legal matters. As son of a Assemblies of God Pentecostal minister, Ashcroft represents a religion that believes, among other things, that “it is risky for Christians to build deep friendships with those who do not share a spiritual bond in Christ” and “that the spread of oriental religions and the occult in America has brought with it an increase in demon possession.”

After September 11, Ashcroft introduced the USA Patriot Act (or as our anagram-loving federal government calls it, "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism." Much has been written about the Patriot Act’s chilling effect on our civil rights, but little has been said about the mental condition of Ashcroft — a man who believes that calico cats are a sign of the devil.

In her 25 years of counseling, psychotherapist Tina Tessina has given solace to control freaks, panic attack victims, narcissists, manic depressives and the assorted psychologically impaired. Her most recent book "It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction" deals with family dysfunction that, as she says, “often runs through succeeding generations like a snowball rolling down a hill, gathering speed and power as it goes.” I talked to Tessina at an undisclosed location to avoid surveillance.

CALLAHAN: Ashcroft is a member of the Assembly of God, a church that believes homosexuality is evil; Christians should not make friends with non-Christians; people should avoid all "sexually suggestive forms of media and entertainment"; speaking in tongues is a necessary component of salvation; mixed-gender dancing leads to evil; and, government and laws should be predicated on the teachings of the Bible. Are any of these teachings dysfunctional?

TESSINA: I'm wondering if same-gender dancing is OK in their eyes. The whole thing boggles the mind, doesn't it? It's all based on fear… Xenophobia/Homophobia… the fear of something different, specifically the fear of gay people. But also, fear of non-Christians, fear of natural body functions, fear of sex and fear of the other gender. It even makes Jesus sound fearsome. It's also unconstitutional. Our founding fathers came from families who had escaped governments run by religion, and knew how frightening it was. So they wrote provisions against it. For an example of how scary government based on religion is, look at the Taliban.

CALLAHAN: So you’re saying that the Taliban is dysfunctional? Have you treated any Taliban members?

TESSINA: No, although I have treated men who use religion as an excuse to abuse their families. They were court-referred.

CALLAHAN: In his autobiography, Ashcroft said he woke every morning to a "magisterial wake-up call" of his father's prayers. Is that a good thing?

TESSINA: I'm not sure. Did his father use a trumpet? Was he praying that his sinner son not go to Hell? It depends on just how traumatic it was.

CALLAHAN: Well, look at the result. Each time Ashcroft has taken political office, he’s been anointed with holy oil. At one anointing, when there wasn't a consecrated lubricant available, he used Crisco. Since the word "Messiah" means "anointed one" in Hebrew, do you think that Ashcroft may suffer from trans fat induced delusions?

TESSINA: Possibly, but what about the person who anoints him? Actually, being anointed means to be dedicated to God, which doesn't have to be menacing, but since Ashcroft comes from those beliefs about Biblical government, perhaps it makes him the American Pope.

CALLAHAN: Are you saying that the Pope is delusional?

TESSINA: Hey, guy, those are your words, not mine. When I think of the Pope, I can't help thinking of Truman Capote's quip: "Nice dress, sweetie, but your purse is on fire."

CALLAHAN: I’m surprised Capote didn’t comment on the head dress. But I digress. After 911 Ashcroft said, "Defending our nation and defending the citizens of America against terrorist attacks is now our first and overriding priority." That means anti-terrorism is now Job #1 for a department that in the past focused on the interpretation and enforcement of law. Is Ashcroft's focus on terror obsessive?

TESSINA: It sounds more paranoid than obsessive to me, but it's possible for a person to have both paranoia and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Does he wash his hands a lot?

CALLAHAN: He looks well scrubbed. One of my favorite music videos is Ashcroft singing his own song “Let the Eagle Soar.” In it he’s rubbing his hands together in a way that I find disturbing, yet provocative. Could this mean we may have had a paranoid-obsessive for an Attorney General?

TESSINA: Well, I haven't psychoanalyzed the man, but excessive hand-rubbing is a sign.

CALLAHAN: OK. I don’t know about you, but I’m making the call. He’s definitely paranoid-obsessive. He said that Saddam Hussein used "evil chemistry" and "evil biology." The "evil" adjective justified going to war even if no weapons of mass destruction were found. He also said that, “a radioactive ‘dirty bomb’ can cause mass death and injury.” The truth is that while a dirty bomb isn’t the type of thing you want exploding in your neighborhood, it’s fear-mongering to characterize it as a Weapon of Mass Destruction. Do you think that Ashcroft enjoys frightening people?

TESSINA: I think he can't help it. If his beliefs are indeed based on the Assembly of God, then his whole world view would be tinged by it, and he couldn't help spreading it around. Paranoia again.

CALLAHAN: Do I sound paranoid?

TESSINA: Well, do you think Ashcroft is out to get you? Wait, maybe that's not so paranoid.

CALLAHAN: I think that John Ashcroft would take pleasure in getting me. But that’s another story. Back in 2000, he ran for Senate against Mel Carnahan. Only a week before the election Carnahan died in a plane crash. Ashcroft still lost. Do you think losing to a dead man may have affected his self esteem?

TESSINA: Ashcroft probably thought he lost an even contest.

CALLAHAN: Wow. That’s harsh. Speaking of dead men, Ashcroft once got an honorary degree from Bob Jones University, which at the time banned interracial dating. Do you think Ashcroft ever dated a black woman?

TESSINA: Not where his mama could see him. But, when the truth comes out, as it does with so many conservatives, we may see some interesting secrets come to light. My main question is, could he get any self-respecting African-American woman to date him?

CALLAHAN: I’m thinking Condoleeza Rice. They'd make a great couple. But who wouldn’t want to date a woman who once had an oil tanker named after her? Where do you think he’d take her? Since Ashcroft doesn't drink, smoke or dance, how about Disneyland?

TESSINA: Well, for sure not DollyWood, or Graceland.

CALLAHAN: If Ashcroft wanted to be a better person — say, like me — what could he do?

TESSINA: Lighten up, have a good time, understand that God has a sense of humor and cares more about love than fear.

CALLAHAN: God must have a sense of humor to come up with the Assembly of God. But what kind of being would create a man so bunched-up that he’d want a statue of a naked woman covered? It makes you wonder what he thought about Janet Jackson at this year's Super Bowl Halftime.Ashcroft ordered curtains hung over the breasts of the statue of Justice because they was in the line of sight for photographers at the Attorney General’s press conferences. In other words, he spent $8,000 in taxpayer money to avoid being seen with a nipple. Given that, what do you think his relationship is to his wife and mother?

TESSINA: There's that fear of the natural again. It's puzzling to me how someone can purport to revere God and yet be so afraid of — or maybe repulsed — by God's creations. I doubt if his relationship with his wife or with his mother is based on mutual respect, openness and honesty. There are probably a lot of rules involved.

CALLAHAN: What kind of rules? Do you think he married a dominatrix?

TESSINA: Not if he had his political future in mind, but it's an
interesting thought.

CALLAHAN: Given what you know, is Ashcroft nuts?

TESSINA: Nuts is not really a psychological term. However, I'd love to get a chance to be his shrink.

CALLAHAN: So, could Ashcroft benefit from psychotherapy?

TESSINA: I believe so, but I don't know if he'd consider it a benefit.

CALLAHAN: OK. Here’s the big question. Since Bush appointed this man, do you think there should be a national mental stability test for elected officials?

TESSINA: That would be great. But, if we implemented it now, we'd have to have some backup elections first. The government would be plucked pretty clean.

— Nathan Callahan, February 2, 2004 (updated November 10, 2004)

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