November 2, 2005

Bill Frist, Volcano


”It was, of course, a heinous and dishonest thing to do.  And I was totally schizoid about the entire matter. By day, I was little Billy Frist, the boy who lived on Bowling Avenue in Nashville and had decided to become a doctor because of his gentle father and a dog named Scratchy. By night, I was Dr. William Harrison Frist, future cardiothoracic surgeon, who was not going to let a few sentiments about cute, furry little creatures stand in the way of his career. In short, I was going a little crazy.”

–From Bill Frist’s 1989 memoir concerning his capturing, killing and dissecting of cats

A day after Harry Reid pulled a surprise parlimentary maneuver throwing the Senate into closed door session to deal with the Iraq intelligence scandal, much of the following talk had to do with Bill Frist’s reaction. Perhaps previous Majority Leaders would have also been angry, but it’s hard to imagine anyone else having taken it like "a personal slap in the face."


In a series of recent posts on Bill Frist (link), I have begun to draw out the personality of the Tennessee Senator.  In the last entry, I looked at Frist’s relationship to his family (which he likes to refer to as his "foundation of life") and just how much (or little) of his attention they really enjoy.

It’s interesting, in explaining the cat killing, how Frist himself brings up the "schizoid" label.  (Basically, the term relates to someone who is not only incapable of deeper relationships with others, but has difficulty interpreting social cues and conventions.)  In the first post in this series, The BAG was trying on a number of different characterizations to explain Frist’s psychology.  (Or, psychopathology.)  In the discussion thread, part of the conversation led to whether Frist was more schizoid or narcissistic.

Following up on the second entry (in which Frist seems to show more partiality to his dogs than his wife and kids), I want to look at the family theme from a different angle, trying to appreciate just how narcissistic and socially disabled the Senator really is.

To do that, I thought we’d examine a list — authored by Frist’s wife, Karyn — regarding "The 12 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Bill Frist"  — link.  The list is particularly timely considering that Karyn posted it to Frist’s blog
in the past few weeks. I thought I’d just mention a few of the items.
(The points are numbers according to Mrs. Frist’s order, and are
followed by The BAG’s comments.)

1) “He can open a patient’s chest and transplant their heart, yet
nearly fainted when he had blood drawn for our marriage license.”

BAG: It sounds like some resentment or sarcasm here on Karyn
Frist’s part. After all, she did put this item first on the list.
Specifically, the recollection reveals how Frist’s social comfort
increases in direct relation to how comatose the other person is.

3) “His first patient was his best friend’s dog, “Scratchy”, who
recovered completely. (Bill had absolutely NO IDEA what he was doing,
and is still a little baffled that the dog actually healed!)”

BAG: I have a number of takes: 1. So we learn Frist graduated
from dead cats to live dogs. 2. When you’re as important as Bill Frist,
you can live by your own set of rules. 3. Apparently, this guy doesn’t
need to know what he’s doing to perform miracles.

5) “He hates sleep. Really.”

BAG: This is an interesting comment psychologically. What it
says to me is that Frist hates limits. As humans, we live with all
types of gaiting factors. Specifically, we get tired and have to fold
it. These natural constraints can be an affront, however, to people who
consider themselves onmipotent. The "really" is also curious. It’s like
she’s emphasizing that Frist holds basic views about life that lie way
outside the norm. (Also, among the other psychological factors, it’s
possible that Frist is also manic.)

2) “He was once mugged in college, but fought the muggers off (he
has a brown belt in karate) and sent all three of them to the hospital.”

BAG: Considering how Frist reacted to Reid; how he often can be
unusually cutting on his blog; and how his campaigns have been marked
by ruthlessness, we’re looking at a walking volcano. Narcissists can be
quite charming, but hell hath no fury like one whose been made to look

The other thing that comes through here is the identity of "the
hero." What makes Frist particularly "out there" is his grandiosity.
Really, I think he considers himself a superman. Just from this list,
the theme jumps out at you. Besides the healer and the karate expert,
he’s also the rodeo rider, the pilot, and the marathoner with the
single kneecap. (… I guess I’d like to know a little more about that
motorcycle accident.)

(The image above is a give away from the Cherry Blossom Credit Union
in Washington. I assume Frist liked it for the "marathon man" image,
and. of course, the statue, and had it included in the photo gallery on
his blog site. In my next Frist piece, I want to take a pictorial look
at the Senator’s relationship with his father and brother, and consider
what’s going on with those so-called blind trusts.)

The ongoing BAGnewsNotes Frist Investigation series here.

(image 1: Dennis Cook / A.P. November 1,
2004. Capitol Hill, Washington. image 2: Cherry Blossom
Credit Union Photo. Senator Frist running the Cherry Blossom 10 mile
race in Washington, DC. Date unknown.

Post By

Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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