Sarah Palin and Mark Sanford, who won’t stop talking about the conjunction of their political and personal problems, are taking us into new territory where punditry has to give way to psychiatry to make sense of their bizarre behavior.
Consider the National Institute of Mental Health’s definition of borderline personality disorder: “a serious mental illness characterized by pervasive instability in moods, interpersonal relationships, self-image, and behavior. This instability often disrupts family and work life, long-term planning, and the individual’s sense of self-identity.”
Of the two cases, Sanford’s zigzags from ultraconservative pillar of the Republican Party to playboy of the Southern Hemisphere are easier to understand, a cultural cliché going back to “Rain,” in which a devout missionary goes mad under the spell of Sadie Thompson.
Palin’s odd week raises the psychiatric stakes–denying she is a quitter while quitting as she blames the media for her woes and then gives them nonstop interviews, a love-hate relationship with political fame that defies simple explanations.
In his analysis, Adam Nagourney of the New York Times observes that “there is plenty of evidence that argues against the idea that this was done with forethought and planning. The rollout was something of a car crash, as even her fans acknowledged.”