Political Psychologist and Presidential Scholar:

Betty Glad, Paul H. Elovitz (Ramapo College and the Psychohistory Forum) and Bob Lentz

Betty Glad is the Olin D. Johnston Professor of Political Science at the University of South Carolina.  Born into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Utah, she was educated at the University of Utah where she graduated magna cum laude before going to the University of Chicago to take her doctoral degree.  She started her teaching career at Mount Holyoke College and taught at numerous other institutions including New York University and Purdue, and mainly at the University of Illinois-Urbana from 1964 until 1989 when she went to South Carolina.  She is a prolific author and editor whom this interviewer [Elovitz] first met when both were researching the childhood and personality of Jimmy Carter in 1976.

Among her books are Jimmy Carter: In Search of the Great White House (1980), Key Pittman: The Tragedy of a Senate Insider (1986), The Psychological Dimensions of War (1990), and Charles Evans Hughes and the Illusions of Innocence: A Study in American Diplomacy (1966) which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.  Another book, The Russian Transformation: Political, Sociological and Psychological Aspects for which Glad is a co-editor and a contributor will be published by St Martin’s Press this July.  Her numerous articles are published in Presidential Studies Quarterly, Political Psychology, and a variety of other journals.
Professor Glad, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, is a recipient of the Harold Lasswell Award for “Distinguished Scientific Contributions to Political Science” of the International Society for Political Science (ISPP).  She has served as president of the ISPP (1993-94) and of the Presidency Research Group of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  She has also been vice president of APSA, a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution, and the recipient of awards and honors too numerous to mention.  Paul Elovitz interviewed our featured scholar over the Internet in April and May, and Bob Lentz asked supplemental questions.

Clio’s Psyche [CP]: Please tell us about your family background.

Betty Glad [BG]: I was born in Salt Lake City, Utah.  My father was a tailor; my mother, a musician.  We were of the lower middle class.  I am two years older than my brother.  Our family was Mormon, or Latter-Day Saint, going back to Danish grandparents on the paternal side of the family and to paternal Norwegian great grandparents on the maternal line.

CP: Regarding family influences in your experience and life, are high achievers more identified with their fathers?

BG: Not for me.  I was more identified with my mother — a talented musician who had little opportunity to develop and find success with her particular skills.

CP: Following up on an issue raised by Freud, what is the impact of parental loss on your level of achievement and those of subjects you have studied?

BG: My parents both died when they were quite old — my father at 74 and my mother at 85.  The death of my mother affected me more than the death of my father.  I had been closer to her, felt more guilt towards her, and I was an “orphan” after her death.

CP: What are your feelings and thoughts about the Mormon, or Latter-Day Saint, religion?

BG: I admire the Mormon religion in many ways, but I have distanced myself from the Church.  I first began to have doubts about the Church over the women’s issue.  I did not believe, even at age 12, that “a woman should obey her husband as he is the head of the household just as Jesus Christ is of the Church.”  I looked at my many aunts and uncles and saw no moral edge in the masculine corner.  Actually, it was quite the opposite in my extended family.

CP: What is your psychological/psychotherapeutic experience and training?

BG: I first developed my interest in psychology at the time of my marriage to a young academic psychology professor at the University of Chicago.  (Because Chicago did not fund female graduate students at the time, I worked full time as a stewardess with United Airlines for three years.)  The marriage, in my fourth year at Chicago, changed my life.  I read my husband’s library and learned a lot about academic psychology from him.  Then, at the time I was going through a divorce, I saw a Rogerian counselor at the University.  Later, I spent approximately three years in psychoanalytical therapy.  Both therapies provided me with insights into myself that were very emancipating.  Through this process I discovered that I had an unconscious, that it was richer than my everyday life had been, and that answers to some of my basic dilemmas came through symbolic insight dreams.  Most important, I learned that I was governed too much by “oughts” and not enough by an appreciation of what I really “wanted” from life.

CP: You mention “insights” and “emancipating.”  Please elaborate.

BG: My therapy changed my orientation to the world in some major ways.  First, I began asking myself want I really wanted from life, rather than what I “ought” to want.  Next I realized that I had less rational control over some of my major decisions than I had thought earlier in my career.  Then I realized that reason and emotions should be integrated in my life.  Lewis Mumford’s “The Revolt of the Demons” in The New Yorker in l964 was an important eye opener for me along these lines.  I also was able to relax and see myself as a woman in process rather than a finished product.  That was very emancipating.  Most importantly for my academic career, I think that my “peripheral” vision as to what people are doing and what they want was considerably heightened.

CP: Who was important to your development as a student of psychosocial phenomena?  Which books?  Did Erik Erikson have an impact on you?

BG: Eric Erikson had no real impact on me.  Karen Horney’s Neurosis and Human Growth was the book that converted me to psychology.  Heinz Kohut’s The Analysis of the Self was another important book in my development.  Kohut’s lecture at an Organization of American Historians (OAH) meeting in Chicago some time ago sparked my interest in narcissistic wounds and how they create rivalries between major figures in history.  Moreover, I much admired the perspective he aired there — that we should forget disciplinary rivalries and realize that we are all involved in the common enterprise of understanding human beings and how they interact with each other.  I would add to the list of books Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams.  I particularly like his discussions of wit and puns in dreams.  My own experience, however, has convinced me that dreams are not only wish-fulfilling, but problem-solving, the source of creative resolutions to personal and human dilemmas.  Jung, in short, has resonance with my own history.

CP: Please list the five people who you think have made the greatest contribution to psychohistory in order of their contribution.

BG: In an order somewhat arbitrary, I would list Harold Lasswell, Alex and Juliette George, Arnold Rogow, Robert Waite, and Robert Tucker.

CP: What special training was most helpful in your doing political psychological work?

BG: I learned by the long and hard process of writing in-depth biographies.  The works of Karen Horney, Heinz Kohut, and Otto Kernberg have been particularly helpful in my psychological interpretations, as well as my own experiences in therapy.

CP: What training should a person entering the psychosocial field today pursue?

BG: Graduate courses in psychology and history or political science.  My graduate students today, who mainly use aspects of academic psychology, have taken courses in the University of South Carolina psychology department and have taken summer courses at the ISPP Summer Institute at Ohio State University. They have all found the Institute experience most useful to them.

CP: Please tell us more about it.

BG: Approximately 55 graduate students and junior faculty members from a variety of disciplines meet daily for lectures, workshops, discussions, and various social activities.  Each year a group of nationally renowned scholars from diverse fields lecture as guest specialists.  This summer Pamela Johnston Conover, M. Kent Jennings, Jack Levy, Paul Sniderman, and other distinguished persons will attend.  The result is that the young scholars come to know the big names in the field, to find that there are others in their own age group that are crossing the disciplinary lines.  This reinforces them in their interdisciplinary interests, by assuring them they are not as isolated as their experience in some home institutions may suggest, and by making friendships with young colleagues who share their interests and with whom they may collaborate on some projects.  For information on this program, I urge your readers to write Thomas E Nelson, Department of Political Science, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio  43210.

CP: Of which of your works are you most proud?

BG: My biographies of Charles Evans Hughes, Jimmy Carter, and Key Pittman.  Each one is different, and I cannot choose any one as the most pleasing to me.

CP: Are all of your works psychologically informed?

BG: Most of my works are psychologically informed.  The most explicit usage of a wide variety of psychological theories, however, is manifest in the chapters I contributed to the volumes I edited in The Psychological Dimensions of War and The Russian Transformation (coming out this summer).  My views on Gorbachev and Yeltsin, for example, are explained in detail in the latter work.  The biographical studies I have done of Hughes, Carter, and Pittman, on the other hand, use the original papers of these men to delineate the wide variety of childhood and socialization forces that contributed to their behavior in political office.  My proofs reside in the ability of certain psychological theories to tie together otherwise disparate material in a framework that accords with the broader field of the social sciences.  Charles Darwin called this kind of proof, which he employed for his evolution theory, “consilience.”

CP: What is the importance of childhood to political psychology and psychohistory?

BG: Childhood is very important.  But we often do not know enough about it to make judgements that are persuasive to people outside the particular school of thought we have embraced.

CP: How do you read Jimmy Carter as President and ex-President?

BG: My biography of Jimmy Carter was primarily an in-depth look at how he matured and how he operated politically, with the psychological analysis coming in the final chapters.  I see him as a person with benign motives, but as a bit grandiose and self-referent in his approach to politics.  These qualities created a distance between him and many of the Democratic pros in Washington who wanted to work with him.  As President, moreover, he had a struggle between his desire to be “tough as nails” and his Wilsonian visionary side.  As an ex-President he is much more successful, because he can act primarily on the Wilsonian side of his personality.  Yet he still finds it difficult to be a team player, and he made sure that CNN got the first scoops on his saving Bill Clinton from possible disasters in North Korea and Haiti.

CP: Why a biography of Key Pittman?

BG: My study of Key Pittman (1872-1940), Senator from Nevada, was intended to be a relatively short vignette in a larger volume, The Chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 1924-1964: Personality and Role Performance.  The Pittman chapters expanded into a book when I saw the kinds of materials available in his papers.  A brilliant man, who spoke of the balance of power in the mid-thirties and saw the need to check Japan in Asia, he was also an alcoholic who wrote long and revealing letters to an often absent wife explaining how he felt about things.  For some reason she destroyed neither his letters to her, nor other revealing information including an unopened folder going back to 1910, stating that it should only be opened in case of his death.  In these materials, Pittman explicitly records feeling states that exemplify Kohut’s theories of the horizontal and vertical splits in narcissistic personalities.  The book’s subtitle, The Tragedy of a Senate Insider, is an indication of the compassion I felt for a brilliant and sensitive man, whose uncontrolled drinking in his last few years as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee led others to not listen to him as they should have.

CP: What are you working on now?

BG: I have just finished an edited volume, The Russian Transformation, to be published by St. Martin’s Press this summer.  The co-editor is Eric Shiraev, a young social-psychologist of Russian origin.  My contributions to this volume were the introduction to the volume, plus three co-authored chapters (two on Gorbachev) and one sole-authored chapter on Yeltsin.  I am also working on a book on how Jimmy Carter made his foreign policy decisions.  I look at the level of his involvement in the issue, the time at which he got involved, and his relationship to others on the decision-making team.  To discuss these relationships, I use a framework developed earlier in my study on Nixon.  I distinguish between aides who perform instrumental services for their leader, those who provide affective support (bolstering, compensating, and acting as a proxy), and those who provide mixed supports.  My hypothesis on the relationship issue is that for matters in which the President is deeply involved, aides who retain their influence are likely to provide affective as well as instrumental support.

CP: What is your evaluation of Gorbachev?  Of Yeltsin?  What do you foresee for Russia?

BG: Only a man like Gorbachev — an idealist who believed deeply in the ideals of Communism — would have been able to go through the Communist system without being corrupted and yet maintain the commitment to it once in power.  Yeltsin, on the other hand, is impulsive, self destructive, and a power seeker who can change his hat to do what is politically opportune to place or maintain himself in power.  Because he told Western capitalists what they wanted to hear, we mistakenly thought of him as a true reformer.  His recent firing of Primakov is a disaster and will probably worsen the already desperate situation in Russia.  I see two major possibilities at the present time: a continuation of a near anarchic situation or a strong man coming to the fore.  But, as Andre Melville, the Russian political scientist, states in the last chapter in The Russian Transformation, the future is open.  There is no way we can predict the particular path that Russia will take in the years ahead.

CP: As a U.S. Presidential scholar, which President do you feel is the most interesting to explore psychologically?

BG: Winston Churchill once said that if he were to choose one virtue, it would be courage — because it is the precondition for every other virtue.  I suspect that all the Presidents we call great — FDR, Lincoln, Jefferson, Washington — had courage.  To delineate the sources and development of the strengths these men displayed in their adult lives is of great interest to me.  But, alas, my in-depth studies of recent U.S. Presidents — Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush — have led me to highlight their vulnerabilities.  Karen Horney once noted that we can hardly use psychological concepts without seeming to denigrate our subjects.  I think there is much truth to her statement.  But each of these men, from my perspective, had vulnerabilities that seriously weakened their Presidencies.

In a desire to be more positive, I have recently turned to foreign leaders who are noted for their creativity and their integrity.  To me, Nelson Mandela breaks the mold.  Somehow, during his 29 years in prison, he developed the political sagacity and the human qualities that were to enable him to lead a peaceful revolution.  Gorbachev, too, is a marvel.  I began my study of his political career with the deep puzzle of how a man could come through the Communist system and maintain the authenticity that we saw in his early efforts at perestroika, glasnost, and the new thinking in foreign policy.

In studying these two men, I also came to realize that their relationships to other political leaders were crucial to the outcomes of their efforts.  Mandela was aided in the transition process in South Africa by the statesmanship of F. Willem de Klerk.  Both men worked together to hold back the extremes in the political sectors they represented.  Gorbachev was not so lucky.  Moving slowly, he was able to keep the more orthodox Communists with whom he shared power from moving against him in the early phases of his reforms.  But with a reckless Boris Yeltsin to his left, he lost his base in any reform movement and had to deal, almost alone, with the leaders of the old order as they became increasingly concerned over the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the Communist system to which they had been dedicated.

CP: What do you think psychologically of President Clinton’s character?

BG: I hesitate to analyze Bill Clinton without having more information on his early life and socialization process.  Clearly he is a person of uneven development, as I have argued in the 1998 fall issue of Presidential Studies Quarterly.  A close look at his public record shows that he has some compassion for the underdog, that he waves and weaves no more than most politicians, that he can take risks (as in Haiti and Kosovo), and that internationalism is one of his important values.  Clearly, he was flirting with danger in his affair with Monica Lewinsky and did not deal honestly with the issue when it first surfaced.

But I want to avoid generalizations that suggest the man is flawed in every major respect.  It is particularly important, if psychohistory is to have any credibility, that we avoid the easy and negative generalizations made by psychologists such as Jerome Levin in his simply awful book, The Clinton Syndrome (1998).  This author takes almost as a given the things that Clinton’s female accusers have said about him, without looking into their possible motives for distorting the truth.  Maybe he should have read Gennifer Flower’s Passion and Betrayal (1995) and looked at some of the published materials on the possible motives of Kathleen Willey (as a reporter has done in a recent issue of the Nation).  Levin also makes attributions about Clinton’s feelings for his mother and stepfather, without any sourcing.

CP: What is your assessment of the status of psychohistorical research and writing in political psychology journals?

BG: Psychoanalytically oriented psychology is not popular in mainline political science journals.  Political Psychology is the main journal in which such “soft” approaches might be published.  Occasionally, Presidential Studies Quarterly will also publish a piece using psychoanalytic psychology.  Partly the problem is due to the prevailing notions of “science” in the political science field.  The assumptions are that hypotheses must be simple and the proofs quantifiable.  Psychoanalytic psychology is questioned in particular because it was developed, to a great extent, outside the university setting and is based on “special experience” which other people do not share.  To restore the scientific footing for such psychology we should do more work testing our assumptions.  How can we prove the existence of the unconscious in a scientific setting?  Are the symbols most persons employ in their dreams universal?  What do we do with the fact that different languages often assign different genders to the same objects?

CP: What do we as psychohistorians need to do to strengthen our work?

BG: Focus more on ego strength and defenses, less on early traumas that might have caused these developments.  When the work is speculative, make it clear that one is only guessing.  Say more about the kinds of proofs one employs.

CP: How do you see political psychology and psychohistory developing in the next decade?

BG: I hope we can be a bit less speculative in our psychological interpretations.  The search for the origins of specific personality traits is bound to be much more “iffy” than the presentation of an adult personality structure which is manifest in the political activities of the individual being studied.

CP: How can psychologically oriented scholars have more impact in academia and on society in general?

BG: For the community as a whole, I only regret that progressive forces did not do some time ago what the Christian right has done.  Maybe we can still produce radio shows and Internet news that is responsible.  We should develop more liberal think tanks that employ psychological ideas and more summer institutes of the sort now ongoing at Ohio State University.

CP: How do you explain the growth and psychology of fundamentalism?

BG: The world is a difficult place to navigate and fundamentalism provides us with clear answers to some of life’s questions.  The problem is that these clear answers also strait-jacket the person in their grip and impede the kind of growth that comes from being open to experience and trusting one’s own judgements.
But at a broader level, social controls may be exercised in many different ways.  I would like to refer you to Donald McIntosh’s brilliant piece in the American Political Science Review several years ago in which he talked about the kinds of social controls.  Social control, he argues, is the greatest when the members of a community all agree on basic values.  Somewhat less so, but nevertheless significant, when they all agree on which authorities are legitimate; they then listen to those authorities.  There is less control from the center, however, when the authorities have to rely on rewards or punishments.  The least control is exercised, paradoxically, when one must use violence to bring about conformity within the community.  For that means that power is limited to those matters over which the authorities are paying attention and spending resources — against the resistance of the objects of their attempts at control.  With this conceptual framework, we can see that a variety of social controls may be exercised over all of us, not just those caught up in fundamentalist movements.

CP: What are your thoughts about probable reactions to the coming of the third millennium?

BG: I think the theme is very much overworked.  What I am concerned about, however, are the products of this century.  The hydrogen bomb, as Stanley Kubrick’s film Dr. Strangelove suggested, sent us into a crazy period where we thought it might even be rational to use it.  Have any of you noticed in the very last scene in that film that the Russian ambassador pulled the pin on his watch?  My supposition here is that Kubrick may have been telling us that there was no automatic doomsday machine, as the Russians were claiming.  Rather, that the Russian ambassador, after hearing the Americans blithely talk about going underground for l00 years, may have decided the situation was hopeless and set off the explosion himself.

In another sphere of operation, the Internet today provides us with information that is often polarizing and factually inaccurate.  Moreover, I am concerned about the kind of “education” that goes on in the privatizing of the early education movement.  In the past, newspapers with editorial board control over the accuracy of comments and public schools have provided us with relatively accurate information upon which we can base our actions as well as certain common public-regarding values.  The atomization that we now see in our polity concerns me to a great extent.

CP: What do you think of the current state of American national political leadership?

BG: We seem to have little inspired leadership at the national level today.  There are few strong, moderate leaders in the Republican party, and the Democratic leadership has been careless in its  fundraising activities.  I suspect that this dearth of inspired leadership is probably due to the ways our campaigns are run today, and the voracious appetite of the media for scandal.  Maybe only very driven people will go through the long primary season, the constant solicitation of funds, and the invasion of what they might have thought in the past were their private lives.

CP: How can we recruit new people to the psychosocial field?

BG: Do what you are doing.  Make psychohistory journals available to young people.  Create sub-groups specializing in political psychology in the major disciplines.  Form young scholars committees to put on social events that help the new entrees to the profession to feel wanted and at home.

 CP: I am saddened that many psychohistorians, along with many political psychologists, do not know about each other’s activities and organizations despite some overlapping membership.  Even more sadly, they sometimes simply denigrate each other’s groups.  Information about various organizations needs to be more widely disseminated.  With this in mind, please tell us about your organizational experience with the ISPP.

BG: I was a founding member of the ISPP and have been active in that organization ever since.  It was a great experience to meet people like Richard Christie, Gabrial Almond, M. Brewster Smith, and other great and older political psychologists.  Since then, I have met persons with whom I can collaborate such as Eric Shiraev, as mentioned earlier.  I am also working on a book chapter on political leadership with Helen Shestopol of Moscow State University, another person I met through the ISPP.  I have a great time at our meetings, visiting historic sites and meeting locals in places such as Jerusalem and Krakow.  As president of that organization, one of my initiatives included the Young Professionals Committee — an idea that has been picked up this last year by the International Studies Association.  I quite admire the way the ISPP has been able to bring a large number of scholars from a variety of disciplines into its organization.  It meets around the world on a regular basis and has had an effective leadership with competition for the top positions.  All this bodes well for its future.

CP: Our Editor, founder of the Psychohistory Forum and a founding member and past president of the International Psychohistorical Association (IPA), is especially impressed with the organizational success of the ISPP.  He briefly attended that first meeting of the ISPP which was held about a week after the first IPA convention.  Looking back, what were some of the reasons for the ISPP’s success.

BG: I’ll never forget the letter I received in the early 1970s from Jeanne Knutson, a recent PhD in political science and psychology, who is the founder of the ISPP.  We had no national societies dealing with political psychology, but here was this young woman asking me to join several hundred distinguished “Founders” in her proposed new International Society for Political Psychology.  The first meeting we attended was piggybacked on an American Political Science Association (APSA) meeting in New York City.  There were only a few of us in attendance, but several were names of people I had read with some awe but had never met.  So there was this opportunity to get to know top people in the field, personally.

It also was clear that we were traveling first class from the very beginning.  As a result, we looked professional and successful from day one.  The ISPP meeting signs were professionally done and our meetings took place in a fine hotel.  We talked over seven-dollars-per-glass drinks in the hotel bar and were happy to do so.  The second meeting I attended was in Mannheim, West Germany.  Jeanne put all of us on the executive committee in a luxury hotel but the tab was a little high for some of us, so we quickly shifted to less expensive accommodations.  Jeanne’s energy and taste — even her grandiosity — were what got the ISPP enterprise off the ground.  Later, in a meeting at Ann Arbor, we had to bear down and establish a budget we could live with for the long haul!  Phil Converse presided expertly over that transition.  So we had entrepreneurial leadership when we needed it and a more sober, management type of leadership when it came to consolidating what we had done.  We were lucky.

CP: Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us.  It has been good to have you as a colleague through the years and it is nice to have you join in the activities of the Psychohistory Forum and our publication.

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