April 18, 1994|By Art Buchwald

THE Republican senatorial primary race in Virginia is getting dirtier. Candidate Jim Miller recently revealed that Ollie North had received psychiatric treatment. Damned if Ollie's people didn't issue a statement that Jim Miller had also visited a psychiatrist.

This is not the first time that the issue of psychotherapy was a plus or minus for a candidate seeking public office. When Tom Eagleton was George McGovern's vice presidential running mate, he was forced to quit the race because it turned out that he had had shock treatments. This information was so serious that people started asking if he could be trusted to throw out a baseball at Busch Stadium.

The most disturbing part of the Virginia campaign is that both candidates used the psychiatric information about the other as if they were exposing police records on a serial killer. It set back the understanding of mental health by 100 years.

The Virginia fight raises an important issue -- can Virginians afford a senator who has been treated for a mental illness as opposed to one who hasn't?

Since the Eagleton controversy much has been learned about the mental condition of politicians.

In a recently published paper, Dr. Karen Blake stated that anyone who runs for public office can now be considered certifiable and even legally committed.

Dr. Blake asserted, "A person who chooses to have his whole life opened up to the press, begs for money, allows himself to be pelted with tomatoes by his constituents and sucks up to the most despicable leaders of the community cannot distinguish right from wrong."

I called Dr. Blake, and she told me that most elected officials suffer from paranoia and depression.

In his best-selling book "Political Phobias and Lost Causes," Dr. Thomas Cooke says that some folks who run for public office would like medical help when they are about three weeks into the primaries, but can't get it because their health insurance does not cover psychiatric care for political candidates. The reason is that too many people running for office are "out to lunch," and the insurance companies cannot possibly cover them.

Dr. Cooke also poses the question, "If a person gets a clean bill of health from the Menninger Clinic, is he entitled to matching campaign funds from Madison Savings and Loan in Little Rock?"

Art Buchwald is a syndicated columnist.

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