In 1972 Thomas Eagleton was chosen to run as the democratic vice-presidential nominee under George McGovern in the race against Richard Nixon. But it soon emerged that Eagleton suffered from depression and had received shock treatment for it. A scandal erupted, and Eagleton stepped down, forming a cloud that still hovers over politics today.
Psychiatrist Nassir Ghaemi thinks the public is mistaken in wanting leaders who appear sane and mentally healthy. In A First-Rate Madness, he proposes that Eagleton may have actually been the best candidate to deal with a national crisis because of, not in spite of, his depression.
The crux of Ghaemi’s argument is that people who are depressed exhibit what psychologists have dubbed “depressive realism.”