Politics Is a Feeling


Leonard Zwelling

         As I have done several times before, I stole this title from
one of my inspirations. Peggy Noonan was a speechwriter for President Reagan
and is the unofficial keeper of the flame that he represented—conservative
thinking with a smile. She continues his legacy every Saturday in the opinion
pages of the Wall Street Journal. On November 2, this was her title when she
wrote about Chris Christie. Christie, for those of you who have been on the Moon
busy with other things, is the Republican Governor of New Jersey, a very Blue
state. By the time you read this, he will likely have been reelected by a huge
margin on November 5. (He was; over 20 points).

         Christie is brash. He is heavy. And he is no ideologue. He
understands his job perfectly and was more than cordial when President Obama
came to New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy bringing with him the relief
Christie’s constituents so desperately needed. His welcoming the Democratic
President got Christie a great deal of criticism from his fellow Republicans.
They called him a RINO—Republican In Name Only. Christie didn’t care. He is a
practical politician. His voters needed the federal aid and he got it for them
and if that meant photo-ops with a Democratic President, so be it.

is a better than even chance that Christie will pursue the Presidency in 2016
and, if he can somehow convince the Republican ideologues that practicality is
a more important skill for a politician than right wing purity, he may not only
win the nomination, he may be our next President.

have been watching the Governor for at least 4 years now. I have told anyone
who would listen (very few) that I want a bumper sticker for my car that says:
“We Need a Fat Guy in the White House”. I have loved him from day one. Why?

think it is very simple. Christie makes people feel good and THAT is what good
politicians do. George W. Bush after 9/11 made us feel good with his
inspirational trip to Ground Zero, but he squandered all that good will with
his military adventurism in Afghanistan and Iraq. Jimmy Carter never made
anyone feel good. He was a scold. Bill Clinton made people feel good because he
convinced them he felt their pain. George H.W. Bush did fine at war, but when
he appeared distant in his debate with Bill Clinton, checking his watch while
Clinton listed the price of bread and milk, he no longer made people feel good.
Ronald Reagan almost always made people feel good and Al Gore virtually never

poet Maya Angelou is quoted as saying:

will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will
never forget how you made them feel”.

completely agree and it took me a very long time to learn this.

I appear to be so critical of those who have inhabited the MD Anderson
Presidency, allow me to use a past MD Anderson President as the best example of
a politician who knew how to make people feel good. He is the embodiment of
this, the best I have ever met. That man is Dr. LeMaistre (it took me over 25
years to call him Mickey and that is only once in a while).

those of you who came to work here after 1996, Dr. LeMaistre may be a name on a
portrait outside the Hickey Auditorium, but to me, he is my President for he
hired me. I learned a great deal from Dr. LeMasitre, but nothing more important
than the truth of the Maya Angelou quote. When you were talking to Dr.
LeMaistre it was like there was no one else in the room. He did not shake your
hand and immediately glance over your shoulder to see if a big donor was
standing behind you. He looked at you as if you were his sole center of
attention. And he listened.


day, early in my tenure as an Associate Vice President, Dr. LeMaistre took me
with him to address the Board of Regents in Austin to report on a problem in
clinical research that had made the press. Sure he knew everyone in the room.
But it was the parking lot attendants and elevator operators he greeted by name
on the way from the car to the meeting room that was so impressive.

Genie traveled with Dr. LeMaistre on a fund raising venture. During the plane
trip, Dr. LeMaistre studied a set of cards that had on them the names of all
the guests. It probably had the names of their wives, kids and dogs as well. By
the time the meeting took place, everyone of them had spoken with Mickey and
everyone left the meeting thinking that their conversation with the President
of MD Anderson was the most important one he had had all night. That was Dr.

Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie are the two Presidential nominees of the
major parties in 2016, we can be guaranteed several things.

this will be one of the most intellectual races in recent memory, probably
since Kennedy faced Nixon.

it will be the last of the old school, baby boomer Dems vs. the first young gun
of the Republican Party (as in Ryan, Rubio, Paul, Cruz, etc).

it will be his executive experience vs. her overwhelming experience in all
aspects of government—White House, Senate, Department of State.

in the end, it may just come down to who makes you feel better—a very
accomplished woman near 70 who has had a career spanning the distance from
shrill to diplomatic and named her daughter after a Joni Mitchell song or a
50-something man of the people who calls ‘em the way he sees ‘em and loves the
Boss. Not sure of the over under on that electoral count, but are you paying
attention Dr. DePinho? More importantly, how are you feeling?

vs. Christie. This really could be the heavyweight battle of the century! Let’s

Leonard Zwelling