Firing Chuck Hagel Is Like
Firing Top MD Anderson Administrators: It Won’t Change Anything


Leonard Zwelling

         American democracy is great for protecting its Presidents
from the consequences of their own ineptitude. Nixon lasted for two years after
everyone knew he was guilty. Clinton made it the whole way despite lying.  George W. did too despite invading
Afghanistan to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden as a military action when he was
chasing a criminal that he never caught and then compounded that poor judgment by
invading Iraq for no reason at all. America then installed yet another in a
series of US-chosen corrupt governments in Iraq and created the Petri dish for
ISIS. Yet, Clinton is now a hero of the Dems and W. of the GOP. Go figure! I
guess Obama can make anyone look good. Ok, not Nixon!

Today, Monday, November 24, Chuck Hagel the former Republican Senator from Nebraska
was fired as Secretary of Defense. Presumably this is due to the confused
policy of the American military in the Middle East, particularly as it applies
to ISIS. Guess what? Replacing Hagel is not going to make Obama an effective director of American foreign policy.

need to take responsibility for the birth of ISIS in Syria and its maturation to full malevolence in Iraq. We
need to acknowledge that Iraq and Syria are both made up countries in a part of
the world loaded with them. Only one of those made up countries currently has a
democratic government (Israel) and it too is straining under the pressure from without
and within. Arriving at a comprehensive and comprehensible foreign policy for
the United States will require clarity of vision and purpose and Mr. Obama has
neither. I think he still looks at the Third World as a friendly and reasonable
place when it is anything but. The United States military is not an agent of
good will nor should it be. It is an agent of force to be employed for that
purpose or to protect the people of America as they are doing in Africa by
trying to keep Ebola there.

Mr. Hagel is fine, but it will change nothing until the President can articulate
what the heck he is trying to do in the Middle East and then put forward a plan
to do it. This is unlikely. If he had any ideas, I am sure we would have heard
them by now. His ideas seem to consist of fancy speeches to gathered masses of
young people in native dress while their parents are trying to kill us all. Bad

same will be true if the response to the latest visit from Dr. Greenberg is the
dismissal of the long-standing leaders on the administrative and financial
sides of the MD Anderson house.

I have no idea if MD Anderson is making money or if whatever it is making is a
reasonable return on investment. To me it looks like the fixed costs are
climbing in people and buildings while the variable revenue per unit of work is
shrinking as insurers and the federal government do everything in their power
to reimburse less for cancer care and the drug companies run the prices of
everything up. If the stock market takes another dive, are the jobs of the
20,000 protected? Who knows?

actually Mr. Leach is supposed to and I suspect he does. To recall for you,
Leon was hired over 10 years ago by John Mendelsohn to run the administrative
and financial aspects of Anderson and most people would say he has done a good
job. Most people would not include the faculty who feel that he is distant, not
sensitive to their needs or complaints, condescending and really could care
less about them or about patient care at all. That’s still better than the
faculty’s view of Dan Fontaine, also a Mendelsohn hire, who started as a lawyer
and has mutated into being the Rasputin of Resource One. So neither Dan nor
Leon is loved by the revenue generators at MD Anderson. But would getting rid
of them change anything? I doubt it because like so many other things, they are
the symptom not the etiology of what ails Anderson.

is in desperate need of visionary leadership with a dash of reality testing
about money, science, medicine and genomics. I don’t think that either Mr.
Leach or Mr. Fontaine has much to add to decisions surrounding those items
except money and I really see no evidence that either has come up with
anything terribly novel in that arena unless you believe, as John Mendelsohn
obviously did, that Mr. Leach’s use of Accounting 101 was a novel breakthrough
for Anderson’s finances. Let’s face it. If Anderson couldn’t have made money
with its patient care machine, no one can.

President Obama wants to fire Chuck Hagel, no one can stop him. But that won’t
stop ISIS. ISIS is something new, a terrorist organization wanting a country of
its own and willing to kidnap, ransom and kill to get it. Either the US can
tolerate ISIS in its current incarnation knowing it is bound to get worse or it
can destroy it while coming up with a logical plan for the Middle East with our
allies of the Western European and Arabian variety. The US cannot just quash
ISIS and expect an improvement. What those fighters willing to join ISIS want
either has to be dealt with or they need to be eliminated and replaced with
people willing to be at peace with the West. That’s what we hire the President
to figure out. If he wants to fire Hagel because he has no plan, it’s OK with
me, but it will solve nothing.

believe the same to be true of removing the administrative side of the MD
Anderson house leadership. I would be the last to defend those two guys, but
they are not the big problem. They are a problem, but they are not a strategic

Dr. DePinho devises a credible plan for MD Anderson beyond Moon Shot metaphors
and martial speeches, there will be discontent among those generating the
revenue that allows DePinho to do what he does. (Didn’t you think fundraising
was supposed to be at $300 million per year by now to fulfill the Moon Shot
goals? I did and he’s come up short. Considering St. Jude reaches almost $700M
per year, what is he doing wrong?) Besides, Hagel no more fought ISIS than
Fontaine went to the clinic.

father taught me long ago to first write down the problem. ISIS is a problem
because it is a brutal army seeking to capture land that is now Syria and Iraq
and undoubtedly ISIS will not stop there. It’s an army. We have one of those,
too and it’s superior to ISIS by a mile. If that’s the problem, solve it, but
do so AFTER you have devised the plan for the future when you win. There is no
doubt that the American military can destroy ISIS. Then what?

at Anderson. Fontaine and Leach are not the problem. Fix the problem and then
you can plan the future. The countdown to Moon Shot lift-off (curing cancer in
5 years) is on:  10..9..8..7……tick,

Leonard Zwelling