The Donald, The Ronald, The Outrage

By

Leonard Zwelling

         One of the high points of my year in Washington was a lazy
afternoon in the summer of 2009 when the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions
Committee of the US Senate was meeting during the mark-up (amendment) process.
Acting chairman Chris Dodd was late, not at all uncommon. (One morning he
informed the committee that he was late because he had to attend the
kindergarten graduation of his 5-year old daughter. This was a 65-year old man.
This was a US Senator. This was TMI!)

One
of the critical points in the ACA was the legislation regulating the approval
process by which follow-on biologics (FOBs) would reach the market. These are
generic versions of therapeutics extracted from biologic systems like mammalian
cells and bacteria. The FOBs were new versions of many of the standbys in
oncology like growth factors and receptor-targeting antineoplastic molecules
like Herceptin and Rituxan. One of the people I was helping with remedial
college biochemistry so he could advise his boss was the medical staffer for
HELP Committee member John McCain. Chris, the staffer, like most of the staff,
had not gone to work on Capitol Hill because they were good at biology in high
school or college and they needed all the help they could get to understand the
complex issues of protein folding and post-translational modification of
proteins that would determine the degree to which FOBs would need to be similar
to the original drug. These were critical in ascertaining the precise role the
FDA would have to play in approving FOBs, thus the need for Congressional input.
Namely, would new trials be needed with each new version of a tested and
approved biologic? To be determined. (It really wasn’t and the pathway to commercialization is being developed
even as I write).

Senator
McCain was on time (also not uncommon) and I asked Chris, his staffer, if I
could introduce myself to his boss who I admired a great deal. Senator McCain
had just visited MD Anderson the week before and I thought that I would thank
him.

I
was given the green light and walked over to a man who almost looked asleep. He
was not. He still suffers from the rigors of his imprisonment in the Hanoi
Hilton and has many medical problems despite possessing a keen mind. He was
magnanimous, friendly and radiated power and substance. I was in awe and
gratefully shook his hand. I had seen him stop on the Mall for pictures with
tourists as well. John McCain is a true American patriot from a long line of
military heroes, although he never calls himself one.

Thus
I am outraged that Donald Trump (aka, The Donald) should insinuate anything about the senior
senator from Arizona that in any way impugns his military service as Mr. Trump
did over the weekend. Mr. Trump: shut up! Your comments about immigrants were
clearly pandering to the worst impulses of some Americans, but picking on the
2008 Republican standard bearer who spent 5 years as a prisoner of war after
having been shot from the sky by our enemies in Vietnam, is too much. John
McCain is a great American. For Mr. Trump, who got out of military service
because of a foot injury (and he cannot remember which foot it was so it must
have gotten better just in time for his RUN for the White House), to suggest
anything but the highest regard for Senator McCain is a true outrage and should
disqualify him for public service in this country, let alone any further air
time on the networks of NBC.

I
am just as outraged that the President of MD Anderson, the Ronald, can carry on
as he has since arriving 4 years ago. Nepotism, self-dealing, conflicts of
interest, abuse of power, and rudeness with a truly unpleasant disposition (DePinho’s
Syndrome?) have readily indicated his unfitness for duty to the same extent
that Trump’s pronouncements identify him as a non-viable Presidential aspirant.

Both
of these men need a four-year degree from a charm school somewhere and
someone’s mother correcting their comportment or Neil DeGrasse Tyson telling
them that the world does not revolve around them. Pluto doesn’t revolve around
them either although I would be fine with sending both of them together on a 9
year manned mission to the recently photographed ice hunk.  If Pluto needs two guys to play Mickey Mouse
and take the planet for a walk, these two, the Donald and the Ronald, are my
choices. It would be better than taking all of us for a ride as they are doing
now.

Leonard Zwelling