Who Failed Whom?: Why Is
The State Of Leadership In America So Dismal?

By

Leonard Zwelling

         I was asked recently how the American people are going to
feel if they elect Donald Trump as the next President of the United States. The
colleague who asked then supposed that the American public would then get the
leader it deserved. I do not share these sentiments.

         The American people have been let down by the two party
system which is not ensconced in the Constitution at all.

         On the Republican side, the GOP elected to allow a
free-for-all (i.e., food fight) to take place among 17 dwarfs. None of the men
or women who ran for the Republican nomination was worthy of the Presidency.
They were radical, rabid, rude and ridiculous. And if they were none of those four
things, they were boring. You cannot be boring and win the Presidency except if
you are a Bush and three times was not the charm.

         Mr. Trump was anything but a typical politician. He was
politically incorrect and brash. He was ill-informed and seemed to take pride
in his ignorance and his ability to bully others around. He called people names
and he does to this day. He is an embarrassment to the country and will no
doubt continue to be if he is elected. But he was something new and Americans
do love something new. Why else did they go for Obama? Surely not because of
his policies or his experience. He just told a great story and was fresh. He
won. We lost, but not too badly. His Presidency was probably the cleanest one
since that of Poppy Bush, so that’s pretty good.

         On the Democratic side, Mrs. Clinton had decided in 2008 it
was her turn. She lost to the new kid on the block. She had no intention of
letting that happen again and besides there were no real challengers except that
of a Governor who got no traction and the Bern who was entertaining, but not
really attractive enough to sufficient numbers of Democratic voters, especially
the women who had decided this was their time.

         So that’s the choice the American people have, Clinton vs.
Trump. Sure they whittled these two down from the packs on each side, but the
choices were dreadful. There just wasn’t a field of sufficient stature to
engender any excitement so we got this, two older people, one qualified but
untrusted, the other unqualified.

         It is hard given the above, to blame the American people
solely for this outcome. After all, it is the apparatuses of the parties that
spit out these two nominees and the people were almost passively dragged along.
This was like an NCAA basketball tournament with no good teams at all. Everyone
was Division III and there will be a national champion, but that winner will
never be mistaken for the best or the brightest and certainly not the most
honest.

         It should not come as any surprise to people in academic medicine
that the leadership with which they are stuck is not of their choosing. It
isn’t. For example (just a random thought), it was Ken Shine who became so
enamored of Dr. DePinho that he had to have him for his crown jewel of a cancer
center in Houston. The MD Anderson faculty had no real say so and never do.
It’s the Board of Regents that makes the final call and they were well-handled
by Dr. Shine to give all of MD Anderson the blessing of the conflicted
leadership it is suffering through now.

         It should then follow as no surprise that MD Anderson is in
the throes of a financial shortfall blamed on the installation of a federally
compliant electronic medical record but more likely due to overspending on
non-revenue generating aspects of academic pursuits. Even the EMR was probably
installed so Mrs. DePinho could mine it for genomic and clinical data. Like
IACS, the EMR is probably a bad idea in service of a worse one (and if I am
wrong about this, let’s see the data).

         Like Mr. Trump, Dr. DePinho was not qualified to be the
President of MD Anderson. Heck, he’s not even an oncologist. Like Mrs. Clinton’s,
Dr. DePinho’s judgment has been sorely tested and found wanting in matters such
as his ownership in companies doing cancer research and his promotion of said
companies on national television.

         The only real difference between the American people who
have to choose from two bad alternatives and the MD Anderson faculty is that
the faculty never had a choice.

         No wonder there is a sense in the nation of an absence of
leadership. If this is your list of “leaders”: Clinton, Trump, DePinho, Petraeus,
Scalia, Jho Low, Ryan, Pelosi, McConnell and Reid, no wonder the country is so
doubtful about its future. And in the end, although scandal free, the Obama
legacy will not be much either. I mean wouldn’t you have thought that race
relations would have improved during the tenure of the first African-American
President? Hardly.

         We must remember that the system is built to allow
continuous change, trial and error. I think we have had enough error for my
lifetime. We Baby Boomers have lived through some awful stuff from 11/22/63 to
9/11/01 and beyond.

Somewhere,
we ought to try something new. Judgment and integrity in our leadership might
be a start. Or how about the comportment and honesty of a well-behaved 10 year
old in our Presidential candidates?

Leonard Zwelling