Normalizing Crazy


Leonard Zwelling

Come on. Admit it. You get up every morning wanting to know the answer to one question. What bit of nonsense did the president tweet about last night?

It has become normal to expect some silliness from the inhabitant of the Oval Office. My new fave is that Hillary lied to the FBI when the former Director of that agency testified under oath to Congress that she did not. Trump paints Flynn as an unfortunate victim. Like I said—silly!

There is no doubt in my mind any longer that the president colluded with the Russians in so far as he instructed others to reach out during the transition to assure Putin that he would get a better deal with his administration than with the Obama Administration even as President Obama was putting new sanctions into place. Mr. Nixon was rumored to have done the same thing to the North Vietnamese during the 1968 campaign. He got away with it, but it didn’t help him end the war.

I also expect that we will find out that Mr. Trump did acquire loans from banks with deep Russian connections and while he may not have invested in Russia or built in Russia, he was more than happy to take Russian money when no one else would loan to him given his bankruptcy track record. Also count on seeing laundry marks on the money. Seeing Trump’s taxes would help answer that. I suspect Robert Mueller has seen those records or will shortly.

Lest anyone forget, the same general mindset was over MD Anderson for over five years. Any cancer researcher worth his test tubes knew that the DePinho Moon Shot plans were nonsense and that the new president of MD Anderson was plotting a course to disaster for both the basic scientists and the clinical investigators. His ideas were crazy in the extreme for an academic institution although not so much for a drug company. Allow me to remind everyone that MD Anderson is not a drug company.

Despite the normalization of these bizarre ideas from 2011 to 2017, the great majority of the faculty members sat on their collective hands and let it all roll over them while really good leaders were fired and many superb faculty members left. Such is the response of Congress right now. Where are the protests from the GOP beyond McCain, Flake and Corker?

The Congress is largely a collection of old white guys with few ideas and fewer scruples. The new tax bill is a joke and the GOP is a joke foisting it on the American people.

This all becomes critical for Anderson as the new president arrives and sets the ship of state in a new direction—we hope.

I personally find Dr. Pisters to be rock solid and doubt he will be introducing any crazy to the institutional conversation. But, in case I am wrong, I hope the rank and file that remain stand up and be counted should proposals be forwarded that make no sense.

The country will have to recover from the Trump years whenever he either goes away or is impeached. I would bet on the latter and I think it will occur within a year. Whether this puts Mike Pence, Paul Ryan or Nancy Pelosi in the White House remains to be seen. Timing is everything.

The same will be true at Anderson. If Dr. Pisters installs a good team of vice presidents, I suspect the ship that is MD Anderson will steer a course to success, get back to centering its focus on patient care and restoring the excellence of the basic, clinical and population-based research, all of which need work. If however, crazy becomes normal at MD Anderson again, the Regents may or may not get another shot.

Leonard Zwelling