A Fatal Lack of Transparency                     May 9, 2013

By Leonard Zwelling

            Along with assorted stories describing how neighbors in a Cleveland suburb did not detect the presence of kidnapped women in an old house for ten years and a guilty verdict for some sort of murderer in Arizona (I haven’t followed that one closely enough; clearly I make too few trips to the supermarket checkout tabloid array), comes the real story of the Benghazi attack of September 11, 2012. This terrorist action left 4 Americans dead and when asked precisely what happened Secretary Hillary Clinton said that didn’t matter. Now in Congressional testimony some of the colleagues of those killed said it does matter.

            The underlying story is about presidential politics. In September, in the midst of what appeared to be a competitive race for the White House, President Obama did not want to appear soft on terrorism. From there it does not take much imagination to get to a story that this mayhem arose from protests rather than the truth that it was a carefully planned raid on a poorly defended American installation in a hostile land. It also seems like those on the ground were aware of this risk, but that their pleas for a greater military presence went unheeded.

            Anticipating that Mrs. Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee for President in 2016, Republicans in the House went after her 3 years ahead of schedule by using the clearly pained and raw feelings of stalwart State Department officials who had been gagged or demoted following the Benghazi fiasco. Their testimony made the former Secretary of State look bad and her boss look weak. It is pretty much phone it in Washington theater at its finest. Everyone is using someone else to make a point in anticipation of the 2016 election. It’s shameful.

            It is likely that before the week is out, we will once again be plunged into a debate surrounding Dr. DePinho, his wife and their equity holdings in Aveo. The company’s sole product just went down to a defeat that in the FDA world looks a lot like Benghazi in the real world, a 13 to 1 rebuke by ODAC. The questions are going to fly as to what DePinho knew, when he knew it and how it might have affected the trading in his family’s Aveo holdings. He pushed the company’s stock on CNBC and when juxtaposed with the revelations about the poor quality of the clinical trial of the drug last week, the question of the timing of his knowledge of the trial results and his actions thereafter (what ever happened to that blind trust?) are very relevant. They matter, too.

            As in the case of Benghazi, the Aveo catastrophe might have been avoided with transparency at the time the bad news became known. Everyone has experienced defeat. Not everyone spins the defeat as an actual victory or unforeseen mishap. Now, unfortunately, in both cases, it is a bit late for it is clear that the lack of transparency was used to manipulate public opinion in what should have been an open and shut case.

            Secretary Clinton should have said on September 12, 2012, we made a terrible mistake. I made a terrible mistake and for that I am sorry and yes, it does matter.

            Once the issue of conflict of interest was brought to the surface about the DePinho holdings, something that I have been pounding on for almost 2 years, he should have just sold the damned stock. He would be better off now on many levels if he had. And no one would have questioned his motives if he had done so the day after assuming the MD Anderson presidency.

            Unfortunately, neither Mrs. Clinton nor Dr. DePinho can take back their actions and transparency has caught up with them just as it did with Richard Nixon and Mrs. Clinton’s husband.

            When you trade transparency for opacity or veracity for obfuscation to further a personal or political agenda, that is the risk you take. The truth might actually catch up with you. Then you have to pay the price and that price is likely to be far greater than the one you would have paid by simply making an error and admitting that you did. But, it’s always about the cover-up, isn’t it?

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