I’M NOT A CROOK

“I’M NOT A CROOK”

By

Leonard Zwelling

            Nixon Tells Editors, ‘I’m
Not a Crook’

By
Carroll Kilpatrick

 Washington Post Staff
Writer 
Sunday, November 18, 1973; Page A01

Orlando,
Fla, Nov. 17 — Declaring that “I am not a crook,” President Nixon
vigorously defended his record in the Watergate case tonight and said he had
never profited from his public service.

“I have
earned every cent. And in all of my years of public life I have never
obstructed justice,” Mr. Nixon said.

“People
have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a
crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.”

I
simply cannot shake the comparison.

     Once again a grey
and combative man in a greyer suit needing a shave and declaring his innocence
is trying to convince the collected minions to follow his lead despite the
“unwarranted assault” on him and his institution.

     Once again, a man
seems to be chasing the ghost of Jack Kennedy across Dealey Plaza and Cape
Canaveral into immortality.

     Once again a
putative leader has surrounded himself with moral mediocrity.

     Once again it is
likely that a leader will be caught by his own words and deeds and cripple a
large and formerly prosperous organization in the process.

     It is CNBC as
Watergate. The Chronicle and Cancer Letter as the Washington Post. The entire
faculty as Deep Throat. The Chancellor may well be donning the robes of John
Sirica and Raph Pollack the role of Archibald Cox, substituting a Yom Kippur
Massacre for the Saturday Night Massacre.

And,
interestingly enough, once again the War on Cancer is joined with a declaration
of success right around the corner if we just spend enough money when nothing
could be further from the truth.

     Time to party
like it’s 1973!

     Those of us over
60 know the drill. We have seen it before. Just as Nixon could not have been
without Johnson before him to set the tone for the Imperial Presidency (“if the
president does it, that means it’s not illegal”), DePinho could not be DePinho
if not for Mendelsohn.

     The business
model of running the institution on the backs of clinicians and stock brokers to
support the huge fixed cost burden of buildings and administrative personnel was
born many years ago. It was never solid, strategic or sane and it certainly
wasn’t sustainable. Now we know that, because the combined forces of profligate
spending on research and recruitment and a medical economic environment in
which reimbursement dollars per unit of provider work are dropping has brought
us to that moment when the tape was found on the door of the garage entrance to
Democratic National Headquarters on June 17, 1972.

     I remember the
following morning waking up to this news about a silly break-in and wondering
what the heck could that be? Over time, we all found out.

     In about 1973
more than a year after the break-in, at a meeting of a group of Duke faculty
and medical students, Professor William Van Alstyne, a constitutional lawyer at
Duke, told us that Nixon was done. We all laughed and doubted him, but he was
right.

     Perhaps I can
play the role of Van Alstyne. The degree to which the MD Anderson recovers from
its current crisis and the slope of that recovery will depend upon the speed
with which the leadership is replaced. The longer the boys in Austin wait to
make the change that only someone with mural dyslexia (inability to read the
handwriting on the wall) cannot see is needed, the longer it will be for the
Gerry Ford look-alike to fix things. And this time, a pardon won’t cut it.

     Johnson and
Vietnam, gave us Nixon and Watergate. This in turn gave us Ford (or was that
Chevy Chase?), Carter (malaise), Reagan (Iran-Contra), Bush 41 (dissociative
aloofness), Clinton (Monica), Bush 43 (Iraq) and now Obama (just plain
aloofness). Is this the fate you wish for our beloved MD Anderson? Not I.

     Either the Board
of Regents acts now to repair the damage they and their previous presidential
appointment have caused or the Anderson will suffer the fate of
America—economic distress and moral relativism exhibited by a small ruling
class with all the money who came by that money in a quasi-illegal way (E.G., Have
any of the Too Big To Fail crowd on Wall Street done time? Not a chance.)

     Again, I say,
either step up and be counted as Fred Lang, Gary Clayman and Wendy Woodward did
during the meeting with the Chancellor or be an apologist for what your mother
would tell you was bad behavior as we saw in the follow-up meeting with our
leadership in the A T and T Auditorium.

     Me? I’m gone.
It’s up to you.

     When Inspector
Clouseau asked the German hotelier if his dog would bite, he was told, “no”.

     Clouseau
approached the little dog in the corner and was immediately bitten.

     “I thought you
said your dog does not bite”.

     “THAT is not my
dog”.

     As I say to son
Andrew when his dog Onyx misbehaves, this is not MY dog. But my former
colleagues, this moral and morale crisis at Anderson is your dog. And right
now, it bites!

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