Concussed Out Of A Non-Crisis

Concussed Out Of A


Leonard Zwelling

         “It reminded me that as a general rule political parties and
political actors do not change their minds based on evidence or argument. They
have to be beaten. Only then can they rationalize change to themselves and
their colleagues.” “We keep losing!” Defeat is the only condition in which they
can see the need for change. They have to be concussed into it.”

         Thus ends the op-ed from Peggy Noonan on August 20, 2016 in
the Wall Street Journal entitled “A
Dramatic Lesson About Political Actors.”

         Surprisingly enough, the column is about a Danish television
show called “Borgen” about the first woman elected to run the Danish
government. The show has been a big hit in Denmark and Great Britain. The first
paragraph of this blog, the last of the Noonan piece, is the gist of the
lessons from the TV show. My good friend Fred Becker said it even more
elegantly: “The leopard doesn’t change his spots until he hears the furrier

         In other words, bad political and managerial actors will not
alter their disastrous paths until beaten at the ballot box or worse. The
conclusion from this is that if you think the bad press is going to affect
Donald Trump’s rhetoric, think again. No matter how ridiculous the pronouncements
of Mr. Trump seem to be or how offensive, it will only be in defeat that he
realizes the error of his ways despite his recent “regrets” about some of the
things he has said. He has surrounded himself with yet another team of
political hit men who will likely let Trump be Trump all the way to the polls
in November. For those of us wedded to sanity, that’s the best we can hope
for—Trump being Trump. That’s because, as someone said on the radio, the
candidate who the election is about is the candidate who will lose. Thus far,
it’s all about Trump.

         That brings me to my favorite political tableau, MD

         For five years, MD Anderson has been about Dr. DePinho and
in that, MD Anderson has lost. It has lost crack investigators, great
clinicians and a great deal of its well-earned reputation in academic oncology.
With the recent onset of the financial crisis that is not a crisis, but because
of which more patients must be seen, Dr. DePinho has been strangely absent.
Drs. Buchholz and Dmitrovsky have been front and center, along with Mr.
Fontaine, as the apologists for the recent non-crisis. But these surrogates can
be no more effective at turning the Good Ship Anderson around than can Trump’s
new team of campaign leaders. It’s up to the guy in charge.

         It is my hypothesis that neither Mr. Trump nor Dr. DePinho
will change until either hears the furrier coming or is concussed into
submission. In Mr. Trump’s case, that will be up to the American people.

         In Dr. DePinho’s case, there is no plebiscite that can recall
him or unseat him. Only the Board of Regents and Chancellor McRaven can do that
and they seem abundantly reluctant to act despite the 400 million reasons they
might reconsider the decision made by their predecessors to hire a
non-oncologist to run the world’s largest cancer center. Perhaps the financial
downturn will serve as a sufficient concussion to wake up the people in Austin.
I actually doubt it. Until the straits are sufficiently dire on the ground on
Holcombe, Dr. DePinho is likely to continue wrecking havoc with a once great
institution. How unfortunate! It may well take a true crisis to enlighten the
people in Austin to what their predecessors installed atop the Pickens
Building. Let’s just hope it is not too late to recoup a fragment of Discovery,
Caring and especially Integrity.

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