Jeff Flake-An American Hero

Jeff Flake-An American Hero


Leonard Zwelling

At 2:30 PM on Tuesday, October 24, I learned that the junior senator from Arizona, Jeff Flake, would not be running for re-election in 2018. He was following the lead of Senator Bob Corker (R-TN). Both men had had enough of Capitol Hill. I understand. It only took me a year when I worked there, but I was a peon. These guys are the warlords and even they are backing away from further battles.

What’s going on?

This one I really get.

There is some consolation in saying that the environment in which one is working is so toxic, it is no longer worth trying to change it.

From the reports I have seen, Senator Flake was the most endangered of the Senate Republicans up for re-election next year. He has expressed deep objections to both the substance and the tone of the Trump White House and was undoubtedly on the list of Senators targeted by Steve Bannon for unseating from the right. He was definitely going to be primaried and could well have lost at that point. He basically said he was unwilling to do what would be needed to win which would have been to give in to temptation and forego his principles. Given that, it’s time to quit.

Like I said; I get this.

By 2002, I was ready to step away from overseeing the infrastructure for clinical research after seven years. I had tangled sufficiently with Drs. Mendelsohn and Kantarjian (usually coming out on the losing end) and the faculty was not happy with me or with my office. A Blue Ribbon panel had identified my office as a problem for the performance of clinical research and Dr. Mendelsohn had hired Dr. Markman to oversee that activity, making my role fairly superfluous even though the levers controlling the infrastructure were still technically in my hands.

After a great deal of heavy psychotherapy and some time learning what horses have to teach humans about being present (read my book), I finally quit in June of 2004. It took me way too long, but I, like Jeff Flake, was no longer willing to do what was needed to satisfy my constituency and my boss.

I fear there will be many additional victims of the Trump Wars. In its inability to accomplish anything remotely like governing, the Congress has ceded the political (but not moral) high ground to a bore and misogynist who is both ignorant and uncaring with not an ounce of compassion or empathy. That would be the president. I get this. Everyone at MD Anderson gets this as they all went through it from 2011 until last March.

Sometimes, when leadership stinks, the leadership is overturned. Watergate comes to mind. More times, the leadership persists and those with ethics, morals or flimsy intestinal fortitude call it quits.

That was me. That is Jeff Flake. That doesn’t make him less of a hero in my eyes. I know I was no paragon of virtue when I quit. But I sure got healthy fast. I didn’t get cured until I got fired. Flake is ahead of me. He fired himself. He’s my hero.

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