Noisy Withdrawal


Leonard Zwelling

         What is happening in Washington, DC stirs a lot of memories in me. All bad.

         As the two articles (and many others) illustrate, the president is now kicking ass and taking names with regard to anyone who opposes what he wants in the wake of his acquittal in the impeachment pseudo-trial.

         Mr. Trump has withdrawn the name of Jessie K. Liu for a top Treasury Department post after she oversaw the prosecution of Trump ally Roger Stone. In addition, four of the federal attorneys associated with the prosecution withdrew from that prosecution when it was decided above them (by the Attorney General, no doubt) that the initial seven to nine year standard sentence recommended for Mr. Stone on his conviction for lying to Congress, obstruction of justice, and witness tampering was too harsh. This reduction of sentencing followed a Trump tweet about the subject. In other words, the Attorney General of the United States has recast his job as being the lawyer for the president not the lawyer for the people. Barr is now consigliere to the Godfather on Pennsylvania Avenue.

         The withdrawal of Ms. Liu and the four other prosecutors has not gone without notice and that’s the point. Their withdrawals have been loud, noisy withdrawals  (a term I learned from former GOP Congressman David Jolly on MSNBC). This is something about which I know a great deal. I’ve done it more than once and it always turned out badly for me, even if I thought I was doing the right thing. There’s a lesson there.

         My first noisy withdrawal occurred at the NIH after I was tired of running what was essentially my own lab group but still having to have every paper bear the stamp and name of the lab chief. That was the custom, admittedly because, in theory, the lab chief controlled the budget. However, unlike in a university where the lab chief actually procures the money for the research through the grant process, at the NIH in 1982, each lab got more than enough government money to run on and there were no grant applications. External site visits were actually a new thing in the 1980s in Bethesda.

When I finally completely developed a project of my own including learning technology unavailable in Bethesda to answer a question and then writing up the results and getting them accepted to The Journal of Biological Chemistry without any revisions, I knew I could do my own research and did not need a minder. That got me an invitation by my boss to find a new job. I did. In Houston. Noisy withdrawal.

Years later as the Research Integrity Officer at MD Anderson, I was investigating an allegation of research misconduct that the three-person panel of faculty reviewers deemed was a real case of fraud. We reported our findings up to our supervisors who essentially let the accused faculty member off with a slap on the wrist (no raise that year) and the researcher continued on at Anderson. That’s when I was sure the handwriting was on the wall for the end of my tenure as a VP. Of course, clashing with faculty that had historically flouted the rules of human subject research and losing most of those battles, my fate was essentially sealed. Just as at the NIH, my demands were greater than the system could tolerate. Noisy withdrawal.

Finally, at Legacy Community Health I had been brought on to assist the Chief Medical Officer on matters of training and staffing of physicians. He left ten weeks after I got there for a job in big pharma and I was asked to step in temporarily while they searched for a replacement. That’s when I discovered why he left. All of the essential decisions regarding how patients would be cared for had been ceded by the leadership to a nurse Chief Operating Officer who would abide by the demands of that leadership for high patient throughput to maximize income at the non-profit federally-qualified health clinic. Quality was not an issue as several cases brought to me made clear. My favorite was the 11-year old child being treated for nasal allergies who had strange round objects in his ears on a Panorex of his teeth. When shown this, I asked if the x-ray tech could take skull films. She could and we discovered the coin up the kid’s nose.

I was appalled even more when I made myself a patient at the age of 65, ten years post by-pass surgery, and had my initial visit last all of 15 minutes including a physical exam with all of my clothes on. I protested in writing. I was fired. Another noisy withdrawal.

What is going on in Washington is Trump’s attempt to rid himself of the historical constraints imposed on the president by career public servants. He calls them the “deep state.” It’s happening at the Justice Department and surely at the Department of State.

It is more important than ever for those caught up in this nonsense to withdraw noisily making sure that the whole world is aware that the President of the United States wants to install a dictator in the White House. Himself.

This problem only gets fixed at the ballot box as it is clear that the rank and file Republicans will not stand up to this president. They are the weasels they all (except Mitt Romney) turned out to be during the impeachment non-trial.

If the majority of Americans really wants a monarchy to replace our representative democracy, they are several steps closer to getting their wish. If they want something else, vote for it.

Sorry all you Trumpees out there. He has gone over the edge and must be voted out of office. Clearly he will not be turned out by his cronies in the Senate. It will have to come from the American people, many of whom continued to be fooled by the grifter of Trump Tower, the Count of Mar A Lago.

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