Anderson Resistance: “I Obey, But I Do Not Comply”

Anderson Resistance: “I Obey, But I Do Not Comply”


Leonard Zwelling

The sub-title of David Rothkopf’s superb new book, American Resistance, says it all—The Inside Story of How the Deep State Saved the Nation.

Rothkopf’s tale is about the presidential administration of Donald Trump from 2017 to 2021 and how the permanent government within the executive branch plus some incredibly courageous and ethical presidential appointees and military leaders prevented many of Trump’s wildest schemes from ever taking place. The thesis is a simple one and summarized in the title of this blog taken from the book on page 105.

“There’s a beautiful saying in Portuguese. It’s what the Portuguese administrators in the colonies, like Brazil, used to answer when the government in Lisbon would ask them to do something that was undoable, inappropriate: ‘I obey, but I do not comply.’”

Rothkopf’s thesis is that this is exactly what preserved the integrity of the nation when Donald Trump wanted to pull out of NATO, or go to war with North Korea, or build a moat on the southern border filled with alligators, or have sharpshooters maim illegal aliens crossing from Mexico.

But the real story is how some really smart people like Alexander Vindman and Masha Yovanovitch managed to do their jobs in the face of the overwhelming incompetence of Trump and his minions. One of the hardest things to do is to shake your head yes while receiving a crazy order and then not complying with that order. But imagine if such a strategy occurred at MD Anderson.

If the academic and clinical leadership stood up to the president when he chose to fire productive senior faculty for exhibiting a bit of unprofessional behavior (in the president’s opinion) and instead said, no, we won’t do that.

Imagine if the division heads had stood up to the president when he first proposed moving the PRS under Human Resources. What if they just said no?

What if the academic and clinical leaders implored Dr. Pisters to establish a faculty dining room not only to separate the faculty from everyone else so that the faculty might discuss sensitive matters away from patients and staff, but also to nurture esprit de corps and facilitate collaboration and better patient care with more frequent curb side consults?

What if the entire level of administration below the president said to him that his feel-good professionalism nonsense and Harvard Business School management malarkey like EQ and diversity will not cure a single patient with cancer?

What if the faculty said, no, we will not go on until you President Pisters pay more than lip service to shared governance when you propose new policies?

That is what Rothkopf’s book describes with a focus on the executive branch of the Trump Administration and the courageous leaders of the military and executive departments who just said no.

I have been there. I have said yes when I should have said no and I have been pilloried when I did finally say no to poor clinical research practice and bad actors in animal care and use. I know it rubs people the wrong way and I was castigated by Dr. Mendelsohn when I said no to him.

It’s one of the hardest things in the world to put your job and career on the line by doing the right thing. No one should do it lightly, but there are times when people have to do it. The heroes of Rothkopf’s book did it to Trump. The leaders of MD Anderson can do it to this president.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It shows the way it can be done and we should all be grateful to those public servants who put their country ahead of their president.

All of these people took an oath to the Constitution, not to Donald Trump. Every faculty member has a higher calling than to please Dr. Pisters or give in to his whims. Or they should.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *