Afraid To Face The People


Afraid To Face The People


Leonard Zwelling

Why is the leadership of the country, the states, and the world so fearful of open debate and questions from constituents?

That’s the issue discussed in Peggy Noonan’s op-ed in The Wall Street Journal on May 6.

The context for Noonan’s piece is the fact that Donald Trump, the current leader in the GOP race for the presidential nomination, will probably forego the first few debates against his challengers while continuing to lie in a solo performance on CNN. The reason? Essentially, he’s got everything to lose and nothing to gain by participating in a debate. He’s already the leader. He doesn’t want to look bad in front of his rabid followers, and he’s hopelessly out of practice when it comes to real politics. He hasn’t had a real debate for three years.

Trump has lived a life of control since he left office only having to answer to various prosecutors for which he has teams of lawyers.

He’s also not had to really answer for any of his official conduct while in office (or after), at least not yet although the walls may be closing in on him now that the case in Georgia over his seeking votes that weren’t his, the case in Florida about his sequestering of official documents, and the case in Washington surrounding the January 6 riot are advancing albeit like molasses.

Noonan speculates: “I think the real reason he might skip the debates is that he’s scared of being up there on stage for two hours in an uncontrolled environment with a group of people gunning for him.”

Chris Christie said of Trump, “If, in fact, his ideas are so great, if his leadership is so outstanding, then his lead will only increase…he’s afraid to get on stage against people who are serious…And if he’s afraid he has no business being president.”

This is all true and makes it more likely that Trump would give town hall time to CNN, but will skip real debates.

This is very reminiscent of the MD Anderson president’s approach to public events. In an hour presentation to the faculty or staff he will lecture for fifty minutes and then take ten minutes of questions all of which had to be submitted in advance. He leaves nothing to chance. There is not a hint of spontaneity. It’s all in the script. It’s all planned down to the last Power Point slide.

Donald Trump must be aware after the Proud Boy convictions of this week, that the wolf is at his door. It is not inconceivable that we could have a presidential race where one of the contestants is a convicted felon. Surely, we can do better than that.

And while we are at it, the Democrats are minimally better. All they got is a stiff strutting 80-year old and his trusty incompetent companion. There are real worries that with a president in his eighties, it is not hard to imagine Kamala Harris ascending to the Oval Office and that is just untenable.

What is clear is that Trump, Biden, and Pisters are all presidents or past presidents incapable of doing the job and unwilling to face their constituents. Biden hasn’t had a news conference in I don’t know how long.

It is time for the people of America to at least get an alternative to Trump running on the GOP side if no Democrat will mount a serious challenge to Biden, which is too bad because he could be beaten in a real primary fight. And the faculty of MD Anderson needs to hold its president to account for the problem with burnout, crowded clinics, and an overall lack of effective leadership at any level of the institution while the president eschews even the appearance of shared governance with the faculty and its elected representatives.

America is having a leaderless moment, but it need not last long if the people will act. Look what happened in Israel when the Israeli public took to the streets. Hope rose. It can here, too. It’s up to you and me.

Dr. Zwelling’s new novel, Conflict of Interest: Money Drives Medicine and People Die is available at:,

on amazon if you search using the title and subtitle,


directly from the publisher Dorrance at:

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