Leonard Zwelling

Michael: I don’t know anyone who could get through the day without two or three juicy rationalizations. They’re more important than sex.

Sam: Ah, come on. Nothing’s more important than sex.

Michael: Oh yeah? Ever gone a week without a rationalization?

From The Big Chill (1983)



I was always a firm believer in the quote from The Big Chill. People can talk themselves into doing or believing anything and we have some really superb examples now.

In the first article above, the details that are playing out in an Atlanta courtroom over the fitness of the Fulton County District Attorney for her job are described. It seems a lot is being made of exactly when she began her romantic relationship with the lawyer she hired to help prosecute President Trump, but that’s a smokescreen. Who cares when she started to have sex with this guy? That she did it at all brings her judgment into question and surely disqualifies her from bringing a case against the former President. To be blunt, how can you be so stupid as to have an intimate relationship with someone you paid over $500,000 and who actually works for you on a crucial case? She can rationalize to her heart’s content about the timing of her initiating a sexual relationship with her employee, but given the high-profile nature of her job and the delicate RICO case she brought against the President and 18 others, she has got to show better judgment than that. She needs to be removed from this case and if Trump escapes a valid prosecution, well, who’s fault is that? Ms. Willis—period!

Then there are the many on the left who cannot grapple with the idea that Mr. Trump garners about 90% of the support of evangelical Christians despite his two divorces, sexual lechery, and foul language. How, the libs wonder, can these people of faith support such a man?

Easy. They like his policies.

In 2016 Hillary Clinton represented everything that the Christian right despises and she made no bones about calling them “the deplorables.” Anyone can rationalize the support for a political candidate if they believe their interests and those of the candidate align. I’m not even sure that’s a rationalization.

I even think that I was guilty of this rationalization when I made my pitch recently for support of President Biden. I felt that he was not fit for the job, but less unfit than Mr. Trump. I’ve since had a change of heart. I will not be voting for either of these guys as I cannot rationalize a vote for either of them. They aren’t qualified for the presidency.

And on the subject of really good rationalizations, how about the left’s support for Hamas? Rapists, murderers, and terrorists, but better than Israel? How do you figure? You have got to be deep into rationalization to justify even the slightest support for Hamas. Vice President Harris demands a cease fire. Why? It was the people of Gaza who elected these murderers and it is the people of Gaza who need to give them up.

Finally, I have always been amused by people in academic institutions who pledge allegiance to the leadership of the institution no matter what that leadership did. I saw it myself when John Mendelsohn was president of MD Anderson and when Ron DePinho led, and now with Dr. Pisters.

People: like Trump and Biden, these Anderson leaders were and are flawed men. There’s a reason that members of Congress and members of the military pledge allegiance to the Constitution, not to the leader. There are overriding principles that govern the United States and there are the principles of ethical patient care and good research that override the judgment of the president of MD Anderson.

I frequently got into arguments with Dr. Mendelsohn about the rules governing human subjects research. He thought he knew best. I thought the Code of Federal Regulation governed the conduct of clinical research, not him. I knew I was right and I was not going to allow him to rationalize what some faculty member did during the conduct of clinical trial as that faculty member’s best clinical judgment. That’s not the system and that’s not research. Furthermore, it’s not ethical.

Rationalizations are very powerful. Like Jeff Goldblum said in The Big Chill, more important than sex.

Be careful of those who rationalize their behaviors and beliefs. It’s easy to fool yourself.

2 thoughts on “Rationalizations”

  1. Judy Schuenaman

    Please do not NOT vote. If you so choose you give up any right to criticize their decisions and their administration for four years. I enjoy your opinions on government but you cannot continue to voice them if you do not vote. It matters not who you choose to vote for but you must NOT relinquish this most important part of our democracy.

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