Oh doctor! An analogy scorned…

The Trump analogy

Dear editor:

Here’s a make-believe but often real nightmare scenario: You have just received the terrible and terrifying news, “You have cancer.” After biopsying your mass, your surgeon wants to refer you to a medical oncologist (a cancer treatment specialist). Many are available in your area. He then asks you, “Do you want a medical oncologist with a good bedside manner who is barely competent and will probably not successfully treat your cancer? Or do you want one that has little bedside manner but is extremely competent and can put you into remission thereby giving you many good years of life or even cure you?” In reality, there are many who are extremely competent and also have a great bedside manner, but not in this hypothetical analogy.

Who in their right mind would choose bedside manner over competence if given the choice?

Why do I tell this hypothetical story? Because I hope it will answer the question that many liberals keep asking evangelical Christians: “How did you ever vote for Donald Trump and why do you keep supporting him?”

Because we are realists! It would be very idealistic and even wishful thinking to believe we could find an individual who is presidential and additionally has all the skills, ability and knowledge necessary to be a great and effective president. The closest to our ideal may have been Ronald Reagan. Those of us who support DJT see him for who he is as well as for who he is not. We have made peace with that.

As a person, most of us who support President Trump consider his personal style to be at times annoying, crude and bullish. But so what? We didn’t elect him on his ability to look and act presidential. We saw in him a man who had a vision for America that fit our vision. His personal flaws were annoying but he seemed like a man who could get things done; things we liked and wanted for America.

He was unabashedly patriotic, pro-capitalistic, America first, anti-illegal immigration, pro-life and pro-Christianity, unwilling for America to be taken advantage of, willing to take on our enemies and not whimper in their presence and had the willingness to use hard and crafty negotiating tactics to achieve his (America’s) goals.

In the present analogy, he was and is the competent cancer doctor. To us, he is in the process of putting America into a great remission and improving its health.

Now to finish the analogy! Every great medical oncologist needs an equally competent team of other professionals such as surgeons, radiotherapists, oncology nurses, physical therapists, pharmacists and I could go on and on. It’s a team effort.

Likewise, President Trump needs to have an ever-increasing competent group of advisers along with a conservative Supreme Court and also the support of a Congress where fellow Republicans continue to have the majority and see and support his vision. With it, he can continue to “Keep America Great and Make It Even Greater.”

Jack Sternberg, M.D.
Retired medical oncologist
Hot Springs

The first reaction, from my friend Donna, came on Tuesday, August 14, 2018:

A false analogy

Dear editor:

Re: “The Trump Analogy,” Aug. 10, 2018, by Jack Sternberg.

I can barely contain my disgust over the specious argument that Mr. Sternberg makes in his analogy comparing a competent oncologist with a poor bedside manner to Donald Trump as a competent presidential leader with “a personal style … at times annoying, crude and bullish … But so what?”

Examine the first part of his analogy. I am a registered nurse who has worked in a variety of health care settings over the last 34 years. There is no place for a technically adept physician (or any health care worker, for that matter) who is a bully, throws fits, denigrates members of the health care team, lies, cheats, exaggerates his/her competence, sets team members against one another and rejects up-to-date scientific evidence-based treatments. As the health care team is threatened, so also is the health and safety of the patient.

And now for equating Mr. Trump with that “competent oncologist” … a false analogy! When voters are asked to elect a judge, we seek a person who is not only competent in legal matters, but has “judicial temperament” (ABA definition: “exhibits compassion, decisiveness, open-mindedness, sensitivity, courtesy, patience, freedom from bias and commitment to equal justice”). Can we not expect that when we elect someone to the presidency of the United States, that the person exhibit some reasonable degree of this judicial temperament?

When the POTUS sneezes, the whole world watches. When he pops off a tweet that has spent two minutes festering in his frontal lobe at 5 a.m., world trade markets tumble. The world is not a lone cancer patient willing to accept whatever a singular physician determines will save him. Malignant persons in power threaten the health of the entire country and the teams that serve them. A malignant “annoying, crude and bullish” (Mr. Sternberg’s words) leader resuscitated the economy of post World War I Germany in the drive to make Germany great again. Acceptable? I think not.

Donna C.
Hot Springs

Four more reactions on Wednesday, August 15, 2018:

Metaphors are tricky

Dear editor:

“One thing that literature would be greatly the better for would be a more restricted employment by the authors of simile and metaphor” — Ogden Nash.

A retired cancer specialist recently suggested in these pages the metaphor of a technically competent oncologist lacking bedside manner as fitting the current chief executive and his team, and the results delivered thereby.

Now, metaphors are tricky; they have very soft boundaries. I wonder how many oncologists would agree that members of the “current team” are prepared with anything approaching the same years and depth of training as they are for their jobs (well maybe Jim Mattis). And as to metaphors for results, what might an oncologist in his or her parlance call a massive transfer of wealth from the rest of us to the people who need it least (a metastasis? enlargement of the principal mass?). Or for biological peculiarities of certain persons, viz., a U.S. senator who finds it possible to declare from the floor of the chamber that the poorest and neediest among us are also the most dangerous (a pedunculated polyp?). Or who, when noticing that a colleague has mistaken the disease for the host, will fail to give apt advice?

Don’t get me wrong. This is only about oncologists/oncology insofar as they make — and break down — as handy metaphors. The oncologist presently treating my sister is a saint — well actually quite close to one, having begun his career with Mother Teresa. He is board certified also in palliative/hospice, so he is going to stick with you, if need be, to the very end. Now you be the judge: Which oncologist is more like the “current team,” the foregoing or the one treating one of my family members who, when it became clear that all therapy had failed, communicated same by making us wait for two hours in his palatial office without ever showing up?

“Just a bunch of ‘billies, throw ’em under the bus.” A metaphor (if we must have one) perhaps more apt to current “governance” than “lacking bedside manner.”

Thomas Heckmann
Hot Springs


Analogy is wrong

Dear editor:

One of my teachers handed back a paper remarking: “It’s good to get an essay like this one, so bad that it suggests a throat slit from side to side. There isn’t any question about the diagnosis.”

Dr. Sternberg’s letter (Friday, Aug. 10, 2018) would have pleased my teacher.

The analogy is wrong. A politician’s public manners are part of the job. He or she may have to deal with other politicians of varying temperament, from varied cultures, with different concerns and responsibilities. To be effective, the politician must consider those others. A mechanic, or a doctor, need not pay much attention to the client, but a mayor, a senator and surely a president must to avoid misunderstanding, rancor and, often, failure.

The president, however, is arrogant to our NATO allies, foolish in his insistence on building a wall experts say will not prevent illegal immigration, insensitive in his failure to negotiate with the Mexican president before repeatedly vowing to make Mexico pay for the wall, cruel in his disregard for children separated from their parents, and the list goes on.

It may be reasonable to ask whether Mr. Trump is stupid or a borderline psychotic or a narcissistic megalomaniac. He must be one or several to make such world-threatening blunders as rejecting the Paris Accords in the face of scientific agreement about the present and mounting danger climate change poses. His false claim that North Korea is on its way to dismantling its nuclear arsenal, which his own advisers deny, is frightening to anyone familiar with Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His cozying up to dictators such as Putin and Duterte suggests he would like to be a dictator himself, and he is well on his way thanks to his blind-to-reality apologists.

He relies on lies and bravado in semiliterate tweets and contradicts himself repeatedly without shame, as, for example, when he claims that his inauguration crowd was larger than Obama’s or the Women’s March or that millions of illegal immigrants voted for Hillary, demonstrably false as anyone other than a zealot recognizes.

He makes outrageous, un-American statements, for example, that fascists such as the white supremacists in Charlottesville were comparable to the civil rights protesters — that they included “good people, too.” He flaunts his ignorance of and contempt for law and morality, as his numerous bankruptcies and unpaid debts showed, along with his racial slurs and rabble-rousing calls for jailing Hillary and the execution of five innocent young men in the Central Park rape case.

As for the good doctor’s bugaboo “pro-Christianity,” let me remind him that Jefferson’s phrase, “Wall of separation between church and state,” codifies what is implicit in the Constitution, as the Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed. (He might also note that Jefferson did not expect Mexico to pay for his “wall.”)

As Pliny said (but in Latin): “Cobbler, stick to thy last.” Clearly, logic, empathy and the ability to discriminate between vainglory and serious discourse tax Dr. Sternberg’s capacity. His diatribe should have found a home in the Dead Letter Office.

Stuart Jay Silverman
Hot Springs


Bedside manner

Dear editor:

Dr. Jack Sternberg (Aug. 10) has diagnosed the cause of the opposition to Donald Trump — it’s his bedside manner! Perhaps Trump should have distributed lollipops to those children separated from their parents and kept in cages. Perhaps he should have handed out cotton candy as he withdrew from the Paris climate agreement (although oxygen masks would have been more appropriate). Surely he could have presented Angela Merkel, Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron a Büche de Noël along with his insults, and tossed more than one roll of paper towels to the hurricane victims. All of this would have gone a long way to silencing the critics, wouldn’t it?

In offering the reader a choice between a barely competent oncologist with a good bedside manner and “one with little bedside manner but (who) is extremely competent,” Sternberg strongly implies that Trump is the latter. He isn’t. Not only does Trump have no real understanding of the job of president (witness the many times he’s had to backtrack), but he lies to aggrandize himself, calls those members of Congress who disagree with him names instead of trying to work out differences, institutes policies without thinking them through (zero tolerance is just one example), ignores the consequences of dismantling safeguards to the environment and health care, and cozies up to racists and dictators.

Sternberg is right about one thing — a president, like an oncologist, needs a competent team of advisers. Look at those with whom Trump has surrounded himself — all representing corporations and big money. Yes, a good bedside manner will not make up for incompetence and indecency, but neither will being a bellicose boor.

Sondra Rosenberg
Hot Springs


‘Deeply flawed’ analogy

Dear editor:

You recently published a letter in which the author compared Donald Trump to an oncologist who has little bedside manner but is extremely competent. He used this analogy to explain to liberals why people support Trump, in the sense that they would rather have a highly competent person as president, even if he does have personal flaws.

I don’t know whether the author would consider me a liberal or not, but I feel that his analogy is deeply flawed, in that it is difficult to compare Donald Trump’s level of competence for governing to that of a highly skilled oncologist. A highly skilled oncologist would have spent years learning and practicing his/her trade. They would have a deep interest in continually improving their knowledge and skill level. I don’t sense that Donald Trump has spent any time trying to understand the complexities of the problems he faces.

As just one example, he has embarked on a trade war by imposing tariffs on imports — something that no economist, conservative or liberal, thinks is a good idea. It completely goes against the free market philosophy that a majority of people in this country believe in.

I feel sorry for our state’s soybean farmers who are going to pay for the incompetence of this so-called “highly competent oncologist.” I am afraid that the patient is not going to recover from the “treatment.”

Paul Swepston
Hot Springs

One reaction on Friday, August 17, 2018:

A lack of integrity

Dear editor:

I won’t bother pointing out or repeating the awful analogy Jack Sternberg used comparing Donald Trump to an excellent doctor with poor bedside manner. Enough people have already done that.

The worst part of Sternberg’s comparison was citing Trump’s integrity. He has none. To say someone is politically incorrect is fine. But blatant and repeated (and well-documented) lying is not political incorrectness. It is simply lying. A man who has serially cheated on his numerous wives and been caught on tape bragging about getting away with touching women’s genitalia is not politically incorrect. He is simply a philanderer and sick human being. A man who repeatedly demeans others, calling them reprehensible names and casting unfounded accusations against them is not politically incorrect. He is simply a narcissistic, pathetic and insecure human being.

Oh, and by the way, Jack, for many, many years I considered myself a Republican, a conservative and voted, not all the time, but primarily, along those lines. This president, and the majority of Republicans in Congress, including Bruce Westerman and Tom Cotton here in Arkansas, do not fit my narrative or what I considered to be a Republican or a conservative.

Donald Trump certainly doesn’t. Giving out corporate welfare in the form of tax cuts for the top 1 percent of individuals and corporations. Running up the federal deficit several trillion dollars by doing so. Fighting endless and needless wars overseas. Destroying our land, water, polluting our environment and endangering species by deregulation that allows these companies to profit to the point of obscenity. I don’t consider any of those things to be conservative or Republican.

And while I don’t much care for the majority of the Democratic views or policies I’m hearing, this fall I’m sure not going to vote for any incumbent Republican. They’ve done enough damage. Time to say Stop.

As to Sternberg, he may have been an excellent doctor (I suspect he may be talking about himself when he says lacking bedside manner), but I feel sorry for someone who goes through life with such a myopic, one-sided, tunnel vision view of things.

Casey Alexander
Mount Ida

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