"Utterly Ridiculous"

March 16, 2017

Dear Mr. P,

I love listening to BBC World News on the radio. Soothing voices deliver news reports in deadpan style with a cultivated British accent. For example, “Utterly ridiculous”, said by the British communications intelligence agency, GCHQ, regarding their role in your allegations of wiretapping. In most situations, the GCHQ doesn’t weigh in on controversies. But, after Sean-I’ll-believe-anything-Spicer quoted former Judge Andrew Napolitano -- “Three intelligence sources have informed Fox News that President Obama went outside the chain of command. He didn’t use the NSA, he didn’t use the FBI, and he didn’t use the Department of Justice, he used GCHQ” -- even the normally polite and reticent Brits couldn’t keep quiet. “Nonsense”, said a GCHQ spokesperson.

Mr. Napolitano (not to be confused with, and not related to, Janet; also not related to Judge Judy) sat on the New Jersey bench from 1987 – 1995, but then resigned to pursue life in the private sector. “Judge Nap” has been a Fox News commentator since 1998, and made his allegations, prefaced by the phrase “sources have told me…”. Gosh, Donald, after all your rants against unnamed sources, I’d have thought you could do better than this. This so-called judge hasn’t practiced law in, let’s do the math, 21 years? Heck of an expert.

Today the Senate Intelligence Committee dismissed your allegations as unsubstantiated. We’re still waiting for your promised “additional information.”

Of course, I’d hate to get distracted from the rest of today’s news, such as your proposed budget, and the ongoing deliberations by the House Budget Committee on AHCA.

Not to mention the Muslim Ban. Regarding the latter, you definitely don’t have any “filter” once you get fired up by a rally crowd, as you did yesterday in Nashville. Take my advice, Donald – shooting from the hip isn’t going to help your court case. Comments such as “This ruling makes us look weak” and “I think we ought to go back to the first one and go all the way” – short term endorphin rush for long term defeat – not worth it. Next time stick to the teleprompter.

As for “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again”, are you kidding me? There are many things about your budget not to like, but as a retired physician and former academic researcher, I’ll limit my comments today to the health sector. You’re staying mum on Medicaid and Medicare – AHCA’s fate is still undecided, and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if Tom Price doesn’t have some Medicare-slashing tricks up his sleeve – but you and Mick have been hard at work trashing research.

NIH (National Institute of Health) will lose $5.8 billion (19% of its current budget), if your plan goes through. I’m sure you have no idea how competitive it is currently to obtain NIH grants for medical research. Most NIH grants go to outside groups – academic medical centers, such as the one I worked at – and are the lifeblood of these institutions. A beginning researcher often applies for a RO1 grant – and if successful in obtaining funding, their career is well on its way. Without an RO1 grant? Might as well try some other career. Maybe you think that our country already has more than enough medical research, or that all research should go to the private sector, such as pharmaceutical companies. News Flash, Donald: industry-sponsored research has a high likelihood of yielding biased results. I guess you could call it “fake medical breakthroughs”, as often these miracle cures turn out to be rubbish.

Curious how you and Mick Mulvaney decided which health programs to ax: NOAA and NIH out, NASA mixed bag, CDC out, etc. I’m just wondering who advised you, as you haven’t filled any of the administration’s 46 empty science and technology positions.

You also are planning a “major reorganization” of the 27 NIH institutes and centers. You’re vague on the details, except for the “America First!” action of shutting down the Fogarty International Center. Its mission statement reads:

The Fogarty International Center is dedicated to advancing the mission of the National Institutes of Health by supporting and facilitating global health research conducted by U.S. and international investigators, building partnerships between health research institutions in the U.S. and abroad, and training the next generation of scientists to address global health needs.

I guess I shouldn’t be so surprised. Given your stance on the State Department, where you appear to believe that diplomacy has a minimal role in the 21st century, why would you be interested in HIV/AIDS in South Africa, or research into emerging infectious diseases? You wouldn’t. Anything outside the U.S. borders is irrelevant, unless it’s a bizarre claim that a secret British intelligence agency was hired by President Obama to spy on you.

News Flash #2, Donald: most pandemics originate somewhere outside the U.S. – Asia, or Africa, for example – and then spread to the U.S. Do you have a vague recollection of the Bird Flu? Or Ebola? Have you heard about multi-drug resistant T.B. (tuberculosis)? Sometimes pandemics spread really fast – remember, we live in a global era with people flying to our country from all around the world (however, I understand the lure of America is beginning to fade – for industry, for tourism, for conventions, for business trips).

Maybe you can try to ban Muslims, but it’s pretty darn hard to ban a virus from entering the country. Think about that, next time you get a cough.