The Lady and the Trump

This week, my family and I convened to do something very unusual: to watch television. And not just any television program — no, it was to watch the Republican presidential candidate debate. While I fully expected the debate to be ‘entertaining,’ perhaps I underestimated the sheer level of ignorance that I would encounter. In retrospect, perhaps I shouldn’t have been so surprised.

Chicago buildings

The Chicago skyline, with Mr. Trump’s building, as observed on a recent visit.

Having seen the spectacle of Donald Trump in the first debate, with his childish, bigoted and chauvinistic remarks, I guess nothing should really have surprised me. But nonetheless, I came away shaking my head in disbelief.

Toward the end of the debate, when the candidates had already vied for the title of who would “defund” Planned Parenthood” most rapidly and who told the most moving stories of  love for their hero, Ronald Reagan, Donald Trump (mistakenly called “Tramp” by my spouse) let the vaccine out of the bag. According to Mr.–or should I say Dr.–Trump, childhood vaccines cause autism. And how does he know this? Someone he worked with had a beautiful baby, and took him for vaccines–and lo and behold, the baby turned into an autistic monster. Point proven.

The hell with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the decades of study by thousands of scientists and doctors–no, no. He, knows better. But no better was the follow up with comments by two physicians who are also in the running for the Republican nominee: Dr. Ben Carson and Dr. Rand Paul. First, neither doctor contradicted the comments of Mr. Trump. Dr. Carson made very ambiguous statements, claiming that (in agreement with Mr. Trump, who he jokingly called “an okay doctor”) vaccines are bunched too closely together and should be spread out over longer periods. I doubt if Mr. Trump could even name the diseases that these vaccinations prevent, but the important thing is that his careful scientific analysis demonstrated with perfect clarity that the vaccine schedule needs changing. Dr. Paul, the Libertarian, invoked freedom of the individual to choose, and carefully avoided contradicting Mr. Trump’s claims.

I find it incredible that in a country that has enough real and serious problems, we have to waste time and energy inventing non-existent ones. I realize that Google has made everyone an expert in everything, and that parents can now diagnose their children’s pediatric illnesses with the click of a mouse, but this is creating a false sense of comfort. One cannot become a trained scientist or physician by exclusively reading online. It just doesn’t work that way. And we should not be giving equal weight (or any weight for that matter) to politicians or uninformed doctors on issues that they do not understand — that is the province of the CDC or NIH — to establish rigorously researched protocols based on the best data available. Mr. Trump and his cronies may be good at paying for tall buildings in Chicago, they they should stay the hell away from putting in their ignorant  two-cents worth on subjects that should be left to professionals.

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery. "Saving One" is my most recent novel set at the National Institutes of Health. Now IN PRESS: Today's Curiosity is Tomorrow's Cure: The Case for Basic Biomedical Research (CRC PRESS, 2021). All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising.
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4 Responses to The Lady and the Trump

  1. Cath@VWXYNot? says:

    I suspect that Donald Trump’s candidacy may be a cunning plan by Stephen Harper in the run-up to our own election, to make Canadians think he’s not so bad after all.

  2. Laurence Cox says:

    Are there any sensible Republican presidential candidates left? Trump’s behaviour, I expected because we’ve seen him over here when he tried to browbeat the Scottish Government into opposing an offshore windfarm because it would spoil the view from his golf course in Aberdeenshire, but I hadn’t expected Dr Ben Carson to come out with this from the debate (reported in)

    CARSON: No, I do not. I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.

    • Steve Caplan says:

      To ask “if there are any sensible Republican candidates left?” implies that there were some in initially…
      With regard to Carson: I had no respect for him after what I saw during the two debates. The bigoted-racist-xenophobic statement that he made (which was even worse than Trump’s reaction to a bigoted follower) just cements my opinion of him. As for the Republican candidates: until now, I thought that the 25% supporting Trump represented the Republican party’s “Tea Party” and that the other 75% of voters would never vote Trump–and as soon as the number of non-Trump candidates decreased, their support would eventually unite behind a single (hopefully more central-oriented) candidate. Now I am not so sure.

      In looking at the other candidates, if one ignores their anti-abortion hysteria, my pick for the least extremist and most rational one would be: Jeb Bush. He seems far more moderate (and intelligent) than his brother, but being more cautious than other candidates in his temperament and statements, I think the Republican supporters don’t like him as much. Christie and Kasich are also ‘relatively’ moderate, although neither appears to have much of a chance. The rest of the crowd range from extremist to dangerous bravado (including Fiorino, the female candidate who is picking up steam).

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