RSNA 2010: Bill

Seeing a President of the United States in person is something you never forget.  I’ve managed to be very briefly in the viscinity of every President from Nixon on up through Bush I, and on Tuesday, I sat 12 rows up from the stage where Bill Clinton spoke at RSNA.  I suppose I’ll have to wait until GWB and even Barack Obama come to town for a book-signing or something.

Bill was paid $100,000 for his speech, and it was certainly the biggest draw ever at RSNA.  Special tickets from RSNA were required, and these were sent out separately from the usual thick envelope we all receive at this time of year.  (I had to have several other vouchers reprinted, and which included by mistake a second ticket for Bill, which I gave to one of my daughter’s medical school friends.  Don’t hate me; the kid was a big Bill fan.)  Entry to the Arie Crown Theater at McCormick was to commence at 12:30 P.M. for the 1:30 P.M. speech.  By 12:15, the line wound completely around the theater and almost to an exit, and I would guess there were at least 1,000 people waiting.  But once the doors opened, there was smooth sailing, and I landed in a rather good seat.  Of course, photos were prohibited, so I took one, along with everyone else. 

President Clinton has a lot of charisma, and knows when to bite his lip just at the right time to sound and look sincere.  I have to say, though, that the talk was rambling, and Bill seemed to stagger from one point to the next, sometimes not quite making it there.  He took a number of gratuitous shots at the Republicans whilst on the way to wherever, chiding them for wanting to continue the Bush tax-cuts which would “cost” $700 billion.  (I don’t think it costs the government anything NOT to take my money, but it would COST ME a lot!)

Ultimately, the talk was about the inequality of health care in the poor nations, specifically the dismal state of diagnosis and treatment of cancer in the Third World, and he is certainly accurate in his description.  Of the 8 million cancer deaths annually, 70% occur in nations that get only 5% of resources.  Powerful statistic.  But the talk became much more about blaming the rest of us.  We shouldn’t be asking about government vs. private control, he said.  The REAL question is are we going into the future, or staying in the present?  Sadly, the implication is clear:  only the STATE (as run by Bill, Hillary, Nancy, Bawney, etc.) can take us into the future. 

The world is unequal, unstable, and unsustainable as it stands, according to Mr. Clinton.  With that I agree.  But I don’t agree that it’s my fault, nor that we have to dump our healthcare system and throw all possible resources to the Third World to change this.  In MY humble opinion, what Bill failed to mention is WHY the developing countries are in such dire straights, and why simply throwing money at them won’t help. In large part, the problem is not as much one of resources as distribution. The Third World does not have an adequate infrastructure to deliver health care to most of its population, and that is due to the level of corruption often found there. We can ship over an entire cargo vessel full of needed supplies, food, medication, whatever, and weeks later, find much of it for sale on the black market, diverted from those who truly needed help. These nations must fundamentally change their ways before anything good can happen.

Of course, Mr. Clinton wouldn’t want to address that, because folks in the rest of the world (except Israel) can do no wrong, and we can do no right, unless we follow in lock-step with the Liberal Agenda. Left-leaning folks over here rend their garments over the horrible discrepencies between rich and poor in America, but it’s OK that some Sultan or former sargeant-turned-Colonel can live like a king (literally) while his people eat dirt to stay alive (literally). 

Yes, we have an obligation to help the rest of the world, but the rest of the world has an obligation to itself that it isn’t fulfilling.  When Bill wants to talk about that, I’ll be listening. 

Mr. Clinton certainly has put his efforts where his mouth is, and he was not hesitant to tell the audience about some of the great work he has done since leaving office.  And he has done a tremendous amount of good, far more than I’ll ever accomplish.  That level of gravitas and power comes with the title of Former President.  However, I’m a little peeved about his taking $100,000 of our dues money to more or less chastize us as he did.  I’m a little peeved at the RSNA as well, for that matter.  Was there some message the leadership wants to impart to us, but needed Bill to voice?  Are they really our advocates, or looking to globalize radiology, and hoping to average out radiologist incomes to a annual level way below what Bill got for his hour of lip-biting? 

Hopefully Bill will put our money to good use and donate it to a Third World nation.  Let him feel our pain, too.

ADDENDUM:  Rumor has it that Bill received $150,000 for his ramblin’ wreck, but that this was paid by some anonymous donor.  Nice.

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