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On a recent visit to Georgetown, my wife and I had dinner with an old friend of hers. I’ll call her “Susan.” They studied together in France during a semester abroad in college, back in the ’80s. Susan grew up in California near Malibu. Her family had a second home in Park City, Utah, and most weekends she and her family would fly to Utah to go skiing. She didn’t get into Berkeley and ended up going to the University of Utah, where she says she basically skied and partied for four years.
While in France, she met a Frenchman who owned a winery. They got married and had two kids. She sent her kids to boarding school at 11 years old and she traveled the world unencumbered. Her husband was unfaithful, and they divorced after 19 years of marriage. Now she’s back in the states, working at a health care think tank in Washington, DC. Which seems sort of funny, because after a very pleasant evening of conversation, my primary impression of her was that thinking was not her strong suit. That sounds mean. But she consistently and clearly struck me as not terribly intelligent. Which is fine. I’m not terribly artistic like Susan seems to be. We all can’t be great at everything.
Anyway, my wife hadn’t seen her in 30 years, and they had a great time catching up. Susan mostly ignored me (which was perfectly fine with me), until my wife mentioned that I was a doctor. Then she turned to me and said, “Oh, you’re a doctor? I help run a health care think tank!”
Me: “That’s nice!”
Susan: “The CDC gave us a huge grant to figure out why people aren’t getting their COVID vaccines. We’ve been researching the problem for over six months. We’ve got the most brilliant minds in the world working on it.”
Me: “That’s swell!”
Susan is a blind follower of the far left, as you’d expect of someone who grew up extremely wealthy, has been sheltered from reality for most of her life, and lacks an active mind. My wife warned me ahead of time, and I assured her that I would just sit there, and not say a dang thing, no matter what Susan said. So I was keeping my answers brief, and keeping an eye on my wife, who was watching me intently, to be sure I didn’t slip up and say something. Anything, really. I couldn’t blame her.
Susan: “This is a real problem with America. People don’t think. I miss Europe so much…”
Me: “I’m sure they miss you too.”
Wife: * stares at me even more intently *
Susan: “We’ve spent millions of dollars on our research so far. But this is so ridiculous. Can you imagine why anyone wouldn’t get their vaccine?”
Me: “Well, some blacks won’t get it because they suspect it’s a government plot to sterilize black people.”
Susan: * genuinely surprised * “Why on earth would they think such a thing?!?”
Me: “They’ve been trained that you hate them, along with every other white person. You can’t really blame them for actually believing it, I suppose.”
Wife: * dirty look *
Susan: “That’s incredible!”
Me: “And some Democrats won’t get them because Biden and Harris spent a year saying that they would never trust a ‘Trump vaccine.’”
Susan: “You’re kidding!!!”
Me: “And some Republicans won’t get it because they don’t trust the CDC or other government agencies.”
Susan: * clearly shocked * “Oh my gosh! That’s unbelievable!!!”
Me: “So in six months of millions of dollars worth of research, did any of your ‘most brilliant minds in the world’ go out and, you know, ask people why they didn’t get the vaccine?”
Wife: “Say, who was that cute guy in France that worked at the pub we always went to?”
Susan: “Well, of course, we’ve been really busy with data collection and analysis. We’ve been talking to some of the smartest people in the country about it. I mean, if you won’t even get a simple vaccine, that kind of means that you’re not exactly a genius, right? So why would we talk to people like that?”
Me: “Um, because you want to know why they’re making a certain decision. One way to figure that out would be to, you know, ask them. I understand your desire to avoid the undesirables. But it’s hard to study fish without getting wet once in a while, right?”
Wife: “Remember that cheap wine we used to drink for like 50 cents a glass? Woo!!!”
Susan: “For Europeans like me, it can be really hard to understand why Americans do things.”
Me: “Especially if you don’t ask them.”
Wife: “How ‘bout we get another bottle of wine?”
Me: “Sounds great!”
Susan: “All we can do is report our findings. We’re not a lobbying group (she spat those words out as if they were distasteful to her). We’re a think tank. We just provide our findings to the government.”
Me: “Let me guess. Your findings are that the vaccination rates are lower than desired because of inadequately funded government programs.”
Wife: * really dirty look *
Susan: “Actually, you’re exactly right. We’re proposing federal and state initiatives to improve vaccination rates. Funding for these programs will be easy because both parties want to fix this. That’s why they should listen to think tanks instead of lobbying groups. We provide them with unbiased information. So we keep them honest, and they keep hiring us for whatever problem comes along.”
Me: “There’s a simple way to test your hypothesis.”
Susan: “What do you mean?”
Me: “Just once, submit your findings to the government on some problem, and suggest that the best way to fix their problem would be to spend less money on something. Anything, really. See if you get any future grants. That way, you’d know that they really want honest information rather than confirmation of their own biases, and you could – OW!!!!”
Wife: * really dirty look after she kicked me in the shin *
Susan: “I don’t understand…”
Me: “Ah! Here’s our next bottle of wine! Why don’t you ladies refill your glasses? If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go the little boys’ room…”
* Limps away from table at 35mph *
I’d never really thought about the difference between think tanks and lobbying groups in Washington. After hearing Susan point out how different they are, I suspect that they may have a lot in common. They’re all just trying to earn money by promoting the growth of the government that pays them money. It’s not a parasitic relationship – it’s symbiotic. Which is much worse.
This sort of relationship makes sense, I suppose. Presuming you’re either a leftist or a sociopath. Which, in DC, seems to be a pretty safe assumption for much of the population.
Our government is broken in so many little ways. And it’s infested, at every level, with people like Susan. Which means it’s very unlikely to get better. They can’t fix problems that don’t even strike them as problems. To them, everything is ok.
The three of us drank three bottles of really yummy wine, ate some really good food, and blew nearly $300. I woke up with a hangover, a sore shin, and a grumpy wife: “I can’t take you anywhere!”
Why did my kid have to decide to play at Georgetown? Nebraska has a great volleyball team. Those visits would have been pleasant, at least…Published in