4 scary ways politicians have radically flipped their positions since November.

It seems like just yesterday, congressional leadership was pounding its chest about ensuring that the 45th president of the United States should be held to rigorous ethical standards. Step out of line and prepare to be hit with a subpoena to appear in front of the House Oversight Committee. Bam! Oh, and that Supreme Court seat they were holding open? Yeah, maybe they’d leave it open for another four years. Raring to go for an opportunity to flex some major “checks and balances” muscle, our legislative branch was making their bold intentions known.

And then something completely unexpected happened: Donald Trump was elected.


Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

Suddenly up became down, black became white (or orange, depending on how you look at it), and those firmly held positions became a whole lot more malleable.

Here are a few recent examples of politicians whose positions on things like ethics, conflicts of interest, and whether or not it's OK to criticize the president have changed since the election.

1. Republican members of the Senate were set on blocking any Supreme Court nominee for an indefinite amount of time. Now they say that's unacceptable.

In February 2016, Antonin Scalia died, creating a vacancy on the Supreme Court. With nearly a full year left in his presidency, Barack Obama set out to appoint Merrick Garland to the court. The Republican-controlled Senate had other plans and refused to hold hearings to confirm Garland to his spot on the court. At the time, the argument was that we should wait until the next president was sworn in to fill the open seat, but as a Clinton victory looked more and more certain, the goalposts began to shift a bit.

"If Hillary Clinton becomes president, I am going to do everything I can do to make sure four years from now, we still got an opening on the Supreme Court,” said Sen. Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) in November. Others — such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) — seemed to support to Burr's plan.

Fast-forward to January 2017, with Donald Trump's inauguration looming ever closer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) held a press conference to discuss the party's legislative plans for the new session. While there, McConnell touched on plans for President-elect Trump's choice to fill Scalia's court vacancy, warning Democrats that "the American people simply will not tolerate" Democrats blocking Trump's future court appointments.

Yep, that's right. In the span of a couple short months, the same senators went from aggressively suggesting that it would be fine to keep a Supreme court vacancy open for four years to condemning such behavior and calling it unacceptable, while hiding behind the American people to justify the sudden shift. In truth, yeah, a lengthy vacancy was probably unacceptable from the start, but this is a major 180.

2. In 2009, Mitch McConnell took a stand for ethical standards prior to confirming Obama's cabinet appointments. In 2017, he says he'll be much more hands-off when it comes to Trump's appointments.

In 2009, just after Obama was sworn into office, McConnell warned then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) against trying to push the president's appointments through without proper vetting. In a letter dated Feb. 12, 2009, McConnell laid out eight requirements he expected presidential appointments to meet — clearance by the FBI, approval by the Office of Government Ethics, complete and accurate committee questionnaires, and the submission of financial disclosure forms, among others. While several of Obama's appointees had already been confirmed by the Senate when the letter was written, McConnell's letter urged the "fair and consistent application" of ethical standards moving forward.

In 2017, however, those standards seem a little less fair and a lot less consistent. A number of Trump's appointees have fallen short of McConnell's list of best practices. McConnell's response to those who want to put the brakes on confirmation hearings until those standards are met: "We need to, sort of, grow up here and get past that."

Noting the bit of hypocrisy, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) decided to send McConnell's own letter back to him verbatim, with some names changed.

Ethical standards exist for a reason, and McConnell was right to take a stand in 2009 to defend them. What happened to those values once his party was back in power?

3. Obama's critics slammed the president for "picking winners and losers," but offered Trump praise for doing the same thing.

Depending on who you ask, 2009's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was either a much-needed piece of legislation that helped pull the U.S. out of the Great Recession or it was a gigantic waste of taxpayer money. At the time it passed, critics of the bill, which was designed to provide a stimulus to the economy, argued that this sort of government intervention set a dangerous precedent of picking "winners and losers." Similar concerns were put forward when Obama took steps to save the auto industry.

"If you take a look at the president's policies he calls them 'investments,' it's borrowing money and spending money through Washington, picking winners and losers," Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) said in 2012. "Spending money on favorite, you know, people like Solyndra or Fisker. Picking winners and losers in the economy through spending, through tax breaks, through regulations does not work."

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

But in 2016, when PEOTUS Trump announced a plan to save a few hundred jobs at an Indiana Carrier plant at a cost of $7 million to taxpayers, Ryan's tune had changed.  

"I’m pretty happy that we’re keeping jobs in America — aren’t you?" said the Speaker of the House. "I don’t know the details of the Carrier arrangement ... but I think it’s pretty darn good that people are keeping their jobs in Indiana instead of going to Mexico."

What happened to "picking winners and losers in the economy through spending, through tax breaks, through regulations does not work"? Ryan went from a politician willing to stand up for his values, and then became completely ambivalent to them once his party's candidate was elected.

4. Trump's rise in politics began with a multi-year campaign against Obama's legitimacy. Now, he — and his surrogates — are outraged that Rep. John Lewis would question his.

In an interview with NBC's Chuck Todd, Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) explained that he would not be attending Trump's inauguration, saying, "I don't see [Trump] as a legitimate president," referring to Russia's possible role in hacking Democratic National Committee emails to sway public opinion toward Trump.

Predictably, this comment led to a certain amount of controversy.

It makes sense that Trump's supporters would come to his defense. The defense they decided to go with, however, was a bit suspect. On CNN, conservative commentator Ben Ferguson said that he couldn't imagine what the reaction would be if a Republican were to suggest Obama wasn't a legitimate president.

There's only one problem with that. At least one prominent Republican spent years accusing Obama of not being legitimate — and we just elected him president. Others — such as Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington), Rep. Charles Boustany (R-Louisiana), Rep. Bill Posey (R-Florida), and more — have also fanned the flames of "birtherism" in the past.

Trump appears on "Good Morning America" on April 11, 2011, to question whether or not Obama was eligible to run for president. GIF from ABC/YouTube.

There's a troubling inconsistency in how politicians act and what they believe in when someone from their own party is in power as opposed to when they're discussing someone from the other party.

It's partisanship, pure and simple, and it's harmful to our country.

Whether someone has a "D" or an "R" next to their name should not change how someone feels about the policies they put forward or to what standards should be held. When we let political divisions stand in the way of trusting whether or not our representatives have the best interests of their constituents in mind, we all lose.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Whether you voted for a Democrat, a Republican, or someone else altogether, shouldn't we ask that our representatives work together to find the best solutions for all Americans?

The airline industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as global and domestic travel came to a screeching halt last spring. When the pandemic was officially declared in March of 2020, no one knew what to expect or how long the timeline of lockdowns and life changes would last.

Two weeks after the declaration, Delta pilot Chris Dennis flew one of the airline's planes to Victorville, CA for storage. He shared photos on Facebook that day of empty planes neatly lined up, saying it was a day he would remember for the rest of his life.

"Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal...all words that still don't fit what is happening in the world," he wrote. "Each one of these aircraft represents hundreds of jobs, if not more."

He added:

Keep Reading Show less

The airline industry was one of the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, as global and domestic travel came to a screeching halt last spring. When the pandemic was officially declared in March of 2020, no one knew what to expect or how long the timeline of lockdowns and life changes would last.

Two weeks after the declaration, Delta pilot Chris Dennis flew one of the airline's planes to Victorville, CA for storage. He shared photos on Facebook that day of empty planes neatly lined up, saying it was a day he would remember for the rest of his life.

"Chilling, apocalyptic, surreal...all words that still don't fit what is happening in the world," he wrote. "Each one of these aircraft represents hundreds of jobs, if not more."

He added:

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."