doctor

I

n the end, with the 2020 ballot on my kitchen table, I took advice from a dead man, a doctor from Scottsdale I never met, Dr. Jay Blum.

 A pulmonologist and critical care doctor by trade, Blum, a father of three, died in May, but I only recently read his obituary. It left an impression.

Dr. Blum grew up in Valley Stream, New York, a few miles from JFK airport and near where I was born. He attended the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis before transferring to a university far away geographically and in perspective—Berkeley.

He graduated summa cum laude, then headed to New York University for medical school. There he met his wife, Jane, a nurse. It was “love at first sight,” Blum’s obituary proclaims. They were married 47 years, until a massive heart attack took him.

Blum’s medical career was a distinguished one, by all accounts—and my research took me to several.

He risked his practice to fight the Arizona Board of Medical Examiners in the 1970s, over the right to stop prolonging the suffering of the terminally ill. He presented his research on treating lung cancer across the country and in France.

As an associate professor at the UA med school and later as chief of general medicine at the Phoenix VA, Blum took pride in schooling generations of doctors. “Blumisms,” they called his nuggets of wisdom.

The good doctor had one final Blumism, a line he asked his son, Matthew, to pass along to the rest of us.

“Don’t be angry by my passing, but if you must, be angry at Trump.”

It’s true. Jay Blum was a Berkeley liberal straight to the end.

I’m not, given that I voted for Republican candidates like County Supervisor Bill Gates and County Attorney Alistair Adel this go-round, but I agree with Blum on this much: I am angry at President Trump.

Angry about the hatred, the lies, the ineptitude on COVID-19, the use of the Supreme Court as a political weapon. So angry I could not in good conscience give him four more years.

But here’s the thing: I’m also angry at the Democrats and the sleepwalking gent they’ve pushed to the front of their ranks. The best thing I can say about Joe Biden is that he seems like a good guy to have a beer with. 

That’s something in 2020. 

But I believe his party is wrong on taxes, wrong on health care, wrong on racial politics, wrong on law enforcement. The further left the Dems tack, toward Bernie Sanders and that ilk, the faster they lose me. 

With due respect and love to Blum, they call his alma mater “Berzerkeley” for a reason. That’s not my vision for America.

So I wrote in a name.

I chose someone who would not want the position should the gig be offered. I made my choice based on what scouts in professional sports call the “best available athlete” theory. 

Rather than hire for a specific skill set, teams select the most elite athlete on the market, in hopes they can be trained and grow into the role. 

What do I want in a president? Common sense would be refreshing. So would problem-solving skills based on sound advice from across the spectrum of ideas. Empathy, work ethic, heart. 

Chiefly, I’m seeking the ability to see past party politics not every once in a while, but every day in an effort to heal these United States.

There’s little doubt Blum would have disagreed with the choice he inspired six months after his death, but we would have enjoyed the argument. May that kind stranger rest in peace.