Mehmet Oz as Surgeon General? Dr. Phil as HHS Secretary?

AJ Calhoun
6 min readJan 10, 2018


A large group of Democrats have lost their damn minds.

Yes, I will say it in no uncertain terms: Please, Lord, keep Oprah where she can do the most good: Just being Oprah. Not running for president. Please, I beseech you.

Yes, I am a terrible person. Call me Captain Bringdown. Oh, I like Oprah Winfrey. I admire her greatly. She is smart, witty, a great entrepreneur, she can say with a straight face she is “really, really rich.” She can give groups of people new automobiles (Herbert Hoover comes to mind). She is supremely entertaining, even when her book club selections go horribly wrong or she leans on charlatans like Dr. Phil McGraw and Mehmet Oz (the latter once a respectable cardiothoracic surgeon until Oprah got hold of him and helped turn a doctor into a snake oil salesman). I like Oprah well enough. Just not well enough to visualize her as president, despite her good works and her entertaining qualities. She is already her own international institution; she is The Department of Oprah. Leave her be that.

How would I react if Oprah were to become the Democratic nominee? Well, given that I sincerely believe a third party is unlikely to succeed or even get off the ground by 2020, I honestly don’t know. Would I prefer her to Donald Trump? Actually, yes, but that doesn’t make her a great candidate. Does charisma make anyone a great candidate? Well let’s see: Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Donald Trump. Three of those had previous experience in government, two as governors, one as a Senator. The fourth? A weird reality show star who prior to that was famous, like anyone named Kardashian, for being famous. Reagan was very charismatic in an avuncular way, and was also morally and ethically handicapped (his Lieutenant Governor once told me some pretty unsavory stories, over lunch, about Uncle Ronnie’s acting inappropriately with women long before he was president; his forgetfulness during the Iran-Contra scandal was, well, scandalous). Speaking or moral and ethical lapses, there’s Bill Clinton. How do I count the ways? Donald Trump…words fail. Barack Obama? I still take him seriously, I still like him, knowing what I know now about his neoliberal ambivalence I would still vote for him, given no other choices (but that is easy to say, since he could not run again, contrary to the fears and beliefs of many Republicans).

So yeah, charisma doesn’t count for much when I’m measuring someone for president.

Yes, I know, Oprah is a woman, and that is of paramount importance, at least to some people, mostly those who continue to support Hillary Clinton and pray for a third shot for her. (Plot spoiler: don’t hold your breath).

She’s also a Black woman, Oprah is. Given that being a woman didn’t put Hillary over the top (despite, yes, having won the popular vote) and that being Black forced Obama to work with one hand tied behind his back for two terms — and that neoliberal thing that became dazzlingly clear in his second term, a Black woman probably can’t win, even though a Black man did win — twice — and a woman took the popular vote. Both were so fiercely hated by the Right that combining those two characteristics could, at this particular point in our unraveling history, prove fatal.

But let’s set that thing aside, if only because it shouldn’t matter.

But it does.

Oprah Winfrey is a charismatic celebrity who is very, very rich and has no political experience. How’s that working for you right now? Sure, she’d be better than Trump, but so would Joe Shit the Rag Man. Not as bad as Trump? That is the definition of “damned by faint praise.”

Yeah, we really need someone a whole lot better than Trump. No, I mean a whole Hell of a lot better. Not just better than bad. Good. And there are such people out there, and I don’t mean Regis Philbin, who is a familiar face and who is pretty liberal and who is also very, very rich.

Bernie Sanders? To borrow from William S. Burroughs, “The chance was there. The chance was lost.” Bernie may be (in fact he is) the godfather of the New Left, but there would be a terrible pushback against him, his age would be used against him (wrongly, but let’s be real for a minute. Just for a minute). He would be accused (as he is now), if wrongly, of misogyny.

Is there anyone remotely like Bernie or maybe even better? Yes, actually there are several. Are they ready and do they have the enormous experience, energy and passion of Sanders? No, but who does? Joe Biden? I love Joe, but he is almost as old as Bernie, his physical health is more sketchy (his medical history must come into play here), and he is a great guy but very much an establishment guy. He’s also tired. Would I vote for him if he were the candidate? Hell yes. He is at least that much better than Trump. (I’d vote for Sanders too, but am trying to keep this real).

So yes, there are people who could take down Trump in an election (and his undoing may take long enough that he could be the incompetent, er, incumbent) in 2020, so we can’t count on his being impeached, 25th’d, or simply toppling like a rotted, ancient oak. Yes, I do think about that sometimes. That’s how low my opinion is of him just as a person.

There are people, and I will not name them here, because you need to figure this out, do the thinking, the vetting, the math, then get behind one of them. I’m just telling you I don’t want Mehmet Oz as Surgeon General or Phil McGraw heading up the HHS. I don’t want the country being run by consulting “The Secret,” and I don’t want the country to be shattered into “A Million Little Pieces.” I don’t even want a car handed to me. Or two chickens in every garage.

What do I really want? I want Dwight Eisenhower resurrected and ruled eligible to run again because it’s a new lifetime for him. Or Malcom X. Or James Baldwin. Okay, I’m only being half unserious now.

Hey! Jimmy Carter (who I admire the Hell out of) actually is available and eligible for a second term. I’d take Jimmy Carter at 93 — but he’s too busy doing good works, dammit.

But Ike is not going to come to our aid, and neoliberals and celebrities will rush the stage now, and we need to settle the Hell down and get hold of ourselves and start looking at this as though it is governance and not a TV reality show.

We also need to remind ourselves that one stirring speech about one important social issue does not a candidate make.

We need an absolutely real politico who is relatively pure in heart, has some solid understanding of how this particular form of government works, who is willing to sacrifice eight years to get the ship of state not only back on course but also vertically righted, and who will apologize to the entire world for what we have inflicted on it over the past year. A lot of other years, too, really, but first things first.

We need the comforting presence of Oprah on our TV screens and in other capacities, but not at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. We not only do not need that but we need to step outside and breathe, calm down, let go the cult of personality, stop seeing our presidents as celebrities, and, well, get real.

So calm down, ya’ll, and for once in a long while, think. Just fucking think. Look around, too. There are potential heroes among us right now, doing their work and keeping the wheels turning.

Zero in on one of them, soon, and convince him or her you will give your all to get him or her into the White House if he or she will, pretty please, do this for all of us, right now, when the fate of the Republic and the world hangs in the balance.

Do that — and don’t dawdle or we’re all as good as dead. Oprahmania pretty well proves that. We’re a desperate bunch.

Seize the moment and save the world. And turn off the TV if that’s what it takes. Big Brother (or Sister) lives in there.



AJ Calhoun

Writer, activist, novelist, sixth generation DC, local historian-storyteller, and 1:1 patient care technician five days a week.