Lebanese-American Alex Azar Nominated By Donald Trump To Become Next U.S. Secretary of Healthy and Human Services

The Lebanese diaspora’s affinity to the Trump regime strikes again with Alex Azar, of Lebanese origins, being nominated by American president Donald Trump to head the U.S. Health and Human Services department, which is essentially the equivalent of health ministries elsewhere around the world.

The healthcare sector in the United States corresponds to one of the top expenditures of the American economy, and of citizens. When I first came here, having the way insurance works here be explained to me was more complicated than some of the things I studied during medical school. And, after practicing medicine here for the last several months, I’ve come to realize how much their healthcare system, Obamacare or not, needs fixing in order to further better the health of their people. For being the world’s top superpower, their indices as well as the overall health of their people is nowhere near where it could be because of how the system has been built for years, to put Americans at a disadvantage when it comes to access and affordability.

Up until recently, the U.S. HHS secretary was Tom Price. He resigned after a scandal of him using taxpayer money to fund private travels. At more than $1 million, and multiple Politico articles exposing him, Price had the shortest tenure as HHS secretary. The department, with everything that the Republicans are doing to change healthcare to what suits them, is still dealing with his resignation.

Enter Alex Azar.

A descendant of Lebanese immigrants, Alex Azar was born in 1967 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. His father, also named Alex Azar, was an ophthalmologist and teacher at John Hopkins. He holds a law degree from  Yale Law School, and was a clerk for  Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court in the early 1990s. He also worked for Kenneth W. Starr, the counsel who investigated Bill Clinton leading up to his impeachment in the 1990s as well.

Apart from his law background, Azar is also a health care expert being a former president of the American division of Eli Lilly and a health official in the George W. Bush administration, as per the New York Times. His allies, as does Trump, believe that Azar will be using his legal and health expertise to advance the Republican agenda of reforming Obamacare, which Azar believes to be a broken system, as well as to lead to lower price of drugs.

As a comparison to Lebanese readers, medications in the U.S. – even though they are mostly created and often produced here – are exorbitantly expensive. An antibiotic that you can get for $7 at a pharmacy in Lebanon would cost you north of $200 here, unless you have a good insurance plan. I’ve had patients come to the hospital nearing death because they can’t afford the medications they were prescribed.

The irony of asking someone who was the head of a pharmaceutical company to contribute to cheaper prices of drugs should not escape you. Democrats will probably grill Azar about his background in the pharmaceutical business, as well as his record in his role at the HHS previously, as they should. For a president, like Donald Trump, who wants to “drain the swamp,” he sure keeps finding a way to bring lobbyists and people of that swamp right into the heart of power. He’s also extremely conservative – as are the majority of Lebanese Americans by the looks of it.

Nonetheless, Azar’s expertise should come in handy for a Trump administration scrambling for legislative victories in the American political scene. What those victories mean to Americans and those living here (raises hand) remain to be seen.

On the Lebanese side of things, I hope that this appointment adds to Lebanon’s lobbying powers with the Americans, further tilting the Trump administration from negative actions towards my home country, and – maybe – guiding the quagmire of the Middle East, and the Saudi Arabian debacle – to a healthy conclusion.

Good luck to Mr. Azar in his confirmation hearing. He will need it. I just hope he’s more reasonable than Waleed Phares (I still don’t know why he spells his last name that way).

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11 thoughts on “Lebanese-American Alex Azar Nominated By Donald Trump To Become Next U.S. Secretary of Healthy and Human Services

  1. Your blog has touched on various points it’s hard to comprehend the main point you’re trying to convey.

    First, it’s not true that the Lebanese diaspora has “affinity to the Trump regime” or are largely conservative. While there are no data about the Lebanese votes, Arabs supported Clinton by a margin of 2 to 1 in 2016 presidential elections. And those who didn’t vote for Clinton voted for Bernie Sanders. My guess is that Lebanese voters followed the same trend as their Arab brethren.

    Second, it’s hard for most of us to feel proud of Azar’s Lebanese heritage when he himself couldn’t care less about his Lebanese heritage. Furthermore, Lebanon has contributed nothing to his career and accomplishments. So for us to cling onto or bandy about his Lebanese roots strikes me as silly. It is akin to Walid Jumblatt’s ridiculous gloating over Amal Alameddine’s Lebanese heritage after she married George Clooney. Jumblatt forgot that Amal had left Lebanon when she was two to a new home (England), the country that’s credited for what she is right now. He forgot that Lebanon had contributed nothing to her success.

    It always baffles me why we Lebanese are so easily impressed by celebrities (or politicians) of Lebanese roots when those celebrities don’t feel any sense of belonging to their ancestor’s homeland.

    As for your “hope that this appointment adds to Lebanon’s lobbying powers with the Americans,” well, it’s just a pipe dream. It doesn’t work that way, as you will soon discover how life really is in America.

    Finally, you are right about the health care system in America when it comes to equity, affordability, and efficiency. There is something wrong with a health care system (insurance companies) whose sole purpose is to reduce your doctor visits as much as possible in order to increase their shareholders’ profits. National healthcare or Medicare for All, which Bernie Sanders advocates, seems to be the only way out of this mess of a convoluted, inefficient, costly system. But it may be a while before the other half of the uninformed Americans who oppose universal coverage get it in their head that one-payer system is not akin to Communism.

    Reply
    • This 1000x on “healthcare” & Bernie samrxter! People need to stop having meltdowns about ‘socialism’ – when what is being proposed by Bernie Sanders (& others – regarde moi…) is ‘Socialist Democracy’; re. medicine & housing & childcare etc.

      There is a reason Denmark has been shown in studies to be the happiest country in the world! It is really embarrassing how behind we are in the States regarding so many important matters influencing health/safety/environment/housing/education/guns (sadly another lunatic attack only yesterday) etc. It’s disgraceful. Please somebody invite me to join you in Quebec! I have grown so very weary of the States.

      Reply
  2. samrxter beat me to it! Re. “conservative”: Arab Americans are split about 50/50 between voting Republican & Democrat; according to polls. This has been true for many decades & since Arab Americans in prior decades were mostly Lebanese – most probably this is a reflection of Lebanese Americans also. To humanise this w/ some examples:

    Ralph Nader. Groundbreaking consumer rights advocate & twice Green party candidate for President; who ran w/ Winona Laduke for Vice President (Lakota/Indigenous American).

    Attorney & Senator (South Dakota) James Abourezk. Represented members of AIM (American Indian Movement) & founded the ADC (Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee).

    Marlo Thomas. Actor & author & feminist. She created the first single working feminist activist tv character in the 1960s. (That Girl). And then a feminist/human rights oriented children’s album. (Free to Be You and Me).

    Then of course all the professors/authors & artists/musicians/poets. And the priests who were involved w/ Martin Luther King Jr. & the Civil Rights movement should not be forgotten. The list is really endless.

    Keep in mind that prior to the 1965 Immigration Act – most Arab Americans born before then were Syrian/Lebanese Christians (wether practising or not) & given names that were more conforming. (Taking their middle name = father’s first name as their last/family name. Given a Latin or Greek or French Christian first name). And many famous people changed their names after they became known. For one example: pioneering Lebanese American surf guitarist (who invented this very influential style of playing by speeding up songs like Miserlou) Dick Dale had changed his name. A lot of Arab Americans who are older & not conservative would not be recognised as Lebanese/Syrian/Arab by their names.

    Reply
  3. @Zoe Yes, yes, such as the funny Jamie Farr (Jameel Farah) and the Lebanese/Syrian Paul Anka and a host of others whose names have been Americanized.

    But the point I was driving home is the empty, misguided pride we draw from famous people of Lebanese descent. I think that tells more about our own insecurities than about their “Lebanese-ness.” It is one thing when Salma Hayek comes to Lebanon to share her genuine desire to share Gibran’s message in her film; it’s quite another when we so desperately claim that Keanu Reeves and Vince Vaughn are Lebanese — the former has zero Lebanese blood, the latter has a tiny drop that he couldn’t care less about.

    Maybe this weird phenomenon stems from the fact that our country is largely void of role models that we have to look elsewhere for someone famous to look up to.

    Reply
    • Lol. I got what you meant about claiming every supposed & even imagined Lebanese who may float by samxter. You made a great point. You should have heard my father! I wasn’t trying to address that w/ my list of people like Ralph Nader. Only to say that there are many well known Lebanese Americans who are not conservative.

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    • PS to samrxster:

      And Omar Sharif went in the other naming direction whilst still in Egypt. His name was Michel Dimitri Chalhoub & he was born & baptised into the Melkite rite. I once read that he was *Lebanese* also – but the Wikipedia entry says his father was from Damascus & his mother from Latakia. Lol. Everyone wants to claim that iconic face & acting talent.

      Before the Prophet film Salma Hayek rarely mentioned being half Lebanese – only Mexican. (Even during the 2006 bombing). Shakira is another half Lebanese person that does this – mostly describing herself as Columbian. (Despite speaking Arabic & four other languages). I’m always surprised when people are surprised when I have mentioned either of those people as half Lebanese. Especially Spanish speaking people. As there is no ‘K’ in the Spanish alphabet! And Shakira is an Arabic name as is Salma. The latin name Selma is obviously spelled w/ an ‘e’ vs ‘a’. And then there is Shaki’s dancing! Columbians don’t have the ‘travelling steps’ that we have! (Pivoting on one foot or moving to the side).

      Reply
    • Oh I know samrxter. I made a mistake. After I hit send I realised the 50/50 polls were no longer the case & that most Arab Americans were/are voting Democrat now. What w/ all the anti-Arab & anti-immigrant & anti-Muslim sentiment hitting us in the face which has increased since the 1990s. (2nd Intifada & 9/11 & recent wars & illegal monitoring of young Arab men in NYC & profiling/searches at airports etc.). And the changing demographic of a greater number of Arab American Muslims than the previous mostly Christian population & a much younger Arab A. demographic in general.

      There are also differences based on region & religion. In NYC & surrounding area where I live & in LA – Arab Americans vote mostly Democrat (along w/ most everyone else!). Aside from many Antiochian Orthodox (& Orthodox in general. Greek & Russian etc.) who voted for Trump. Whereas there seem to be quite a few Arab American Christian Republican voters in Middle America. Pennsylvania etc. (Which freaked me out a bit when I first read it).

      Thanks for the clarification & links samrxter. (I’ll read them in a bit). I am not a registered Democrat; in case I’ve given that impression. I’m registered independent & a Bernie supporter & voted for Nader/Green Party. H.Clinton infuriated me when she stood in front of the UN w/ the Israeli ambassador during the worst part of the 2006 bombing of Lebanon saying it should be *stronger*. (Don’t make me think about that or I will have to boycott the Gap & Old Navy & Starbucks again & miss out on a lot of sweet clothes again… as they gave %$ to the Dems without announcing it loudly).

      Reply
  4. To label Mr. Azar as a Lebanese-American reflects the naive mentality of Lebanese people. He is vert different from sectarian, racist, and shallow Lebanese people. Mr. Azar is American and has nothing to do with Lebanon. He did not even like Taboleh and Homos!!

    Reply
    • “Homos”. You may mean LBGT people/Gay people? (Or have you mispelled the food?). Shouldn’t you be signing a constitution somewhere Mr. James Madison? One that does not consider Indigenous people & Black people & women as having the same rights as pale men of European heritage.

      Reply

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