The Blue Pages

. . . rantings from a young Democrat inside the beltway and outside the loop

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Senator Johnson is in Critical Condition

Yesterday afternoon, Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) was taken to the hospital for "stroke-like symptoms." His spokeswoman has announced that he did not have a stroke or a heart attack, but MSNBC is reporting that the Senator is in "critical condition" and according to "unconfirmed reports" is having brain surgery. Reports are kind of flakey so far, as it appears everyone is hush hush, so you have to take this all with a grain of salt. Story here.

Also, a CNN and AP update, c/o a coworker's email: "Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) was diagnosed with a congenital arteriovenous malformation (CNN). He underwent brain surgery last night and is in critical condition. Harry Reid, who went to the hospital, called Johnson 'a "dear friend to me and to all of us' (AP). "

First and foremost, I really hope he comes out ok. I've always liked Senator Johnson. He is one of these decent, earnest, soft-spoken, Midwestern populist types. He's more conservative than your average Democrat, which may be expected in South Dakota. In any case, he must be doing something right: According to SurveyUSA, he has the 9th highest approval rating of all 100 Senators in the Senate, at 70%.

Obviously, there are political implications to this. Let's go through them. (I don't know if it seems crass to discuss these immediately, but let me assure you that it isn't. They are my secondary concern right now, but obviously this man's health affects the country, so it is important to look at what may happen.)

A) If Senator Johnson dies or resigns, South Dakota state law allows Republican Governor Mike Rounds to choose Johnson's successor. In all likelihood, Rounds will choose a Republican to fill Johnson's seat, making the Senate 50/50 for D's and R's. With VP Cheney as the tiebreaker, this gives the Republicans the Senate back.

B) If Johnson is too ill to serve but decides not to resign, then he keeps the seat, and the Democrats keep the Senate. The 17th Amendment of the Constitution allows state legislatures to empower their executive to choose successors in the case of "vacancies," but being too ill to serve does not make the seat vacant. (Recently, Strom Thurmond and Jim Jeffords both were arguably too ill to serve yet held onto their seats.)

Let's hope that it doesn't come to either of these; not because of the political consequences, but because of the man's health.


  • At 10:19 PM, Anonymous Dave said…

    Well, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell will soon be saying that God admonished the peoples' choice of government by striking down Senator Johnson.
    I think this is such a shame, first because of the impact on the country but also because it is turning his mortal health into a political issue. CNN, MSNBC, FOX, etc are unabashedly going on about "if he dies." Few are discussing the fact that he's a good man, a good public servant, etc. Darn shame.

  • At 10:49 PM, Blogger Matthew Jerome said…

    Yeah, there was a headline earlier, I think it was on MSNBC, with Johnson's picture, and the headline was "The Waiting Game." As in, waiting to see if he lives or dies so we know who controls the Senate.

    But, don't get me wrong, discussion of this is reasonable. His death or incapicitation would obviously have very strong political consequences, and the media has to acknowledge that. The question is, are they making a circus out of it, and there's the thin line.

    Signs look relatively encouraging; he's apparently having the kind of recovery that doctors were expecting. But we probably won't really know for certain if he's able to serve for a while.

  • At 11:50 AM, Anonymous Dave said…

    I want to throw out a wild scenario. Obama doesn't run. Mark Warner does. But the Obama hype is so great that people are looking for someone new, exciting, and capable to challenge Hillary Clinton. Enter Mark Warner, a successful Governor from a red state. If Obama doesn't run, Warner's entrance should be timed just after Obama's withdrawal, placing him as the de facto challenger to Clinton. Think about it. It could happen.


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