Give senator a chance to live before booting him

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 29, 2006

I realize I made a conscious choice to be a journalist, but sometimes I wonder about the lot I’ve decided to lump myself in with.

Yesterday we learned that Sen. Tim Johnson, of South Dakota, underwent brain surgery in the morning after suffering a brain hemorrhage on Wednesday.

He had bleeding in the brain as a result of pressure from blood vessels that are too close together, a condition known as congenital arteriovenous malformation. Johnson was born with the condition.


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The 59-year-old was in critical condition after his surgery.

Those words had barely escaped the lips of television newscasters and the keyboards of newspaper reporters before they launched into the discussion of what would happen to his seat on the Senate. Of course, no one was callous enough to finish the thought… “should he DIE,” but it was implied.

I was a little shocked by how quickly everyone turned to the politics at stake.

Democrats will hold a 51-49 edge in the Senate in January, thanks to the results of the mid-term elections. With Johnson’s current health status, everyone immediately turned to the fact that the balance of power could inch closer to the Republicans should he not be able to finish his term, which ends in 2008. In that case, the state’s governor, Mike Rounds, a Republican, could appoint his replacement.

Say Johnson is not able to finish the term and Rounds chooses a Republican to fill the bill. Would it really make that big of a difference? Having a ratio of 50-50 versus 51-49. The gasps and ohs and the seriousness with which people reported the situation was sort of comical to me.

For reasons beyond my comprehension, that was bigger news yesterday than the fact that a man’s life was on the line. And that made me angry. Little regard was given to what his loved ones might be going through, sitting in the hospital awaiting results of the surgery.

Being that I was in the office until late last night, I did not see any television news reports beyond the Today Show that morning. But I did see that, in an article updated later in the day, attempted to explain Johnson’s condition and prognosis before, again, devoting a good chunk of the story to the fact that the balance of power could shift.

I admit I’m just not that interested in politics, so maybe there truly is something great at stake should he not be able to complete his term. But I still think the media should have attempted to be a bit more sympathetic and respectful before launching into the “what ifs.”

Please, all of you politicos out there, feel free to call me or send me an e-mail and explain, if you can, why everyone couldn’t just give Johnson a day or two to breathe.

Give him a chance to get through surgery n brain surgery n before starting the debate over who will fill his shoes. My phone number is at the bottom of this page, and my e-mail is