There are still few details about the cause of his “stroke-like” symptoms but his condition is obviouslly quite serious:

Sen. Tim Johnson of South Dakota underwent brain surgery early Thursday at George Washington University Hospital after suffering stroke-like symptoms, two Democratic sources familiar with his condition told CNN.

Johnson, 59, was taken to the hospital Wednesday after he appeared to suffer the stroke-like symptoms, although a spokeswoman for the senator said subsequent evaluation showed he did not suffer a stroke or a heart attack.

There was no word early Thursday on the nature of Johnson’s surgery or his condition.

It’s still way too early to predict the effect this will have on the balance of power. One possible outcome:

The Senate historian’s office cites several examples of a senator being incapacitated for years and remaining in office.

Most recently, Sen. Karl Mundt (coincidentally, also from South Dakota) suffered a stroke in 1969 and was incapacitated, but he refused to step down. He remained in office until January 1973, when his term expired. Mundt was pressured repeatedly to step down during his illness, but he demanded that the governor promise to appoint his wife. The governor refused, and Mundt remained in office.

Another example was Sen. Carter Glass, D-Va. Glass had a heart condition that prevented him from working for most of his last term after his re-election in 1942. Yet Glass refused to resign, and finally died of congestive heart failure in May 1946, in his apartment at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington.

The Blue Voice points to a few other possibilities. I’ve scanned the conservative side of the blogosphere and everyone, including your’s truly, wishes Senator Johnson a speedy recovery. In fact, most of the concern being expressed for the Senator seems to come from the conservative side of the ‘sphere while the Left seems to be freaking out over the balance of power issue and, in some cases, floating tired Rove/Cheney conspiracies.

Listen to me. I might sound cold and shit, but this is far more important than one man. I don’t care if they have to shove a pole up his ass and have strings making his lips move, his ass better be on the Senate Floor come Jan 4. Even if he drops dead tomorrow, they’d better pull a Weekend at Bernie’s come January. Times are too critical to give the Rethugs an inch and as long as Cheney can cast the tiebraker, I want a majority, slim as it is. Hope he feels better but right now I’m concerned about our nation a little bit more.

Max Conservative: First, let me say I was saddened to hear of Senator Johnson’s illness, which at first was reported as a Stroke. Second, let me say I am not joking when I honestly wish him, and all humans, a speedy recovery. I don’t even wish half heartedly that any liberal or Democrat die from some disease, or accident. I prefer to defeat them in the arena of ideals, where Liberalism is clearly shown to be a hypocritical fraud and demonstrating how Liberals are inconsistant and illogical.

Where’s the Outrage?: I saw that Sen. Tim Johnson had some stroke like symptoms late yesterday afternoon. Only this morning did I truly understand the importance of the event. As a surgeon, I really don’t have any great insight yet. There simply isn’t enough information. Brain surgery, for what? A tumor? A bleed? An aneurysm? Depending on the etiology the prognosis is different. We’ll have to wait until later on in the day when information is available.

Grok Your World: The Dems had BETTER be talking to one of the New England Republicans, like Susan Collins of Maine, to persuade them to pull a Jim Jeffords — i.e., leave the Republicans and become an independent … just like Joe Lieberman … someone who’s going to vote with the Democrats to organize the Senate … so control of the upper chamber doesn’t go back to the GOP … especially in the weirdly snivieling face of Dick Cheney …

John Lott’s Website: I am sure that everyone’s thoughts are with South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson and his family. From across the political spectrum, people only have nice things to say about him.

From the Left: It looks like Vice President Cheney can go back to his secure, undisclosed location because he won’t be needed to cast any tie-breaking votes in the Senate.

The Purple State: When I first saw the stories this afternoon, my gut reaction to the Democratic-majority talk was discomfort: the man’s suffered some sort of medical calamity, his life may be in danger, and within the first three sentences of every story is a mention of the fact that his incapacitation could hurt the balance of the Senate? But – as one might conclude from the fact that I’m writing about it now – I got over that. I wish him well, and I hope he gets better, in the same way that I’d hope that anyone who suffered a medical calamity got better (even a Republican).1 But I think I’ll be pulling for Johnson a bit harder than I’d be pulling for most other people. Because while his incapacitation (or worse) would be terrible for him and his family, it has the potential to be disastrous for the Democratic party.

Fluffy Bunnies, Rainbows, and Unicorns: This post will probably have a very limited shelf-life, but my speculative interpretation of the confusion surrounding the Senator is 1.) he had a transient ischemic attack, or TIA, 2.) as part of the work-up he had carotid duplex imaging that demonstrated narrowing of his carotid artery, 3.) he underwent a carotid endarterectomy, and will be fine.

The Opinionator
: May none of us succumb to the temptation to be like some on the far left and only think of these things in terms of political gain. I could care less about control of the Senate in a situation like this one. If I ever lose that perspective, I will get out of the blogging business. And Mrs. Opinionator has my full permission to slap me silly if I ever become like them.

CNN Audio – Johnson’s difficulty speaking during a WNAX radio interview (MP3, 749 kb)


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