My thoughts are with Sen. Johnson and his family as he recuperates from brain surgery after a sudden bleed:
Democratic Sen. Tim Johnson was in critical condition recovering from emergency brain surgery Thursday, creating political drama over whether his illness could cost Democrats newly won control of the Senate.
The South Dakota senator, 59, suffered from bleeding in the brain caused by a congenital malformation, the U.S. Capitol physician said. He described the surgery as successful.
I’ve known others who have had this condition. One, a child, died; the other, an adult, spent years in rehabilitation. Sen. Johnson, who was apparently seen to very quickly, may recover entirely or almost entirely, which I hope he does.
Neverthless, even though I hope for Sen. Johnson’s full recovery from his body’s terrible assault on itself, I can’t help but be fascinated by the political spectacle unfolding as a result of his unexpected illness. If he recovers quickly, it’s no harm and no foul as far as the current Senate composition goes. However, if he doesn’t recover, the Senate essentially becomes Republican again, because the Vice President will be the tie-breaker in any 50-50 splits. When it comes to judicial nominees, that is, to my mind, a good thing.
All of this is a reminder about the inherent fragility of all our institutions. In systems centered on one person, we expect this. That’s why the Castro death watch is of such interest to so many. However, in democracies, we forget that individuals are still of paramount importance, whether because, like Ariel Sharon, they have rare leadership abilities or because, like Sen. Johnson, just the fact that they show up for work in the morning affects the balance of power.