Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Two Sick Senators, Two Vastly Different Media Takes

Back last month when Craig Thomas, a seventy-three-year-old Republican senator from Wyoming, was diagnosed with leukemia after going into the hospital two days before the election, it wasn't front-page news. It didn't make most evening TV newscasts, and it certainly wasn't the #1 story. We most definitely weren't treated to breathless wall-to-wall speculation by the nation's press corps on how Wyoming's Democratic governor, Dave Freudenthal, would increase the Democrats' margins in the Senate by appointing a Democrat to take Thomas' place should he be incapacitated by the cancer. Contrast this with how the national media is treating Tim Johnson's hemi-demi-semi-fainting spell today. NBC led with it, as did the other networks -- and Brian Williams was all but drooling at the prospect of a Democratic Senate majority snatched away by South Dakota's Republican governor, Mike Rounds, as the words "possible stroke" were bandied freely about. The drooling will have to be postponed: According to Johnson's aides, both a stroke and a heart attack have been ruled out by the doctors treating the fifty-nine-year-old senator. They're not sure what it was, but it certainly hasn't killed or probably even seriously inconvenienced him. UPDATE #1: Just found out that Wyoming law forces a governor to appoint a person from the same party as the incapacitated senator, so that's a moot point. But still, I think that a man in his seventies undergoing weeks of intensive treatment for acute leukemia is in a bit more of a hole health-wise than whatever it was that Johnson had or has. UPDATE #2: To be fair, I also suspect that a lot of the initial media frenzy was driven by Stephanie Herseth's initial report to the media, wherein she was quoted as saying she thought Johnson had suffered a "massive stroke" -- though as it turns out, he was only stuttering for a brief period during the call and recovered during it; before he ended the call, Johnson asked if there were any additional questions. He then walked back to his Capitol office but appeared to not be feeling well. The Capitol physician came to his office and examined him, and it was decided he should go to the hospital. That's not exactly the classic sign of a "massive stroke". UPDATE #3: The latest word is that he's talking and expected to be fine.

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