Chicago’s Political Reporters Discuss the Future of Sen. Mark Kirk
By Ellen Cannon
Following a second brain procedure to reduce the pressure on the brain of Illinois Senator Mark Kirk after his serious stroke one week ago, Chicago’s leading political reporters began to assess the possible political implications of this unfortunate incident on Illinois politics and on Senator Kirk’s future role as a major player in national politics.
Appearing on the 34th anniversary of WTTW’s Chicago Week In Review, moderator Joel Weissman discussed the impact of Kirk’s stroke with Charles Thomas, Chicago ABC News; Jim Kirk, Crain’s Chicago Business; Abdon Pallasch, Chicago Sun Times; and Mike Mulligan, Chicago Tribune and WSCR radio.
Yesterday, Senator Kirk’s neurosurgeon, Dr. Richard Fessler of Northwestern Memorial Hospital, stated that “prospects for the mental recuperation of Senator Kirk were good but recuperation on the left side of his body is not great.” (video of Dr. Fessler, WTTW 127/2012)
Abdon Passasch, of the Chicago Sun Times stated that he remained shocked by the news of Senator Kirk’s stroke. In addition to seeing him in fit condition last Friday night at a reception at the Billy Goat Tavern, Passasch said that Kirk was the “healthiest politician in the Illinois delegation.” Passasch further stated, “I have lunch with Senator Kirk regularly. I would have an Italian sub and he would have a small bowl of soup. I would ask him, why the small lunch. He would reply that I have to make my weight as an active U.S. Reservist. This guy was a portrait of health. It is just a shock.”
Jim Kirk of Crain’s Chicago Business noted that he is thinking about Senator Kirk’s recovery, especially how long would the recovery take.
Reporter Charles Thomas expressed concern regarding “how long it took for the people of Illinois to find out” about the stroke. Noting that the stroke occurred last Saturday and the people of Illinois were not informed until Monday, was a concern. Thomas further noted that “the White House was not informed nor was Senator Durbin informed. Moderator Joel Weissman asked Thomas if he thought a cover-up of some kind was taking place. Thomas said he did not think that was the issue but rather “his staff was caught off guard for 48 hours.” (Chicago Week In Review, 1/27/2012
Abdon Pallasch and Charles Thomas expressed praise of Senator Kirk’s accomplishments in the Senate as well as support for the Senator’s continued role as Senator. According to Pallasch, “Since the stroke was announced, there has been universal praise for the Senator on both sides of the isle.” Senator Kirk, accord to Pallasch had established a bi-partisan model of political behavior and reached out to regularly work with Senator Durbin and other Democrats. He underscored that this was a rarity in the current political climate in Washington. Charles Thomas echoed this noting that “he was going to be missed not only in Illinois politics but in D.C.”. Thomas went on to say, “Kirk is a key player and a model of bi-partisanship and played the middle course well.”(Chicago Week in Review, 1/27/2012)
All the members of the panel strongly noted that when he is up for re-election in 2016, he will not have difficulty in being re-elected.
Although the length of time of Mark Kirk’s recovery remains unclear there are other instances of this sort which serve as hopeful examples of continued participation for Senator Kirk in the U.S. Senate. Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota suffered a high profile stroke in 2006, returned to active work in the Senate the following year and remains a member today.
If Senator Kirk should make the personal decision to not proceed, under Illinois law it is up to the governor of the state to make a temporary appointment to the position until a special election regarding the seat could be held.
Universal support and praise for a speedy recovery and return to the Senate continues to be expressed for the Senator.