Nov. 6, 2013
Over the last year, since Sen. Mark Kirk returned to Washington after suffering a stroke in January 2012, I’ve been genuinely concerned about his physical and mental well-being. We’ve all been inspired as we’ve watched his rehabilitation. It took enormous courage for Sen. Kirk to persevere as he faced the daunting challenges associated with his recovery. While Sen. Kirk and I disagree on my issues of policy and ideology, I have wished him nothing but a speedy and full recovery.
As I watched Sen. Kirk on Ch. 11’s Chicago Tonight back in May, struggling to answer questions from Carol Marin, my heart went out to him. I knew Kirk had physical hurdles to overcome, but at that time, I began to question if his mental capabilities had sufficiently recovered to allow him to carry out his duties as a U.S. Senator. That wasn’t an easy question for me to ask myself, as I knew how it might be perceived. I decided to keep my concerns quiet and allow Sen. Kirk additional time to demonstrate that he was ready to serve.
During a Senate hearing earlier this week, Sen. Kirk had an awkward exchange with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ Marilyn Tavenner. Towards the end of his questioning, Sen. Kirk seemed to wander into uncharted territory as he began using Navy lingo, drawing an audible, “what.” from the room, filled with Senators and staffers.
This isn’t easy to say, and it has nothing to do with where Senator Kirk stands on the issues, but there is something obviously wrong. While much of his physical ability has returned, it does appear that Sen. Kirk is still struggling with his ability to communicate and reason, as a result of the effects of his stroke. I simply do not think he can do his job right now.
It doesn’t make me happy to say it. It actually saddens me, but I truly wonder if we have a United States Senator that has a difficult time putting basic thoughts and sentences together. If that’s the case, then yes, it’s tragic, but can we ignore it? If, for whatever reason, he can’t do his job — physically or mentally — shouldn’t he step down?
I know these are awkward conversations to have, especially since nobody has come out and said it, but it’s reached the point where the question has to at least be asked. He is a United States Senator who is supposed to be representing an entire state — an important job. If a man or a woman can’t do that job, then they ought to step down.
My thoughts and prayers are with Sen. Mark Kirk, but it’s become pretty clear to me that he can’t do his job. It’s time for him to step down, come home to Illinois, and complete his recovery.