Rep. Julia Carson

Dateline: Thu 29 Nov 2007

I've held off writing about Rep. Julia Carson's latest illness because, frankly, the subject is painful.

Obviously, thousands of people in Indiana and beyond get terminal diagnoses every day; dying is part of living. But Rep. Carson, when she was well, was always kind and gracious to me, both in my role as a columnist at the Star and later as a blogger -- she has a great sense of humor, she returned phone calls, heck, she even answered her own cell phone. She made time. No doubt, that's one reason she is so beloved by so many of her constituents -- she cares. She also has that rare gift of not taking herself so seriously. And, when she did vote, she was never afraid to go against the grain and vote her conscience and presumably the conscience of the majority of her Democrat constituents and others.

I like and admire her a great deal. So it is painful and troubling to know that she is now sick with lung cancer, and that she has that battle to fight from her bed.

But since Dan Carpenter in the Star yesterday referred to the "often vicious" treatment Rep. Carson received from bloggers, I feel a tiny obligation to enter the fray.

The blogs were in fact the only early and consistent truth-tellers about Carson's repeated health problems. The blogs addressed concerns, which now we know were valid, that she was extremely unwell. Before there were blogs, it was readers who called the Star, demanding coverage of the fact that Carson missed, at various times, so many votes in Congress. It was readers who got that story out in the open, not the Star's Washington bureau.

A friend has referred to the treatment Rep. Carson has received at the hands of her many "supporters" as elder abuse. Carson, my friend says, was kept propped up by a staff and others who, it seems, may have had their own best interests at heart -- keeping the machine going, staying in power.

I don't know if that is true. Far be it from me to discern the workings of either Rep. Carson or those who love her.

I do, however, absolutely believe that the Star has been negligent in covering Rep. Carson's efforts to do her job in Congress. I do believe that the newspaper has been her enabler. It is one thing for longtime friends and staff to protect the congresswoman, and quite another for the state's largest newspaper to continually print positive spin without taking a hard look at the facts.

If the blogs were vicious, it was, perhaps, only because they were trying to do the job the Star should have done.

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