If Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-Illinois) worked in Hollywood rather than the Capitol, he could have explained his prolonged absence from work as "exhaustion," the catch-all euphemism for a celebrity's substance abuse and mental health issues. But Rep. Jackson, Jr., the Illinois congressman and son of civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, was forced to name his illness after receiving pressure from Senator Dick Durbin, among others.
The congressman's revelation of his hospitalization for a mood disorder provoked a surprising reaction -- unqualified support. As political bloggers have speculated and sensationalized Jackson's absence, they've missed a bigger story. In a Congress that has been hamstrung by hyper-partisanship, both sides of the aisle expressed hope for a quick recovery. According to Fox News, Republican Speaker said, "I just wish him well and hope to see him back soon."
Senator Pete Domenici described the disparity in treatment as "almost a civil rights issue." While time will tell whether Jackson, Jr.'s political woes (most notably, the allegation that he was consorting with everyone's favorite felon Rod Blagojevich) will cost him the election, it appears that his health issues will not be a Republican talking point.