April 19, 2022

Dianne Feinstein

Last week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that “Four U.S. senators, including three Democrats, as well as three former Feinstein staffers and the California Democratic member of Congress told The Chronicle in recent interviews that [Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s] memory is rapidly deteriorating. They said it appears she can no longer fulfill her job duties without her staff doing much of the work required to represent the nearly 40 million people of California.” San Francisco Chronicle

Many on both sides call on Feinstein to step down if she is unable to continue performing her duties:

“Remember Evel Knievel, the daredevil motorcyclist who jumped over thirteen double-decker buses in London in 1975, that is, 47 years ago? Dianne Feinstein is five years older than Evel Knievel. Remember Dennis Hopper, who played a troubled youth in Rebel Without A Cause 67 years ago and then shot to stardom in Easy Rider 53 years ago? Dianne Feinstein is three years older than Dennis Hopper. Remember Roger Maris, who broke Babe Ruth’s home run record with 61 homers in 1961, 61 years ago, and passed away 37 years ago, in 1985? Dianne Feinstein is one year older than Roger Maris…

“Dianne Feinstein is 88 years old. What would be surprising would be if she weren’t in cognitive decline… So why is Dianne Feinstein still in the Senate? The Chronicle hit on it: ‘The lawmaker who had the hours-long interaction with Feinstein referenced a classic fable in which people are afraid to speak the truth to a powerful leader: ‘We’ve got an ‘Emperor’s New Clothes’ problem here.’ Yes, we do.”
Robert Spencer, PJ Media

“If she's not careful, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) might end up being the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of the U.S. Senate. Ginsburg was a feminist icon who served many honorable years on the Supreme Court, but she didn't know when to leave. Despite being an octogenarian cancer survivor, she refused to step down from the court while a Democrat, Barack Obama, had a friendly Senate in place to appoint her successor. She died just before the 2020 election, allowing then-President Donald Trump and a GOP-led Senate to appoint her successor and create a 6-3 conservative supermajority on the high court…

“When the late justice came under liberal pressure during Obama's second term to retire, some of her allies suggested that sexism might be the real underlying reason for the scrutiny… It's understandable that Ginsburg and Feinstein — who served in national leadership positions almost unimagineable to previous generations of women — might discern less-than-honorable motives among their critics: They both certainly dealt with plenty of sexism during their careers. But time is remorseless, and it comes for all of us regardless of gender. Sometimes, it's time to leave the stage.”
Joel Mathis, The Week

“The Feinstein story evokes broader issues: the unwillingness of so many who hold power to cede it voluntarily, with their identities and support systems so bound up in their jobs; and the inability of our political system, in the absence of term limits (which I oppose for other reasons), to deal with those unwilling to recognize when it is time to step down. In the private sector, a board of directors would find a way to shunt a senile CEO aside. In public life, the only effective mechanism is the voters themselves…

“Which gets to the heart of the puzzle: How are voters supposed to know what’s up when an elected official’s staff works overtime to mask the problem? The instinct to do so is understandable. Loyalty to the principal is one of the highest values in political life, and your role as a staffer is to support the boss, not expose her. But this approach is also deeply self-interested. If aides in normal times are only as powerful as the official they serve, they can become extra powerful when the same official is no longer functioning. These inherent tensions help explain the high turnover from Feinstein’s office in recent years. Covering up is not public service. At a certain point, it is the antithesis.”
Ruth Marcus, Washington Post

“There is a spectacularly toxic arrogance when a lawmaker and the lawmaker’s staff agree that retirement or resignation is unthinkable. Does the name David Wu ring a bell? The guy in the tiger suit? He was a Democratic congressman from Oregon who lost his marbles… His ‘senior staffers were so alarmed by his erratic behavior that they demanded he enter a hospital for psychiatric treatment.’ But even at that point, they still didn’t say he shouldn’t keep serving in Congress!

“This has little to do with partisanship or ideology; Feinstein is a Democrat and is likely to be replaced by an even more progressive Democrat whenever she leaves the Senate. No, this is about ego and not wanting to see anyone new in that office. But Californians deserve an actual senator, not an 88-year-old woman who doesn’t remember conversations from the day before.”
Jim Geraghty, National Review

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Right

From the Left

A libertarian's take

“Feinstein's reported mental lapses are both quite sad on a personal level and concerning on a practical level. But the overall graying of America's political class has other effects, too, independent of mental fitness. Our lawmakers are increasingly out of touch when it comes to technology, even as tech law and regulation have taken center stage…

“Remember when former Iowa GOP Rep. Steve King (currently 72) got mad at the CEO of a major tech company at a congressional hearing because of something on his granddaughter's iPhone? The CEO was Sundar Pichai of Google, which doesn't make iPhones. This is an extreme example, but lawmaker cluelessness is depressingly common when it comes to tech policy.”
Peter Suderman, Reason

Get troll-free political news.

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.