May 18, 2023

Dianne Feinstein

“Just a week after her return to the United States Senate after a roughly three month absence, questions continue to swirl around Sen. Dianne Feinstein and her mental capacity to serve in the world’s greatest deliberative body. The 89-year-old Democrat had been recovering from shingles at home in California, and had been absent from the Hill since February…

“During her arrival at the Capitol for votes, she appeared confused and was heard asking staff, ‘Where am I going?’ And in an interaction with reporters Tuesday, as reported by the Los Angeles Times and Slate, Feinstein appeared confused by questions about her absence, saying, ‘I haven’t been gone. I’ve been here, I’ve been voting. Please, either know or don’t know.’… Criticisms for Feinstein’s long absence started in earnest in April when fellow California Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna tweeted, ‘it’s time for @SenFeinstein to resign. We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty.’” CNN

Here’s our prior coverage of Feinstein. The Flip Side

Many on both sides call on Feinstein to resign:

“While Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Dick Durbin has acknowledged that her absence was holding up some of the panel’s work, he and most other Democrats have tread lightly on questions about whether she should step down… Nancy Pelosi has even defended Feinstein with the suggestion that she is being held to a sexist double-standard…

“But the questions about Feinstein’s health are entirely legitimate, as are the calls for her to retire—and it’s time for more elected Democrats to join the chorus. Not only are they not doing their colleague any favors after a distinguished career in public service—they are risking another Ruth Bader Ginsburg fiasco and, as Khanna wrote in April, risking their own ‘credibility as elected representatives of the people’ by not speaking out. It might make for a melancholy end to a groundbreaking political career. But dragging it out further could make things far worse.”
Eric Lutz, Vanity Fair

“According to Rolling Stone, Feinstein's staffers have, for years now, had an ‘on-call system’ to prevent the senator from ever walking around the Capitol on her own, citing their own concerns about Feinstein's increasing senility. ‘One person who did not want to be named recounted Feinstein asking a staffer for a memo, then responding with bewilderment when the memo was turned in the next day,’ Rolling Stone reports. ‘These issues are longstanding’…

“Feinstein represents the largest state in the union, nearly 12% of our total population, yet she has managed for years — perhaps going back a half-decade ago, to when her office almost surely blew up the lives of both Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford — to conceal an obvious and dangerous cognitive decline from an uninterested press and the voters who deserved to know…

“How many other octogenarians are beginning to cross the threshold between merely occasional forgetfulness and being a national security risk? Every senator is a one-in-a-hundred, and even so, it took Feinstein damn near losing her mind for just a handful of fellow elected Democrats finally to call for her resignation. And that was mere months after Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) endorsed her for reelection.”
Tiana Lowe Doescher, Washington Examiner

“In the 1940s, Senator Carter Glass of Virginia was absent for four years because of heart trouble. Senator Karl Mundt of South Dakota had a stroke in 1969 and never really came back in the following three years. In 2001, when he was 98, Senator Strom Thurmond of South Carolina was wheeled to the Senate floor to cast votes, despite widespread concern about his mental fitness. In all of those cases, as with Ms. Feinstein, the senators ignored concerns about their capacity and pleas from their colleagues as long as they could. This Senate tradition should have been discarded long ago…

“Without [Feinstein], there might never have been an assault weapons ban in 1994. Or the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994. Or the revelatory report on the C.I.A.’s torture program in 2014. She has had a distinguished career in the U.S. Senate, but… Senate seats are not lifetime sinecures, and if members can’t effectively represent their constituents or work for the benefit of their country, they should not hesitate to turn the job over to someone who can. Ms. Feinstein owes California a responsible decision.”
Editorial Board, New York Times

“The irony is that the Senate is usually an ideal place for people Ms. Feinstein’s age. Senators enjoy exceptional healthcare, and they lack the day-to-day executive responsibilities that keep governors and presidents in the public eye. They also have large staffs to do most of the work…

“So long as a senator’s party has a sufficiently large majority that his votes aren’t needed for bills or nominations, no one much minds what shape he’s in mentally. When it really matters, anyone can be trundled in to cast a vote. The knives come out when a senator can’t do even that. Just ask Dianne Feinstein.”
William McGurn, Wall Street Journal

Other opinions below.

See past issues

From the Left

The stakes couldn’t be bigger. If Feinstein shows up and votes with her Democratic majority as expected, Biden’s record spree of judicial confirmations can continue in earnest. If not, Durbin will need GOP support to fill judicial vacancies, one of the few areas Democrats have been able to put major points on the board in a divided Congress…  

“Senators can be replaced on committees by unanimous consent, meaning if Feinstein dies or continues to be incapacitated, Republicans can filibuster her replacement on the committee. Anyone who doubts McConnell’s resolve when it comes to pulling out all the stops to block Democrats’ judicial confirmations hasn’t been paying attention…

“In a post-Dobbs world, and with a federal bench stuffed with Federalist Society acolytes, Democrats need to get as many people elevated to the federal bench as they can, as fast as they can. Why, then, did Senate Democrats put Feinstein on the Judiciary Committee—especially given her obvious decline during the last Congress?”

Pablo Manríquez, New Republic

From the Right

“Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and John Fetterman (D, Pa.) both returned to the Senate in recent weeks after prolonged medical absences… Though the two Democrats are in similar circumstances, the corporate press has covered them very differently… [Feinstein] has faced a barrage of headlines about her senility, her holdup of the Democratic agenda, and growing calls within the party for her to resign…

“Fetterman, 53, resumed his duties in mid-April fresh off two months of in-patient treatment at Walter Reed Hospital for severe clinical depression in the aftermath of a stroke. Unedited footage of him on the job has been hard to watch. But media have nonetheless declared him ‘ready to work,’ and at least one reporter went so far as to clean up his borderline incoherent remarks… Both Feinstein and Fetterman represent states with Democratic governors, who would temporarily appoint another Democrat to replace them if necessary. But only one of their states is safely ‘blue’ and governed by Gavin Newsom.”

Drew Holden, Washington Free Beacon

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