The weekend brought even more press attention to Senator Dianne Feinstein and her reported cognitive decline. And some suggest that leaking this open secret to the public is essentially sexist, as other senators in their 80s (and older!) have stayed in their jobs even longer despite rumors of their mental decline — and Senate staffers don’t. aren’t they doing most of the work for most senators anyway?
It’s been four days since the Chronicle published its semi-explosive investigative report, which cited interviews with four current senators, a current House Democratic member and three former Feinstein staffers who all confirmed that the mental fitness of Feinstein had slipped in recent years. And the House member, who represents California, said they had to show up to Feintstein multiple times for several hours at a recent meeting, despite having worked with her for years.
We know it’s been at least two years since Feinstein has probably been at the top of his game – and how can we forget how it was Feinstein who surprisingly chose not to tell his colleagues about the allegations made. first at her desk in 2018 by Christine Blasey Ford about Judge Brett Kavanaugh molesting her as a teenager? The New Yorker covered several public missteps by Feinstein in December 2020, shortly after he embarrassingly praised the conduct of Amy Coney Barrett’s hearings.
But at nearly 89, Feinstein is only a few months older than the second-oldest senator, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and no one talks about his mental toughness — in fact, he’s regularly the subject of bullying. public praise for his physique. aptitude. Grassley is up for re-election this year, which means he’ll be 95 when his next term ends, assuming he wins.
Several articles, including this one for the Atlantic, discuss the cases of Strom Thurmond, who spent 48 years in the Senate and retired at the age of 100 before his death, and Robert Byrd, who served in the Senate for over 51 years. until his death at the age of 92 in 2010. Both were said to be in mental decline towards the end of their terms, but neither was called out about it particularly publicly while they were still urge.
Several years ago, The Atlantic suggested that Mississippi Senator Thad Cochran might be experiencing some cognitive decline, and he eventually retired in 2018 amid those rumors, and died a year later.
Ruth Marcus of The Washington Post pushes back against the sexism argument, saying, “I think I have pretty good radar for sexism, and I just don’t see it.” She continues, “Times have changed since the deficits of Thurmond and Byrd were ignored; I suspect they would now be subject to the same type of scrutiny that Feinstein faces.”
MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell tweeted shortly after the Chronicle article was published, “I understand the concerns about Dianne Feinstein, but I’ve read whispers about her in this senatorial context: at least 50 senators are 100% staff dependent, most of senators are over 90% dependent on staff and Strom Thurmond died in office in 2003 at the age of 100, long after evident mental decline.”
But if Feinstein was still in relatively good shape when she sought re-election in 2018, and things have gone downhill since then, shouldn’t voters be able to express an urgent desire to see someone fitter – if less experienced – take over for the rest of his six years. term of the year?
The Week writes that Feinstein has a “Ginsburg problem,” comparing his reluctance to retire to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, whose decision could lead to decades of a conservative-leaning Supreme Court. And they write that America in general has a problem with gerontocracy, now that the average age in the Senate is 64, our President is approaching 80, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is 82.
Los Angeles Times columnist Mark Barabak, who has covered Feinstein for decades, also chimed in last week, saying he’s heard many of the same stories, but he believes Feinstein should be allowed to finish his term with dignity, as the did other older senators. .
But if Democrats maintain control of the Senate after November, that would make Feinstein — the longest-serving member of the majority party — pro tempore speaker of the chamber and third in line for the U.S. presidency. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has already had to ask Feinstein to relinquish his leadership role as the Judiciary Committee’s first Democrat after the Barrett mess. Should she really be president pro tempore? (The Senate could also choose not to appoint its acting president, since the tradition of senior members taking the job only dates back to the 1980s.
Previously: Dianne Feinstein fights back as Chronicle editorial board calls on fellow Democrats to retire her
Top Image: Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) walks through the Senate subway prior to a lunch meeting with Senate Democrats at the United States Capitol on February 15, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)