We all need to sit up and pay attention to what’s going on in the Senate, specifically regarding Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA), who has been a mainstay in Washington politics for decades. The past few days have given us a concerning peek into her health status – and it raises questions that go way beyond her personal wellbeing.
Feinstein, who’s been recovering from shingles and has spent several months out of the Senate, appears to be unaware of her own absences. When questioned, she responded defensively, claiming that she has been present and voting. The facts tell a different story. This isn’t a case of ‘alternative facts,’ this is a case of reality seemingly colliding with Feinstein’s perception of it.
And we aren’t talking about minor cognitive hiccups here. The New Yorker reported in 2020 about Feinstein’s alarming short-term memory lapses. Insiders have talked about ‘painful’ conversations where they discuss her potential retirement, only to find she has no memory of the discussion soon after. A colleague from California had to reintroduce himself multiple times during one conversation. This is serious.
Remember, this isn’t a private citizen we’re talking about here. This is a sitting U.S. Senator, one of the 100 people tasked with making the most significant decisions that affect our nation. Now we’re hearing reports that her staff handles most of her responsibilities. That begs the question: Who are we really voting for? Is it Feinstein, or is it her staff?
I have to give credit where credit is due. Reps. Ro Khanna and Dean Phillips, both Democrats, have called for Feinstein’s resignation, stating the obvious: it’s time to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. Phillips hit the nail on the head calling it a ‘dereliction of duty’ to remain in the Senate under these circumstances.
Feinstein is a remarkable American with a long record of service, no question about it. But it’s time we have a serious, national conversation about health, age, and fitness for office. How old is too old? How sick is too sick? We need clear guidelines and robust checks in place. Because, as this situation makes abundantly clear, relying on self-assessment isn’t working.
Look, Feinstein says she’s made ‘significant progress’ and her doctors are advising a lighter workload as she returns. But it’s obvious that we need a representative fully capable of carrying the weight of the office. This isn’t about partisanship, this is about fitness for duty.
Feinstein will not be seeking re-election in 2024, but that’s not really the point. The point is, we need clear-eyed, fully engaged representation, now. The country, and Californians in particular, deserve nothing less.