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Happy Birthday, Dianne Feinstein. Now, Please Step Down?

[ Posted Tuesday, June 22nd, 2021 – 15:52 UTC ]

Dianne Feinstein was born in 1933. She was 11 years old (two months' shy of turning 12) before any president in her lifetime was not named "Franklin Delano Roosevelt." She was not a baby boomer, she was a Great Depression baby. She probably grew up listening to F.D.R.'s fireside chats on the family radio. Not television, mind you, radio. That's how old she is.

When Feinstein was born, there were only 20 amendments to the U.S. Constitution (there are now 27). Her mother was four months pregnant with her when the most recent amendment had been added, which changed the date of the presidential inauguration from March 4 to January 20. Prohibition was still in effect when Feinstein was born, but (ironically) under federal law "marihuana" was still legal. The first drive-in movie theater opened the same month as her birth. At the end of 1933, FM radio received a patent. That was the world Dianne Feinstein was born into.

As can be readily seen, that world is so far removed from today as to be almost unrecognizable. And yet Feinstein is still one of California's two sitting United States senators, representing almost 40 million people. She has now been senator for 29 years.

Her last election was in 2018, when many (myself included) urged her not to run and to gracefully retire. She chose not to, and won another six-year term. This means she will be in the Senate at least until the very end of 2024, when she will be 91 years old.

So happy birthday, DiFi (as we sometimes-not-so-affectionately call her)! But please, as a big present to your constituents, could you please consider stepping down?

It is time for some new blood. It is time to allow Governor Gavin Newsom to name your replacement. Someone who didn't spend her first 11 years under the same U.S. president. Perhaps he'll name Adam Schiff, who shares today as a birthday -- except Schiff was born 27 years later, in 1960. Or perhaps he'll name a Black woman to represent California. Whomever he chooses, it would be a giant birthday present to all Californians, who would be grateful towards Feinstein for such a historic opportunity.

The reason I say this now isn't (as it was when I said such things previously) about her politics, her stances on issues, or anything else political. The reason now is competence. Is she really still fit to do the job of a U.S. senator representing 40 million people? Ever since the New Yorker broke the story, many have been wondering exactly the same thing.

Here's how this article starts out:

In a hearing on November 17th, Dianne Feinstein, the senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, who, at eighty-seven, is the oldest member of the Senate, grilled a witness. Reading from a sheaf of prepared papers, she asked Jack Dorsey, the C.E.O. of Twitter, whether his company was doing enough to stem the spread of disinformation. Elaborating, she read in full a tweet that President Trump had disseminated on November 7th, falsely claiming to have won the Presidential election. She then asked Dorsey if Twitter's labelling of the tweet as disputed had adequately alerted readers that it was a bald lie.

It was a good question. Feinstein seemed sharp and focussed. For decades, she has been the epitome of a female trailblazer in Washington, always hyper-prepared. But this time, after Dorsey responded, Feinstein asked him the same question again, reading it word for word, along with the Trump tweet. Her inflection was eerily identical. Feinstein looked and sounded just as authoritative, seemingly registering no awareness that she was repeating herself verbatim. Dorsey graciously answered the question all over again.

Six days after this incident, she stepped down as senior Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee. But merely stepping down from a leadership role isn't good enough. For everyone else, perhaps, but not for Californians.

Throughout the entire year, as the question of reforming or eliminating the filibuster has been raised repeatedly, Feinstein has been all over the map. Sometimes she agrees that it is indeed time to consider doing so, and sometimes she takes a "I didn't know anyone was even proposing it, or calling it a problem" stance, which is just baffling. And impossible to reconcile. It all depends on whether she remembers what is going on or not.

Such questions of mental acuity and cognitive decline are pretty serious. That article has plenty of other examples of Feinstein just forgetting what is going on around her. Which isn't too surprising when you consider that she is now the oldest sitting senator.

While I have long had problems with some of her political positions (she has always been a very moderate, centrist Democrat, while the state of California's electorate has gotten increasingly more progressive -- Feinstein led the effort against both marijuana legalization ballot initiatives, for example), she still has a record to be proud of. She pushed through the assault weapons ban in the 1990s (which only lasted 10 years), and she was absolutely instrumental in seeing that the official report on what the intelligence agencies had done in terms of torture was at least partially made public. Those are both things to be proud of. There are other stances she has taken which I do not agree with, but the same could be said for most Democrats. Dianne Feinstein has had a long and impressive career as a public servant, there is no question about that. She has been effective. At one point, she even saw herself as possibly the first female president, although she never actually ran. She has been a strong Democratic leader in the Senate for a long time, and can exit with pride in what she has accomplished in her time there.

So it's not really an ideological question. It's a question of being compos mentis, plain and simple. Could she pass the same mental deterioration test that Donald Trump somehow mistook for an I.Q. test? That is doubtful, if the stories coming out about her forgetfulness are even partially true.

Californians deserve two sitting senators who know what is going on around them, and can remember if they've already asked a question or not. Our other long-time senator (Barbara Boxer) stepped down gracefully, which led to the elevation of one Kamala Harris. Such decisions can have national impact, to put this another way.

So, certainly -- have the happiest of birthdays, DiFi! Blow out the 88 candles on your cake and enjoy! But after all the celebrating is done, please take a strong look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself if now might not be the ideal time to hang up your spurs. Because, speaking as one of your constituents, I think that time might well have come.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


26 Comments on “Happy Birthday, Dianne Feinstein. Now, Please Step Down?”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Are we still going on about this!?

    I thought, with the midterms approaching, that there would be more importanat battles to be won ... with voters.

    I know, I know ... silly me.

  2. [2] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Is Dianne Feinstein the one who is holding up the voting rights legislation?

    I mean, really ...

  3. [3] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    well yeah, it's a pretty cali-centric topic. but the blogger's from california, what's one to do?

  4. [4] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I love Cali-centric topics!

  5. [5] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    In fact, I think one of our Sunday night shindigs should be Cali-centric ... more than once, even ... :)

  6. [6] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I know! Next week, let's focus on the Whisky-A-Go-Go and all of the wonderful artists that graced the stage there ...

  7. [7] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Maybe Chris will even show up ... stranger things have already happened!

  8. [8] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:



    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    I love Cali-centric topics!

    Yeah. I can tell from your first three comments.

  9. [9] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I second the Whiskey-a-Whiskey-a-Go-Go theme for Sunday.

  10. [10] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    I knew someone who played the W-A-G-G and he said the band actually rented it and sold their own tickets, so attendence was on them. So you built up a local following and got 'em all to show up.

  11. [11] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:



    D'ya wanna go full metal jacket and restrict it to performances actually at WAGG?

  12. [12] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    ...or just bands that one time or another? Which would cover the 'Murican Left Coast and a little of the notable foreign stuff. Plenty to choose from.

  13. [13] 
    MtnCaddy wrote:

    ... or just bands that PLAYED there...

  14. [14] 
    Mezzomamma wrote:

    I agree, Chris. It's sad to see someone with a distinguished record hanging on like this, and I would have hoped for her to set a better example. That would still leave Grassley and Inhofe and a couple of others hanging on, however.

  15. [15] 
    ListenWhenYouHear wrote:

    Maybe Feinstein just didn’t feel it was right to quit when things were as screwed up in this Congress and this country as they are? If you want her gone because she is bad at her job…so be it. But to say she is too old to do just because you do not like her is ageist.

  16. [16] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    This Sunday night, let's restrict it to bands that actually played at the Whisky-A-Go-Go ...'cause you're right, there are a lot to choose from!

  17. [17] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    You make a good point, Don. No, you make a very good point!

  18. [18] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


    Another great point.

    I can hear it now ... she steps down when the going gets crazy. We might even read about that right here!

    Ageism abounds around here, actually.

  19. [19] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    A whole lot of previous nonvoters cast their ballot last election. For Donald trump. Under the heading 'careful what you wish for'...

  20. [20] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  21. [21] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:


  22. [22] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Now, how did THAT happen ...

  23. [23] 
    John From Censornati wrote:

    Ageism? Please!

    She has age-related mental deterioration and CW made it clear that that is why she needs to go away. He's right.

    The Dem gerontocracy is a huge problem for a party that is supposedly representing a coalition that's trending younger, so a little ageism is warranted anyway.

  24. [24] 
    nypoet22 wrote:

    i think there's a difference between ageism and age-related differences in competence.

    biden has shown that at 78 he's still sharp enough to do the job of president, so he deserves to hold it.

    feinstein has shown that she's not sharp enough to do her job anymore, and that would be just as much the case if she displayed the same behavior but were 38 rather than 88.


  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    That is a very important distinction.

  26. [26] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    As for Biden, I still think that many expect only one term for him on strictly ageism lines and that's probably why I get a little sensitive when it comes to the DiFi stuff.

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