Dianne Feinstein’s declining health raises tough questions

In a perfect world, the sun would always shine – except when we needed rain.

Everyone would eat their vegetables, clean up after their pets, regularly brush and floss their teeth, and only cross the street when the signal allowed.

Which brings us once again, in a roundabout way, to Senator Dianne Feinstein and the recent San Francisco Chronicle report raising doubts about the California Democrat’s mental well-being and her ability to continue doing her job.

California faces a choice between a geriatric senator who some describe as half gone and a younger senator who would have been half gone.

No great options. But there you have it.

Ideally, Feinstein would still be the force she once was: the historic political pioneer who broke glass ceilings and became an accomplished lawmaker whose track record includes major environmental and gun control legislation.

Alternatively, Feinstein would have given in to age and his record and stepped down rather than seek re-election in 2018. This would have allowed one or more of the state’s many potential U.S. senators to step in and make argue with voters why they deserved to take his place.

This whole thing about representative democracy.

Instead, California has a senator who turns 89 in June who, like many his age, has had good days and bad days. Some of them, apparently, very evil.

The Chronicle’s Tal Kopan and Joe Garofoli reported last week that four senators — including three fellow Democrats — and a Democratic House member said Feinstein’s memory was rapidly deteriorating and she could no longer perform her duties without aids. doing much of his work. Several former employees agreed.

The article renewed calls for Feinstein’s immediate resignation, even as she continues to work on legislation, tend to voters’ needs and, just last month, she appeared clear-headed and fully capable, for example during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson.

“The real question is whether I am still an effective representative for 40 million Californians, and the record shows that I am,” Feinstein said in a statement responding to the Chronicle, his hometown newspaper.

“Although I have focused for much of the past year on the health and passing of my husband, I have remained determined to achieve results and would put my record against anyone,” said she added.

To be clear: There is no doubt that when or if Feinstein can no longer carry out her responsibilities as a senator, she should resign without delay. (Catch that italicized emphasis?)

A seat in the Senate is not a birthright, a lifetime appointment, or an award for excellence presented as a golden watch for meritorious service.

It was sad and shameful to watch the South Caroline Strom Thurmond Republican served in the Senate — using the word ‘serve’ in the most generous way — until he was 100, then watching ailing West Virginia Democrat Bob Byrd hang on desperately in his seat until his death in office at the age of 92.

That said, if Feinstein were to step down now, his replacement would be chosen by Governor Gavin Newsom, who has already nominated young US Senator from California, Alex Padilla.

This would mean that one individual would select the two US senators on behalf of 40 million Californians.

Newsom’s pick would then almost certainly spend much of the time between now and the November 2024 election campaign raising the tens of millions of dollars needed to win a full six-year term.

Even someone with a ton of youthful energy would find it extremely difficult to do so. and be a full-time senator.

It’s not like Feinstein’s age and health weren’t issues when she sought re-election at 85. terribly subtle way of emphasizing the holder’s old vintage.

As Feinstein campaigned, it was clear she had lost more than a few steps. Speaking in the Bay Area to a large gathering of Democratic activists a month before the election, the senator seemed heavily scripted and staff-controlled, and relied on others to answer questions during an exchange limited, noted several people present afterwards.

Still, Feinstein won a clear victory.

There have been many accounts since of her failing memory and declining faculties, invariably followed by calls for her to resign. (Much of the commotion came from the far left, an enemy of Feinstein going back decades to his time as mayor of San Francisco.)

Is his condition getting worse? It would take an expert to tell, and there is no system to test the mental acuity of senators, let alone force them out of office if they fail to meet a certain threshold.

Maybe in a more perfect world.

Unless the senator is obviously incapacitated, an individual should not have the power to choose the two senators from California.

Whoever wants to replace Feinstein could start running now, as Marin County Rep. Barbara Boxer ran in 1992 to challenge Sen. Alan Cranston. Instead of facing his fellow Democrat and other primary opponents, Cranston served out his term and retired.

If, foolishly, Feinstein decides to run again in 2024, there will no doubt be plenty of candidates eager to take him on. Then voters may be the ones to choose California’s next senator.




Los Angeles Times

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