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Journalist Rebecca Traister has set out to write a profile of the oldest sitting US senator, Dianne Feinstein of California, who turns 89 on June 22. health.
NPR All things Considered spoke with Traister, a writer for The Cut, about a disturbing call she had with Feinstein two days after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.
“I felt like I was deeply out of touch with the very urgent and frightening realities we find ourselves in,” Traister said on All things Considered.
Traister had this 30-minute phone conversation with Feinstein during her reporting for her feature film, “Dianne Feinstein, The Institutionalist.” She wrote:
Nothing she said suggested deterioration beyond what would be normal for someone her age, but neither did it demonstrate an urgent commitment to the various crises facing the nation. . … Every question I asked—about the radicalization of the GOP, the end of deercongressional failures – met with a similar sunny impermeability, testifying to an undiminished belief in institutional power that may in fact largely explain the mistakes of Feinstein and other Democratic leaders.
As the United States grapples with various crises and at a tense political moment with the expected overthrow of Roe vs. Wadeoptimism was out of place.
Traister made it clear that she was not making any definitive comments about Feinstein’s cognitive health, nor did she feel qualified to do so. However, she is not the first person to comment on Feinstein’s cognitive health.
A misstep by Feinstein during a 2020 hearing has further fueled questions about his health and the ages of senators.
“Really, for the last two years I’ve heard that Dianne Feinstein is struggling, especially with short term memory issues, so her staff let her know and then she’ll forget what she was told. or that she was informed at all”, Jane Mayer of the new yorker Told All things Considered in 2020.
Mayer wrote an article highlighting issues with how the Democratic Party approaches seniority and how Feinstein has become central to this debate. In 2018, California Democrats declined to endorse Feinstein for another term, although that was not a barrier to his re-election.
The current political system rewards those with seniority, encouraging elected officials to extend their terms as long as possible. Not only are individuals able to maintain power, but there are also benefits for states in having senior officials, Traister noted.
“We’re run by a gerontocracy on the Democratic and Republican side,” Traister said. “The Senate works by giving increased power to those who have been around the longest.”
Feinstein is not the first senator to stay long, and some have pointed to her gender as a reason for scrutiny. Notably, Strom Thurmond remained in the Senate until he was 100 years old.
With the 2024 election on the horizon, Feinstein is not considering an early exit and has maintained that she intends to serve until the end of her term, Politico reported.