Aides to elderly Senator Dianne Feinstein appeared to be having some difficulty debriefing her on Thursday on a routine vote, and the confused discussion was overheard by a reporter and has now become news.
Nearly six months have past since the San Francisco Chronicle unleashed the wolves on Feinstein, via an April investigative report into her deteriorating mental fitness. The 89-year-old reportedly has some dotty days lately, and it's become common knowledge in the halls of Congress that DiFi isn't often her formerly sharp self anymore. That Chronicle piece was followed two weeks later by the New York Times doing their own version of the same story, and then New York Magazine did a more thorough — and more sympathetic — profile in early June.
Now Business Insider has dropped an update, which isn't especially damning, but suggests that things haven't improved for Feinstein. The report details an overheard exchange between several aides and a frustrated Feinstein as she headed to the Senate chamber to take a routine vote — the likes of which she has taken many, many times. This was the stopgap spending bill which the Senate ultimately passed 72-25, which funds the government through mid-December and avoids a shutdown.
Per Insider, as they waited together for an elevator to the chamber, the aide said to Feinstein, "This is a vote on the continuing resolution. Do you have any questions about it?"
Feinstein then apparently loudly snapped, "I don't even know what that is!" which has led to the headlines. On Friday, the UK's Daily Mail, for instance, used the quote in its headline about the senator being "confused" and "angry."
As Insider writes of the incident, "This fits the pattern of kid-glove treatment Feinstein's been getting as her cognition and judgment increasingly come into question after three decades on Capitol Hill."
Many defenders of Feinstein lashed back at the pieces published in the spring, suggesting that the senator deserves the same respect as her male counterparts who have gone before her — a number of whom have stayed in their Senate seats until they were nearly or fully in the grave, and not always fully with it.
Feinstein herself chalked up some recent moments of confusion to grief over the recent passing of her husband, Dick Blum. And she said, in response to the Chronicle brouhaha, "While I have focused for much of the past year on my husband's health and ultimate passing, I have remained committed to achieving results and I'd put my record up against anyone's."
Feinstein also said, speaking the Chronicle Editorial Board, "I meet regularly with leaders. I’m not isolated. I see people. My attendance is good. I put in the hours. We represent a huge state. And so I’m rather puzzled by all of this."
The latest Feinstein "incident" comes just days after another almost-octogenarian in high office, President Joe Biden, also made a very public flub that showed his age. During a news conference Wednesday, Biden called out to a dead Congresswoman, asking if she was there. Republican Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana died in a car crash two months ago, and Biden issued a condolence statement, but on Wednesday he said, "Jackie are you here? Where's Jackie?... she was going to be here."
Top image: Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) walks through the Senate Subway on her way to a vote at the U.S. Capitol September 12, 2022 in Washington, DC. As lawmakers return to Washington this week, Congress has until September 30 to pass to a continuing resolution to fund the government and avert a government shutdown. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)