"I've Been Here": Feinstein Seems Unaware Of Months-Long Senate Absence

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, May 18, 2023 - 10:40 PM

California Senator Dianne Feinstein returned to Washington last week after a nearly three-month absence as she battled a stubborn case of shingles. However, in a Tuesday conversation with reporters, the 89-year-old appeared unaware that she'd been in California from February to May.  

As she was being rolled off an elevator via wheelchair, Slate's Jim Newell asked how she was feeling. "Oh, I’m feeling fine," Feinstein replied. "I have a problem with the leg." Asked what was wrong with it, Feinstein said, "Well, nothing that’s anyone concern but mine.”

The picture of health: 89-year-old Dianne Feinstein as she returned to the Senate on May 10 (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images via Insider)

That's when things took an unsettling turn, according to Newell as well as the Los Angeles Times' Benjamin Oreskes. When another reporter asked how colleagues had been responding to her return to the Senate, Feinstein said, "No, I haven’t been gone...You should follow the—I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”

Charitably exploring the best possible interpretation, the reporter asked, "You’ve been working from what you’re saying?” 

"No," replied an increasingly irritated Feinstein. "I've been here. I've been voting. Please. Either know or don't know." Feinstein missed more than 90 floor votes while she recuperated in San Francisco. 

After deflecting a question about Democratic House reps calling for her resignation, she was wheeled off before she could do more damage. 

Tuesday's incident is just the latest of many illustrations of Feinstein's apparent deepening senility. As we wrote upon her return to Washington, "Feinstein may have beaten shingles, but her declining mental health is arguably of even greater concern."

Her mental decline has been chronicled by the most liberal of major newspapers, with the New York Times and San Francisco Chronicle last year publishing insider accounts of Feinstein being unable to remember names, meetings and phone conversations. The Times described her as sometimes "walk[ing] around in a state of befuddlement." 

An unnamed Democratic legislator told the Times that, in a meeting with Feinstein in February 2022, the legislator had to keep reintroducing him- or herself, and repeatedly help her find her purse, as well as answering identical small-talk queries over and over. 

The oldest member of Congress, Feinstein will turn 90 on June 22. In February of this year, she announced that she will not be running for re-election -- and just a few hours later, appeared to be unaware of the historic announcement.  

Feinstein sits on the Judiciary Committee, which was left with a 10-10 tie during her long absence, thwarting Democratic ambitions to stock federal benches with leftist judges -- and prompting California Rep. Ro Khanna and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez -- both Democrats -- to call for her resignation. 

Asked Wednesday if Feinstein is equipped to carry out her duties, Democrat and Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin told CNN, "I can't be the judge of that...she has to make that decision for herself and her family as to going forward." Fellow Dem Sheldon Whitehouse was blunter, telling Slate's Newell, "I’m gonna leave that to the medics.”

Durbin's reply assumes Feinstein is capable of making such a decision. That's a reach, particularly when you consider that a resignation would go against the interests of her handlers who'd surely like to keep their Senate jobs as long as possible.

For now, Feinstein is still managing to serve the Blue Team's interest. As Sen. Richard Blumenthal told Slate"There’s one job that no one else can do for us, which is to vote. And she’s been doing that job in the last few days, and so far as I can tell, she’s been doing well."