Dianne Feinstein insists she’s able to serve after report questioning her mental fitness

Dianne Feinstein insists she’s able to serve after report questioning her mental fitness

Sen. Dianne Feinstein insisted she is still able to serve Friday following a report citing anonymous lawmakers concerned that the 88-year-old California Democrat no longer has the memory to do the job.

Ms. Feinstein, who has served in the Senate since 1992, said in a statement she has no plans to step down before her term ends in 2024, pushing back after the San Francisco Chronicle raised the issue Thursday in an article headlined “Colleagues worry Dianne Feinstein is now mentally unfit to serve.”

“I remain committed to do what I said I would when I was re-elected in 2018: fight for Californians, especially on the economy and the key issues for California of water and fire,” the statement sent to The Washington Times said. “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.”

She also defended her service in an interview Thursday with the editorial board of the Chronicle, her hometown newspaper.

“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,” Ms. Feinstein told the board after the article ran.

The report cited anonymous comments from four U.S. senators, a Democratic member of Congress, and three former staffers who described “her memory as having deteriorated to the point of rendering her unfit for office,” the board said.

A California Democratic staffer said her poor memory has become an open secret and the subject of jokes on Capitol Hill.

“There’s a joke on the Hill, we’ve got a great junior senator in Alex Padilla and an experienced staff in Feinstein’s office,” the staffer told the Chronicle.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom contributed to the speculation last year by saying he would name a Black woman to fill the seat if Ms. Feinstein retires before her term is up.

The Chronicle, which has covered Ms. Feinstein since she won election to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1970, said that if the situation is that bad, “Democrats need to forgo the jokes and say so openly.”

“Yes, doing so might be uncomfortable and incur political consequences — and would certainly embarrass the senator,” the editorial stated. “But anonymously calling her out has the same effect, while making it difficult to gauge if the criticism is born of genuine concern or political ambition.”

Ms. Feinstein, the Senate’s oldest member, said her colleagues have not raised the issue with her.

“No, that conversation has not happened. The real conversation is whether I’m an effective representative for 40 million people,” she said.

She acknowledged that she recently failed to recognize a member of Congress, but blamed the error on stress, noting that her husband Richard Blum died of cancer in February after a lengthy illness.

“I’ve had a rough year. A cancer death doesn’t come fast. And this is the second husband I’ve lost to cancer,” she said.

The interview showed that “moments of clarity still reign,” the editorial said, while pointing out that Ms. Feinstein would be third in line for the presidency if Democrats keep control of the Senate in the November election.

Ms. Feinstein, who turns 89 in June, would replace retiring Sen. Patrick Leahy, Vermont Democrat, the Senate’s president pro tempore.

Feinstein deserves to end her career with dignity under her own terms,” the editorial said. “But denial is a hallmark of those suffering from memory loss and attendant illnesses. And if indeed the situation is so dire, then this is no time for ceremonial courtesy.”