Dianne Feinstein’s age has been a topic of debate in California’s Democratic Party, with lawmakers worried she is too old to perform her duties.
“It’s terrible and getting worse,” said a Democratic senator in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, who asked not to be identified because he or she was close to Feinstein. The senator claimed that Feinstein has trouble keeping up with conversations and debates.
The New York Times spoke with seven of Feinstein’s closest Senate allies, who all expressed concern about her seemingly deteriorating memory and mental fitness for office. These people charge that at age 88, Feinstein is entirely reliant on her staff to conduct the majority of the work necessary to represent 40 million Californians in the Senate.
While she has good days, when she appears to be in command of herself and the issues — as witnessed during Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearings, according to Democrats — there are bad days when Feinstein is not even recognizing some of her long-term colleagues.
One member of Congress recounted a recent discussion in which they had to reintroduce themselves to Feinstein several times, despite having worked with her for 15 years. According to reports, this conversation prompted this person to inquire if it were possible to stage an intervention and get Feinstein out before 2024, when her current term ends.
“I’ve known her for long enough to understand what she was like just some years ago: always in control, always on top of the details, basically could not say no to a conversation where she was pushing some bill or idea. All of that is gone. She used to be an intellectual and political force.”
Each of the individuals who claimed to the Chronicle that Feinstein is mentally capable stated they had a great deal of respect for her, but wished to go behind her back anonymously in order to preserve their ties with her and their mutual connections and coworkers.
They added that they were sorry for Feinstein, who lost her husband Richard Blum to cancer last year.
According to the paper, though, Feinstein’s office responded with a written statement instead of an interview.
“The last year has been very tough and mentally draining for me, frequent trips back and forth to see my dying husband who passed weeks ago,” she added. “But there’s no doubt that I’m still serving and providing for California, and I’ll compete against anyone’s record.”