San Francisco Chronicle
Apr. 15—WASHINGTON — Sen. Dianne Feinstein defended her service representing California in the Senate in the wake of reporting by The Chronicle that colleagues of hers are concerned about her ability to continue serving, and she said she does not plan to step down before the end of her term, which runs through 2024.
“I meet regularly with leaders,” Feinstein said Thursday in a call with Chronicle editorial board 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.”
Feinstein, 88, is a stalwart of California politics and a trailblazing woman. But four senators and a California Democratic member of Congress as well as three former Feinstein staffers told The Chronicle that her short-term memory is deteriorating, and they have concerns about her ability to adequately represent the nearly 40 million residents of California.
Feinstein declined to be interviewed for the story that published Thursday, but in a call later that day with the editorial board leaders, she said no one has raised such concerns to her directly.
“No, that conversation has not happened,” Feinstein said. “The real conversation is whether I’m an effective representative for 40 million people.”
The Chronicle reported that concerns about her short-term memory have sparked conversations among her colleagues and allies about whether someone could convince her to retire, discussions imbued with a deep sadness for the decline in such a revered figure. There’s also a sense of resignation, however, that if she does not willingly step aside, there is virtually nothing that can be done, as the term she won in 2018 will run through the end of 2024.
California officials were quiet on The Chronicle’s reporting, as well as Feinstein’s performance. Gov. Gavin Newsom, who would name a replacement should Feinstein leave office before the end of her term, declined to comment.
But a number of media personalities, academics and political operatives suggested it makes the case for term limits on federal officials, not just in Feinstein’s case.
“We need to have a conversation about this topic overall … not just this Senator,” Matt Rexroad, a longtime California Republican political operative, tweeted with a link to the story.
“Term Limits wouldn’t be entirely bad,” tweeted Sara Sadhwani, an assistant professor of politics at Pomona College.
“Eek. This is a TOUGH topic but it’s too important to not have it. She represents 40M Californians!” added Alyssa Farah, a former communications official for former President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, now a media commentator.
“Two senators is not enough to vigorously represent the the interests of California’s gigantic and diverse population, and by forcing all that work to be done by just one senator Feinstein’s team is really doing a disservice to their constituents,” wrote Matthew Yglesias, a writer and commentator.
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