Sen. Dianne Feinstein is facing “painful” age questions after numerous allies raised concerns about her memory loss, The New Yorker reports.
Feinstein had an embarrassing viral moment during a hearing last month when she asked Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey the same question twice without realizing it. But aides have raised concerns behind the scenes for years, according to the report.
Feinstein, who is the oldest senator at 87, has been “serious struggling” for “several years,” multiple sources told the outlet.
“They say her short-term memory has grown so poor that she often forgets she has been briefed on a topic, accusing her staff of failing to do so just after they have,” The New Yorker’s Jane Mayer reported. “They describe Feinstein as forgetting what she has said and getting upset when she can’t keep up.”
“The staff is in such a bad position,” a former Senate aide said. “They have to defend her and make her seem normal.”
“It’s been a disaster,” said a former Senate staffer. “Other members [of the Judiciary Committee] were constantly trying to go around her because, as chair, she didn’t want to do anything, and she also didn’t want them doing anything. She’s an incredibly effective human being, but there’s definitely been deterioration in the last year. She’s in a very different mode now.”
Schumer had to confront Feinstein twice:
Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer had to confront Feinstein after her handling of Amy Coney Barrett’s confirmation hearing was widely panned, even trying to recruit her husband in the effort.
Schumer had to have “several serious and painful talks” with the senator, which “surprised and upset” Feinstein.
“She wasn’t really all that aware of the extent to which she’d been compromised,” a Senate source told Mayer. “It was hurtful and distressing to have it pointed out.”
The problem was compounded when Feinstein “seemed to forget about the conversation soon after they talked, so Schumer had to confront her again,” according to the report.
“It was like Groundhog Day, but with the pain fresh each time,” a source said, comparing it to taking away car keys from an elderly relative. “It wasn’t just about a car. It was about the U.S. Senate.”
Others defend Feinstein:
Some former aides defended the senator, arguing that “rumors of her cognitive decline have been exaggerated, and that video clips taken out of context can make almost anyone look foolish.”
They also argued that male senators that steeply declined in office, like former Sens. Robert Byrd and Strom Thurmond, did not face similar criticism.
Others argued that Democrats should have intervened before Feinstein won her 2018 reelection race.
“We only have a hundred senators. I don’t think she should be there,” a former aide said. “Someone should have told her.”
Feinstein ultimately stepped down as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee but vowed to stay on in a more limited capacity while working on other issues.