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Tipsheet

Feinstein's Latest Chat With Reporters Suggests She's Doing Worse Than We Thought

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Longtime U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) recently returned to Capitol Hill after more than two months of time hospitalized and then recovering at home following an apparently serious bout of shingles that took her away from Senate business.

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Setting aside other issues with Feinstein, there's one big problem: Feinstein doesn't seem to know she was away from Washington or missed any votes in committee or on the Senate floor. 

According to Slate writer Jim Newell and Los Angeles Times staff writer Benjamin Oreskes, the two had quite the elevator ride with Feinstein on Tuesday afternoon.

From Slate's report:

I encountered Feinstein coming off an elevator, sitting in a wheelchair and flanked by staff. It’s been hard to find the senator since her return; she’s kept her movements mostly to the least-populated passageways and skipped luncheons and non-urgent committee hearings.

I asked her how she was feeling.

“Oh, I’m feeling fine. I have a problem with the leg.” A fellow reporter staking out the elevator asked what was wrong with the leg.

“Well, nothing that’s anyone concern but mine,” she said.

When the fellow reporter asked her what the response from her colleagues had been like since her return, though, the conversation took an odd turn.

“No, I haven’t been gone,” she said.

OK.

“You should follow the—I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working.”

When asked whether she meant that she’d been working from home, she turned feisty.

“No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting,” she said. “Please. You either know or don’t know.”

After deflecting one final question about those, like Rep. Ro Khanna, who’ve called on her to resign, she was wheeled away.

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So, yikes. It's not that she's in a wheelchair, it's not that she had shingles, it's not even so much her age (many young members of Congress could use a competency test). It's the fact that a sitting U.S. senator was hospitalized, then sent to her California home to convalesce — absent from official Senate business for literal months — and she doesn't seem to be aware that she missed anything.

The same Feinstein who doesn't know she missed two-plus months worth of votes is now back in the Senate, casting votes in the "world's greatest deliberative body" on Biden's judicial nominees and consequential bills. That should be concerning, though time will tell if Feinstein acquiesces to a growing number of bipartisan calls for her to step down before her current term expires at the end of 2024. 

Notably, the mainstream media's focus on Feinstein's condition stands in stark contrast to its kid-gloves coverage of Senator John Fetterman (D-PA). He too has had absences — both during his campaign and since taking office — and routinely fails to deliver public performances that would convince an impartial observer that he's up to a six-year term in the Senate. Compared to Feinstein, who mainstream reporters seem ready to roll down Capitol Hill and home to California, the media actively cover for Fetterman's impaired speech and ongoing issues understanding what is being said to him. 

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A prime example of this also came on Tuesday, courtesy of The Washington Post. Here's how a WaPo reporter covered Fetterman's participation in a Senate Banking Committee hearing during which he tried to question an executive from the failed Silicon Valley Bank:

That alleged quote that Stein typed out, however, is not a direct quote. And you'll note he conveniently omitted widely available video of Fetterman's remarks.

Here's what Fetterman actually said: 

"Shouldn't you have a working requirement after we sale your bank- with billions of your bank? Because they seem we were preoccupied when- then SNAP- and requirements for works for hungry people but not about protecting the taxpapers. You know, that will bail no matter whatever does about a bank to crash it." 

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It might be wishful thinking, but maybe a deal could be cobbled together to allow Democrats to ship Feinstein off to a comfortable retirement if they also agree to send Fetterman back home as well. Until they treat all questions of fitness to serve equally, then there's no reason for Feinstein to be forced out while Fetterman continues to be propped up. Neither or both, that should be the deal. 

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