Senator Dianne Feinstein recently returned to the Capitol to a standing ovation after a three-month health hiatus. The octogenarian was out of pocket for a quarter of the year due to a nasty bout of Shingles, an affliction that often attacks older people.
The 89-year-old Senator announced in February of this year that she would not be seeking reelection, no doubt initiating collective sighs of relief from her staffers who have had to run interference, and perhaps even the entire office, for the aging legislator. However, the truth is that this requirement to ‘manage’ the Senator has been going on for many years.
Just how far does this handling go, and for that matter, who is making legislative decisions on behalf of the state of California? Is it the Senator, elected by the people of California, or unnamed aides and interns?
What is the first thought that comes to mind when you see this photo of Dianne Feinstein? pic.twitter.com/zJSS1kLGF1
— Collin Rugg (@CollinRugg) May 10, 2023
When I was a senior leader in the military, I had about one or two junior ranking Airmen who ran my front office and, in many ways, acted as “interference” and sometimes as my “handlers” as much as I would prefer not to admit it. They ensured I was not interrupted over trivial issues when dealing with pressing matters and would ensure that I would leave my office in time to make important meetings.
This assistance is not the same as Senator Feinstein has unknowingly been treated. According to a Rolling Stone report, her office has operated an on-call system without her knowledge to keep the Senator from walking around the Capitol alone.
Former staffer Jamarcus Purley explained:
“They will not let her leave by herself, but she doesn’t even know it.”
RELATED: Democrats Call for Dianne Feinstein to Resign, But the 89-Year-Old Wants to Be ‘Temporarily’ Replaced Instead
Think about that for a second; this grown woman duly elected by her constituents is being handled behind her back by unelected lackeys to keep her from freely walking the building she has worked in for decades. The reasoning behind this sort of treatment is the alleged and probable cognitive decline the Senator has exhibited over the years.
Breaking News: Dianne Feinstein Dropped off at the Capitol by a hearse…
— Rob/1865 (@Rob1865_) May 11, 2023
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Not A Laughing Matter
Mr. Purley went on to tell Rolling Stone:
“Junior staff were making jokes about her cognitive decline. Interns were noticing it.”
The natural passage of time on the human body and mind is something we all face and will eventually experience. But, unfortunately, our elected men and women are not immune to the cruelty of Time, and while it is mildly amusing to hear Boomers call the controversial social media site TikTok “Tic Tac,” laughing about Senator Feinstein’s condition and limiting her freedom of movement isn’t funny.
I call it elder abuse. Older people deserve the same respect as the rest of us; their wisdom is valuable.
Part of that respect is not hiding the truth behind their aging condition and allowing them grace and dignity. I might not be from the same political flavor as Senator Feinstein. Still, it is a shame that embarrassing age-related gaffes will punctuate part of her legislative legacy.
RELATED: Senator Dianne Feinstein Announces Retirement, Then Seems Unaware She Did
In addition to the unkind act of abusing the elderly in Congress, this sort of activity threatens to dismantle what it means to have a democracy in the first place.
A current senior staff member of an unnamed elected official told Rolling Stone:
“I have friends whose bosses literally don’t do any legislating, just whenever they’re heading to the floor to vote their LD (legislative director) prints out a piece of paper saying ‘Here’s how you’re voting today.’”
As The Political Insider has access to people who have been in the same situation, I asked about the veracity of this claim.
At the risk of sounding like the media, I’m protecting my source. Here’s what they said:
“Absolutely true. Your typical representative is in the office only for a few meetings with lobbyists. When it’s time to talk shop (upcoming votes, policy), staff below the LD – LAs or legislative assistants – will just print out the talking points they get from the Whip’s office. The Chief of Staff will typically then go through the political implications with this or that interest group. That is very literally the extent of “legislating” that goes on in what they call the ‘Cathedral of Democracy.’”
So much for a representative government.
Dianne Feinstein this week approving Biden’s judges: pic.twitter.com/5sjPHvBUwr
— J (@OhioJayHey) May 11, 2023
Like A Fine Wine
In D.C., Age is King. Most leadership and committee chairs are held by elected officials in their 70s or 80s. The idea that they have “done their time,” which makes them most deserving of coveted positions, has been the standard in The Swamp for some time.
The average age of our senators is 65. Let’s take a look at the age of some big names sitting in D.C. currently:
- Republican Chuck Grassley – 89 years old
- Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – 81 years old
- Majority Whip Jim Clyburn – 81 years old
- Democrat Steny Hoyer – 82 years old
- Democrat Nancy Pelosi – 82 years old
Nancy Pelosi is 83
McConnell is 81
Joe Biden is 80
Dianne Feinstein is 89
America is a Gerontocracy pic.twitter.com/9V79oP5nnv
— Benny Johnson (@bennyjohnson) May 10, 2023
And we can’t forget President Joe Biden, the oldest U.S. President in history at 80 years old. While these elders might not like the questions surrounding their ability to serve based on age, the questions persist and are worthy of asking.
Former Republican congressional and campaign aide Brian Walsh said:
“If you’re doing the job right, you’re basically working 15-hour days.”
Ask yourself, would your parents, if they are of this age group, or your grandparents be able to withstand a rigorous 15-hour day without needing at least one nap, if not two?
RELATED: New Report Calls Senator Dianne Feinstein’s Mental Fitness Into Question – Should Americans Be Concerned About Our Geriatric Government?
An Insulated Life
Making it into the Senate or House and being able to stick around each election cycle garners you more power. That power is hard for anyone to give up.
James Manley, a former aide to Senators Kennedy and Reid, explains:
“The Senate can be a very warm, very comforting place for senators. You have staff to open the doors for you, the Capitol Police at your beck and call. Everyone’s got a smile for you, and you have lots and lots of staff to do anything and everything you’re asked to do.”
He explained that when the older ones start losing their family members to Time, the desire to stay in the seat of power grows stronger.
“Unfortunately, senators lose some perspective and don’t think they can live without being a senator.”
There is no maximum age limitation to serve in political office. However, even some in Feinstein’s party, like Ro Khanna and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, have called for the Senator to step down.
Presidential candidate Nikki Haley recently made waves by stating:
“In the America I see, the permanent politician will finally retire. We’ll have term limits for Congress. And mandatory mental competency tests for politicians over 75 years old.”
This all seems reasonable to most Americans; you must pass a mental competency test to pilot commercial aircraft and drive vehicles after a certain age. Then, you generally go through similar tests with your primary care provider once you hit the twilight years. However, a move like that would require an amendment to the Constitution, and I doubt that will ever happen.
It may be time for staffers, family members, and colleagues to speak the truth to their aging employers, family members, and counterparts and allow them to exit with grace and dignity.
Dianne Feinstein is 89 and clearly isn’t doing well.
It isn’t cruel to expect our leaders to be physically able to carry out the job they were elected to do — it’s cruel to keep them in office when they are incapable of doing so. pic.twitter.com/SGjLa14tgJ
— ALX 🇺🇸 (@alx) May 10, 2023
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