CBS reporter calls out anonymous concerns about Sen. Feinstein’s mental fitness, urges critics to go on record

There has been recurring talk over the past few years about the apparent cognitive decline of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), the 88-year-old senior senator from California, and that talk only intensified this week with an anonymously-sourced article documenting the concerns of some of her Democratic colleagues.

A reporter for CBS News, Ed O’Keefe, called out the anonymous nature of the article and suggested that if Feinstein’s colleagues are truly concerned about her mental fitness then they ought to state those concerns on the record, Fox News reported.

“At this point, if there are lawmakers so concerned about the cognitive abilities of the senior senator of the nation’s largest state, they should say this on the record,” O’Keefe tweeted. “And news outlets should demand they do so, too.”

Colleagues questioning mental fitness of Feinstein

The CBS reporter linked in his tweet to the San Francisco Chronicle article that prompted his commentary, which outlined at length the concerns expressed by some of Sen. Feinstein’s colleagues about her now being “mentally unfit to serve.”

It began by recounting the alleged experience of one unnamed California lawmaker who has known Feinstein for 15 years but, in a recent conversation that was supposed to be an in-depth policy review, the hours-long discussion never really advanced past small talk and the lawmaker had to reintroduce themself to the senator multiple times.

I have worked with her for a long time and long enough to know what she was like just a few years ago: always in command, always in charge, on top of the details, basically couldn’t resist a conversation where she was driving some bill or some idea. All of that is gone,” the lawmaker said. “She was an intellectual and political force not that long ago, and that’s why my encounter with her was so jarring. Because there was just no trace of that.

The Chronicle further noted that four unnamed senators, three of whom are Democrats, along with three former Feinstein staffers and other members of California’s Democratic congressional caucus, privately told the outlet that the senior senator’s memory was “rapidly deteriorating” and that “she can no longer fulfill her job duties” without ample assistance from her staff.

Those anonymous sources also said that Feinstein still has good days where she is as sharp as she ever was, but those are increasingly outnumbered by the bad days where, at times, she seems incapable of recognizing individuals she was worked with for many years.

Not the first such account

This certainly isn’t the first time that Sen. Feinstein’s diminishing cognitive capabilities were questioned like this, as The New Yorker in December 2020 published a similar account citing Democratic sources who wished to remain anonymous out of respect for the elderly senator’s legacy and their personal relationships.

Nevertheless, even back then it was noted by some that Feinstein’s problems had been becoming increasingly evident over the past few years, and some suggested that some sort of intervention may eventually prove necessary if only to save Feinstein — as well as the Democratic Party more broadly — from potential future embarrassment.

Of course, the senior senator still has plenty of on-the-record supporters in California and Congress. That said, perhaps some of them will try to quietly dissuade Feinstein from running for yet another six-year term in 2024 — lest her further decline brings about a real conversation about age or term limits that many members of Congress would rather not have.

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