Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) finally returned to the Senate last week following a nearly three-month absence as she was initially hospitalized and then recovered from her home in San Francisco from a serious case of the shingles virus.
It has now been revealed that Feinstein, 89, also suffered from some equally serious complications from the virus while recovering that further call into question her ability to continue serving in an exceedingly demanding job, Breitbart reported.
In a shockingly frank report from The New York Times on Thursday, Sen. Feinstein was described by the outlet as "shockingly diminished," "disoriented," and with a "frail appearance" as it revealed the "bleak reality" of her health in relation to her return to the Senate.
The Times reported on the previously undisclosed fact that Feinstein had been afflicted with what is known as Ramsay Hunt Syndrome during her recovery from shingles, a condition caused by the spread of shingles to her neck and face that results in facial paralysis and negatively impacts both balance and vision and which continues to affect her now.
On top of that, it was also revealed that the senator had suffered in March from a rare and typically debilitating case of encephalitis as a complication of shingles.
"Characterized by swelling of the brain, post-shingles encephalitis can leave patients with lasting memory or language problems, sleep disorders, bouts of confusion, mood disorders, headaches and difficulties walking. Older patients tend to have the most trouble recovering," The Times reported. "And even before this latest illness, Ms. Feinstein had already suffered substantial memory issues that had raised questions about her mental capacity."
The Times went on to note that Sen. Feinstein's current condition was described as "frightening" by people close to her, and even some of her staunchest allies who have previously defended her against prior calls for her resignation or retirement are now quietly suggesting that it is indeed time for her to step down from her office.
Prior to her extended absence from the Senate, Feinstein had announced her plans to not seek re-election for a seventh term in 2024 and retire at the end of the current session in January 2025, but the outlet noted that there are legitimate concerns that she might not even make it that long before being forced to exit the powerful position she has held for decades.
As noted, there had already been questions about the senator's increasingly obvious diminished mental capacity and cognitive abilities, and The Times highlighted one particular episode this week that makes it stunningly clear that the problem has only become worse.
According to the Los Angeles Times, a reporter approached Feinstein in her wheelchair following a vote session and asked about her health as well as her response to the many well-wishes she had received from her colleagues upon her return.
The senator, however, replied, "I haven’t been gone. You should ... I haven’t been gone. I’ve been working." When the reporter sought to clarify if she meant that she'd been working from home, Feinstein said, "No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting. Please, either know or don’t know."
All politics and partisan differences aside, Sen. Feinstein is clearly unwell and unfit to continue serving as a U.S. senator, whether she wants to admit it or not, and the once relatively quiet or marginal calls from some Democrats for her to resign or retire will almost certainly grow in volume.
The race to replace the elderly California senator has already begun in earnest, with members of the state's delegation to Congress jockeying for the position to be her successor, including Reps. Adam Schiff, Katie Porter, and Barbara Lee.
Reports indicate that Schiff is the preferred replacement for Feinstein by former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who undoubtedly still wields substantial power within the Democratic Party and the Golden State.
However, should Feinstein eventually step down from office before her term expires, California Gov. Gavin Newsom would be obliged to appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of her term, and he has already made it clear that he would appoint a black woman to that role, which would suggest that Rep. Lee would get the nod to fill Feinstein's seat in the potentially not-too-distant future.