The first time I remember hearing the name Dianne Feinstein was right after the assassinations of Harvey Milk and Mayor Dan Mosconi. She was the head of the Board of Supervisors in San Francisco and found herself thrust into a leadership position she never could have anticipated.
While we all remember that tragedy, particularly with respect to Harvey Milk and his significance to the gay rights movement, very few remember that it was Feinstein who kept the city together, in much the same way that Rudy Giuliani took the reins after 9/11 and took the nation’s grief on his shoulders. Feinstein was later elected to office in her own right, and then, after failing to become Governor of California, became its first female senator in 1992, over 30 years ago.
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Upon hearing that she died today at the age of 90, I felt actual grief at her passing. As I mentioned to Mary Walter on the Rob Carson Radio Show on Newsmax, she wasn’t one of the radical extremists who refused to see the humanity in her political opponents. Like Tip O’Neill and Scoop Jackson, she was someone who could actually have friends across the aisle and often saw the wisdom in conservative, or at least moderate, policies. She was not an ideologue but, rather, a pragmatist.
Of course, she disappointed me. The most glaring examples were her cross-examination of then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, who she seemed to assume was a rapist, and her later examination of Amy Coney Barrett, whose Catholicism troubled Feinstein to the point that she quipped “the dogma lives loudly within you.” That was bigotry, and there is no way of denying the fact that one woman was accusing another woman of using her religion to strip other women of their constitutional right to abortion (which we now know never existed in the first place).
But overall, Feinstein was not as objectionable as the women who were born many decades after she started in public office, like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib. These colleagues in the House could have taken a page from the late Senator on how to act with grace and decency, even when you disagree vehemently with the position of your opponent. The Squad and the women on the right, like Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert, do not understand the concept of grace, and they are very far from any semblance of decency. The devolution of character and conduct in Congress is quite obviously bipartisan.
Her best efforts were indeed among the best efforts of any politician in the last century.
She should not have remained in the Senate as her faculties abandoned her. At 90, she should have long ago retired to well-deserved affluence and serenity, maintaining a legacy that really is quite remarkable. But she stayed too long at the party, unable or unwilling to recognize her limitations. Age is the great leveler, and even the most intelligent and fierce warriors cannot escape its impact. She should never have tried, and the people around her, Democrats who were afraid of losing her vote, were cruel. They did to her what the Pennsylvania Democrats did to Fetterman, hoisting a medically debilitated person in a nation that needs healthy, competent minds.
But unlike Fetterman, who has little or nothing to commend him in either policy or character, Feinstein was actually an iconic, legendary presence who should have been remembered for what she did, how she conducted herself, and what she contributed to this country. Her best efforts were indeed among the best efforts of any politician in the last century.
Instead, I fear that she will be remembered for her last days, as the light started waning and her words wavered. And that is very sad for a woman who once had a powerful voice.
May she finally rest in peace.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61