Dianne Feinstein contradicts her staff on whether she is retiring

 February 15, 2023

The Senate's oldest member, Dianne Feinstein (CA), had a "Biden moment" Tuesday when she contradicted a statement from her own staff addressing the question of her retirement. 

With strivers waiting in the wings to take her job, Feinstein, 89, told reporters that she hadn't made a decision on running for re-election before her subordinates intervened to say otherwise.

Feinstein has a moment

The incident underscored what many say is the aging senator's fading awareness of her public role.

A statement on Twitter Tuesday from Feinstein's office had said the senator would step down at the end of her term.

“I am announcing today I will not run for reelection in 2024 but intend to accomplish as much for California as I can through the end of next year when my term ends....My thanks to the people of California for allowing me to serve them," the statement read.

When questioned later, Feinstein did not appear to know about the statement.

“Well, I haven’t made that decision. I haven’t released anything,” she said.

Retirement is official

A staffer then interjected to remind Feinstein -- or perhaps notify her for the first time -- of the statement issued earlier.

“You put out the statement?” Feinstein responded. “I should have known they put it out."

The senator then clarified that she was stepping down because of the death of her husband last year.

“My term will be up at the end of next year, that seemed to be a good time. My husband just passed away — it’s been about 6 months — and people keep asking, and I decided I’d answer the question,” she said.

Contentious battle ahead

Democrats wouldn't dare rush California's first female senator out the door after decades of service, but her would-be successors have already lined up for her job.

The names include Adam Schiff (D-CA), Katie Porter (D-CA) and Barbara Lee (CA). All have paid lip service to Feinstein's desire to finish out her term.

Schiff, who has already received an endorsement from former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), called Feinstein "one of the finest legislators we’ve ever known."

She also received plaudits from President Biden, who called her a "passionate defender of civil liberties" and "one of the very best" to do her job.

Like Feinstein, Biden has faced plenty of speculation about his age and its effect on his political future. The 80-year-old president is known to get confused and make statements that are later retracted or "clarified" by his subordinates, or "handlers," as they are often called.

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