Monday, May 15, 2023

"Someone Get Me Strom Thurmond on the Phone!"

Well, the good news is that Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has finally made it back to Washington, to resume her role in the Senate. The bad news is that she probably ought to be in an assisted living facility. I know the Senate has its share of senior citizens, but from the reports coming out of her camp, she’s going to need more help than the Congressional Page Service can provide.

Senator Feinstein(Source)

A Rolling Stone story has that she cannot be left alone in the Senate building, so unbeknownst to her, they have a system to ensure she always has an escort. The story also describes how she has trouble retaining information, often asking the same questions in a meeting that she’d asked earlier.

This is a worrying matter because Senators hold a great deal of power, for which they are vetted by the public and voted into office. From the sound of it, California is being represented by an unelected staff, with no more than token input from the elected.

Granted, over a 30-year Senatorial career, her positions should be well-defined. If her staff were to “go rogue,” it would be known immediately.

And we’re not talking about what Republicans say about President Biden. Yes, he’s old too, but you don’t hear any stories coming from the White House about how he’s losing touch with reality. And you can watch him speak and see that there are still plenty of marbles rolling around under that silver hair.

It’s different with Senator Feinstein, for whom it’s clear that she has some cognitive mental issues, like the early onset of Alzheimer’s or dementia, and she needs to step down. But working out how to do that opens up a real bag of chaos.

Usually with dementia patients, their long-term memories remain intact but they can’t remember what happened just minutes earlier. They know who they are but don’t know what they had for breakfast.

So for Senator Feinstein to come to the decision to step down, she’s going to have to understand why, accept it, and remember it!

It’s not hard to conceive of her waking up every day, following such a retirement, and expecting to go into the Capitol building and go to work. Every day, someone may have to remind her that she’s not a Senator anymore. It’s a tough proposition.

With the presidency, you have the 25th Amendment, which lays out how to remove a president for medical reasons or their judgment is compromised. There’s no such thing with Congress so you have to be careful when wresting political titles away from people. (Sure, their party may be able to force them out, but that’s an awfully big gamble that can have “Backfire” written all over it.)

After all, the people of California knew she was old when they reelected her to her most recent term. I don’t live in California, but I expect she must have done some kind of campaigning. Maybe a resident can let me know. Was she out on the campaign trail, or did they just run a lot of commercials with gauzy photographs of the Senator, with a voice-over about her past service?

Regardless, she WAS elected. But geez, it looks like her time has come and gone, and we need to get a more active and effective Senator in there, whose head is in the political game and not wondering why the darn clicker won’t work. The country needs its full allotment of Senators available for voting on the issues of the day. If someone can’t meet that criteria, they need to step aside for someone who can.


Don’t Fall For It!

Presidential candidate Nikki Haley is trying to tamp down expectations that a new Republican president will be able to impose a national abortion ban. She mentions that it’s not something that can be done via executive order, so it would need a law passed. To do so would require a large Republican majority in the House and 60 seats in the Senate, to overcome the inevitable filibuster. And she is exactly right.

Here’s why it doesn’t make me feel any better. What I think she’s trying to do is play to Independents, centrist Democrats, and Republicans concerned with reproductive freedom. It’s an attempt to neuter the Democrat's biggest, fattest, juiciest campaign issue. She wants to make these groups less wary of a Republican-run government, especially one not run by an orange nutbag.

But the thing is, none of those facts mean the Republicans won’t still try to pull off a national abortion ban. They may not be able to do it in one grand gesture, but then can still do like they’ve been doing the last 50 years and nibble around the edges until they’ve succeeded in making the procedure so difficult to obtain, it’s just as effective as a total ban.

Also, don’t forget that with Mitch McConnell back in control of the Senate, they could decide to eliminate the filibuster once and for all, to pass an abortion ban. But I don’t think that’s as likely. McConnell isn’t as tied to the religious dogmatists as he is to the fossil fuel industry. He’s a business guy. If Koch Industries blesses it, he’ll do it. And I think he also realizes that they can’t gerrymander the Senate, so the Democrats can easily return to power and then use the lack of filibuster for their own ends, like maybe putting some teeth into carbon reduction. And that’s something that gives the Koch Brother nightmares.

But the point is, Republicans are tied to the Anti-Choice people, because there just aren’t enough filthy rich bastards to win elections, and they need something on which to campaign to the rest of us, where the implementation won’t cost their donors any money. So no matter what Nikki Haley says, you can’t trust Republicans not to restrict reproductive health care. With the Dodd decision, they are the proverbial dog that finally caught the car… they just don’t know what to do with it once they have it and aren’t looking forward to dealing with the firestorm they created.


Infidel753 said...

I've seen dementia close up. Eventually the long-term memories start to go as well. There can also be severe delusions. Early in the process the person has occasional lucid days, so it's very hard for somebody who isn't in the person's presence every day to accurately assess her mental state. In Feinstein's case, it seems obvious she can't handle the job. And it's not going to get any better.

Remember that the filibuster can be abolished for specific issues and left in place otherwise -- I believe this has already happened for judge approvals, for example. If Republicans held the House, Senate, and presidency, McConnell could certainly contrive some way of abolishing the filibuster for some category of legislation that would include an abortion ban, while leaving it intact for things like tax increases or the environment. And if the House and Senate were to pass a national abortion ban, what would president Haley do? Veto it? Think of the firestorm that would cause in the Republican party.

So no, we can't trust Republicans on that one. On the state level, they're passing abortion restrictions right and left even though they're clearly unpopular even in most red states. A lot of Republican legislators -- probably the dominant faction by now -- are religious crazies, indifferent or even hostile to big business. McConnell is something of a dinosaur, even if a heavyweight one. He'll go extinct eventually.

bluzdude said...

I think that's one of the biggest changes in the last 20 years, at least in the duration of this blog, is that the religious "true believers" are getting elected, rather than just being promised a seat at the table after the businessmen win. And they obviously have no qualms about imposing their narrow religious viewpoints on a majority that loudly and clearly disagrees with them.

With Haley, or any GOP president, I'm sure a Republican Congress will find a way to get an abortion ban passed, whether it's by eliminating the filibuster partially or completely, or horse-trading for it when the next debt-ceiling battle (or crisis du jour) comes along.

Batocchio said...

Feinstein's former, long-time colleague Barbara Boxer publicly suggested that Feinstein shouldn't run again in 2018, and she wasn't the only one. The California Democratic Party did not endorse her. Boxer did eventually endorse Feinstein, at least in the general election, as did Obama, Biden, many other prominent politicians, and many newspapers and organizations. California has a nonpartisan primary system, so in the general election the two candidates with the most primary votes square off, and Feinstein went up against since-disgraced Democratic State Senator Kevin de León and won 54.2% to 45.8%. She was the incumbent, had much better name recognition, and much more money, roughly 10 million to 1 million for de León. de León also agreed with Feinstein on most positions and his main pitch was getting someone newer and younger into office. Stronger candidates didn't run in 2018 because they assumed Feinstein would win; they are running in 2024. I think Feinstein's 2018 run was driven by vanity and hubris, and the current mess was easily avoidable.

bluzdude said...

Thanks for the deets, Batocchio. And I'm sorry it took so long to post your comment. I didn't get the email so I didn't even see it until Monday 5/22.

But yeah, someone should have sat her down and said, "Listen, it's time." Or maybe someone did and she said, "Now YOU listen, NO."