September 21, 2018

MICHAEL SCHWARTZ: Censure Dianne Feinstein.

In substance, she “deliberately misled and deceived” her fellow senators, with the “effect of impeding discovery of evidence” relevant to the performance of their constitutional duties. No one should know better than Feinstein herself that such deceptive and obstructive conduct, widely regarded as “unacceptable,” “fully deserves censure,” so that “future generations of Americans . . . know that such behavior is not only unacceptable but also bears grave consequences,” bringing “shame and dishonor” to the person guilty of it and to the office that person holds, who has “violated the trust of the American people.” These quoted words all come from the resolution of censure Feinstein herself introduced concerning President Bill Clinton’s behavior in connection with his sex scandal. She can hardly be heard to complain if she is held to the same standard.

Comparison with other past censure cases only makes Feinstein’s situation look worse. The last three senators censured, Thomas Dodd, Herman Talmadge, and Dave Durenberger, were all condemned for financial hanky-panky: converting campaign contributions to personal use and the like. They were all found to have brought the Senate into “dishonor and disrepute” even though nothing they had done implicated the Senate’s performance of its constitutional duties. Feinstein, in sharpest contrast, sought to keep her committee from timely and properly investigating an apparently serious charge of misconduct, and is still doing so, even in the face of criticism from all (or most) quarters.

As the second-richest member of the Senate, with a net worth of $94 million, Feinstein is presumably above the temptations to which Dodd, Talmadge, and Durenberger succumbed. She does, however, face a difficult reelection campaign, with a serious enthusiasm gap on her left, the California Democratic party having refused to endorse her bid for a sixth term in office. Her conduct in arranging matters to make her appear the champion of an allegedly abused constituent, and perhaps positioning herself as the woman who sank the Kavanaugh nomination, can only help on that flank. Is a nakedly political motive for senatorial misbehavior any less reprehensible than a financial one?

No.

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