by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Sen. Dianne Feinstein spent months missing from the Senate. As far as the public was concerned, she had shingles, and that’s it. End of story. Nothing to worry about, she’ll be back soon, ready to return to business, case closed, let’s stop talking about her resigning, shall we?
Except this wasn’t just a simple case of an 89-year-old woman with shingles. It wasn’t until after Feinstein returned to the Senate that her office confirmed the senior senator from California was admitted to the hospital with serious neurological complications resulting from shingles. The condition, which is called encephalitis, affected her brain and face.
That would have been important information the public had a right to know, don’t you think?
Feinstein’s absence has been hugely problematic for the Democrats. It resulted in the judicial nomination process grinding to a halt because she sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and her absence meant nominees couldn’t get the majority support they needed to get a full Senate vote. Democrats desperately wanted to get judicial nominations moving again by temporarily replacing Feinstein on the committee, but such a move required Republican support, which they did not get.
A spokesperson for Feinstein insisted that the senator’s encephalitis had resolved itself shortly after her release from the hospital in March, though she continues to experience complications related to Ramsay Hunt syndrome. Feinstein had previously denied having encephalitis, claiming, “It has never received an accurate diagnosis.”
Feinstein first received her shingles diagnosis on Feb. 26 from her physician in San Francisco and was hospitalized until March 6. She then went home to recuperate, only returning to the Senate this month. Upon her return to the Capitol, Feinstein appeared even more frail and disoriented than normal, and she required the use of a wheelchair.