It’s befitting that Dianne Feinstein cast her final vote in the U.S. Senate only a few hours before she died, and that it was entered on behalf of keeping the federal government from shutting down.
For Senator Feinstein, who died early Friday morning at the age of 90, always cared far more about the work and substance of governing then about political machinations or the techniques and trifles of campaigns during her extraordinary 60-year career.
From the early 1960s, when she adjudicated paroles and prison terms for female inmates incarcerated in California’s penitentiary for women as an appointee of Governor Pat Brown, through her historic six-term career in the Senate, Feinstein was legendary, if sometimes mocked by insiders and hacks, for her earnest, conscientious and laborious devotion to mastering the depth and detail of complex issues facing government.
In contrast to colleagues and contemporaries preoccupied with performative posing, led by consultants and focus groups, and obsessed by acquiring political power for its own sake, Feinstein’s views and actions consistently were shaped by pragmatism, compromise and common sense, and focused on finding tangible solutions to real-life problems of real people.
“Dianne wasn’t in politics, she was in government,” former Democratic congressman John Burton, a down-the-line, old-school liberal and her San Francisco contemporary, once told me, with faint disdain.
On this week’s episode of Newsmakers TV, three veteran California political journalists join the genial host, who authored a biography of Feinstein’s rise to power, for a conversation about their professional recollections and personal interactions with the pioneering political leader.
From the personal suffering and tragedies she overcame, her acclaimed leadership in the aftermath of the assassinations of San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk, and the regal but relatable style with which she ran her city as its first woman mayor, to the thoroughgoing sexism that challenged her early years in politics, her sometimes stormy relations with the media, and her consequential actions in both domestic and national security matters, our panel reported on Feinstein from close up, throughout her career.
Carla Marinucci covered Feinstein as the political editor of the San Francisco Chronicle and as the lead California reporter for Politico, Phil Matier reported on her as a longtime daily newspaper columnist and a correspondent for local TV and radio outlets, and Dan Morain became a veteran Feinstein watcher as S.F. bureau chief for the Los Angeles Times, Editorial :Page Editor for the Sacramento Bee and a columnist for CalMatters.
The host, who published two new look backs at the senior Senator this week, for The Washington Post and for Politico, has studied the late senior Senator more closely and longer than any other journalist.
All this and more, right here, right now, on Newsmakers TV.
You can watch the latest episode of Newsmakers TV via YouTube below or by clicking through this link.The podcast version is here. TVSB, Cox Cable Channel 17, airs the show at 8 p.m. every weeknight and at 9 a.m. on weekends. KCSB, 91.9 FM, broadcasts the program at 5:30 p.m.
P.S. “Never Let Them See You Cry,” Jerry Roberts’ 1994 history of Dianne Feinstein’s rise to power, is available on Amazon.