Is Feinstein sending Obama a message?

| January 6, 2009

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) was an early (July 2007) endorser of Hillary Clinton’s run for the US Presidency. At the same time, Sen. Feinstein was the one who provided her DC home for a private meeting between Clinton and Obama last June that led to Clinton ending her campaign and endorsing Obama’s candidacy. So, Feinstein has clearly been in the thick of the Democratic campaign for the Presidency.

Now, less than two weeks before President-elect Obama’s inauguration, Sen. Feinstein has fired not one but two shots across Obama’s bow in the same day, namely today (January 6th). The first was her much-covered reaction to the news that Obama had chosen Leon Panetta to head the CIA. Feinstein, as Chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, does not appear to be pleased either with the choice itself or the fact that Obama didn’t give her at least a heads-up, much less seek her input and recommendations. Instead, she learned about it from news reports and when asked for a reaction gave this rather blunt reply:

“I was not informed about the selection of Leon Panetta to be the CIA Director. I know nothing about this, other than what I’ve read,” Feinstein said in a statement. “My position has consistently been that I believe the Agency is best-served by having an intelligence professional in charge at this time.”

Subsequent news reports say that both Obama and Biden have called Feinstein and apologized that she learned about the appointment in this way.

However, later this afternoon, Feinstein fired the second shot. Obama made it clear a week ago that he felt that Roland Burris (Illinois Govenor Rod Blogojovich’s appointed successor to Obama) should not be seated in the US Senate. This afternoon, Sen. Feinstein issued a statement that she felt that Burris should be seated. (She may be looking forward to 2010, when she may well run for the California Governor’s office.) Of course, she’s also bucking Sen. Reid and other Democratic leaders in this, but since Obama — the President-Elect and the new head of the Democratic Party — had already weighed in, she’s clearly opposing him as well.

Feinstein is quite literally old enough to be Obama’s mother (her only daughter was born four years before Obama was) and had a few years, anyway, to observe Obama in the US Senate. I suspect she’s not buying into the “Hope and Change” mantra and is seeking to remind Obama that there are three branches in the US Government, not just one. Interesting times ahead.  ..bruce w..

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Category: 2008 Election, Main, Obama Administration, US Politics

About the Author ()

Webster is Principal and Founder at Bruce F. Webster & Associates, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Computer Science at Brigham Young University. He works with organizations to help them with troubled or failed information technology (IT) projects. He has also worked in several dozen legal cases as a consultant and as a testifying expert, both in the United States and Japan. He can be reached at, or you can follow him on Twitter as @bfwebster.