Fourteen years ago, Dianne Feinstein could have left public service at what others would have considered a pinnacle. As an accomplished San Francisco supervisor and mayor, in times that required sure-handed crisis management, she had nonetheless failed in her bid to become California’s governor. The private life surely looked sweet.
Instead, she chose to continue in the bare-knuckled arena of politics, declaring her candidacy for the unfinished Senate term of Pete Wilson, the man who denied her the Governor’s Mansion two years before. Her victory was a great moment in the state’s political history, the beginning of a second act for which Californians may be grateful.
If there are solid arguments for term limits (and there are), there’s an even better case for tested experience. Over the last decade and a half, Sen. Feinstein has not disappointed those who looked to her for balance and for philosophical liberalism tempered by the hard realities of recent history.
These qualities, and not because we agree with every vote she has cast in the Senate, lead The Examiner enthusiastically to endorse her re-election.
Some on the left end of the Democratic Party have not forgiven her for taking the global war on terrorism seriously. For unforgiving anti-war ideologues, it wasn’t enough that Sen. Feinstein acknowledged that she felt misled into supporting the Iraq war by the Bush administration.
Perhaps Saddam Hussein, the deposed Iraqi dictator, was not the proximate threat Sen. Feinstein herself described prior to the U.S.-led invasion, but his cruel designs on the Middle East needed to be stopped. Sen. Feinstein placed reality before wishful thinking. We appreciate that stand even if some activists in her party do not.
Likewise, she shunned the paranoid left and backed the Patriot Act, which gave to counterterrorism agents the same tools accorded federal anti-racketeering investigators. Liberal programs, she well understands, are impossible if the nation isn’t first secure. That is why she has pushed for more exhaustive inspections of our ports.
Deeply schooled in the law, Sen. Feinstein co-sponsored last year’s Class Action Reform Act, which blocked plaintiffs’ attorneys from shopping for the most award-happy states in which to file lawsuits. Offended by the growing abuse of an honored system, she took action to correct it.
That and her vote for the 2001 tax cuts have invited charges that the senator jumps to the agenda of Big Business. To the contrary, she sees a healthy economy as essential to the life of a vibrant public sector. So much has she worked for activist government that the American Conservative Union has given her a paltry 11 percent lifetime rating.
Dianne Feinstein’s intelligent independence reflects the true spirit of San Francisco. We’re confident California voters will reward her measured approach to legislation and send her back to Washington for anothersix years.
Part of The San Francisco Examiner's 2006 election coverage.