Senate

Feinstein’s hug of Lindsey Graham sparks outrage on the left

Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) praise of her Republican colleague, Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), which she followed with a friendly hug, is stirring outrage on the left and prompting calls by prominent liberals for her to step down as the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Democrats, liberal activists and left-leaning pundits, many of whom were dismayed that Democratic senators didn’t put a tougher fight against President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett, expressed outrage.

Demand Justice, an advocacy group that has staunchly opposed Trump’s effort to fill the judiciary with conservative nominees, was first out of the gate with a statement calling for Feinstein to resign.

“It’s time for Sen. Feinstein to step down from her leadership position on the Senate Judiciary Committee. If she won’t, her colleagues need to intervene,” Brian Fallon, the executive director of Demand Justice, said in a statement circulated about an hour after Barrett’s confirmation hearing ended.

“If Senate Democrats are going to get their act together on the courts going forward, they cannot be led by someone who treats Sunrise activists with contempt and the Republican theft of a Supreme Court seat with kid gloves,” Fallon said, referring to the Sunrise Movement, a grassroots environmental organization.

Prominent voices respected on the left followed with their own stinging criticisms.

“Diane Feinstein praising Barrett, and then inexplicably praising Graham, is a clear sign that she should not remain as the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee,” tweeted Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor for the Atlantic magazine. 

Laurence Tribe, professor emeritus of constitutional law at Harvard, retweeted Ornstein’s statement, adding, “I’m afraid I agree, much as I like Sen. Feinstein personally and admired her work years ago.”

Feinstein appeared to undercut weeks of arguments by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democratic senators that Graham’s decision to schedule Barrett’s confirmation hearing a mere two weeks and two days after her nomination was announced on Sept. 26 was an outrageously unfair ramming through of the nominee.

Graham, who is up for reelection, is also one of Democrats’ top political targets in 2020. Donors from around the country poured $57 million into his opponent Jaime Harrison’s campaign in the third quarter of the year.

Senate Democrats have repeatedly slammed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Graham for speeding Barrett’s confirmation to the Senate floor for a final vote before Election Day after Republicans blocked a hearing and a vote for President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, who was nominated nearly eight months before the 2016 election.

Feinstein didn’t appear to hold any grudge against Graham after he locked in a committee vote on Barrett’s nomination for Oct. 22, preventing Democrats from holding it over for an extra week as the minority party is customarily allowed to do. 

“Mr. Chairman, I just want to thank you. This has been one of the best set of hearings that I’ve participated in and I want to thank you for your fairness and the opportunity of going back and forth. It leaves one with a lot of hopes, a lot of questions and even some ideas — perhaps some good bipartisan legislation we can put together to make this great country even better,” she said. 

“Thank you so much for your leadership,” she added. 

When Feinstein capped off her praise of Graham with a quick hug, it sparked outrage. 

Jon Lovett, who co-founded Crooked Media with prominent former Obama White House veterans, tweeted: “That she can say this about this ongoing travesty is another sad statement about how poorly represented we are by Dianne Feinstein.” 

Adam Parkhomenko, a strategist who served as national field director for Democratic National Committee, tweeted: “Excuse me while I go punch a hole in the wall.”

One Senate Democratic aide called the hug “crazy.”

“For her to make those kind of statements and to embrace [Graham] was just bizarre and absurd to me,” said the aide. “This isn’t a progressive versus moderate issue. The intention was to spend this hearing period laying bare why Barrett is a problematic choice.” 

“That messaging was really important to her junior senator, her colleague,” the aide added, referring to Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), who is on the Democratic presidential ticket, and used her time questioning Barrett to raise a full-throated alarm about the threat that she thinks the nominee poses to abortion rights.

Democracy for America, a liberal activist grassroots group that opposed Feinstein in her 2018 California Democratic primary, said Feinstein’s praise of Graham’s handling of the committee is unacceptable. 

“It’s not the hugging, it’s the calling this one of the best set of hearings,” said Neil Sroka, the spokesperson for the group. “It’s an important reminder that she’s a senator for another era and Californians are incredibly poorly served by that kind of representation on the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“I can’t imagine very many Democratic voters in the state of California think the Republicans’ attempt to stick a far-right extremist on the court less than 20 days before the election is acceptable,” he added.

Tags Amy Coney Barrett Charles Schumer Dianne Feinstein Donald Trump Lindsey Graham Merrick Garland Mitch McConnell

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