She and her husband Bertram were relieved about her impending early retirement from politics, and excited of what the future was going to bring.
Bertram was a neurologist and doing very well thank you very much, and Diane was digging deep on what the next chapter of her life would bring.
After, the family would travel, an take their time to recalibrate.
After all, what they had gone through of late was no picnic.
A few years earlier, on Nov. 14, 1976, a bomb of dynamite was planted in a window flower box outside of their 19-year-old daughter Katherine’s window in a assassination attempt, and only because the previous evenings cold temperature had lead the bomb to misfire, they weren’t killed…. and in 1977 a dozen of the large windows of the Feinstein’s vacation home in Monterey Bay were shot out by the same radical leftist group and frankly who needs this nonsense.
It was in 1969, when this 36-year-old woman who had run a campaign for the Board of Supervisors, and in her campaign, used just her first name, Dianne, plastered on the signs.
It many ways, though few now can imagine it, her campaign and unexpected victory had faint echoes of Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez’s half a century later.
The local and national media hardly noticed her, likewise ignored by the California Democratic Committee, and locally only her close friend for a decade Willie Brown endorsed her.
She was an unknown in politics, though she was a member of the California Women's Board of Terms and Parole from 1960-1966, where she took the approach of a reformist to criminal justice, seeking and striving for rehabilitation rather than long sentences, especially in narcotics cases and non violent offenses.
She cultivated support from those that most other politicians didn’t think of harnessing… the LGBTQ communities and the vocal and often militant environmental conservationists.
Her chances were dim in the male-centric 1960s... so most thought… so she thought as she ran the campaign from her own home.
Until the votes started to come in.
Wrote author Jerry Roberts “Dianne was not only winning, she was topping the ticket, an unheard-of showing for a nonincumbent, let alone a woman.”
And on the following morning, the local papers announced the stunning upset on the front page and the local newscasts made it their opening and breaking story.
And like those who trivialize women, the press spoke of the ‘dark-haired, blue-eyed beauty’ and that she was dressed in “a fashionable blue Norell original with a bolero top and a wide white belt.’
Shades of Jackie O.
Both women’s entrances into politics were watershed moments. As Feinstein told reporters at the time, her win signaled “a new era, a different kind of politics working strongly for change,” saying of her then-12-year-old daughter’s interest in one day being mayor, “Each generation does better than the one before.”
After years as a supervisor, she then became it’s president, and after two failed attempts to become mayor, and the assassination attempt, a decade in service was enough.
And then in April of 1978, Bertram died at home from colon cancer, and at his bedside was Dianne, as she had taken a leave from the board to care for her ailing husband during his decline.
He implored her to get out of the rat race and follow her bliss…. which she was eager to do.
In the fall of that year, she traveled to Nepal with the man who years later would become her husband, financier Dick Blum. She contracted dysentery and had little choice but to be forced to decelerate, and was still planning on retirement from politics which suited Dick just fine.
Said labor and gay-rights activist and Harvey Milk’s intern Cleve Jones, “It’s important to remember that she thought her career was over before it even began. It was a very polarized city and she, as a moderate, felt there was no place for her. So she was going to give up politics.”
But who could have foretold what was in the cards so soon after her return home.
An increasingly erratic and histrionic conservative ex- Vietnam vet, ex- cop and ex- firefighter Dan White had resigned as a supervisor from the board, and then wanted the mayor to reinstate him.
Moscone initially agreed to White's request, but later refused the appointment at the urging of Milk and others. On November 27, 1978, White visited San Francisco City Hall with the later-declared intention of killing not only Moscone and Milk, but also two other San Francisco politicians, California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (who would later serve as Mayor of San Francisco), and Supervisor Carol Ruth Silver, whom he also blamed for lobbying Moscone not to reappoint him.[
Though she thought of Dan as a friend and they got along well, which is why she too wasn’t killed that day, Dianne thought it unwise to allow him back whilst Harvey loathed White, believing that he would obstruct the liberal agenda at every turn.
Dianne was going to be the one to tell Dan White the news that Monday morning of November 27th.
You know, the centrist going as the in- between the factions, because that’s often what centrists do.
It was early in the morning on her first day back to work from her trip and she still had residual intestinal effects from her illness.
Dianne saw Dan White, who had slipped through a basement window, exit George's office.
“I have something to do first,” he told her as he entered Harvey’s office.
She had no idea White had just shot the Mayor, her good friend and confidante, five times, and then reloaded with hollow point bullets.
Which is unusual, isn’t it?
Killing one person with ‘normal’ bullets and then killing another with bullets that will leave a more gruesome exit wound, leave more blood and gore in its wake and truly seal the deal.
She heard a door slam, and in a few seconds heard Harvey scream, “Oh No”, before the gunshots.
Many would walk into a room like they have a thousand times before, and a dozen on that very day, and see a colleague, a friend, an ally whom you talked with, mused with, laughed with, dreamed and hoped and strived with…. and find them on the floor with bullet holes in their body and face, and blood and brain matter on the walls and floor and seeing the eyes that are open but staring at nothing.
And in many cases, one would be so overwhelmed with the unreal reality right there at that moment in front of them, that they would recoil from the nightmare and leave the scene to call and defer to others.
And that’s okay, no judgement here. None whatsoever.
But that’s not what Dianne did.
There was a sickeningly dry and sweet metallic scent reminiscent of rust in the room, which is usual when blood mixes with water, indicating that Harvey probably broke out in a full body sweat when confronted with the madman and the awareness of the imminence of his death.
She moved forward, not backward, and without hesitation in a moment that often begs for hesitation she touched Harvey’s face.
Repeating his name over and over and over again as if it would bring him back to this place and space… ‘Harvey...Harvey…. Harvey….Oh, Harvey…..’
She lowered her hand to his neck, to his carotid artery to feel for a pulse, because you never know,
And as she did so, instead of feeling the slight bulge of the artery over the smooth and damp neck skin, Dianne’s index finger found in its place one of the five bullet holes, as her finger sank into the wound that passed her first digit.
She recoiled and then tried to get a pulse on his wrist, and yet again her finger fell into yet another bullet wound on his wrist.
She looked at her finger and then to Harvey’s face and to his eyes, and knew that he was beyond.
She stared, then stood and knew that she had to rush straight to her George’s office, already feeling and knowing what she would find, and to what end…. but Dianne did what she had to do, and did so without hesitation.
In a moment that often begs for hesitation.
Because you never know until you know.
And so she did.
Rinse and repeat.
( Literally, because as soon as Dianne returned home and her adrenaline started to wear off and wear down… she vomited, repeatedly. )
After such an unexpected traumatic shock of this magnitude, one rides for many hours on a wave of unreal adrenaline before finally shutting down from electric overload.
And she needed every ounce of it.
The thousand yard stare.
I’ve seen it before in others, and others have seen it on me.
Well, she was thrust back into the game that she had grown weary of playing.
She was approved as the city’s first female mayor shortly afterwards.
Said Bill Carrick, “She basically did a really good job of keeping the city stabilized. The post-assassination period was very tumultuous and she was a very steady hand.”
Politics was not exactly the path most of her female classmates at Stanford University in the 1950s considered pursuing.
“Something must be wrong with her, she must have a bad marriage, why is she doing this,” Feinstein recalled people saying about her.
“Look, being a woman in our society even today is difficult,” she told me. “And you know it in the press area, I know it in the political area.”
But she worked hard as mayor to overcome questions about whether a woman was up to the job.
“I went to every fire over three alarms in the city,” she said, showing me a hard hat the fire department gave her.
“I had a radio in my room, in my bedroom,” she said, so she could hear in real time about fires.
How to best encapsulate her ten years as a supervisor, nine years as mayor and thirty plus years as a six time elected senator…..
She was the breaker of glass ceilings as she was the first female chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, the first female chairwoman of the Rules Committee, the first woman to sit on the Judiciary Committee, the first woman to co-chair the Inaugural Committee.
She would guide the city through a turbulent and grief- filled time period during the AIDS crisis.
At the height of the deaths, she did greatly anger the gay community by forcing temporary closure of the city’s bath houses… but after we have all experienced likewise during Covid, that seemed like a life saving and sensible move.
Senator Feinstein was a consistent opponent of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited LGBTQ+ service members from disclosing their sexual orientation. Senator Feinstein continued to champion LGBTQ+ service members after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed in 2011. She strongly opposed President Trump’s attempts to ban transgender individuals from serving in the military.
- Preventing discrimination: Senator Feinstein is a supporter of the Equality Act, which would expand federal civil rights laws to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination in public accommodations and facilities, employment, housing, credit, jury service and federally funded programs. Specifically, the bill defines and includes sex, sexual orientation and gender identity among the prohibited categories of discrimination or segregation.
- Ending discriminatory adoption laws: Senator Feinstein cosponsored the John Lewis Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which would prohibit discrimination against would-be foster parents and adoptive parents based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Diversifying data collection: Senator Feinstein supports the LGBTQ Data Inclusion Act, which would require federal agencies to collect demographic information on the LGBTQ+ community to asses needed changes in survey methods related to asking questions about sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Workforce equality: Senator Feinstein Voted for the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, known as ENDA, which would ban employers from firing, refusing to hire, or discriminating against workers or applicants based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- There was her steadfast and lifelong fight against the NRA and guns of war allowed to wreak death, destruction and heartache.
The trauma of the event turned Dianne into the most vehement of advocates for gun control in all her elected positions, authoring both assault weapons bans in 1994 and 2013.
After enacting a handgun ban in the city, she survived a recall attempt, which foreshadowed her push as a senator to outlaw assault weapons.
- She held the CIA accountable for torture across the globe, and in our name. In 2009, as chair of the Intelligence Committee, she oversaw the investigations into CIA’s torture programs, finding them intentionally misleading and lying to lawmakers about the torture inflicted on terrorism suspects.
She wasn’t having it.
The 700-plus page summary cataloguing how the CIA’s torture and detention of terrorism suspects did not produce valuable intelligence and was more brutal than the agency had publicly acknowledged.
It came to a head in March of 2014. Feinstein delivered a Senate floor speech describing how she learned “chilling” and “horrible” details of an “un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation” that entailed “significant CIA wrongdoing.” She demanded the CIA apologize for breaching the computers Senate staff were using, which Brennan ultimately did after an inspector general’s report vindicated Feinstein.
Obama and many in the intelligence community were staunchly against releasing any of the report, insisting it would jeopardize national security. Feinstein argued it was critical for America to learn about what she called “an ugly truth” in order to avoid repeating it. She is still working today on making the entire 7000 page report public, not just the summary.
- She made the proposal and led the ratification to ban San Francisco from doing any city business with any state that didn’t ratify the Equal Rights Amendment.
- She has made fighting for and protecting abortion access... local, regional, national... a cornerstone of her legacy. In dozens of specific ways.
In fact, if I continued to list her progressive accomplishments on down the page, it would end up much too long a diary. ( To Late! )
Not by any means, but what politician or statesman is?
What person, what politician has been without fault?
Who has not at one time or another angered or disappointed their base?
Biden to Bernie to Obama, Carter to Lincoln.
And of her mistakes and poor decisions in her half century tenure of service, and there are many that I felt at the time to be not my cup of tea…. I’ll leave that up to another diarist and another diary.
Her biggest mistake?
As a newish member of the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2002 and 2003, she read and believed the assessments that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
And so she voted for the war, which she calls to this day her biggest mistake.
“What’s my lesson? The lesson is you take it all with a grain of salt.”
She became known for her moderate and centrist politics.
And quite unapologetic about that fact.
“You have to remember how I became mayor. I became mayor after being defeated twice as a product of assassination, of the mayor being killed and the first openly gay public official in America being killed by a friend and colleague of mine. So I saw firsthand when a city becomes divided, I saw and watched while squad cars were being blown up in a riot.
The city needed to be reassured that there would be some consistency as we put the broken pieces back together … From that nonpartisan experience, I drew my greatest political lesson. The heart of political change is at the center of the political spectrum.
I truly believe that there is a center in the political spectrum that is the best place to run something when you have a very diverse community. America is diverse; we are not all one people. We are many different colors, religions, backgrounds, education levels, all of it.”
“Even with a divided Congress, we can still pass bills that will improve lives. Each of us was sent here to solve problems. That’s what I’ve done for the last 30 years, and that’s what I plan to do for the next two years.”
“Feinstein got shit done by working with people on both sides of the aisle and refusing to get caught up in unnecessary nonsense,” said former California Democratic Chair John Burton, “To those lining up to run for her seat, I hope you honor the fact that this powerful lady blazed the trail for you.”
Said Cleve Jones, “I’m a very far-left union organizer and queer radical. And buddies and I would go to a bathhouse and sit in that big Jacuzzi and conspire to drive Dianne nuts. I remember talking with someone about how she was really walking a tightrope, the compassion she showed for people with HIV at a time of incredible stigma and misinformation and hysteria.
Of all the big-league Democrats in the United States, Feinstein was undoubtedly the most consistently pro-gay voice. I’ve worked in politics my whole life, and met a lot of politicians who are little more than cardboard cutouts propped up by staff. It’s important to understand that she was never that person."
Not that she occasionally didn’t get pissed off at asshats.
SEN. DIANNE FEINSTEIN - Let me just make a couple of points in response. One, I'm not a sixth grader. Senator, I've been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in, I saw people shot. I've looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons. I've seen the bullets that implode. In Sandy Hook, youngsters were dismembered.
Incidentally, you used the word prohibit. It exempts 2,271 weapons. Isn’t that enough for the people of the United States?
What do they need, a bazooka?
For a decade or more, she often woke up in the middle of the night in cold sweats reliving that horrible day.
She tried to be quiet and stare at the ceiling until she fell back asleep, as she didn’t want to wake Richard, but when he did awaken, he was always supportive and stayed up with her until she fell asleep first, and he found what usually did the trick was to hold her…
… and in February of 2022 from a protracted fight with cancer, Richard died in that same bed, once again with Dianne by his side.
“My husband was my partner and best friend for more than 40 years. He was by my side for the good times and for the challenges. I am going to miss him terribly.”
It was his death that had been so hard, and was the catalyst for stepping away from public life.
And he as well told her near the end that maybe it was best if she spent her golden years travelling instead of legislating, especially to the Himalayan region and its people, whom Richard spent his rare spare time advocating for.
And now, she will indeed travel.
Slow and steady and often.
She’s earned it.
“Her Jewish values are ones that I deeply share,” said Adam Schiff recently, “One of the passages that I use to guide my life and my politics comes out of Micah: ‘What is required of us but to do justice, to love mercy and walk humbly with thy God.’ This is what Sen. Feinstein has done.”
And after specifying many issues including her activism on abortion and gay rights and gun control, wildfire relief and the drought, he said “She was a trailblazer….. Is a trailblazer.”
She told colleagues over the years that she felt that she didn’t have the life that she necessarily wanted, but was given the one that she needed.
( Dig John, Yoko and George dancing in the audience throughout, most prominently at 4:25 )
Long and extended trips, many and often, Dianne, travel, explore, learn, grow, it’s not over till it’s over and may you live a long life blessed with your Ashkenazi- stock.
Mazel Tov to you!
God willing… the best is yet to come.