Pelosi was flanked by the Democratic female members of House and as soon as the question flew out of Russert's mouth, groans filled the room. "Age discrimination," one person was heard screaming.
"Oh, you've always asked that question except to Mitch McConnell," Pelosi said with a laugh.
Russert, 27, pressed his case, saying that she, and Reps. Steny Hoyer and James Clyburn, who round out the House leadership, were all older than 70.
"Let's for a moment honor it as a legitimate question, although it's quite offensive, but you don't realize that I guess," she said. "The fact is that everything that I have done in my decade of leadership is to elect younger and newer people to the Congress.
Age discrimination, my posterior. If she were concerned with that, Pelosi wouldn't have said "Oh, you've always asked that question except to Mitch McConnell." Pelosi's response had nothing to do with age. It was about gender, and gender alone.
And so it shouldn't have been surprising that Representative Pelosi on Thursday (video below) remarked
Senator Feinstein has been a champion for California for twenty years. I have been the leader or the Speaker of the House fighting for California and I have seen up close and firsthand her great leadership for our country but especially for our State of California. She deserves the respect to get well and be back on duty and, uh, I just, it's interesting to me. I don't know what political agendas are at work that are going after Senator Feinstein in that way. I've never seen them go after a man who was sick in the Senate that way.
It's just a guess but it may be because we've never had an 89-year-old absent Senator whose vote on the Judiciary Committee was pivotal, a vote without which the President (one of her own party) cannot gain approval of any of his judicial appointments. Since returning to California for surgery for shingles in early March, Feinstein has missed 58 votes and the worst is yet to come.
The "political agendas" are obvious: gaining a recommendation by the committee for full Senate approval of federal judges. It has nothing to do with gender- nothing. If a man were in Feinstein's position, the pressure upon the Senator to resign would be as great; probably greater because Democrats would not then have to overcome their fear of being accused of sexism or misogyny.
Hopefully, Feinstein will recover fully from her bout with shingles, a disease striking primarily the aged. Nevertheless,, the clock can't be turned back, she will never recover from being 89 years old and is, as with many elderly people, someone who has exhibited signs of mental decline. It's deeply unfortunate, but it happens with a significant portion of the very elderly. She cannot do her job, which is more common than not for men and women of her age.
Senator Feinstein reportedly has asked Majority Leader Schumer to replace her temporarily on the Judiciary Committee, which Schumer has agreed to pursue. However, Republicans would have to agree and the price they would exact, if they are willing at all, would be enormous. California's Ro Khanna of California was justified in tweeting
It’s time for @SenFeinstein to resign. We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people.
Khanna is a Democratic member of the House but unlike Nancy Pelosi, is uninterested in making life far more difficult for the Democratic Senate. There also is an element of California politics involved because, in the race to replace Feinstein (who already had announced her retirement), Khanna supports the bid of Representative Barbara Lee while Pelosi is partial to the less progressive wing of the state party.
Still, given the former Speaker's history, there is an arguably more odious motivation. That would be good old-fashioned bias or what might be called "reverse sexism" which, of course, is simply sexism.. Whether or not he was thinking of Nancy Pelosi, this MSNBC host is right:
I’m sorry but “it’s feminist to stay in a critically important job long past when you are capable of doing it” is a ludicrous argument. I can’t tell if people are really making it or just kinda trolling.— Chris Hayes (@chrislhayes) April 14, 2023