TIME politics

Five Ways Dianne Feinstein Has Kicked Butt

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs, March 11, 2014.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, speaks with reporters in the Capitol after a speech on the Senate floor that accused the CIA of searching computers set up for Congressional staff for their research of interrogation programs, March 11, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call/Getty Images

She knew Harvey Milk, she roasted Ted Cruz, and she made Hillary and Barack make up

In case you didn’t know already, Tuesday’s speech made it clear that Senator Dianne Feinstein is a lean, mean spybusting machine. The longtime California Senator and Chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee publicly turned on the CIA Tuesday when she accused the spy agency of illegally hacking into Senate computers used to investigate Bush-era intelligence practices.

But this isn’t the first time Feinstein has spoken truth to power. Here are a few of her greatest hits:

1) You wouldn’t know it from her speech Tuesday, but Feinstein had a late night Monday night. That’s because the octogenarian was part of an all-night congressional session to raise awareness about climate change. “If we do nothing, the Sierra Nevada spring snowpack could drop by as much as 60 to 80 percent by the end of the century, eliminating the water source for nearly 16 million people,” the Senator said.

2) It was Feinstein who tried to push an assault weapons ban through Congress after the Newtown shootings, but her ban failed in a 40-60 vote. In her final appeal to her colleagues to vote to ban assault weapons, she demanded that the rest of the Senate “show some guts.” “The most important duty a government has is to protect its citizens’ safety,” she said. “When 20 beautiful first-graders are slaughtered, our government has failed that duty.” She spoke next to an image of the front page of the New York Daily News that read “Shame on U.S.”

3) In her continued fight for an assault weapons ban, Feinstein delivered an epic takedown of colleague Ted Cruz when he tried to mansplain the Constitution to her (via Daily Beast)

“One, I’m not a sixth grader,” Feinstein said. “Senator, I’ve been on this Committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in and I saw people shot with these weapons.

“I’m not a lawyer,” she added, “but after 20 years, I’ve been up close and personal with the Constitution. I have great respect for it. … So I, you know, it’s fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know I’ve been here for a long time.”

“I thank you for the lecture. Incidentally, this does not prohibit — you used the word ‘prohibit’ – it exempts 2,271 weapons. Isn’t that enough for the people of the United States? Do they need a bazooka? Do they need other high-powered weapons that other people use in close combat? I don’t think so.”

BOOM! Who needs a bazooka when you have Dianne Feinstein?

4) She worked closely with gay rights leader Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, and she was there the day they were assassinated by ex-supervisor Dan White in 1978. White murdered Milk and Moscone because he wanted his government seat back, and when Feinstein learned that Moscone was planning to give it to someone else, she tried to track down White to explain the situation. She described that day to the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I saw him come in. I said, ‘Dan, can I talk to you?’ And he went by, and I heard the door close, and I heard the shots and smelled the cordite, and I came out of my office. Dan went right by me. Nobody was around, every door was closed.

“I went down the hall. I opened the wrong door. I opened (Milk’s) door. I found Harvey on his stomach. I tried to get a pulse and put my finger through a bullet hole. He was clearly dead.”

Feinstein later went on to replace Moscone as Mayor of San Francisco.

MORE: Top Lawmaker Accuses CIA of Illegally Snooping on Senate

5) She’s also a peacemaker: Feinstein hosted the first meeting between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama after Obama nabbed the 2008 nomination. She set up two chairs and put out some water, and then left the candidates alone to talk it out:

“You know, this is a deeply personal time too. You are sorting out your feelings. Hillary’s is going to be giving a big speech tomorrow. Barack is trying to put things together for a major presidential campaign. So, there are a lot of decompression, nerve-endings, all these things that need to kind of come together and I think the opportunity to sit down, just the two of them, have an hour together was positive.”

Keep doing what you’re doing, Dianne!

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