California’s senior senator Dianne Feinstein finds herself center stage in the U.S. presidential race today. Republican candidate Mitt Romney recently used a comment from Feinstein to attack Barack Obama during a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW). But now, the Democrat from California is striking back.
The flap began Monday when Feinstein, chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, gave a speech at the World Affairs Council. When asked about intelligence leaks, Feinstein said that "the White House has to understand that some of this is coming from its ranks."
One day later, Republican candidate Mitt Romney repeated Feinstein’s assertion word for word, adding that "this conduct is contemptible."
"It betrays our national interest, it compromises our men and women in the field and it demands a full and prompt investigation by special counsel," he said.
Senator Feinstein said she regretted her remarks were used to impugn President Barack Obama and his commitment to protecting national security secrets. She says she shouldn’t have speculated beyond a statement that she didn’t believe the president leaked classified information.
She added that she knows we are in a campaign season, "but I hope the investigation proceeds without political accusation or interference from anyone.”
Feinstein's GOP Senate opponent Elizabeth Emken quickly jumped on the controversy, suggesting Senator Feinstein herself may have become “part of the leak” by speaking to New York Times reporter David Sanger, giving him “his second source.” Sanger’s new book suggests White House officials publicly discussed classified information.
Emken says the question isn't whether or not it was intentional.
"The question is whether a politician who has a record of revealing government secrets should be trusted in a position of high security clearance," she says.
A spokesman for Senator Feinstein says her meeting with Sanger came long after the book had gone to press and was a courtesy call by the reporter to let her know she might be concerned about some of the things he’d written.