Do You Detect a Vibe Shift?
This David Ignatius column is something
If you forgive me, I’ve been absolutely obsessed with Texas's impeachment trial for MAGA's favorite Attorney General Ken Paxton — an impeachment trial which, unlike those in D.C., could actually result in the removal of the most powerful politician — which has entered the final stages. The star witness has emerged: Paxton's former mistress, who was hired by developer and major Paxton donor Nate Paul in what critics and former staffers of the A.G. maintain was an obviously corrupt act. She showed up to the Capitol building wearing white, a statement dress to be sure, and was set to testify at 9 AM. Her bag, from the Gucci/Balenciaga collaboration, was both expensive and kitschy — perfect for a politically charged trial that has focused on remodeling, insurance adjusters, and petty workplace gripes. But Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, the presiding officer, ruled she had not been on the witness list long enough to testify -- delaying her testimony until this afternoon, and running up against the planned end of the trial.
For those who don't find this trial juicy enough already (which, how could you not, considering Patrick's wife is a state senator sitting through the whole thing, and that Patrick's high-dollar attorney is so tanned that he has drawn comparison to an Oompa Loompa) a central part of the scandal has turned out to be Paxton's insistence that his staff get involved in litigation regarding a charitable trust that Paul was accused of defrauding to the tune of millions. The trust in question: The Mitte Foundation, whose president is RJ Mitte, the actor who played Walt Jr. on Breaking Bad... a show in which his character unintentionally set up a fraudulent charity as a slush fund. You can watch the live festivities here:
David Ignatius: Biden Should Step Aside
Biden would carry two big liabilities into a 2024 campaign. He would be 82 when he began a second term. According to a recent Associated Press-NORC poll, 77 percent of the public, including 69 percent of Democrats, think he’s too old to be effective for four more years. Biden’s age isn’t just a Fox News trope; it’s been the subject of dinner-table conversations across America this summer.
Because of their concerns about Biden’s age, voters would sensibly focus on his presumptive running mate, Harris. She is less popular than Biden, with a 39.5 percent approval rating, according to polling website FiveThirtyEight. Harris has many laudable qualities, but the simple fact is that she has failed to gain traction in the country or even within her own party…
Biden has never been good at saying no. He should have resisted the choice of Harris, who was a colleague of his beloved son Beau when they were both state attorneys general. He should have blocked then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which has done considerable damage to the island’s security. He should have stopped his son Hunter from joining the board of a Ukrainian gas company and representing companies in China — and he certainly should have resisted Hunter’s attempts to impress clients by getting Dad on the phone.
Biden has another chance to say no — to himself, this time — by withdrawing from the 2024 race. It might not be in character for Biden, but it would be a wise choice for the country…
Time is running out. In a month or so, this decision will be cast in stone. It will be too late for other Democrats, including Harris, to test themselves in primaries and see whether they have the stuff of presidential leadership. Right now, there’s no clear alternative to Biden — no screamingly obvious replacement waiting in the wings. That might be the decider for Biden, that there’s seemingly nobody else. But maybe he will trust in democracy to discover new leadership, “in the arena.”
McCarthy Goes With Impeachment Inquiry
From the moment McCarthy became speaker, the plan of action on the potential impeachment of Joe Biden was clear. Instead of a fire and brimstone immediate action, McCarthy outsourced the work of building a case to three chairman allies — James Comer of the Oversight Committee, Jason Smith of Ways and Means and of course Jim Jordan of Judiciary. Rather than some slapdash approach as favored by the likes of Matt Gaetz, who said last September the party should have proceeded to it immediately after the election, these chairmen worked to build a stronger case.
Through subpoenas, bank records, and testimony — some public, some behind the scenes — the Republicans established clear connections between Joe Biden’s official actions as vice president and the work of his son Hunter to shakedown foreign entities, with more than $20 million passed through in payments to nine different Biden family members through a network of more than twenty LLCs set up after the patriarch became vice president.
The Biden-defending media will frame this impeachment as a baseless sop to the right wing of the House. But the truth is that McCarthy and his allies built the case to this point in such a way that even moderate members of the House think it is justified. South Carolina congresswoman Nancy Mace described what she saw within these records as outlining the “most corrupt scheme in American politics for a sitting vice president.” It’s not just the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world who want to push this forward.
As for the American people, much as the commentariat will pretend (along with the White House) that they find this inquiry laughable, every poll shows otherwise. The latest is CNN/SSRS from just last week, which found 61 percent believe the president was indeed involved in his son’s business dealings, and 55 percent saying he acted inappropriately regarding the investigations into his son. The communications job for Republicans will be to grow the 42 percent who are already convinced he acted illegally, appealing to the 18 percent who say Biden’s actions were unethical, but not illegal.
Decongestants Don’t Work
An advisory panel to the Food and Drug Administration declared Tuesday that an ingredient in widely used oral decongestants doesn’t work, setting the stage for dozens of products to be removed from U.S. store shelves.
At issue is phenylephrine, an almost-century-old ingredient in versions of Benadryl, Mucinex, Tylenol and other over-the-counter pills, syrups and liquids to clear up congested noses.
Phenylephrine, first permitted for use in 1938, didn’t go through the rigorous clinical trials that regulators require today for medications, and more recent studies found the ingredient to be ineffective at relieving congestion. The latest research prompted pharmacists and physicians to call for ending the sales of the drugs.
“I do not believe that the evidence that was presented supports in any way the efficacy of this product remaining on the market,” said Diane Ginsburg, a panel member and associate dean for Healthcare Partnerships at the University of Texas at Austin College of Pharmacy. “We really should not have products on the market that are not effective.” …
Over-the-counter products that treat cough, sinus and flu symptoms, including phenylephrine pills, generated about $5 billion in sales in 2021, according to the research firm IRI.
Items of Interest
“Most live video footage was not permanently saved, often taped over to reduce costs (some of the only material that remains from this period was recorded by one private citizen—Marion Stokes, a Philadelphia woman who compulsively recorded and stored over 40,000 VHS tapes of news broadcasts between the years of 1979 and 2012, eventually donating the collection to the Vanderbilt Television News Archive).”
— Chuck Klosterman