Oct 31, 2022 - Podcasts

The Pelosi attack heightens Election Day fears

Threats against the lives of lawmakers and their families have been on the rise, and fears that these translate into real violence were realized on Friday, with the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband, Paul. With just over a week to the midterms, the attack has Washington on edge.

  • Plus, a glimmer of good climate news.
  • And, an exclusive preview of musician Bono's upcoming memoir.

Guest: Axios' Margaret Talev and Ben Geman.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Erica Pandey, Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected]. You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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ERICA PANDEY: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Monday, October 31st.

I’m Erica Pandey, in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: a glimmer of good climate news. Plus, an exclusive preview of musician Bono’s upcoming memoir. But first, the Pelosi attack heightens election day fears. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

ERICA: Threats against the lives of lawmakers and their families have been on the rise. And fears that these translate into real violence were realized on Friday with the attack on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's husband,Paul, an intruder entered the couple's San Francisco home yelling, “where is Nancy,” and assaulted Paul Pelosi with a hammer.” He's expected to recover fully after suffering a skull fracture and other injuries with just over a week to the midterms. The attack has Washington and many lawmakers on edge.

Here to help us understand these threats and the response to them is Axios’ Managing Editor for Politics Margaret Talev. Hi Margaret.


ERICA: We've seen these threats against lawmakers in general going up over the last few years. Do we know how much they've increased?

MARGARET: The US Capitol Police is one way that we can keep track of these rising threats. There have been threats against Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Remember Steve Scalise, a Republican, was almost killed at that softball game not many years ago. But, the US Capitol Police statistics and ABC most recently reporting this, have said that over the last five years, those sort of concerning statements and threats against members have more than doubled from about 4,000 back then to more than 8,600 in 2020, more than 9,600 last year, and in the first quarter of this year, the US Capitol Police, this is just the US Capitol Police, opened more than 1800 cases.

ERICA: Do we know anything about why these threats have gone up so much?

MARGARET: We heard from Pelosi for the first time on Sunday, putting out a statement to her colleague saying, “we thank you for the work that you do to strengthen our democracy.” So Pelosi obviously making, the point that she feels that attacks like this are not just the acts of random attackers who may have mental illness, but it has to do with the climate in which Americans think about democracy. Right?

At the same time you have Ronna McDaniel, that's the chairwoman of the Republican National Committee, saying that it's not right to try to link political violence to the Republican party's rhetoric. So if the two parties can't agree on what has to happen across party lines to come together, then you understand how the mixed messaging will continue. You had Adam Kinzinger, who's a Republican congressman, come out and say that everyone, including fellow Republicans had to condemn this. But don't forget Adam Kinzinger is not running for reelection and didn't have to worry about a Republican primary.

ERICA: And one place we see these threats play out is on Twitter, which is now officially owned by Elon Musk. He said his goal is to err on the side of free speech and move toward allowing all speech that isn't explicitly illegal to exist on Twitter. Do we have any idea how that might affect violent discourse on the platform against politicians?

MARGARET: It caught a lot of people's attention when Musk himself on Sunday made reference to a website that's widely discredited for carrying conspiracy theories. He said in a tweet in response to something that Hillary Clinton had tweeted that there was a tiny possibility there could be more to the Paul Pelosi story than met the eye. He appeared to be basing that on an article from something called the Santa Monica Observer, which is, well it's infamous for publishing false stories and this tweet has since been taken down. But nonetheless, set off a massive wave of concern about whether he was already using that platform, Twitter, to spread misinformation.

ERICA: How do you think this attack against Paul Pelosi and its aftermath factors into the general mood ahead of election day?

MARGARET: Well, I think there's certainly a chance that it's going to affect how law enforcement and public safety officials think about administration of these elections. There was already real heightened concern about safety at the polls. I think this attack on Paul Pelosi underscores for everyone, protecting not just the safety of elected officials, but the safety of Americans and voters around polarizing events like elections is paramount right now in this time.

ERICA: Margaret is managing editor for politics. Thanks, Margaret.

MARGARET: Thanks Erica.

ERICA: In a moment, a new report on fossil fuels and what it means for climate change.


A glimmer of good climate news

ERICA: Welcome back to Axios Today! I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo.

For the first time ever, the International Energy Agency is projecting that global fossil fuel consumption is expected to peak within this decade. Axios’ Energy Reporter Ben Geman explains what the IEA’s findings mean for climate change.

BEN GEMAN: A big new report looks like a glass half full on global efforts to confront climate change, but really just barely. The biggest reason is they've scaled back their estimates for demand for natural gas, which they now see basically hitting a plateau by decades end. They also see use of coal, the most carbon heavy fuel, peaking within a few years and then falling back faster than in their prior analyses, while oil consumption reaches a high point in the mid 2030s and then plateaus.

Okay, so why is all this happening? You know, one thing is that IEA sees Russia's attack on the Ukraine generally boosting green energy sources to replace Russian fossil fuel exports, even if it's creating some short term movement back towards coal. You know, more broadly they see a mix of stronger climate policies in the US and other nations. And the growing cost competitiveness of renewable energy and other low carbon tech also playing a role. But I mean, look, this is not really in the end, an especially rosey report, IEA says global investment is still too low and there's always tons of uncertainty. They project countries existing policies still heating the planet by about 2.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by 2100.

That's a lot less warming than they were projecting even a few years ago, but it's still way past the Paris Agreement goal of limiting that increase to 1.5 degrees, which is, you know, this benchmark for avoiding some of the worst harm. If countries meet their non minding pledges under the Paris Agreement, those targets start looking somewhat more feasible. So, you know, the bottom line is that countries have got their work cut out for them when they gather in Egypt in just a few days for the next big UN Climate Summit, and I think long into the future as well.

ERICA: That’s Axios’ Energy Reporter Ben Geman.

An exclusive preview of musician Bono’s upcoming memoir

ERICA: One more thing before we go today.

Axios Today has gotten an exclusive listen of an excerpt from rockstar Bono’s upcoming memoir "Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story." The U2 frontman talks about how one of the band’s biggest — and most political — songs, “Sunday Bloody Sunday” came together. The song details a horrified observer’s reflections on Bloody Sunday, a massacre in Northern Ireland in 1972 when British soldiers opened fire at unarmed civil rights demonstrators. Here is Bono in his own words:

BONO: Could we point out the chasm of difference between people killing for a political cause and people dying for one? Was it possible in a song to contrast Ireland's Easter rising of 1916 with the slumped body of a Messiah hanging on a cross at the first Easter AD 33. And could it sound like the clash, please? While, “I can’t believe the news today” subconsciously tipped its hat to The Beatles “A Day in the Life,” the song actually refers to what happened in the picturesque walled city of Derry, Northern Ireland, on January 30, 1972, a day tattooed on the mind of every Irish person of a certain age. A day of images we can never unsee. The chaos of a large crowd corralled and beaten by riot police, the British army stepping in with deadly force. 28 people shot, 14 of them fatally, during a peaceful protest by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association. Even now I can sketch the pained face of Father Edward Daly holding up a bloodstained white handkerchief in an ambulant prayer of “don’t shoot.” I was eleven and I still feel the nausea.

ERICA: That’s Bono, reading his memoir “Surrender: 40 Songs, One Story,” which is out tomorrow.

And that’s all we’ve got for you today! Have a great and safe Halloween!

I’m Erica Pandey, in for Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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