Sep 10, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

💻 Happy Thursday! You're invited ... Tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET, on the 19th anniversary of 9/11, Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian and Dave Lawler will host an Axios Virtual Event on U.S. foreign policy in the post-pandemic world, featuring Ambassador Bill Burns, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Register here.

  • Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,473 words ... 5½ minutes.
1 big thing: Why Trump talked to Woodward

Bob Woodward talks to Scott Pelley on "60 Minutes." Photo: CBS News

President Trump, who rails about anonymous sources, is suddenly confronted with an extensive, unsparing, on-the-record account of his thinking about America's virus and race crises — and he's the source.

  • Instead of "Rage," Bob Woodward could have called his book: "Undeniable."

Why it matters: We get a torrent of tweeted and spoken words from Trump — far more public musing, riffing and ranting than from any president, ever. But it's not always clear what to believe, what matters, or what will endure.

  • Now, we can read and hear Trump free-associating for history.

Woodward tapped Trump's vanity and insecurity to secure an astonishing 18 interviews, totaling nine hours, with the most powerful man in the world.

  • Woodward was allowed to record all the on-the-record sessions. Audio snippets were released yesterday along with extensive excerpts from the book, out Tuesday.

We know Trump likes to talk to famous people — he complained publicly after he wasn't interviewed for Woodward's brutal 2018 Trump book, "Fear."

  • And we know Woodward is seductive. "Every president does a Bob Woodward book ... and then later comes to regret it," Karl Rove told Fox News.
  • So now we have the president — as he fights for reelection 54 days before Election Day — admitting that he deliberately "played down" the coronavirus, at a time when more urgency could have saved lives ... blithely rejecting Woodward's suggestion that white privilege is isolating, and that "we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain ... black people feel" ("You really drank the Kool-Aid ... I don't feel that at all") ... and once again using a "p"-word variant, this time to refer to generals instead of genitals.

Woodward knows the power of tapes, and of the word "cover-up." On the forthcoming "60 Minutes," Scott Pelley asks Woodward about Trump telling him in February that the virus was "more deadly than ... even your strenuous flus," while saying publicly three weeks later that "it's a little like the regular flu."

  • "Yes, this is the tragedy," Woodward says. "A president of the United States has a duty to warn. The public will understand that. But if they get the feeling that they're not getting the truth, then you're going down the path of deceit and cover-up." (Vide0)

At 9:30 last night, Trump did a phoner with Fox News' Sean Hannity, who came on the air with a "PANIC POLITICS" graphic and said Trump's China travel ban was part of "serious, severe, quick actions by the president — he took it seriously."

  • Trump said of Woodward:
He called. I didn't participate in his last one — and he does hit jobs with everybody. He even did it on Obama ... constant hit jobs. On Bush, I guess they did three books — they were all terrible.
So I figured: You know, let's just give it a little shot — I'll speak to him. It wasn't a big deal. I speak to him, and let's see.
I don't know if the book is good or bad — I have no idea. [I] probably, almost definitely, won't read it because I don't have time to read it.

Go deeper: Trump told Bob Woodward he intentionally played down coronavirus threat ... What Trump said about "my f---ing generals" ... Former intel chief Dan Coats believed "Putin had something on Trump."

The Washington Post
2. Women's groups fight Harris smears

Photo illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Getty Images photo: Dimitrios Kambouris

Women’s groups are spending millions in battleground states to ward off gender-based smears against Kamala Harris, as misinformation campaigns and misogynistic memes proliferate, Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Why it matters: They worry that sexist branding of Joe Biden's running mate could depress turnout by Black and Latina women who don't consistently vote, but would likely support the Biden-Harris ticket if they did cast a ballot.

The attacks on Harris go well beyond standard fare of criticizing her as "phony" or even as "radical," veering into misinformation and crude language.

  • Harris, who is married and a stepmother, is a graduate of Howard University and the University of California-Hastings law school. She's a former prosecutor, district attorney of San Francisco and California's attorney general before her election to the U.S. Senate.

An offensive meme circulated so widely that one photographer contracted by the NBA casually shared one on Facebook — and lost his job for it, Yahoo Sports reported. He later said he deeply regretted the move and that it didn't reflect his own views.

  • Amazon was selling T-shirts with the same phrase (they later removed them from their marketplace after facing backlash).

PACRONYM, Black PAC, WOMEN VOTE! and Planned Parenthood Votes have launched a $10 million ad campaign to support Harris and are conducting weekly polling to monitor how disinformation is sticking.

  • The coalition is targeting 5 million voters in swing states, with an emphasis on women of color under 40 who live in urban and rural areas and typically consume little political news.

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3. Our weekly map: Virus cases fall 13%
Expand chart
Data: The COVID Tracking Project, state health departments. Map: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

New coronavirus cases fell by almost 13% over the past week — a significant improvement, Sam Baker and Andrew Witherspoon report.

  • Why it matters: Things are moving in the right direction again after a brief plateau. Getting the virus under control now will give the U.S. a much better shot at a safe autumn.

The U.S. is now averaging about 37,000 new cases every day. That’s a lot, and we’re not even halfway back to the lower totals we were recording before cases surged this summer.

  • But the U.S. has been recording steady progress since August.

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4. Western inferno: Scientists see worse in future
In this image taken with a slow shutter speed, embers light up a hillside behind the Bidwell Bar Bridge as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville, Calif., yesterday. Photo: Noah Berger/AP

A record amount of California is burning, spurred by a nearly 20-year mega-drought. To the north, parts of Oregon and Washington state that don't usually catch fire are in flames, AP science writer Seth Borenstein reports.

  • Death Valley hit 130 degrees in mid-August, the hottest Earth has been in nearly a century.

Freak natural disasters — most with what scientists say likely have a climate change connection — seem to be everywhere in the crazy year 2020. But experts believe we'll probably look back and say those were the good old days.

  • Waleed Abdalati, NASA's former chief scientist, said the trajectory of worsening disasters — and climate change from coal, oil and gas — is clear, and basic physics.
In Salem, Ore., smoke darkens the sky well before sunset, around 5 p.m. Tuesday. Photo: Russ Casler via AP
Highway 162 as the Bear Fire burns in Oroville (Butte County, Calif., yesterday. Photo: Noah Berger/AP
5. "A devastating milestone"
Courtesy TIME

TIME editor-in-chief and CEO Edward Felsenthal: "For this week’s U.S. cover, we turned to artist John Mavroudis, who — using data from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center — hand-wrote the death counts in America on every one of the 193 days between Feb. 29, the first confirmation of a COVID-related death in the U.S., and Sept. 8, as it neared time to go to press."

  • "Out of that data, the illustration reveals the coming grim milestone of 200,000." (Latest U.S. death count: 190,872.)
  • "Creative director D.W. Pine then placed the illustration within a black border — only the second time in our history we have done so, the first being after 9/11."
6. 📦 Amazon hiring spree: 33,000 slots

Amazon announced it will hire 33,000 new corporate and technology workers at an average compensation of $150,000, including salary and stock.

  • Catherine Fisher, a career expert at LinkedIn, told ABC News that hiring is strong in "industries that are helping the U.S. navigate this new normal" — transportation and logistics, health care, retail, software, I.T., "jobs that are helping us figure out how to work from home, school from home."
7. 🎧 What we're listening to: 2 new pods
Courtesy The New York Times

Kara Swisher's "Sway," a twice-weekly interview podcast from N.Y. Times Opinion, debuts Monday, Sept. 21, promising "smart, substantive, in-depth, and revealing conversations with fascinating people, exposing the nitty-gritty of how power and influence really work in America and around the world."

Courtesy Michael Cohen

Michael Cohen, out this week with the best-selling "Disloyal," on Monday will launch a weekly podcast, "Mea Culpa."

  • "I'm interviewing someone very special," Cohen texted me.
  • Hear a trailer.
8. 🏈 NFL kicks off tonight, with social-justice focus

NFL end zones will be inscribed this season with two slogans — "It Takes All Of Us" on one side, "End Racism" on the other, AP's Rob Maaddi reports.

  • The 101st season kicks off tonight at 8:20 p.m. ET as the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs host the Houston Texans. NBC coverage begins 7 p.m.

As part of its social-justice awareness initiatives, the NFL also will allow similar visuals on helmets and caps. Players will be permitted to wear decals on the back of helmets, or patches on team caps, displaying names or phrases to honor victims of racism and police brutality.

🗞️ In a WashPost op-ed, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Allen Sills, a neurosurgeon who is the league’s chief medical officer, write:

[O]nly one masked player representative from each team will participate in the coin toss; cheerleaders, mascots, sideline reporters and nonessential personnel will not be allowed on the field; ... coaches will be required to wear face masks on the sideline; and players will be urged — required, in some cities — to do the same.

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Mike Allen

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