Jul 28, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🥞 Good Sunday morning. Today's "Groundhog Day" headline, the lead story of the print WashPost: "Trump steps up divisive rhetoric" — about his attack on Baltimore.

Today's Smart Brevity count: 995 words ... 4 minutes.

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1 big thing: 2020 Dems use policy plans as debate weapons

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

2020 Dems released a spate of policy proposals over the past week, just before heading to Detroit for the second round of debates, which will be held this Tuesday and Wednesday, Alexi McCammond reports.

  • Why it matters: The plans are a way for candidates to try to shield themselves from potential debate attacks.
  • It's not that the candidates don't care about the issues they're pushing. But timing is everything.
  • "A lot of these campaigns are trying to close gaps of vulnerability that may come up in the debate," said a Democratic strategist who's spoken with various campaigns.
  • A senior Biden campaign official said the former vice president will "definitely" use the debate to talk about all the policies he's rolled out this month, including plans on health care and criminal justice.

Among the rollouts:

  • Joe Biden unveiled a comprehensive criminal justice plan, a way for him to address the effects of the 1994 crime bill.
  • Kamala Harris released a plan to invest in safe drinking water — two days before going to the NAACP convention in Michigan, where Flint still faces a water crisis.
  • Beto O'Rourke released an education equity plan right before going to the NAACP convention, and almost exclusively talked about that in his opening remarks.
  • Elizabeth Warren preemptively defended her record by releasing a video featuring old interviews in which she warned of an economic recession years before the 2008 crisis — a setup for her new plan to avoid what she sees as a looming recession under President Trump.

The bottom line: These issues won't dictate topics for CNN's moderators. But they give candidates a way to wiggle out of potential Harris v. Biden moments.

2. Surprising stat of the day
Progressive Democrats of America rally in D.C. in April. Phot: Win McNamee/Getty Images

America's much-maligned health care system is covering 9 out of 10 people, AP's Ricardo Alonso Zaldivar reports.

  • Why it matters: The politicians are depicting a system in meltdown. The numbers point to a different story, not as dire and more nuanced.
  • Lack of coverage was a growing problem in 2010 when Democrats under Obama passed his health law. Now, the bigger issue seems to be that many people with insurance are struggling to pay their deductibles and copays.

The data: Government surveys show that about 90% of the population has coverage, largely preserving gains from President Obama's years.

  • Independent experts estimate that more than half of the roughly 30 million uninsured people in the country are eligible for health insurance through existing programs.

Between the lines: Those facts haven't stopped the 2020 presidential candidates from refighting battles about how to provide coverage, from Bernie Sanders' call for replacing private insurance with a government plan to President Trump's pledge to erase the Affordable Care Act and start over.

3. Some Dems regret forcing Mueller to testify
Robert Mueller is sworn in before the House Intelligence Committee. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Pool via Reuters

"When congressional staffers, prompted by repeated media inquiries, asked Mueller’s team about his cognitive acuity, they were told — three separate times — that he was okay," the WashPost's Matt Zapotosky and Rachael Bade report:

  • "After Mueller’s halting, sometimes confused testimony, ... some lawmakers are privately wondering ... whether they were right to force him to testify."
  • "During a break, Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) ... warned lawmakers on the second panel to slow down, shorten their questions and speak louder so Mueller could follow better."

Some told the Post they had no choice. "We didn’t invite Robert De Niro to testify. We invited Robert Mueller, and he is a straight shooter who stuck to the report," said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), referring to "Saturday Night Live" portrayal of Mueller.

  • Another House Democrat said: "It was a painful reminder that age catches up to all of us."
4. Cartoon du jour
Jason Adam Katzenstein/The New Yorker. By permission of The New Yorker, via The New Yorker Cartoon Bank<br/>
5. Photo of the year?
Photo: Laurel Chor/Getty Images

A woman shouts at riot police advancing on marchers in Hong Kong, as protests enter Week 8 "amid fears of growing cycle of violence," per Reuters:

  • Why it matters: "What began as a movement to oppose an extradition law that would have allowed people to be sent to China for trial, has taken on broader demands including the resignation of Hong Kong's Beijing-backed leader Carrie Lam, calls for full democracy and an independent inquiry into what some say has been excessive police force against protesters."
  • "The protests are also one of the most direct challenges to the authority of China's President Xi Jinping."

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... Rita Tang, a 56-year-old health consultant who joined yesterday's protest in the Yuen Long district of Hong Kong:

  • "Hong Kong people have to unite and stand up for Hong Kong. We have neglected our rights. We must fight for our future generation for their rights that they deserve."

🇷🇺 P.S. Nearly 1,400 people were detained in a violent police crackdown on an opposition protest in Moscow, the largest number of detentions at a rally in the Russian capital this decade. (AP)

6. 🎮 1 fun thing: Fortnite World Cup
Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Above, Richard Tyler Blevins (screen name: Ninja), who has been called the most popular professional gamer in the world, speaks yesterday at the first Fortnite World Cup Finals at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens.

  • Thousands of e-sports fans watched professional video-gamers compete for $30 million in prizes, in a venue that hosts the world's elite tennis players during the U.S. Open. (N.Y. Post)

Jaden Ashman, 15, of England (alias: Wolfiez) won $1.25 million by coming in second with Dutch teammate Dave Jong, 21, in duos, The Guardian reports:

  • Ashman's mother, Lisa Dallman, told the BBC that she and her son "had a nightmare" arguing over his online gaming, because she wanted him to spend more time on school.
  • Jaden, who spent as many as eight hours a day practicing in his room, told BBC: "'I got first Xbox when I was six."

First place in duos: Emil Bergquist Pedersen of Norway and his Austrian partner, David W, who play as Nyhrox and Aqua and won a total of $3 million. (Guardian)

Mike Allen

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