Axios AM

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September 06, 2017

Good Wednesday morning. A little bird tells me that Steve Bannon will be receiving a visitor today at the Breitbart Embassy, where he's keeping his hands on his weapons. The visitor is Charlie Rose, with legendary "60 Minutes" producer Ira Rosen. The interview airs Sunday, and at greater length on Charlie's show on Monday.

1 big thing: "Stranger in my own country"

There's a strong, consistent, underlying reason Republican voters stuck with President Trump after Charlottesville, and will stick with him if he ends up deporting the children of illegal immigrants: They dislike and fear the changing face of America.

Polls have been very consistent on this point. One of the earliest signs that Trump's "America First," anti-immigration mantra would resonate was a survey showing how many white Republican disdained the changing demographics around them. This holds true now, too:

  • Nearly half (48%) of white working-class Americans say, "things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country," according to a poll released in May by the Public Religion Research Institute and the Atlantic.
  • A new WSJ/NBC poll shows: "More than three-quarters of Democrats, but less than one-third of Republicans, said they felt comfortable with societal changes that have made the U.S. more diverse."
  • The same poll showed a radical shift in Democratic views about immigration over the past decade: In 2005, just 45% of Democrats said the country was strengthened by immigration. Now the share is 81%.
  • Sound smart: Don't underestimate how much pressure Republicans will be under from rank-and-file voters to resist anything that smacks of amnesty, even for children. They want a wall, not warm welcomes.

Trump waffles ... The reaction to yesterday's DACA announcement was brutal. The L.A. Times banner headline: "'DREAMERS' CRUSHED: Trump to phase out protections for 800,000 young immigrants." A sidebar: "Republican Party's future is at stake too."

  • At 8:38 p.m., Trump — no doubt watching cable coverage — tweeted: "Congress now has 6 months to legalize DACA (something the Obama Administration was unable to do). If they can't, I will revisit this issue."
  • Aides tell me Trump thought that given the legal analysis he was presented, he had no choice but to end the program. But he has told associates he doesn't want the Dreamers to be punished.
  • Axios' Caitlin Owens, who spent yesterday on the Hill, tells me that Republican leaders sound like they want to pass a fix within Trump's six-month reprieve. But veteran aides are skeptical. One said: "We've been through this before. We try to do something and it's always too much or not enough. Very Goldilocks and the bears."

2. Markets flashing red

The markets, which have been oddly desensitized to tectonic external events since Trump took office, are abruptly showing signs that trouble could be coming:

  • Expectations about dramatic tax reform have been a key driver of the Trump bump. But our sources, who are involved in the negotiations, are increasingly pessimistic. Now, on top of everything else that was squeezing out time for tax reform, Congress will be pressured to confront immigration over the next six months. Hard to imagine a bigger distraction.
  • The markets hate uncertainty. The possibility of a nuclear incident, rising with North Korea's repeated provocations, is the ultimate uncertainty.
  • The Wall Street Journal's lead story is, "Array of Threats Stirs Up Markets": "[A]Federal Reserve official [warned] that persistently low inflation could make it difficult for the central bank to continue raising interest rates as many investors expect."
  • "Adding to the pressure, Hurricane Irma is threatening the U.S. coastline and the U.S. is facing a potential confrontation with North Korea over nuclear tests."

Be smart: Stable to bullish markets have been a vital stabilizer during the chaos of the Trump presidency. If markets quaver, he could quickly face a dire tipping point in Washington and the world.

3. Spicey payday

An agent who met with Sean Spicer told him that the going rate for speeches by most former White House press secretaries ranged from about $20,000 to $30,000. The agent said Spicer, who went elsewhere, thought he could get much more.

  • "He thought he was a much bigger deal than the others," the agent recalled. "His name I.D. is massive — he's obsessed with that. He kept talking about how everyone stops him for selfies — that's one of his go-to lines. It's true, by the way. It happened when I was talking to him."

At least for now, Spicey's getting the last laugh on President Trump, who mocked him in front of other aides, and members of the press corps, with whom he had an unusually venomous relationship.

It's unclear whether he'll get a TV deal — he says he doesn't need one. But he told me in an interview that he was mobbed during a recent trip to Europe:

  • "The U.S. press briefing had become part of their nightly viewing," he said. "It was a prime-time show from Europe to the Middle East. ... I'm one of the most popular guys in Ireland."

Among the possibilities Spicer is weighing:

  • Lucrative consultancies (not lobbying) to give advice to individuals and corporations.
  • Paid appearances on TV shows in Ireland and the U.K.
  • Hollywood productions have reached out.
  • There'll be no tell-all, but he's considering a book detailing lessons learned in crisis communications, at the White House and the Republican National Committee, where he was chief strategist.

When I asked Sean what he regretted from his time on the job, he replied: "You should read the book."

Bonus: The Mikey Rules

I love today's N.Y. Times Quote of the Day, from Steven Gaines, who has written about Hampton excess and eccentricity ("Philistines at the Hedgerow: Passion and Property in the Hamptons"), on how professionally planted and tended vegetable gardens are another status symbol on Long Island's East End:

"God has given you too much money when you have someone else tend your vegetable garden."

Be smart: Mow your own lawn. You'll feel awesome. Try it, and you'll thank me.

4. The future is now

Today the House is expected to pass the first major legislation to speed the rollout of self-driving cars — an early step to outline standards for artificial intelligence-driven technologies, Axios' David McCabe reports.

  • Why it matters: The bill's main provision would let the federal government preempt some state laws when it comes to self-driving cars — eliminating the potential for a patchwork of state regulations. This'll make it easier for the autonomous vehicle market to take off.

5. "Workers: Fear Not the Robot Apocalypse"

The Wall Street Journal takes the optimistic case on automation with a front-pager, "Automation's Surprise Benefit: More Jobs":

  • "The brick-and-mortar retail swoon has been accompanied by a less headline-grabbing e-commerce boom that has created more jobs in the U.S. than traditional stores have cut. Those jobs, in turn, pay better, because its workers are so much more productive."
  • Why it matters: "Throughout history, automation commonly creates more, and better-paying, jobs than it destroys."
  • "The reason: Companies don't use automation simply to produce the same thing more cheaply. Instead, they find ways to offer entirely new, improved products. As customers flock to these new offerings, companies have to hire more people."

Be smart: The transition, though, can be brutal. Ask desperate workers from the early decades of the Industrial Revolution.

6. Cornered on Korea

David Ignatius column in the WashPost, "History shows us how calamitous the North Korea crisis could become":

"History teaches that wars often result from bellicose rhetoric and bad information. Sometimes leaders fail to act strongly enough to deter aggression, as at Munich in 1938. But more often, as in August 1914, conflict results from a cascade of errors that produces an outcome that no one would have wanted."

7. Serious threat to Florida and Southeast

The National Hurricane Center declared Irma, a Category 5 as it made landfall this morning in the Caribbean (slamming Antigua and Barbuda as it headed for Puerto Rico), is the strongest Atlantic hurricane on record, outside the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

  • The Weather Channel: "Irma is increasingly likely to target parts of the Florida peninsula as a dangerous hurricane this weekend."
  • Miami Herald: "The current trajectory ... shows much of Florida in the storm's path with the storm expected to hit South Florida by Sunday."
  • Trump signed disaster declarations for Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, all at risk of being hit head on.

Be smart: The uncanny, perverse closeness to Harvey, even if unrelated to climate change (we've had rat-tat hurricanes before), could instill an urgency that conversation has always lacked.

8. Cheating in baseball

N.Y. Daily News: "First, SpyGate. Now, iGate."

N.Y. Times star Michael Schmidt, who broke the Hillary private email story, pops the successor saga to Deflategate, "Red Sox Used Apple Watches to Help Steal Signs Against Yankees":

  • "Investigators for Major League Baseball have determined that the Red Sox, who are in first place in the American League East and very likely headed to the playoffs, executed a scheme [!] to illicitly steal hand signals from opponents' catchers in games against the second-place Yankees and other teams."
  • "The Yankees, who had long been suspicious of the Red Sox' stealing catchers' signs in Fenway Park, contended ... video showed a member of the Red Sox training staff looking at his Apple Watch in the dugout [apparently getting texts from video spotters]. The trainer then relayed a message to other players in the dugout, who, in turn, would signal teammates on the field."
  • "Baseball investigators corroborated the Yankees' claims based on video the commissioner's office uses for instant replay and broadcasts."
  • "[T]he Red Sox ... admitted that their trainers had received signals from video replay personnel and then relayed that information."

Be smart: Stealing signs is allowed in baseball — as NYT baseball columnist Tyler Kepner puts it, it's "part of the quirky language of the game." But using tech can/should get you punished.

All politics is local ... The Boston Globe's top-of-front-page headline, "N.Y. accuses Sox of stealing signs via device."

9. Broadway fall preview

"Springsteen and SpongeBob lead Broadway's fall season," by AP Entertainment Writer Mark Kennedy:

  • "The Boss — Bruce Springsteen — plays a solo show in which he performs songs from his career, interspersed with readings of his best-selling memoir 'Born to Run.'"
  • "'Springsteen on Broadway' [was extended yesterday] into early February, an extra 10 weeks of shows. His five-show-a-week stand at the Walter Kerr Theatre begins previews Oct. 3 ahead of an Oct. 12 opening at the intimate 960-seat venue."
  • "WALL STREET SKEWERED: Playwright Ayad Akhtar, who won the Pulitzer Prize for 'Disgraced,' turns his attention to 1980s-era finance in 'Junk,' starring Steven Pasquale. ... (Opens Nov. 2 at the Vivian Beaumont Theater.)"
  • A "stage musical of 'SpongeBob SquarePants' with real actors [has] original songs by Steven Tyler, Sara Bareilles, John Legend, Lady Antebellum, Cyndi Lauper and David Bowie. (Opens Dec. 4 at The Palace Theatre.)"
  • More previews.

10. 1 fun thing

Walmart announces "this year's hottest toys, as rated by a panel of esteemed experts: kids":