Aug 16, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🗳️ Good Sunday morning. Live now: Axios convention hub, app channel (Apple, Android).

Situational awareness ... President Trump said in a statement last night: "It is with heavy heart I share that my wonderful brother, Robert [age 71], peacefully passed away tonight. He was not just my brother, he was my best friend. He will be greatly missed, but we will meet again. His memory will live on in my heart forever. Robert, I love you."

  • Trump visited his brother at a Manhattan hospital Friday; White House officials said he had become seriously ill. Officials didn't release a cause of death.
1 big thing: U.S. far behind other rich countries in virus response
Data: WHO. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Over the past several weeks, the coronavirus has killed Americans at six times the rate in other rich countries. And we’re recording about eight times more infections, Axios World author David Lawler writes.

  • Why it matters: The virus burned through the rich world like wildfire in the spring. The new data confirm that the U.S. is one of very few wealthy countries that have failed to suppress it since then.

As of July 1, 69% of all new cases and 75% of all deaths recorded anywhere in the rich world (as defined by the World Bank) came in the U.S., which accounts for 27% of the group's population.

  • The U.S. is doing more testing than many other countries, but that's only part of the story. Other rich countries saw pandemic peaks that were just as terrifying as America’s. But the U.S. remained trapped near the summit.
Data: Johns Hopkins COVID-19 Dashboard. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

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  • Sign up for Dave Lawler's twice-weekly newsletter, Axios World.
2. FDA clears "spit test"

Walk-up testing site outside the National Building Museum in D.C., in June. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

The FDA granted emergency authorization for a saliva-based virus test, developed by Yale and the NBA, as the U.S. faces an alarming drop in testing "that threatens to undermine national monitoring efforts," the N.Y. Times reports.

  • Details from a Yale news release: SalivaDirect was partly funded by the NBA, and is being used as a test for asymptomatic NBA players and staff.

Reaction from a former Medicare chief in the Obama administration who has been a trusted pandemic commentator:

Read Andy's thread.

3. 🚨 Dems summon postmaster general on "sabotage"

Demonstrators stuffed the door to the D.C. condo of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy with mock ballots yesterday. Photo: Michael A. McCoy/Getty Images

House Oversight Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) today summoned Postmaster General Louis DeJoy to "an urgent hearing" on Aug. 24, a week from tomorrow.

  • Why it matters: Democratic lawmakers say they're being inundated with complaints that changes to the Postal Service, which the Trump administration says are aimed at efficiency, could sabotage ballot-handling.

House Democrats will hold a members-only conference call tomorrow at 11:30 a.m. to discuss an early return for the whole House to respond to "the attack on the Postal Service," Democratic sources tell me.

  • Speaker Pelosi raised the idea on a 5:30 p.m. call yesterday with House leaders.
  • "Everyone had a story" about the impact of DeJoy's changes, a source told me.

The House has no votes scheduled until the week of Sept. 14, according to Politico, which first reported the possibility of cutting the August recess short.

  • The source told me the starting point will be Maloney's "Delivering for America Act," which "would prohibit the Postal Service from dialing back levels of service it had in place on Jan. 1, until the pandemic ends.

During a news conference last evening at his club in Bedminster, N.J., Trump defended Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, a former RNC fundraising official:

He wants to make the post office great again.

Trump now claims the election outcome could take "years" due to mail-in voting days.

4. Pic du jour
Photo: Sean Meagher/The Oregonian via AP

A protester points a laser device at a Portland police officers on Thursday.

5. 🍿 Sunday read: "We’re all in this s#*&show together"
Courtesy New York Magazine

Olivia Nuzzi's entertaining and well-reported ramble inside the Trump campaign reboot, after Bill Stepien took over from Brad Parscale as manager last month, is the cover story of the convention-week issue of New York Magazine:

[Jason] Miller, a senior adviser to the campaign, said that he is in almost constant contact with Trump as Election Day nears, and that one of the things Trump most reliably asks about is "what the supporters are doing, what the activity is around the country, what the on-the-ground feel is for how the race is going — in particular, juxtaposed by the public perception of how the race is going." ...
By the third or fourth interview of the day in which a Trump campaign official argues, with what sounds like sincerity, that not only are the polls all wrong, they are wrong owing to intentional malpractice on the part of major polling institutions and their partnered major media outlets, ... you begin to suspect you are the victim of something that’s not quite a conspiracy but more like a practical joke. ...
[T]hey seem to think that if they got lucky the last time, and proved the conventional wisdom wrong, maybe they’ll just happen to get lucky again.
And Trump does believe in luck — of course he does. "The president is superstitious," one senior White House official told me, explaining why so many characters from 2016 seemed to suddenly come back for the final stretch of 2020.

Keep reading.

6. America's mayor helps restore 9/11 tribute

The moon passes through last year's Tribute in Light, seen from Jersey City. Photo: Gary Hershorn/Getty Images

Manhattan's annual light display honoring 9/11 victims is back on, after officials initially canceled it because of concerns about workers' safety, per AP.

  • Alice Greenwald, president and CEO of the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, thanked former Mayor Mike Bloomberg, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Lower Manhattan Development Corp. for "offsetting the increased costs associated with the health and safety considerations around the tribute this year."
7. Stacey Abrams among 17 Dems giving joint keynote

Sen. Kamala Harris and Joe Biden pass each other as Harris moves to the podium in Wilmington on Wednesday. Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

In a group headlined by Stacey Abrams, 17 Democrats will jointly deliver a single keynote at the virtual Democratic National Convention on Tuesday.

The big picture, from Alexi McCammond: This reinforces this year’s reality that a virtual convention puts a huge premium on speeches. There aren't traditional parties or other real-life distractions to pull attendees and participants away from the speeches. And because it's all online, it can reach a vast audience.

  • So this is the first real introduction of the 2020 ticket and the "new" Democratic Party to the American people.
  • Until now, President Trump and his GOP allies have had the stage and have been able to say what they want about Dems. Now, Dems have the stage.

Between the lines, from Hans Nichols: Convention planners are giving more than a dozen up-and-comers a shot to make their case on why they should be the fresh voice of the party.

  • But slamming all the keynoters together is the Instagram/Twitter effect on political speeches: If it’s really good (or viral), say it short.

See the list of 17.

Graphic: CBS News
8. 🎥 "Boys State": American politics in a teenage microcosm

René Otero (right) in a scene from "Boys State." Photo: A24 via AP

When Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine set out to make a documentary about Boys State — the week-long summer camp of civics simulation run by the American Legion since 1935 — they hired seven cinematographers to stay close to the 17- and 18-year-olds, some with real political ambition, AP's Jake Coyle writes.

  • The result — "Boys State," filmed in Texas in 2018 — is one of the most acclaimed documentaries of the year; it took the grand jury prize for documentary at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
  • It's uncommonly engaging, thoughtful and often funny — so much so that Apple and A24 paid a Sundance record of $12 million for it.
  • It debuted Friday on Apple TV+.

René Otero — one of the few African American students in "Boys State," and the film's most gifted orator — departed jaded, and disinterested in politics. His place, he feels now, is outside the system. He wants to be an activist and educator.

  • "I've been around a lot of white folks before but not that many for seven days," Otero said.

There are smear campaigns and reckless gambits of self-preservation.

  • Abortion rights are wielded as a political tool: Robert MacDougall runs on a pro-life platform but acknowledges in a private interview he's pro-choice.
  • Keep reading.
Mike Allen

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