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May 22, 2017

You're invited ... to an event tomorrow at 8 a.m. in downtown D.C.: Chuck Todd and Jim VandeHei host a live, onstage version of their famous mini-roundtable, and talk infrastructure with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), an avid pilot. Hope to see you — RSVP here.

1 big thing: 🇸🇦 🇮🇱 Can trip's traction last?

Air Force One just landed at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv, with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu greeting President Trump at a tarmac arrival ceremony. The President and First Lady will visit the Western Wall later this morning, ET.

Trump said: "Now we must work together to build a future where the nations of the region are at peace ... During my travels in recent days, I have found new reasons for hope."

With ambitions for an eventual peace deal, Trump will continue the message he's taking to the base of three great religions: Tolerance, and a fierce resistance to terrorism, lead to a more prosperous future.

Trump's weekend overture to the Muslim world, combined with his call to the national leaders in his audience to be tougher on their homegrown threat ("history's great test — to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces of terrorism"), has given him a momentary respite from the legal peril he left at home.

The reviews, while noting some contradictions with past Trump stances, were mostly good. Fox's Bret Baier said from Saudi Arabia: "[A]s you travel the world and you talk to world leaders, they think ... that this is a turning of the tide in the relationships of these countries — Saudi Arabia, the Gulf nations."

"I do think that you are seeing an effort by the White House ... to try to stick to the message of the day, and that's why we're not having a lot of open Q&As." (Trump hasn't yet had a presser on the trip.)

Can Trump sustain the presidential mien, for this week, and when he returns?

A key Republican emails: "Can this team and its leader learn from success? If they can, the turn to presidential-level issues can create a sense of calm and normalcy which would begin the rebuilding process with Rs in Congress."

"It means leaving Mueller to the various lawyers and focusing on results for the moderate-income voters that Trump uniquely inspires. Trump's presidency is about Trump, and that is vexing and tiresome to those struggling in a rapidly changing economy."

Quick read by Axios' David Lawler on what to expect during the Israel leg.

P.S. Per Bloomberg's Alan Levin, Margaret Talev and Jonathan Ferziger: Trump traveled from Riyadh to Tel Aviv aboard Air Force One today "in what appears to be an unprecedented direct flight by a U.S. president between those nations, which don't have diplomatic relations."

N.Y. Times Quote of the Day ... "Love your shoes. Boy, those shoes. Man!"President Trump, returning a compliment given by President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, who had told Mr. Trump, "You are a unique personality that is capable of doing the impossible."

2. $1.7 trillion in cuts to safety net

The White House is billing the budget being released tomorrow as "a taxpayer-first budget," but the proposed cuts (allowing balance over 10 years) are so deep that even Hill Republicans will resist.

One former top GOP aide points out that food stamps are politically treacherous to reform, let alone cut.

A Trump official tells me the budget includes notable welfare reform: "We'll work with states to impose work requirements on the able-bodied. ... Not enough people left ... dependency as the economy recovered."

What we know:

  • "Trump budget to slash entitlements by $1.7 trillion," by Axios' Jonathan Swan: "The best summary, from one White House source: 'Conservatives will love it; moderates will probably hate it.' These mandatory cuts — especially to politically-sensitive programs like food stamps — will make some moderate Republicans as nervous as the recent healthcare bill did."
  • The cuts, per Swan: From programs including SNAP (food stamps), CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program), and SSDI (Disability Insurance). The budget proposal will also assume that Trump can sign into law the American Health Care Act — the Obamacare repeal and replace bill that passed the House and is now being considered by the Senate. That bill makes substantial cuts to Medicaid.
  • The budget assumes the economy will grow at 3% after a few years, instead of the 1.6% rate it grew last year. The Trump official tells Axios AM it's a "post-policy" budget, meaning it assumes passage of tax reform and other White House plans, despite their uncertain future.
  • WashPost's Damian Paletta: "The White House also will call for giving states more flexibility to impose work requirements for people in different kinds of anti-poverty programs, people familiar with the budget plan said, potentially leading to a flood of changes in states led by conservative governors."

3. Bulletin: New Ford CEO

Posted 4:34 a.m. ... "Ford Motor Co. will replace Chief Executive Mark Fields with Jim Hackett, the former head of office-furniture maker Steelcase Inc. who joined the auto maker in 2016," The Wall Street Journal's John D. Stoll and Christina Rogers.

  • Backstory: "The move comes amid a significant decline in share-price value during Mr. Fields ' three-year tenure."
  • "Before his elevation to CEO, Mr. Hackett chaired Ford Smart Mobility LLC, a subsidiary formed last year by Mr. Fields to explore new ventures in ride hailing, car sharing and self-driving vehicles."
  • Why it matters: "The move comes as Ford is looking to reimagine the way people get from point A to point B. It has turned to an unusual pick to lead the charge, as Mr. Hackett is an industry outsider and will be leading a company full of senior executives widely seen as capable of succeeding Mr. Fields."

4. Read of the day

The New Yorker's Ryan Lizza, "Firing Back: How Sally Yates stood up to the President": "

Sally Quillian Yates, who is fifty-six, spent more than two decades as a federal prosecutor in Georgia before being named a U.S. Attorney and then the Deputy Attorney General by President Obama. She and her husband, Comer, live in Atlanta, but she keeps a modest apartment in Washington, where I met her for her first interview since her career at the Department of Justice ended. Yates was composed, disciplined, and sharp-witted as she spoke about her brief time in the Trump Administration [as acting attorney general] ...

Yates ... weighed her options: she would either resign or refuse to defend the order [on migrant travel]. She told me, ... "I thought, based on all the evidence I had, that it was based on religion. And then I thought back to Jim Crow laws, or literacy tests. Those didn't say that the purpose was to prevent African-Americans from voting. But that's what the purpose was." ...

[A]t around 9 P.M., [White House counsel Don] McGahn's office asked the [Justice Department's] senior Trump appointee to deliver a letter to Yates, notifying her that she had been fired. He said a prayer, and walked down the hall. "Madam Attorney General, I have a memorandum for you from the White House that I've been asked to deliver."

5. GOP's green shoots

Conservatives are slowly coming around on climate change, Axios' Amy Harder reports in her weekly "Harder Line" energy column:

  • The evidence: Over the past few years, more than a half-dozen organizations have popped up pushing conservative climate-change and clean-energy policies, and the percentage of congressional Republicans going on the record acknowledging climate is a problem has gone from zero to 8% [!], as judged by a House caucus on the issue.
  • Why it matters: The changes among Republicans are small, but represent a sea change from a few years ago.
  • Dip into the Axios STREAM to read the full column.

6. "A kind of anti-Trump"

Another worthy read in the new New Yorker, "The Warrior Monk," by Dexter Filkins, on SecDef James Mattis:

[I]n embracing Mattis's Mad Dog persona, Trump neglected a side of him that appealed to many others — that of the deeply read scholar-soldier and sophisticated analyst. In this view, Mattis is a kind of anti-Trump, a veteran of three wars who has been sobered by their brutalities, a guardian of the internationalist tradition in American foreign policy. ...

Speaking to reporters earlier this year, Mattis took the measure of his adversaries. He said he believed that Vladimir Putin was a rational leader, and therefore could probably be deterred from aggression. I asked whether he thought that the North Korean premier was rational. "I've seen arguments that he's irrational and unpredictable,and I've seen arguments that he's very thoughtful about solidifying power," Mattis said. "I'll keep reading to see if I can come to a conclusion."

7. "Young men slide down income ladder"

"The loss of blue-collar jobs ... is forcing more men into low-wage service jobs, and in some cases causing them to drop out of the workforce altogether," according to a Boston Globe front-pager by Katie Johnston:

  • An analysis last month by the U.S. Census Bureau ("The Changing Economics and Demographics of Young Adulthood: 1975–2016") found that many young men have fallen to the bottom of the income scale, "despite the fact that they are better educated and working full time at the same rate."
  • What caused it: "Wages have stagnated, while the cost of living and student debt have skyrocketed, and college graduates are taking lower-level jobs ... [M]en are being hit particularly hard, as many of them are forced to take contract or part-time work."
  • Key fact: "The jobs that are growing the fastest ... are concentrated in female-dominated professions, such as health care."
  • Why it matters: "Many young men — defined by the Census Bureau as ages 25 to 34 — are starting out their working lives at a distinct disadvantage, compared with previous generations. And as more of them live at home and delay marriage, young adulthood has started looking much different than it used to."

8. "The quants run Wall Street now"

"For decades, investors imagined a time when data-driven traders would dominate financial markets. That day has arrived," The Wall Street Journal reports on its front page, in a big package anchored by Gregory Zuckerman and Bradley Hope:

  • "[A]lgorithmic-driven trading and the quants who use sophisticated statistical models to find attractive trades are taking over the investment world.
  • "On many trading floors, quants are gaining respect, clout and money as investment firms scramble to hire mathematicians and scientists. Traditional trading strategies, such as sifting through balance sheets and talking to companies' customers, are falling down the pecking order.
  • Quantitative hedge funds are now responsible for 27% of all U.S. stock trades by investors, up from 14% in 2013,
  • Why it matters: "The computers are outperforming humans at picking investments. In the past five years, quant-focused hedge funds gained about 5.1% a year on average. The average hedge fund rose 4.3% a year in the same period."

9. "With social media, a flame becomes a bonfire"

Seven months after the "Access Hollywood" tape that ended his "Today" show career, Billy Bush talks to The Hollywood Reporter (by Lacey Rose and Marisa Guthrie):

  • "I plan to return to the job that I love, which is television, communicating, interviewing people. I have changed in a way that I think will make me better at my job.
  • "I believe there will be more people like me in crisis. And with social media, a flame becomes a bonfire quickly. So I will be picking up my pen and writing them and calling them on the phone, and I will pursue these interviews and these moments with these people. And through what I've learned and where I've been, I will tell them, 'You have empathetic ears in me.'"
  • Q: "You got fired, and the other guy on that tape became president. How does that make you feel?" A: "I will admit the irony is glaring."

P.S. "Smaller Rivals See a Chance to Challenge Fox News" — Jim Rutenberg's "Mediator" column, on N.Y. Times p. B3, says Bill O'Reilly could be the key to turbocharging a real rival.

10. 1 for Memory Lane

"Ringling Bros. shuts down the big top after 146 years," by AP's Tamara Lush at the Nassau County Coliseum on Long Island, about 30 miles east of New York City:

  • "With laughter, hugs and tears — and ... death-defying stunts — the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus received its final standing ovation Sunday night as it performed its last show."
  • "Many of Ringling's employees are second, third and even fourth-generation circus performers, while others met their spouses while touring. All spent months on the road, traveling from city to city in Ringling's train cars and describing themselves as a giant family, albeit one with many clowns."
  • "Over the years, animal rights activists had targeted Ringling, saying that forcing animals to perform and transporting them around the country amounted to abuse. In May 2016, the company removed elephants from its shows, but ticket sales continued to decline."
  • "People ... didn't want to see a circus without elephants. Ringling's parent company, Feld Entertainment, announced in January it would close the show, citing declining attendance and high operating costs."
  • "Feld executives said they knew the circus couldn't compete with iPhones, the internet, video games and massively branded and carefully marketed characters. Their other productions — Frozen on Ice, Marvel Live, Supercross, Monster Trucks, Disney on Ice — resonate better with younger generations."