Oct 27, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

You're invited ... On Monday at 8 a.m. in D.C., Bradley Whitford (Josh Lyman on "The West Wing"), AOL pioneer Jean Case, NBC's Steve Kornacki and Vox Media CEO Jim Bankoff will join me for a conversation about access to the Internet, tech and media, and the impact on culture and politics. RSVP here.

1 big thing: The screamers

A well-known female veteran of the media business emailed me as new revelations were posted about Mark Halperin:

If you are anxiously looking around your media organization wondering who the harassers are or were, start with the men in power who are bullies: who screamed at subordinates, berated them, seemed to take pleasure in humiliating them — often publicly. We all know them. We have all worked with them. There is clearly a correlation between that behavior and this. ...

I would love to send a message to the screamers that their behavior will no longer be tolerated.

There's clearly a lot of screaming in tech, as well as in media and movies.

  • The excuse many men gave for not interfering with Harvey Weinstein was that "everybody knew" he was a bully and a jerk — but didn't realize he was also a serial assailant.
  • Arianna Huffington, a board member at Uber, distilled the emerging ethos: "No brilliant jerks allowed."

Halperin's had been quite an empire. If you change the game once, it's pretty cool. Changing the game more than once? Very small club. And Halperin did it repeatedly: "The Note" at ABC ... "The Page" at TIME ... The "Game Change" franchise ... Showtime's "The Circus" series.

His comeuppance all came within 24 hours of CNN's story quoting five women as saying that he "sexually harassed women while he was in a powerful position at ABC News" (political director from 1997 to 2007):

  • MSNBC said Halperin would not be returning as a contributor for the time being.
  • Then, "Game over," as Alex Burns tweeted: Penguin Press canceled Halperin's 2016 campaign book, the third in the "Game Change" series he co-wrote with John Heilemann.
  • HBO had already said it was dropping a miniseries tied to the book.

In what's becoming a pattern, more revelations poured out:

  • Emily Miller, a fixture in media and politics, tweeted: "To be clear, I was NOT one of the victims in this story about Mark Halperin. I was ANOTHER junior ABC employee he attacked. #MeToo."
  • The WashPost's Paul Farhi, in a front-page story, writes that "Dianna Goldberg was a young researcher at ABC News in 1994" when she asked Halperin for help with a story, and he asked her to sit in his lap.
  • The Daily Beast quotes what it says is an anonymous seventh accuser.

Stunning tally from Glenn Whipp, the L.A. Times reporter who broke the stories about the assaults on young industry women by creepy movie director James Toback:

  • "Since this story published on Sunday, 193 additional women have contacted me to talk about Toback."
  • "UPDATE: The number of women who have contacted me about their encounters with James Toback now stands at 310."

Be smart: It's a tragedy that went on for decades — too many talented, eager women whose ambitions were thwarted, or pride subsumed, by selfish, gross, sometimes criminal men.

  • Our hope is that these revelations bring a new level of civility to the workplace — not just out of the fear of consequences, but a realization of how malignant and destructive the old culture was.
  • I don't say "restore civility," because it was clearly never there. This is one way our generation of leaders can do better than those who went before.
2. "A national health emergency"

Trump's opioids directive "does not on its own release any additional funds to deal with a drug crisis that claimed more than 59,000 lives in 2016, and the president did not request any, although his aides said he would soon do so," the N.Y. Times' Julie Davis writes on the front page.

  • This is "a priority that resonated strongly with the working-class voters who supported his presidential campaign."
  • Trump held "an elaborate and emotional ceremony in the East Room of the White House, attended by families affected by opioid abuse, members of Congress and administration officials."

From Trump's remarks:

I had a brother, Fred — great guy, best-looking guy, best personality — much better than mine. (Laughter.) But he had a problem. He had a problem with alcohol, and he would tell me, "Don't drink. Don't drink." He was substantially older, and I listened to him ... But he would constantly tell me: "Don't drink." He'd also add: "Don't smoke." But he would say it over and over and over again.

And to this day, I've never had a drink. And I have no longing for it. I have no interest in it. To this day, I've never had a cigarette. Don't worry: Those are only two of my good things. I don't want to tell you about the bad things. (Laughter.) There's plenty of bad things too.

But he really helped me. I had somebody that guided me, and he had a very, very, very tough life because of alcohol. Believe me: very, very tough, tough life. He was a strong guy, but it was a tough, tough thing that he was going through. But I learned because of Fred. I learned.

3. Grassroots tech rebellion brews

"For months, a threat to big tech has been building from the top ... But now figures of both major parties say the unhappiness with the companies is also bubbling up from the bottom," Axios' Steve LeVine writes:

  • "The threat is ... against the companies and the Washington establishment. ... Steve Bannon is railing against the 'Lords of Silicon Valley,' and advocating the regulation of the big tech companies as public utilities."
  • Why it matters: "[P]olls show that big tech retains high public popularity. ... But to the degree that [disgruntlement] takes hold and grows, it suggests a potential replay of last November's rust belt exasperation with the status quo."
4. Video: GOP at war

Axios smart brevity video with Jonathan Swan: "Steve Bannon and the war for the Republican Party."

P.S. L.A. Times lead story, "Vote signals rough road for tax plan: House Republicans barely pass a budget outline that clears the way for Trump's proposal to cut rates," by Lisa Mascaro:

  • "[S]igns of friction flared ... when House Speaker Paul D. Ryan ... was barely able to muscle through a largely symbolic budget blueprint that clears the way for easier passage later this year of a tax bill."
  • "The budget resolution passed by a 216-212 vote, with dissent from 20 Republicans and all Democrats. GOP opponents, primarily from New York and New Jersey congressional districts, balked at [eliminating] state and local tax deductions, which are crucial write-offs to residents in their states, as well as in California."
5. Josh Kushner speaks out on health reform

Guest opinion on Axios ... Mario Schlosser and Joshua Kushner (younger brother of Jared), co-founders of Oscar Health, an insurance startup that will offer individual plans in six states this year:

  • "It will be hard — after four years where tens of millions of Americans have gained access to health insurance — for the administration to erase the virtues of an individual market where consumers choose their health plan and no one is discriminated against based on health status."
  • "There is no doubt that the individual market under the ACA has stumbled out of the gate, and is in need of some fixes. But America has seen rocky private insurance markets recover before."
  • Go deeper.
6. Peer to peer

"How Did David Rubenstein — Yes, That David Rubenstein — Become a TV Star? He's a socially awkward 68-year-old private equity titan — and his show is one of Bloomberg's fastest-growing programs," by Washingtonian's Ben Wofford:

  • "At 68, David Rubenstein [co-founder and co-CEO of The Carlyle Group] is now host of his own show on Bloomberg Television. The half-hour program — The David Rubenstein Show: Peer-to-Peer Conversations — plops him beside fellow CEOs of the billionaire class, with the occasional sports star and military general thrown in: Berkshire Hath­away's Warren Buffett, Oprah, Coach K, David Petraeus."
  • "One might presume that awarding a prime-time slot (Wednesdays at 9 pm) to the most famous billionaire in Washington elevates the town's gratuitousness to new heights. ... Now in its third season, it's one of Bloomberg's fastest-growing programs."
  • Why it matters: "Like the other billionaire resident of Washington who rode prime-time television into national prominence, Rubenstein is capitalizing on the market's clearest trend: a new regime in which magnates can, apparently, do anything — not despite the poor fit but perhaps because of it."
  • Read on.
  • See the show.
7. 100th anniversary of Russian Revolution

"Seventeen years after Vladimir Putin first became president, his grip on Russia is stronger than ever," The Economist writes in its cover editorial (leader):

  • "The West, which still sees Russia in post-Soviet terms, sometimes ranks him as his country's most powerful leader since Stalin. Russians are increasingly looking to an earlier period of history. Both liberal reformers and conservative traditionalists in Moscow are talking about Mr Putin as a 21st-century tsar."
  • How he get here: "Putin has earned that title by lifting his country out of what many Russians see as the chaos in the 1990s and by making it count again in the world. Yet as the centenary of the October revolution draws near, the uncomfortable thought has surfaced that Mr Putin shares the tsars' weaknesses, too."
  • The fear is growing "that, as with other Russian rulers, Tsar Vladimir will leave turbulence and upheaval in his wake."
  • Why it matters: "Putin is hardly the world's only autocrat. Personalised authoritarian rule has spread across the world over the past 15 years — often ... built on the fragile base of a manipulated, winner-takes-all democracy. It is a rebuke to the liberal triumphalism which followed the collapse of the Soviet Union."
8. Data du jour
9. Sports short
10. 1 fast thing

"Endurance feats at what amounts to warp speed have captured the imagination of an increasing number of trail runners, climbers and mountaineers," AP's Brian Melley writes from L.A.:

  • "Social and mainstream media now create attention for the once largely solitary figures and audiences for their accomplishments — and sponsorship dollars sometimes follow."
  • "A French winemaker took fewer than three days to cover 221 miles ... up Mount Whitney and across the John Muir Trail through Sequoia, Kings Canyon and Yosemite National Parks."
  • "Two California rock climbers broke a speed record climbing the sheer granite wall of El Capitan in Yosemite in under 2 hours 20 minutes — a climb that typically takes experienced climbers three days."
  • Shawn Bearden, an avid trail runner and physiology professor at Idaho State University: "These increasingly popular quests have been driven in part by development of lighter gear, growth in long-distance trail running and the ability of people to follow athletes' progress online."
Mike Allen