Aug 28, 2019

Axios AM

😎 Happy Wednesday! Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,354 words ... ~ 5 minutes.

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1 big thing: The great Democratic gamble

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Democrats are increasingly taking far-left positions most would not have dreamed of — or dared — taking three short years ago, Axios CEO Jim VandeHei writes.

  • Why it matters: A convergence of incentives — fundraising, cable coverage, liberal activism and social media — are inspiring Democrats to offer full-throated support of big government liberalism. 
  • The result: Hillary Clinton and former President Obama would sound like conservative Democrats in this field.

Leading 2020 Democrats now support:

  • Medicare for All: This message hits home with Americans who are experiencing higher deductibles and more expensive prescriptions, at the same time that every sector of the health care industry — insurers, drug companies, hospitals, doctors — have seen large profits, Axios' Caitlin Owens reports. And Biden has been criticized for supporting the Affordable Care Act +,  a mainstream position for Dems until very recently.
  • Trillion-dollar-plus climate plans: Sen. Bernie Sanders just introduced a Green New Deal costing $16 trillion over 15 years. Axios' Amy Harder says that supercharged activists — in part because the problem is getting more dire, and solutions like wind and solar energy are getting cheaper — are successfully pushing Democratic candidates to adopt ever-more-aggressive goals in the face of inaction at federal and global levels.
  • Lowering drug prices: The 2020 Dems' plans are much more aggressive than what the party has supported in the past.
  • Decriminalizing illegal border crossings: During the Democratic debate on June 27, all 10 candidates candidates raised their hands when asked if their health plan would cover undocumented immigrants. "[A] growing number of Democrats [including Elizabeth Warren] favor eliminating the laws that criminalize illegal entry — even as a misdemeanor," the N.Y. Times reports.
  • Erasing student debt: "In just over a decade, Democratic Party leaders have gone from advocating modest increases in Pell grants to pushing for large-scale debt cancellation," The Atlantic writes.

Between the lines: There's no true moderate at the top of the 2020 pack. Biden is being called the moderate. But on ABC's "Good Morning America" in April, he defended his earlier statement that he has "one of the most progressive records of anyone running":

  • "I was always labeled as one of the most liberal members of the United States Congress."

Go deeper: The upcoming N.Y. Times Magazine features Robert Draper's "All or Nothing ... How 'Medicare for All' Went Mainstream."

2. Trade war could speed recession

S&P Global says the China trade war could be the tipping point for a recession, Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin reports:

  • "The latest retaliations in the U.S.-China trade dispute seem to dash any chance of a near-term resolution," S&P ratings analysts said.
  • "[T]hese recent events have shaken investor confidence further, and incrementally worsened the global business and economic outlook."
3. Nikki Haley will be Trump-Pence "special guest"
Then-UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Vice President Pence at the UN Security Council in 2017. Photo: Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Nikki Haley will, after all, appear on a Trump 2020 ticket.

  • Axios' Jonathan Swan reports that the former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor, who recently took to Twitter to squash rumors that she was angling to replace Vice President Pence on the 2020 ticket, is marked as a "special guest" at a Trump-Pence fundraising retreat in the fall, according to an invitation obtained by Axios.
  • Haley is listed to appear along with Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle, and Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner at the Fall Retreat for the Trump Victory Committee — a joint fundraising committee of the Trump campaign and the RNC.
  • The event will be held in New York from Oct. 4-6.

Why it matters: Haley is now publicly attached to President Trump's re-election campaign.

  • In recent months, some senior officials inside the White House grew wary of Haley's intentions, especially after Andrew Stein, a Democrat who is a former New York City Council president, wrote a provocative Wall Street Journal op-ed headlined: "Trump-Haley in 2020."
  • The crux of Stein's argument:
I mean no disrespect for Mr. Pence, who's loyally served the president and the nation. But he's given Mr. Trump all the help he can. He inspired his fellow evangelical Christians to take a chance in 2016. But in 2020 they'll already be repelled by the Democrats' embrace of infanticide. Mr. Trump's greater obstacle to re-election comes from politically moderate suburban women, many of whom see him as divisive.

Behind the scenes: For some in the Trump administration, Haley's recent public professions of loyalty don't quite cut it.

  • "Some of us look at it as too little, too late," a senior official said. "Why didn't she come out immediately waving her Trump-Pence 2020 flag the moment the rumors started circulating and the [Wall Street Journal] op-ed was published?"
  • But Haley enjoys strong support inside the White House from Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner.
4. Pic du jour
Starhopper hovers over its launchpad. Photo: Trevor Mahlmann/Reuters

"SpaceX test-launched an early prototype of the company’s Mars rocket [yesterday], ... clearing another key hurdle in billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s interplanetary ambitions," Reuters reports.

Axios' Miriam Kramer writes: The Starhopper launch and landing was a pretty awe-inspiring thing to behold, even via webcast.

5. Trump and nuking hurricanes: The aftermath

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump last night tweeted — for the third time — that our reporting on him asking if America could nuke hurricanes was ridiculous. 

  • In Jonathan Swan's Sneak Peek newsletter, we reported that Trump has suggested multiple times that officials explore using nuclear bombs to stop hurricanes from hitting the U.S., according to sources who have heard him.

Why it matters: We stand solidly behind our reporting. Before publishing, we gave the White House full visibility on the key details of our story, and more than nine hours to deny or push back against our reporting.

  • The article is meticulously sourced. 
  • Since we published, additional sources have corroborated our account.
  • The president made these comments in at least two separate meetings during his first 14 months in office. And on at least one occasion, they were memorialized in a National Security Council memo.

Between the lines: We go out of our way to cover Trump clinically, without emotion or bias.

  • We go the extra mile in all our stories to never throw sucker punches, and always give the Trump White House precise details of our reporting in advance, and ample time to respond. 
  • We have found Trump officials accessible, even when we report things they want kept secret.
  • We will continue this approach because we think it best serves all of you. 
6. WaPo: Trump suggests pardons for wall action
Workers break ground last week for wall construction west of Santa Teresa, N.M. Photo: Cedar Attanasio/AP

"President Trump is so eager to complete hundreds of miles of border fence ahead of the ... election that he has directed aides to ... disregard environmental rules," the WashPost's Nick Miroff and Josh Dawsey report:

When aides have suggested that some orders are illegal or unworkable, Trump has suggested he would pardon the officials if they would just go ahead, aides said.
He has waved off worries about contracting procedures and the use of eminent domain, saying "take the land," according to officials who attended the meetings.
7. 😱 State of the union: Alarmed

In a USA Today/Suffolk University Poll out today, when 1,000 registered voters were asked to give one word describing how they feel about the 2020 election, four of the top five responses conveyed alarm and angst:

  • Voters used words like "frightened," "train wreck," "nervous" and "chaotic."
8. 💰 2020 Dems target wealth, not just income

"For the richest Americans, Democrats want to shift toward taxing their wealth, instead of just their salaries and the income their assets generate," The Wall Street Journal's Richard Rubin reports (subscription).

  • "The most ambitious plan comes from Sen. [Elizabeth] Warren ... The ultra-rich would pay whether they make money or not, whether they sell assets or not and whether their assets are growing or shrinking."

Why it matters, from the Journal: "The system could change fundamentally if Democrats win the White House and Congress."

  • The other side: "Many conservatives argue that taxes targeted at the rich could hinder investment in ways that would hurt everyone’s wages and discourage the creation of wealth in the first place."
9. Why local TV still matters

Most adults in the U.S. still rely on local TV news — a trend that holds across all age groups, and across most levels of education and income, Sara Fischer writes in her weekly Axios Media Trends newsletter (sign up here):

Expand chart
Adapted from Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals
10. 1 film thing
Joe Pesci (left) and Robert De Niro in "The Irishman." Photo: Niko Tavernise/Netflix via AP

Netflix will give "The Irishman" an exclusive theatrical release for about four weeks, providing theaters most of November to play Martin Scorsese's big-budget crime epic before it lands on the streaming service, AP's Jake Coyle reports.

  • "The Irishman," about hitman and Jimmy Hoffa associate Frank Sheeran, will open theatrically Nov. 1 and begin streaming on Nov. 27.
  • Why it matters: The release plans for one of Netflix's most expensive films yet had been a subject of much conjecture ever since the steaming service greenlit Scorsese's film. The major theater chains have refused to play movies that they don't get to play exclusively ahead of streaming.

The 210-minute film, which includes extensive de-aging visual effects to make its star-studded cast — including Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci — appear decades younger in some scenes, cost Netflix $160 million to make.

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