Oct 24, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Thursday morning. The Nats are up 2-0 on the Astros in the World Series.

  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 1,149 words ... 4 minutes.
1 big thing: How Biden haunts Biden
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Sometimes it sounds like Joe Biden is running against Joe Biden.

  • Biden at times finds himself compromised by a 40-year record of bipartisan work, including some now-outmoded conventions, Axios' Alexi McCammond writes.

Biden vs. Biden:

  • Trump called his impeachment inquiry a "lynching" on Tuesday. Biden tweeted that it's "abhorrent" and "despicable" to "even think about making this comparison." Nine hours later, Biden issued his own apology for saying in a 1998 CNN interview that President Clinton’s impeachment could be considered a "partisan lynching."
  • Biden hits Trump for mixing family and government business, but Hunter Biden's past work has made the former V.P. a target for Trump.
  • Biden can weigh in on Syria, but he has to reckon with the fact that he was there when President Obama drew and ignored the red line.
  • Biden gets tangled up in the race debate because of his own record opposing some busing, and comments about working with white segregationists.

📊 The bottom line: A new CNN poll suggests none of this has been insurmountable and that Trump’s efforts on Ukraine may have backfired.

  • Biden took the lead spot among 2020 Democrats, at 34%, with his widest margin since April.
2. ⚖️ Impeachment state of play: Day 30
Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and other House Republicans speak at a press conference yesterday. Photo: Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

"Republicans' defense of President Trump grew more frantic and disjointed ... with House members storming a closed-door meeting, delaying the testimony of an impeachment witness as the GOP grappled with a growing abuse-of-power scandal centered on the president," the WashPost reports.

  • 👀 None of the 13 House Republicans who spoke at a news conference "defended Trump on the central allegation that he had pushed Ukraine to investigate Democrats while blocking military aid that had been approved for Kyiv."

A plot twist ... One of the two indicted associates of President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, ... tied the case to the president himself, saying that some of the evidence gathered in the campaign-finance investigation could be subject to executive privilege. (N.Y. Times)

What's next ... "House Democrats are preparing to move their largely private impeachment inquiry onto a more public stage as soon as mid-November," per the WashPost.

  • "Among the witnesses Democrats hope to question in open session are the acting ambassador to Ukraine, William B. Taylor Jr., and his predecessor, former ambassador Marie Yovanovitch."
3. Big Tech's hyperlocal fights

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

While Big Tech fights a global backlash, the companies are also realizing they have tough, pricey battles in their hometowns, Erica Pandey writes in Axios Future.

  • Local politics are becoming too costly to ignore, says Margaret O'Mara, a tech historian at the University of Washington: "It's becoming important not only to their public image, but also their bottom line."

Think of New York's backlash against Amazon HQ2.

  • San Francisco passed a homelessness tax on businesses.
  • Mountain View passed a per employee "head tax" aimed at Google, which will end up costing the company millions every year.

What's happening: Amazon has put $1.4 million into next month's city council races in Seattle. (NYT)

  • Just this week, Facebook committed $1 billion for Bay Area housing. Google made the same pledge earlier this year.
  • Microsoft pledged $500 million for affordable housing in Seattle.
  • Amazon has given money to fight homelessness in Seattle and Arlington, Va., home of its second headquarters.
4. Map du jour: Ozone hole improves
Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA via AP

What's new: The ozone hole near the south pole this year is the smallest since it was discovered, but it is more due to freakish Antarctic weather than efforts to cut down on pollution, AP's Seth Borenstein writes.

  • This fall, the average size of the hole in Earth's protective ozone layer is 3.6 million square miles. That's down from a peak of 10.3 million square miles in 2006.
  • This year's hole is even smaller than the one first discovered in 1985.
5. Zuckerberg: "We're not perfect. We make a lot of mistakes"
Photo: Susan Walsh/AP

More than 50 members of Congress barraged Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg from all directions at a six-hour House Financial Services Committee hearing, Axios managing editor Scott Rosenberg writes.

  • The ostensible topic was Facebook's cryptocurrency project, Libra. But the hearing covered Facebook's handling of discrimination and civil rights and its lack of diversity; its role in elections; free speech and content moderation; plus monopolistic behavior, anonymity, terrorism and more.
  • Why it matters: At the moment that Facebook is broadening its ambitions with Libra, lawmakers from both parties are determined to hold the tech giant responsible for an ever-wider portfolio of troubles.
House Financial Services Chair Maxine Waters speaks with Zuckerberg after the hearing. Photo: Erin Scott/Reuters

Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.): "In your adult life, have you ever been underbanked?"

  • Zuckerberg's answer: "I'm going to go with no."

Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) asked whether Zuckerberg was personally involved in Facebook's decision not to remove a manipulated video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made her speech sound slurred.

  • The answer, after a long pause: Yes.

The bottom line: Zuckerberg took hits from both sides of the aisle — but the criticism from Democrats was more focused, sustained, and passionate, and that could mean trouble for Facebook if 2020 brings a blue tide.

6. Why Pompeo still has swagger
President Trump listens to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo during a Cabinet meeting Monday. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo "effectively is the last man standing, having outlasted and vanquished all rivals for [President] Trump’s ear on foreign policy," Garrett Graff writes in WIRED.

  • The former CIA director and congressman from Kansas is "the president’s tireless, give-no-quarter chief crusader, a political pugilist in a role normally reserved for thoughtful diplomacy."
  • Pompeo is a "happy warrior Trump dispatched to tongue-lash European allies over China and Huawei, to scold Iran over its nuclear ambitions, to glad-hand with North Korea, to boost Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu."

The takeaway: "Pompeo learned along the way that there was only one way to survive under Trump: to be as enthusiastic about Trump as Trump himself."

  • Between the lines: "Pompeo’s role in the [Ukraine] controversy has grown with nearly every passing day."
7. Region on fire: Boom, then slump, drives Latin American protest
An anti-government demonstrator screams in front of a burning barricade in Santiago, Chile, on Tuesday. Photo: Rodrigo Abd/AP

A wave of violent protests this week has set tires, government offices, trains and metro stations ablaze across Latin America and the Caribbean, AP reports.

  • Why it's happening: The countries saw often-dizzying commodity-driven growth in the first decade of this century, followed by a slump or stall as prices dropped for key exports.

The takeaway: That pattern of boom then slackening is a dangerous one for less-than-agile leaders.

  • It expands the middle class, creating citizens who feel entitled to receive more from their governments, and empowered to demand it.
  • And it sharpens the sense of unfairness for those left out.
8. 1 shark thing
Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

"Baby Shark, doo doo doo doo doo doo" has become quite a thing at Nats Park as the walk-up song for backup outfielder Gerardo Parra. The zaniness could go global when the World Series shifts to Washington on Friday night for Game 3.

  • The song showed up months ago as a sweet tribute to the musical taste of Parra's 2-year-old daughter, AP's Howard Fendrich writes.
  • Now, it's a rallying cry for fans, who sing and chomp along by the thousands.

Teammates do their own shark gestures after each hit, including pinching together an index finger and thumb after singles.

  • Some Nats work out wearing shark headbands.
Mike Allen

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