Dec 31, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🎉 Good Monday morning, and happiest New Year's Eve to you and yours.

  • "For the first time, a police drone will be keeping watch over the New Year's Eve celebration in New York's Times Square." [AP]
1 big thing ... Epic year: Living history in 2018

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

During many of the peaks and troughs of history, the people living it didn't fully realize what was unfolding: Societal change builds slowly, and the events only added up in retrospect.

  • But we all know we're navigating breathtaking history: Nearly every day could be — maybe will be — a book.
  • Part of soaking it in, and understanding and appreciating these consequential times, is hitting "pause" now and then.

Here are just 32 of the momentous events we lived through in 2018, as told on the front page of The New York Times:

  1. Jan. 26: "TRUMP ORDERED MUELLER'S FIRING BUT WAS REFUSED."
  2. Feb. 15: "HORROR AT FLORIDA SCHOOL; EX-STUDENT HELD ... 17 Die as Gunman Roams Halls in Rampage Near Miami."
  3. March 18: "Firm That Assisted Trump [Cambridge Analytica] Exploited Data of Millions Information Harvested From Facebook Was Used in Profiling of Unwary Voters."
  4. March 25: "With Passion and Fury, Students March on Guns: Rebuke of N.R.A. by Huge Crowds Across U.S."
  5. April 11: "TARGET OF RAIDS WAS MONEY PAID TO HUSH WOMEN: Trump Said to Weigh Removal of Deputy Attorney General."
  6. April 21: "Over 700 Children Taken From Parents at Border."
  7. May 1: "Questions for President Show Depth of Inquiry Into Russian Meddling: Detailed Review of 15 Chaotic Months — Much of List Hits on Obstruction."
  8. June 13: "PRESIDENT’S PITCH TO KIM YIELDS VOW WITH FEW DETAILS: Trump Agrees to End War Games With South Korea."
  9. June 29: "Gunman Attacks a Newsroom in Maryland, Killing Five People."
  10. July 17: "TRUMP, WITH PUTIN, ATTACKS 2016 INTELLIGENCE."
  11. Aug. 6: "VOTES SECURED TO CONFIRM KAVANAUGH."
  12. Aug. 10: "The Year Global Warming Made Its Menace a Reality: Crops Wilt, Fires Rage and a Scorching Summer Tells Us: We’re Not Ready."
  13. Aug. 22: "PLEADING GUILTY, COHEN IMPLICATES PRESIDENT: '‘In coordination with and at the direction of a candidate for federal office.'"
  14. Aug. 29: "A GRIM REVISION FOR PUERTO RICO: Analysis Raises Storm’s Toll to 2,975 From 64."
  15. Sept. 2: "Hailing McCain, 2 Presidents [Bush 43, Obama] Diverge From a 3rd."
  16. Sept. 5: "Woodward’s Sprawling Exposé Depicts White House in Chaos."
  17. Sept. 6: "TRUMP SEETHES AS A ‘RESISTANCE’ SPILLS INTO VIEW: TIMES OP-ED FEEDS FURY — Accounts Suggest Aides Quietly Try to Thwart the President."
  18. Sept. 10: "CBS CHIEF IS OUT AS MORE WOMEN CITE MISCONDUCT: EXECUTIVE’S STEEP FALL."
  19. Sept. 26: "Once a Model Of Fatherhood, Now an Inmate: Cosby Gets 3 to 10 Years for Sexual Assault."
  20. Sept. 28: "With what degree of certainty do you believe Brett Kavanaugh assaulted you?" "100 percent." ... "None of these allegations are true?" "Correct." "No doubt in your mind?" "Zero. I’m 100 percent certain."
  21. Oct. 3: "TRUMP TOOK PART IN SUSPECT SCHEMES TO EVADE TAX BILLS: Behind the Myth of a Self-Made Billionaire, a Vast Inheritance From His Father."
  22. Oct. 18: "AUDIO SAID TO GIVE GRUESOME DETAILS OF CRITIC’S KILLING: Leaks of Beheading at Saudi Consulate."
  23. Oct. 28: "Rampage Kills 11 at a Synagogue in Pittsburgh: Suspect in Custody Has a History of Anti-Semitism."
  24. Nov. 7: "DEMOCRATS SECURE CONTROL OF THE HOUSE; REPUBLICANS BUILD ON MAJORITY IN SENATE: Rebuke for Trump as Lower Chamber Shifts — Cruz Wins in Texas."
  25. Nov. 8: "TRUMP REPLACES SESSIONS WITH A LOYALIST; VOWS 'WARLIKE' STANCE ON HOUSE INQUIRIES: Critic of Mueller’s Case Will Now Oversee It."
  26. Nov. 24: "U.S. CLIMATE STUDY HAS GRIM WARNING OF ECONOMIC RISKS Reduction of Up to 10 Percent in G.D.P. — Findings Are at Odds With Policies."
  27. Nov. 30: "COHEN PLEA BARES RUSSIAN TOWER BID DEEP IN TRUMP RUN: Presidential Hopeful Sought Closer Ties and a Deal, Too."
  28. Dec. 3: "A Kinder, Gentler Nation? Maybe for a Few Days ... The death of President George Bush, known for his civility, has kindled a nostalgia for compromise."
  29. Dec. 5: "Saudi Prince 'Complicit' In Murder, Senators Say After Briefing by C.I.A.: Bipartisan Group, Breaking With Trump, Hardens Stand on Khashoggi Case."
  30. Dec. 21: "MATTIS RESIGNS AFTER TRUMP’S SYRIA PULLOUT: Clash of Views Led to a Split That Stunned a Government in Turmoil."
  31. Dec. 22: "IMPASSE OVER WALL SHUTS DOWN GOVERNMENT."
  32. Dec. 24: "STUNG BY REBUKE, PRESIDENT FORCES MATTIS OUT EARLY."
2. Boiling 2018 down to one story
Expand chart
This graphic by Harry Stevens led the Axios Deep Dive marking 30 years since Senate testimony by then-NASA scientist James Hansen alerted the country to the arrival of global warming. Data: NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

"The Story of 2018 Was Climate Change," N.Y. Times opinion columnist David Leonhardt insists:

  • "[N]othing else measures up to the rising toll and enormous dangers of climate change. I worry that our children and grandchildren will one day ask us, bitterly, why we spent so much time distracted by lesser matters."
  • Public opinion "is changing, and the weather seems to be a factor. The growing number of extreme events — wildfires, storms, floods ... — are hard to ignore."
Senate Judiciary Committee via AP

"The 2018 cultural moment" was the hearing featuring now-Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, a TV spectacle that "laid bare the country’s deep divisions," L.A. Times arts and film writer Jeffrey Fleishman asserts:

  • "Their star testimonies, and the scheming and conniving of bit players and opportunists, were a mesmerizing, sordid saga for a country that had slid into a caricature of itself. "
  • "They were a man and a woman in a post #MeToo era of righteousness and recrimination."
  • "Reminiscent of the moon landing, the first Kennedy-Nixon debate and the Vietnam War, the Kavanaugh hearings were a startling TV moment."
  • "Imagine what Shakespeare or Virginia Woolf, to say nothing of Oliver Stone or Aaron Sorkin, would have made of a morality play watched by more than 20 million people, about 11 million of them on cable."
3. Global disasters-in-waiting

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

This year was largely spent in a protective crouch, with disaster looming in a number of global hot spots — and all of them are still looming in 2019, Axios World editor Dave Lawler writes:

  • Why it matters: The major calamities we feared in 2018 didn't get resolved — they've merely been deferred.
  • North Korea still has nuclear weapons. The trade war isn’t over. The post-World War II global order is crumbling under threat from populism, adversaries like China and Russia, and a failure to solve systemic problems. Economic recession, a threat multiplier, is looking increasingly likely.

What to watch:

  • North Korea: President Trump insists there’s "no hurry," but the direction of travel seems to be backwards.
  • Europe: The leaders of Europe’s three powers — Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron and the U.K.’s Theresa May — all look set for more troubles. Brexit Day is just three months away, with no deal in sight.
  • Trade: We’re one-third of the way through Trump’s 90-day trade ceasefire with China.
  • Afghanistan: Trump is losing the steadying presence of Defense Secretary James Mattis.

The bottom line: Worst-case scenarios are rarely the likeliest. But these crises-in-waiting bubbled up during a good year for the global economy. Imagine what happens when a recession hits.

Bonus pics: Year-end on the border
Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

A Central American migrant who hopes to reach the U.S. looks through the border fence in Playas de Tijuana, Mexico, on Saturday.

Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images

Above, a migrant climbs the border fence.

Below, children traveling with Central American migrants play at the beach next to the border fence.

Guillermo Arias/AFP/Getty Images
4. Verdict on 2018: Better for me, worrisome for America
Expand chart
Data: Survey Monkey online poll, Dec. 10-17, of 6,075 adults. Total margin of error: ±2.0 percentage points. Poll methodology. Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

Americans are a bit more upbeat about what 2018 meant to them personally compared to what it meant for the U.S., an Axios/SurveyMonkey poll finds.

  • By a very small margin, "great" was the word people used most frequently to describe the year they had — but they also picked a lot of negative words, like "exhausting," "worrisome," "hectic" and "chaotic."
  • And all of the top words they used to describe 2018 for the U.S. were negative, starting with "worrisome."

52% of teenagers described their year as "exhausting."

5. 2018's biggest billionaire winner, loser

Year-end tale of the tape from the Bloomberg Billionaires Index:

  • "Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com Inc. founder and the richest man in the world, was 2018’s biggest gainer for the second year running. His net worth grew about $24 billion to $123 billion. But even he was a loser in the second half of the year as stock markets were routed. From a September peak, Bezos has since seen his fortune drop $45 billion."
  • "Mark Zuckerberg saw the sharpest drop in 2018 as Facebook Inc. veered from crisis to crisis. His net worth fell nearly $20 billion, leaving the 34-year-old with a $53 billion fortune."

P.S. "The popularity of Fortnite, which forced some into video-game rehab, gave gamemaker Tim Sweeney a $7.2 billion fortune this year."

6. Trump slows pullout from Syria

President Trump has ordered a slowdown to the withdrawal of U.S. forces in Syria, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C) said outside the White House after lunch with the president, AP's Zeke Miller reports.

  • "I think we're in a pause situation," Graham said.
  • "I think we're slowing things down in a smart way," Graham said, adding that Trump was very aware of the plight of the Kurds.

"Trump announced earlier this month that he was ordering the withdrawal of all the roughly 2,000 troops from war-torn Syria, with aides expecting it to take place swiftly."

  • What's next: National security adviser John Bolton is traveling to Israel and Turkey next weekend to discuss the president’s plans with those American allies.
7. "When they make arrests, there is usually torture"
Afghan security forces arrive at the site of a brazen Dec. 24 suicide attack on a public welfare building in Kabul that killed 40. Photo: Rahmat Gul/AP

"C.I.A.’s Afghan Forces Leave a Trail of Abuse and Anger," writes Mujib Mashal, the N.Y. Times' senior correspondent in Afghanistan:

  • "The fighters hold the line in the war’s toughest spots, but officials say their brutal tactics are terrorizing the public and undermining the U.S. mission."
  • "[T]he units have ... operated unconstrained by battlefield rules designed to protect civilians, conducting night raids, torture and killings with near impunity."

"Those abuses are actively pushing people toward the Taliban."

  • "And with only a relatively small American troop contingent left ... the strike forces are increasingly the way that a large number of rural Afghans experience the American presence."
8. Stat du jour

"Trump averaged 15 false claims a day in 2018," per WashPost Fact Checker Glenn Kessler:

  • "By the end of the year, Trump had accumulated more than 7,600 untruths during his presidency — averaging more than 15 erroneous claims a day during 2018, almost triple the rate from the year before."
9. Humbling
Voters wait to cast their ballots in Sake, Congo, yesterday. (Patrick Meinhardt/AFP/Getty Images)

Some voters in yesterday's presidential election in Congo, the vast Central African country, said they had walked for miles to cast ballots, AP reports.

10. 1 fun thing
Russian Presidential Press and Information Office via Getty Images

Surprise! When Vladimir Putin, 66, suited up for a hockey legends game in Red Square on Saturday, he scored five goals, Reuters reports.

  • The goalie seemed to be trying to stand aside from Putin's puck, per ABC News.
Mike Allen