Jul 29, 2019

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

⚡Breaking overnight ... Active shooter terrorizes Northern California food festival:

  • Three victims and a suspect died, and 15 people were injured, after a gunman cut through a security fence — thwarting metal detectors — and opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, 30 miles south of San Jose. (Mercury News)

Today's Smart Brevity count: 1,585 words ... 6 minutes.

1 big thing: Trump plants explosives in urban-rural divide
Rep. Elijah Cummings appears in Baltimore at an NAACP get-out-the-vote event in 2014. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump's disparaging tweets about Baltimore extends his streak of vilifying big American cities, and adds a racial spin that scores points with parts of his base, writes Kim Hart, author of our new weekly newsletter, Axios Cities.

What's happening: Cities, particularly coastal ones, are Democratic strongholds that have been protesting Trump policies like immigration and health care since day one of his administration.

  • Attacking cities and their mostly Democratic leadership helps to drive a wedge between urban and rural America, a strategy that served Trump well in 2016.
  • Earlier this month, Trump called out Los Angeles and San Francisco for homelessness and filth.
  • Trump advisers tell the WashPost that the message — following his "go back" tweets aimed at four non-white congresswomen —resonates with his base, including white working-class voters he needs in 2020.

The backdrop: In Saturday tweets, Trump called the district of House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings a "very dangerous & filthy place" and a city "no human being would want to live."

  • Those were quickly condemned as offensive and racist by city leaders and Democrats, including Baltimore native Nancy Pelosi.
  • City supporters and Trump detractors took to social media, with #WeAreBaltimore and #BaltimoreStrong trending on Twitter.
  • Victor Blackwell, CNN anchor and Baltimore native, gave an emotional on-air response: "He's insulted thousands of people, many different types of people. But when he tweets about infestation, it's about black and brown people."

Trump fired back on yesterday, calling Cummings a racist and incompetent leader. He called Speaker Pelosi's San Francisco district "unrecognizable."

  • "The Democrats always play the Race Card, when in fact they have done so little for our Nation’s great African American people,” Trump tweeted. "Now, lowest unemployment in U.S. history, and only getting better. Elijah Cummings has failed badly!"

Reality check: Cummings' district, which includes a large portion of Baltimore, is about 55% black, per the Baltimore Sun. Violent crime is a persistent issue: the city has had more than 300 homicides for 4 straight years.

  • Cummings' district also includes well-off suburban areas and some rural parts. It's the second-wealthiest and second-most well-educated majority-black district in the country, 538's Nate Silver pointed out on Twitter.
  • Its median household income is about $60,000, and it is home to more college graduates than the country as a whole, per the WashPost.

Between the lines: Distressed districts are held by both Republican and Democratic members of Congress. And racial, geographic and economic divides are far more nuanced than tweets and headlines convey.

  • Places where educated workers cluster are doing well. But millions of Americans live in communities that haven't recovered.

The bottom line: Trump's perpetually combative stance places him "in the strange position of frequently disparaging parts of his own country," writes New York's Jonathan Chait. "This is surely unique in American history."

2. Mueller's social-media muscle
Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip. Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Robert Mueller has maintained a constant level of social media momentum in 2019, outpacing "Game of Thrones," the Super Bowl and other transcendent cultural events, Axios' Shane Savitsky writes.

  • Why it matters: The data, provided exclusively to Axios by the social media analytics company NewsWhip, shows just how deeply political stories have become enmeshed in the cultural conversation.
  • Interns, camping out the night before the Mueller hearings, posed playfully for online pics as if they were waiting for concert tickets — or, more likely these days, a Supreme clothing drop.

Driving the news: Articles about Mueller during the week of his hearings (Mon.-Fri.) generated 14 million social media interactions (likes, shares, comments).

  • That topped interactions for articles about "Game of Thrones" during the week of its polarizing series finale (10.2 million), and articles about "Avengers: Endgame" — now the highest-grossing film of all time — during its release week (10.5 million).

The big picture: That was half the online frenzy during the week his report's release, which saw an eye-popping 30.1 million social interactions.

  • That outpaced the interactions for some of the year's biggest cultural one-offs, including the Super Bowl (26.8 million) and the Oscars (15.2 million).
3. Fall climate protests could be largest ever

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Environmental and grassroots groups are planning a series of climate protests this fall that they describe as the largest ever, Axios' Amy Harder reports in her weekly "Harder Line" energy column.

  • Sign-ups have begun for a Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20 and 27, when organizers say millions of people, led by students, will walk out of schools and jobs to demand the world stop using fossil fuels.
  • School walkouts have been going on around the world since November, with inspiration from Swedish teenager activist Greta Thunberg. The September rallies are timed to a major United Nations climate summit in New York City.
  • Extinction Rebellion, a group responsible for massive disruptions across London in April and protesting on Capitol Hill last week, is organizing similar protests across several cities, including New York, for Oct. 7 and 14.

The big picture: Over the past nine months, calls to address climate change have become a powerful new social movement.

  • Climate change has traditionally not spawned intense, organized and continued protest. That's been gradually changing.
  • Since November and the rise of the Green New Deal, youth activism and civil resistance protests, the movement has hardened into a force to reckon with.

Why it matters: This social movement is one puzzle piece of society coming to grips with climate change.

What's changed: Unlike earlier climate-related protests, like rallies against the Keystone XL pipeline, activists organizing today are more global and persistent.

  • Young people, worried about an increasingly unstable world, add a clear constituency that was previously lacking.

Go deeper; share this column.

4. Pics du jour
Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

Elite video-gamers are shown onscreen during solo finals at the first Fortnite World Cup, at Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens — venue for the U.S. Open.

Kyle Giersdorf (screen name: Bugha), a 16-year-old from Pennsylvania, won $3 million after taking the top prize in the $30 million tournament, per Reuters:

  • Why it matters: "[T]he booming popularity of video and online games has drawn top-dollar investments and fueled the emerging professional sport."
Photo: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images
5. Tech giants crush ad market
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Data: eMarketer and Zenith Media. Chart: Axios Visuals

Big Tech eats up more ad revenue than most other publishers combined, Axios media trends expert Sara Fischer writes.

6. Trump wants ally to head intelligence
Rep. John Ratcliffe questions Robert Mueller on Wednesday. Photo: Andrew Harnik/AP

President Trump, confirming a Jonathan Swan scoop, announced on Twitter that he will nominate a supporter, Rep. John Ratcliffe (R-Texas), to replace Dan Coats as director of national intelligence. Coats will leave office on August 15.

  • Behind the scenes: Trump was thrilled by Ratcliffe's admonishment of Robert Mueller during last week's House Judiciary Committee hearing.
  • Advisers said Trump was already seriously considering Ratcliffe to replace Coats. Trump had previously shortlisted Ratcliffe to replace Jeff Sessions as attorney general before choosing William Barr.

The context, per the WashPost's Shane Harris: "Coats and Trump had been at odds publicly for more than a year. "

  • For months, Coats had recognized that his relationship with Trump ... had frayed beyond repair ... Coats had felt isolated and excluded from important national security decision-making."
7. Rahm's advice to this week's debaters

Rahm Emanuel — former Chicago mayor and chief of staff to President Obama, and now ABC News contributor — posts this open memo to 2020 Dems:

"Don’t Make Detroit’s Debate Miami Part II ... This time, don’t fall into the traps that had many of us shaking our heads during the debates in Miami":

Before our party promises health care coverage to undocumented immigrants — a position not even Ted Kennedy took — let’s help the more than 30 million Americans who are a single illness away from financial ruin. Before we start worrying about whether the Boston Marathon bomber can vote, let’s stop states that are actively trying to curtail voting rights of citizens. And before we promise a guaranteed minimum income to healthy adults who prefer to stay home and play video games, let’s increase the minimum wage and the Earned Income Tax Credit to make work pay for the millions of people who work hard and still live near poverty. 

Go deeper: See the full post on Medium.

8. Feds probe Gulf contacts of Trump ally
Tom Barrack (left) at the inauguration. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Federal prosecutors are looking at foreign influence over President Trump's 2016 campaign, his transition and the early stages of his administration, the N.Y. Times reports under a quintuple byline (subscription):

  • "The inquiry had proceeded far enough last month that [Tom] Barrack, who played an influential role in the campaign and acts as an outside adviser to the White House, was interviewed, at his request, by prosecutors in the public integrity unit of the United States attorney’s office in Brooklyn."
  • "Barrack’s spokesman, Owen Blicksilver, said that in expectation of this article, Mr. Barrack’s lawyer had again contacted the prosecutors’ office and 'confirmed they have no further questions for Mr. Barrack.'"
9. Figure$ to make Speaker Pelosi smile
Speaker Pelosi poses with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after they met at the speaker's office in the U.S. Capitol on Friday. Photo: Office of Speaker Pelosi via Reuters

Building a daunting moat around the the House Dem majority, each of the 62 freshmen Ds has raised more than their top opponent, AP's Alan Fram reports.

  • That's also true for all 31 Dems from districts President Trump won in 2016.
  • And for all 39 Democrats who flipped Republican-held seats last November.
  • Why it matters: Those seats are the key GOP pathway to retaking the House.
10. 1 fun thing

Young men invade nail salons, forcing women to endure longer waits, The Wall Street Journal's Ray A. Smith writes (subscription):

  • "Men are crowding nail salons this summer, spurred by shifting attitudes about their grooming as well as the popularity of sandals from Gucci, Valentino, Rick Owens and other luxury brands."
  • "Macho entertainers and sports stars including LeBron James have posted videos of themselves getting pedicures."
Mike Allen

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