Mar 1, 2021

Axios AM

🦁 Good Monday morning, and welcome to March. Smart Brevity™ count: 1,163 words ... 4½ minutes.

⚡ Situational awareness ... The U.S. has a third COVID vaccine: The FDA cleared a Johnson & Johnson shot that works with just one dose. The White House said the entire J&J stockpile will go out immediately. Go deeper.

1 big thing: Biden's thin, short path

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

President Biden has a thin, short path to success in his first six to nine months, top advisers tell me. His success, or failure, will dictate whether he can hold off both Republican critics — and activist Democrats who want him to go bigger, faster.

The big picture: Biden has to get vaccinations moving and the stimulus bill pumping, so the economy will start rocking, advisers tell me. That’s why he loaded his White House with veteran loyalists focused almost exclusively on these two topics.

  • Success would put him in a maximalist position with the public — and Congress. Behind the scenes, top advisers worry that even with maximalist power, the reality of what awaits him will leave little room for celebration.

Cedric Richmond, White House senior adviser and director of the Office of Public Engagement, told me in an interview for "Axios on HBO" that the White House feels "an extreme sense of urgency."

  • "We're not passing the buck," Richmond said. "It all falls on our doorstep. But President Biden ran for president knowing those things, and he's going to address them."
  • "It's going to be hard — very hard. But we're going to give it all of our attention, all of our might, and we're going to try to our damndest."

Richmond said the White House will continue to make overtures to Republicans, but made it clear Biden is prepared to push through his $1.9 trillion rescue plan with just a couple or even zero GOP votes.

  • "I can tell you on the American Rescue Plan," Richmond said, "if our choice is to wait and go bipartisan with an insufficient package, we're not gonna do that."

What's next: There's not a lot of joy in store for this presidency. Even in the best-case scenario — the virus abates; the economy roars — look at the known unknowns that Biden faces, and that could suddenly consume his presidency:

  • Another pandemic.
  • A rising China.
  • A cyberattack, like the one we just saw carried out by the Russians.
  • More countries getting nukes.

🎬 See a clip. ... Go deeper: Richmond sees first-term progress on reparations.

2. Catastrophes awaiting America: A list

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

FEMA published a long list of foreseeable events that could stress our national capabilities past the breaking point, Felix Salmon writes:

  • Earthquakes are at the top of the list. The scariest one, which could be as large as 9.2 on the Richter scale, will take place someday in the Pacific Northwest, which is ill-prepared for such a catastrophe along the Cascadia Subduction Zone. Other regions at risk are California, along the San Andreas Fault, and the New Madrid Seismic Zone on the Arkansas–Tennessee border.
  • An extreme solar flare could be utterly devastating, causing a magnetic storm powerful enough to result in power outages across most or all of the country. Such an event caused major damage in 1859, when America was much less electrified.
  • A cyberattack would have a similar effect in terms of its impact on the information economy — but could be even harder to recover from if the attack was maintained indefinitely.
  • Hurricanes and wildfires are now an annual occurrence. But Miami, Houston, Los Angeles and other major cities — including D.C. — have done very little in terms of beefing up their ability to withstand such events.
  • The next pandemic could be much deadlier than this one, and even more disruptive.

The bottom line: Catastrophe will strike. Building resilience now would save trillions of dollars — and possibly millions of lives.

3. Cuomo admits women felt "unwanted flirtation"

Cuomo, a week ago today: Screenshot: CNN

When I asked a top New York Dem how much trouble Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in, the source replied: "You never notice how fragile the dam is until it breaks. And a tiny break can bring the whole thing down very quickly."

  • When I asked the source how I could describe them, they replied: "One of many New York politicos who Cuomo has yelled at over the years."

After a couple of inadequate statements about the second accusation of sexual harassment by a former aide, Cuomo said in a 5:45 p.m. statement:

  • "I acknowledge some of the things I have said have been misinterpreted as an unwanted flirtation. To the extent anyone felt that way, I am truly sorry about that."
  • "To be clear I never inappropriately touched anybody and I never propositioned anybody and I never intended to make anyone feel uncomfortable."

After trying to give a political crony partial control of the investigation, Cuomo said he'll cooperate with state Attorney General Letitia James.

4. New England power drama

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Amy Harder, one of the original Axios experts, is now vice president of publishing at Breakthrough Energy, where she's launching a journalism initiative. She'll write Harder Line monthly, as an outside contributor:

A 150-mile proposed power line sending Canadian hydropower to New England is the latest strange bedfellows fight over energy infrastructure.

  • Corporations are pouring millions into the fight, with the developers vastly outspending opponents. Environmental groups are divided, and are pressuring President Biden to further review the project.

Keep reading.

5. Liberal towns push to ban new gas stations

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Petaluma, Calif., has voted to outlaw new gas stations — the first of what climate activists hope will be numerous cities and counties to do so, Axios Cities author Jennifer A. Kingson writes.

  • Why it matters: The movement aims to accelerate the shift to electric vehicles, and does not apply to existing gas stations.

Keep reading.

6. Trump returns with boast, lie
President Trump arrives on stage yesterday. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

President Trump, in his first appearance since leaving office, teased MAGA America with hints he'd run in 2024, and still didn't concede: "How the hell is it possible that we lost? It's not possible."

  • "Trumpism," Trump mused at CPAC in Orlando, to a crowd with more hats than masks. "A new term being used more and more. I'm hearing that term more and more — I didn't come up with it."

Go deeper: Details of Trump's 90-minute speech, from Alayna Treene and Orion Rummler.

7. "Axios on HBO": Reddit and FireEye CEOs, Miami mayor

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Reddit CEO Steve Huffman told Erica Pandey on "Axios on HBO" that the company supports porn on its platform, as long as it's not exploitative.

Other highlights from "Axios on HBO" ...

  • FireEye CEO Kevin Mandia tells Axios editor-in-chief Nicholas Johnston that everyday Americans will be "dragged into" the next cyberwar.
  • Miami mayor Francis Suarez tells Axios Markets editor Dion Rabouin that plans to attract Big Tech could hurt the city's poor. Plus: The mayor on Bitcoin.
8. Exclusive: Teneo buys stake in WestExec; Chris Dodd joins Teneo

WestExec co-founder Michèle Flournoy. Photo: Chris Kleponis/AFP via Getty Images

Teneo, the global CEO advisory firm, will announce today that it has bought a "significant minority stake" in WestExec Advisors, and former Sen. Chris Dodd today will become a senior adviser at Teneo.

  • Why it matters: The moves reflect shifting power centers in the Biden era. WestExec is among the firms with the very closest connections to the administration — Secretary of State Tony Blinken was a founder. And this shows New York-based Teneo making a big play in D.C.

Executives at the two firms, both growing aggressively, tell me they already had some overlapping clients. With this "strategic partnership," they'll offer integrated services but will continue to run separately.

  • WestExec co-founders and managing partners Michèle Flournoy, Sergio Aguirre and Nitin Chadda specialize in geopolitical risk advice — protecting intellectual property from foreign actors, for instance, and mitigating supply-chain exposure.
  • Teneo, led by chairman and CEO Declan Kelly, has more than 850 employees in 20 offices around the world, and provides consulting to CEOs of a significant number of the Fortune 100 and FTSE 100.
9. 🎥 Streamers win at virtual Globes

"Best supporting actor" nominees, with winner Daniel Kaluuya for "Judas and the Black Messiah," now on HBO Max. Photo: NBC via AP

Netflix and Disney took most of the prizes at the Golden Globes, with Amazon's streaming service also a winner, Bloomberg reports.

  • The top award — best drama — went to Chloé Zhao's "Nomadland," a Western set amid economic upheaval and personal grief.
Photo: NBC via AP

Illusion: This is a split screen of bicoastal hosts Tina Fey at the Rainbow Room in New York and Amy Poehler at the Beverly Hilton.

10. 1 fun thing: Axios tries Froot Loops pizza

Photo: Linh Ta/Axios

Axios Des Moines author Linh Ta this weekend tried the monstrous "Loopy Fruit Pizza" lighting up social media in Iowa.

  • The 16" pie from Fong's on Forest costs $20, and is topped with cream cheese, mozzarella cheese, vanilla icing and Froot Loops.

Read Linh's review.

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