Aug 20, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

🗳️ Happy Thursday! Live now: Axios convention hub, app channel (Apple, Android).

🛸 For the finale of our convention-week Axios virtual events, join Axios’ Ina Fried tomorrow at 12:30 p.m. ET for a conversation about the future of ride-sharing.

1 big thing: Obama lets loose

Photo: Democratic National Convention via AP

It was an extraordinary moment in American history — an ex-president saying the sitting president would tear down our democracy to hold power.

  • It's hard to overstate the power of President Barack Obama's speech last night to the virtual Democratic National Convention — how remarkable it is for a former president to deliver a warning like that about a sitting president:
[T]his president and those in power — those who benefit from keeping things the way they are — they are counting on your cynicism. They know they can’t win you over with their policies. So they’re hoping to make it as hard as possible for you to vote, and to convince you that your vote doesn’t matter.
That’s how they win. ... That's how a democracy withers, until it’s no democracy at all.
We can't let that happen. ... Don’t let them take away your democracy.

Between the lines: It was as if Obama, who reinforced the stakes by speaking from the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia, let loose frustrations he's been holding back for four years.

  • It's not the first time Obama has voiced his concerns about Trump, but he's always kept some level of restraint.
  • You could hear hints of the constitutional law professor he used to be, as well as a former president who seems genuinely appalled by his successor:
I have sat in the Oval Office with both of the men who are running for president. I never expected that my successor would embrace my vision or continue my policies. I did hope, for the sake of our country, that Donald Trump might show some interest in taking the job seriously ...
But he never did. For close to four years now, he’s shown no interest in putting in the work; no interest in finding common ground; no interest in using the awesome power of his office to help anyone but himself and his friends; no interest in treating the presidency as anything but one more reality show that he can use to get the attention he craves.
Donald Trump hasn’t grown into the job because he can’t. And the consequences of that failure are severe: 170,000 Americans dead, millions of jobs gone while those at the top take in more than ever. Our worst impulses unleashed, our proud reputation around the world badly diminished and our democratic institutions threatened like never before.

See video, more highlights.

  • Reporting was contributed by David Nather, Margaret Talev, Alexi McCammond and Alayna Treene.
2. Inside the hall with Harris

Photo: Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama originally was envisioned as the closer for the convention's third night. But Axios is told that after the selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as running mate, Obama's team suggested to the DNC that he go before her — symbolically passing the torch to the next generation of leaders.

  • With her historic acceptance speech as the first woman of color on a major-party ticket, Harris seemed to be talking directly to younger voters, taking the responsibility of getting them motivated — and excited in a way they might not be excited about Joe Biden:
I’m inspired by a new generation of leadership. You are pushing us to realize the ideals of our nation, pushing us to live the values we share: decency and fairness, justice and love.

Harris began with a nod to the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote — and the long delayed realization of that power for Black women ("But they were undeterred"), before turning to her parents' immigrant stories and her own experience. 

  • "[T]here is no vaccine for racism," she said. "We've gotta do the work. For George Floyd. For Breonna Taylor. For the lives of too many others to name. For our children. For all of us."
Photo: Carolyn Kaster/AP

Axios' Alexi McCammond, who was a pool reporter in the Chase Center in downtown Wilmington as Harris took the stage, writes:

We got another COVID check despite getting tested in the morning. We were asked to wear medical masks instead of the ones we had. We sat in an auditorium that felt like a college lecture hall and watched the convention on a big projection screen. Then we were escorted to this room where it was so silent you could hear a pin drop. No one could get up from chairs except for photographers.
Harris didn’t greet us when she came out (obviously not supposed to because she’s going live), but that added to the weirdness of the new normal reality. She delivered this sweeping speech to a silent room of 30 reporters.
Afterward, no applause (obviously). Biden came out and it was even more awkward because they stood so far apart. Harris clapped at the screen after her speech. Then her husband Doug and Dr. Jill Biden came out and they waved, and then they left. 

See video, more highlights.

3. Pics du jour: Dems' Night 3

Speaker Pelosi said she has seen President Trump's disrespect "firsthand." Photo: Democratic National Convention via Getty Images

The speakers on the convention's third night — led by Sen. Kamala Harris in her historic acceptance speech as the first running mate of color — portrayed Joe Biden as someone with a record on progressive causes, not just a boring centrist.

  • There was lots of talk about Biden's accomplishments on issues important to Democratic voters — fighting domestic violence (the Violence Against Women Act), gun control (the assault weapons ban) and health care (helping to pass the Affordable Care Act).
  • Guns, climate change, immigrants and women's rights: Democrats repeatedly spoke to four of the most impassioned movements in their party.
Photo: Democratic National Convention via Getty Images

Recalling a moment when President Trump asked Black voters in 2016 what they had to lose by supporting him, Hillary Clinton said: "Now we know."

🗞️ How it's playing ...

The Boston Globe
4. The new commute: "15-minute cities" make comeback

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

One result of our sustained stay-at-home situation is a heightened interest in staying close to home even after the pandemic subsides, Axios' Kim Hart writes.

  • Enter the 15-minute city, a "complete neighborhood" that centers around the idea that residents can meet most of their daily needs by walking or bicycling a short distance — i.e., 15 to 20 minutes — from their homes.

Why it matters: Strategically clustering food outlets, doctors' offices, schools, pharmacies, banks, smaller-scale offices and places for recreation in a close proximity to the people who need them can shrink the "deserts" of essential services in distressed neighborhoods.

  • 🏙️ Sign up for Kim Hart's Axios Cities newsletter.
5. America's first $2 trillion company

CEO Tim Cook speaks to an Apple developer conference in San Jose last year. Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple made Wall Street history when its 2020 stock surge pushed its market value over $2 trillion, a first for a U.S. company, Bloomberg reports.

  • "While it took Apple 38 years to reach its first $1 trillion in value, the next trillion only took two years."
  • Apple shares have more than doubled since March.

Crazy stat: Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook and Google's parent company, Alphabet, account for 23% of the S&P 500's entire value.

  • Saudi Aramco in December became the world's first company worth $2 trillion, but now trails Apple at $1.8 trillion.
6. Biden's climate plans

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Joe Biden is unlikely to pursue a carbon tax if he wins in November, according to several people familiar with his campaign's thinking, Axios' Amy Harder reports.

  • It reflects the Democratic Party’s overall movement away from a carbon price and a new focus on economic recovery and equality, though a campaign spokesperson declined to comment.

"A real disadvantage of just a pricing scheme is you can’t directly attack the environmental injustice problem," said Democratic operative John Podesta.

  • "In contrast, Biden has proposed that 40% of the [clean energy] investments go to distressed communities."

Go deeper.

7. New Trump ad paints Biden as "radical left"

Screenshot via YouTube

The Trump campaign is launching a new ad as Joe Biden accepts the Democratic nomination, accusing him of embracing "radical left" policies for the country, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

  • The campaign has been seeking to use socialism a wedge issue, and one official tells Axios they think this week's convention footage will help to paint Biden as "a socialist sympathizer."

Why it matters: The ad aims to scare centrists and older Americans who feel uneasy about progressive Democratic figures, like Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

8. Scoop: Jon Meacham speaks on Democratic convention's last night
Jon Meacham on the NBC News set outside the funeral of Sen. John McCain, at the Washington National Cathedral in 2018. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

For the finale of the Democratic National Convention, historian Jon Meacham will speak from Nashville, urging Americans to remember that "history, which will surely be our judge, can also be our guide. ... From Seneca Falls to Selma to Stonewall, we're at our best when we build bridges, not walls."

  • The assignment from the Democratic Party was spare yet daunting: Define "The Soul of America," the title of Meacham's 2018 bestseller.
  • Oh, and please keep it under five minutes.

Previewing his remarks, Meacham, who also eulogized George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush in 2018, told me the common denominator of the best of American history is liberation and hope, not fear and selfishness:

It's not a partisan issue. Presidents from Truman to Reagan to Bush 41 prevailed in the Cold War, which was about freedom versus tyranny. And at home, do you want to be Bull Connor, or John Lewis? Joe McCarthy, or Margaret Chase Smith? Do you want to tear down, or do you want to build?

Meacham speaks from his library, surrounded by photos and posters from past presidential campaigns — including a portrait of Lewis, Meacham's latest subject ("His Truth Is Marching On," out Tuesday).

  • "By habit, I see the world historically and theologically," said Meacham, a devout Episcopalian and author of 10 books. "History and theology tell us we're at our best when we look outward rather than inward."

Meacham's roots are in journalism: He said he's voted for candidates of both parties, and has never endorsed a candidate before.

  • "This president poses such a clear and present danger to the things we should value most that I think it's incumbent on all of us who believe that to say something."
  • "Joe Biden is a good man. We need him."
9. Worthy cover
Courtesy TIME
10. 1 fun thing: Malls become drive-ins

Westfield Garden State Plaza, in Paramus, N.J. Photo: Dave Kotinsky/Polk Imaging for Westfield via AP

After being closed for months, malls are bringing all types of drive-in entertainment to their massive parking lots, hoping to lure people back to their properties, AP's Joseph Pisani reports.

  • A mall in upstate New York is hosting a drive-in wrestling match, and others are trying movies and magic shows.
Mike Allen

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