Jan 15, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Monday morning. As we mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the WashPost opinion section has "tweetable quotations from the man we honor," including: "We must seek an integration based on mutual respect.”

1 big thing: "I'm not a racist"
President Trump, accompanied by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, arrives for dinner at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP's Andrew Harnik)

So far this year, President Trump has felt it necessary to declare publicly that he's "not a racist” and that he's "a very stable genius" — and it's Jan. 15.

This morning on "Fox & Friends," which gets the president's attention like no other news show, Brian Kilmeade had this advice for Trump on his heated immigration remarks:

  • "If the president wants to get ahead of this, to get momentum, he should make it clear: He's commenting on the countries, not the people in those countries."
  • "I would love for the president to go out and clarify the remarks."
  • See the clip.

That followed contortions on Sunday shows by Republicans who were in the Oval Office meeting:

  • The WashPost's Josh Dawsey tweeted last night: "White House official told me tonight there is debate internally on whether Trump said 'shithole' or 'shithouse.' [Republicans Sens. David Perdue of Georgia and Tom Cotton of Arkansas] seem to have heard latter, this person said, and are using to deny."

As the president headed into dinner at his Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach last evening, he was asked this not-normal question: "What do you say to people who say you're a racist?"

  • Trump answered: "No, no, I'm not a racist.  I am the least racist person you have ever interviewed, that I can tell you."
2. The only story that matters
In an unverified photo released by North Korea on Saturday, Kim Jong-un visits the State Academy of Sciences at an undisclosed location. (KCNA/ KNS via AFP/Getty Images)

The N.Y. Times has an ambitious roundup of military-wide preparations for a possible strike on North Korea, "Military Quietly Plans for a War It Doesn’t Want":

  • "Trump’s own words have left senior military leaders and rank-and-file troops convinced that they need to accelerate their contingency planning."
  • "[U]nlike the run-up to the Iraq war, when the Pentagon had already begun huge troop movements in 2002 to prepare for the invasion that began in 2003, military officials insist that this is not a case of a war train that has left the station."
  • "Some officials in the White House have argued that ... a targeted, limited strike could be launched with minimal, if any, blowback against South Korea — a premise that [Defense Secretary Jim] Mattis views with skepticism."
  • "But for Mr. Mattis, the planning serves to placate Mr. Trump. Effectively, analysts said, it alerts the president to how seriously the Pentagon views the threat and protects Mr. Mattis from suggestions that he is out of step with Mr. Trump."
3. A bot's encouraging forecast
Expand chart
Reproduced from GeoQuant; Chart: Axios Visuals

This year will be less risky than 2017, according to an AI-driven forecast, mainly because the world is already accustomed to the volatility created by Brexit and Donald Trump, Axios' Steve LeVine writes.

  • Mark Rosenberg, CEO of GeoQuant: "There is a stabilization effect by virtue of last year's uniqueness ... There is more stability in an unstable world."
4. Pic du jour
John Stillwell/PA via AP

Tom Cruise, doing is own stunts, runs along the rooftop of London's Blackfriars train station for "Mission Impossible 6."

5. Hawaii raises fears about real emergency
Honolulu's front page (via Newseum)

The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency says the operator who "selected the wrong menu option" has been "temporarily reassigned."

But an AP dispatch from Honolulu says residents and tourists "remained rattled."

  • Why it matters: "The blunder that caused more than a million people in Hawaii to fear that they were about to be struck by a nuclear missile fed skepticism Sunday about the government's ability to keep them informed in a real emergency."

Trump said: "[T]hat was a state thing. But we're going to now get involved with them. I love that they took responsibility. ... But we're going to get involved."

  • What's next ... FCC Chair Ajit Pai said: "Federal, state, and local officials throughout the country need to work together to identify any vulnerabilities to false alerts and do what’s necessary to fix them. We also must ensure that corrections are issued immediately."
6. Senator to give "Stalin" speech

Counterprogramming alert ... On Wednesday — coincidentally, the same day President Trump will present his Fake News Awards — retiring Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), will give a floor speech that includes these passages:

  • "'The enemy of the people,' was what the president of the United States called the free press in 2017. Mr. President, it is a testament to the condition of our democracy that our own president uses words infamously spoken by Josef Stalin to describe his enemies."
  • "When a figure in power reflexively calls any press that doesn’t suit him 'fake news,' it is that person who should be the figure of suspicion, not the press."
7. America's mood
A statue of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. overlooks 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Ala. (AP's Russell Contreras)

From a N.Y. Times roundup from black churches yesterday:

  • "In interviews at churches in Washington; Atlanta; Kansas City, Mo.; Miami; and Brockton, Mass., black Americans ... said they saw America slipping into an earlier, uglier version of itself."
8. Hang in there

AFP/Getty Images

In Turkey, a Pegasus Airlines Boeing 737 passenger plane got stuck in mud as it skidded off the airstrip at Trabzon Airport on the Black Sea coast.

  • 168 people were aboard, and all got out safely.
9. NFL's final four
Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Stefon Diggs, on his way to the game-winning, 61-yard, last-second touchdown. The Vikings shocked the Saints, 29-24. (AP's Jeff Roberson)

Super Bowl 52 is 20 days away ... AP pregames the four contenders:

  • "Tom Brady and the big game-tested Patriots (14-3) square off against the sack-happy Jacksonville Jaguars (12-6) next Sunday in the AFC championship game in Foxborough, Massachusetts — with the winner headed to the Super Bowl."
  • "In the NFC, Nick Foles and the resilient Philadelphia Eagles (14-3) host Case Keenum and the surprising Minnesota Vikings (14-3) — in a matchup of teams that overcame losing their starting quarterbacks."
  • The line: "The Vikings open as a 3 ½-point favorite against the Eagles, while the Patriots open favored by 9 1/2."
10. 1 fun thing

"Board game nights are having a moment," Marie Elizabeth Oliver writes in the WashPost:

  • Kyle Engen, founder of the Interactive Museum of Gaming and Puzzlery: "By our calculations, we are in the golden age of board games."
  • "There’s plenty of speculation about what’s driving the boom — video games, the Internet, millennials preferring to socialize at home, hygge-style — but Barry 'BJ' Rozas, a lawyer from Louisiana who moonlights as a board game reviewer, says it really comes down to one thing: 'Today’s games are better.'"
  • Matthew Hudak, toys and games analyst with Euromonitor International, cites a recent market report that sales of games and puzzles grew by 15% in 2016.
  • Hudak: “It’s something that has been bubbling up for years now, but 2016 was the most influential year for board games ... There were more than 5,000 board games introduced into the U.S. market last year.”

Our thought bubble ... As the friend who alerted us to this trend put it: "It's counterintuitive, but it makes sense." We think we all want to be on our screens. But with the world going so fast on social media, board games give us a chance to break away from the stress, relax and be real again.

Mike Allen

Thank you for reading, and see you all day in the Axios stream ...