Aug 20, 2018

Axios AM

Good Monday morning.

1 big thing ... Fight club: New debate rules for Trump era

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Trumpy tantrums ... Trump wannabes ... Real-time fact-checking ... Insults and nicknames.

In this age of reality show politics, those are the new quirks of political debating that midterm candidates will face this fall.

  • "Debates are much more confrontational now," said Ron Klain, a debate-prep guru for every Democratic presidential candidate back to Bill Clinton in 1992.
  • "The emphasis has shifted from persuading undecided voters to motivating your own supporters, and showing your supporters you'll fight for what you believe in."

To help candidates adapt, Klain and John Neffinger, a messaging expert and debate coach, today will share their new debate survival guide with scores of Democratic campaigns and committees.

  • Axios AM has a first look at the 10-page memo, an update of an advice guide Klain wrote in 2006, then has updated in off-year cycles.

The new edition has 40 tips and tricks. Four of the juiciest, adapted for Axios readers:

1. Debates today are pugilistic encounters: There is no playing for a tie.

  • The debate "judges" — the media (old and new) and the voters — have come to see debates as a competitive exercise, not just an information delivery opportunity, and they are looking for a winner to crown and a loser to shame.
  • "Staying above the fray," "just getting my own message out," and "pretending like my opponent isn’t there" are not viable debate strategies.

2. Debating a Trump wannabe: Many Republican candidates are patterning their political performances after Donald Trump: arrogant, antagonistic, filled with insults and nicknames.

  • Your Republican opponent may have ridden such a strategy to victory in his/her GOP primary debates.
  • We are skeptical that approach will do well in general election debates.
  • If you face a wannabe-Trump, don’t get rattled: You can turn his strength into a weakness.
  • Klain told me the way to do that is: "Be prepared to combat canned lines, keep a calm demeanor, and listen for the openings — when they're swinging wildly, that leaves their body open for counterpunches."

3. Nine times out of 10, the winner of the debate is also the person who seems to be enjoying themselves more.

  • This will be stunningly effective in the face of Trump-style tantrums.
  • Make a note at the top of your paper on the podium that reminds you to stay in a good mood so that a small, easy smile shows.
  • That small smile shows you’re a "happy warrior."

4. You are not running to be the editor of Politifact: It can be tempting to make correcting such errors and deceptions the essence of your debate strategy. But that can be a mistake.

  • The audience expects politicians (i.e. both of you) to bend the truth, won’t necessarily believe your word over your opponent’s, and won’t relate to you if they can’t follow your argument.
  • Your opponent may be lying specifically to try to upset you and get you off your message.
  • Always consider: Is the most powerful/effective/important response to what my opponent has said a fact check? Or is a counterattack, substantive rebuttal, or pivot a better use of time?

Go deeper: Read the full memo.

2. Trump's Orwellian phrases

Rudy Giuliani on Sunday let fly with the new "alternative facts," as the Trump administration drumbeat goes on:

  • Kellyanne Conway on "Meet the Press," Jan. 22, 2017: "alternative facts."
  • President Trump, daily: "fake news."
  • Trump to the VFW National Convention in Kansas City, Mo., on July 25: "And just remember: What you’re seeing and what you’re reading is not what’s happening."
  • Giuliani on "Meet the Press" yesterday: "Truth isn’t truth."
  • Slogans of the Party in George Orwell's "1984": "War is peace ... Freedom is slavery ... Ignorance is strength."
3. First look: Pentagon, State alumni join clearance outcry

With a third star-studded letter, 175+ additional alumni of top national security jobs are joining the bipartisan outcry against President Trump's stripping of former CIA Director John Brennan's security clearance.

  • An organizer tells me: "This third statement includes career officials — from Nick Rasmussen, former Director of NCTC, to Bill Burns, former Deputy Secretary of State, to Doug Wise, former Deputy Director of DIA, to political folks from both sides of the aisle — including Tony Lake, former National Security Advisor and Sean O’Keefe, former Secretary of the Navy and NASA Administrator as well as more than 10 former U.S. Ambassadors and more than 20 former U.S. Attorneys."

Michael Morell — former CIA acting director, and host of the CBS News "Intelligence Matters" podcast — tells me Trump's approach has backfired:

  • "People are essentially saying to the president: 'We will not be intimidated by you. For those of us who have been speaking up, we will continue to. And if we haven't been, we’re going to start speaking up.'"
  • "This is a great example of democracy — exactly what all these folks who signed the letters spent their lives defending."

See the newest letter.

4. Cover du jour
Courtesy New York Magazine

David Hogg, 18, after Parkland ... New York Magazine cover story by Lisa Miller:

  • "Furious and unflinching, a youth icon and an NRA enemy, an accused 'crisis actor' attracting death threats, and a high-school graduate trying to figure out what’s next."
  • During this summer's "March for Our Lives: Road to Change" tour, there was "a therapist on the bus, chosen by the students but insisted upon by their parents, along with a trio of hefty security guards whose job was not just to protect the kids but to constantly assess the level of threat against Hogg in particular."

"Hogg, in fact, was frequently not on the bus but traveling separately in a black SUV accompanied by bodyguards."

  • A "representative from Precision Strategies, a communications firm founded by members of the 2012 Obama campaign [Stephanie Cutter, Jen O'Malley Dillon, Teddy Goff], frequently traveled with them, as well as Michael Skolnik, once the political director for Russell Simmons and co-founder of the Soze Agency."
5. Stat of the day

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

More than 90% of 251 U.S. economists surveyed by the National Association for Business Economics "said they think the Trump administration's current and threatened tariffs will harm the economy," AP reports.

  • 80% said "the administration’s efforts to ease regulations would boost growth in the short run. ... [N]early half said they felt deregulation would have negative consequences over the long term."

Coming attractions ... On Wednesday, the bull market will become the largest in history — 9 years, 5 months and 13 days old, passing the record from the tech-and-dotcom boom of the 1990s, Axios future editor Steve LeVine reports.

  • This bull run has returned about 320% through Friday's close, compared with 417% for the dotcom boom — making it almost 25% smaller at the same point in its life, according to LPL Financial.
6. Today's trend

Out: Moving ... Fewer U.S. workers are moving for jobs, "as changing family ties and more openings near home make people less willing to uproot," per the Wall Street Journal:

  • "About 3.5 million people relocated for a new job last year, ... a 10% drop from 3.8 million in 2015."
7. Hot August action

Michael Cohen, "Trump’s Ex-Lawyer, Investigated for Bank Fraud in Excess of $20 Million," the N.Y. Times' William Rashbaum, Ben Protess and Maggie Haberman report:

  • "The inquiry has entered the final stage and prosecutors are considering filing charges by the end of August."
  • "If the matter is not finalized by the end of August, prosecutors probably will wait until after the election."
  • "That schedule would conform with the Justice Department’s informal policy of avoiding bringing politically sensitive cases that could influence voters close to an election."

Oops! "Trump Lawyers' Sudden Realization: They Don’t Know What [White House counsel] Don McGahn Told Mueller’s Team," per N.Y. Times' Maggie Haberman and Mike Schmidt:

  • "Trump's lawyers realized on Saturday that they had not been provided a full accounting after The New York Times published an article describing Mr. McGahn’s extensive cooperation with Mr. Mueller’s office."
  • Why it matters: "Legal experts and former White House counsels said the president’s lawyers had been careless in not asking Mr. McGahn what he had planned to tell Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors."
8. Blunt talk on why we've divided on climate

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Climate change is the single-most polarized policy priority in the U.S.

Axios' Amy Harder unpacks some of the reasons in her "Harder Line" energy column:

  • Listening to some interest groups and politicians, fossil fuels are either terrible for the planet or a godsend to humanity. The truth is, they’re some of both.
  • Many Republicans, industry officials and right-leaning news organizations continue to dismiss or openly mock the scientific community’s warnings about climate change. This comes despite acceptance of science on other issues like health care and GMOs.
  • More recently, Republicans indirectly acknowledge climate change is occurring — but still don't say it.
  • News outlets, politicians, and interest groups sometimes exaggerate claims that then backfire.

Go deeper.

9. #MeToo leader paid her own accuser
Asia Argento marches in Rome on Jan. 20. (Photo by Simona Granati - Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

"The Italian actress and director Asia Argento was among the first women in the movie business to publicly accuse the producer Harvey Weinstein ... Her boyfriend, ... Anthony Bourdain, eagerly joined," the N.Y. Times' Kim Severson writes:

  • "But in the months that followed her revelations about Mr. Weinstein last October, Ms. Argento quietly arranged to pay $380,000 to her own accuser."
  • "Jimmy Bennett, a young actor and rock musician[,] ... said she had sexually assaulted him in a California hotel room ... when he was only two months past his 17th birthday. She was 37. The age of consent in California is 18."

"The documents ... were sent to The New York Times through encrypted email by an unidentified party."

10. 1 book thing: Obama's summer reading list

In a Facebook post, President Obama shared five books that he's been reading this summer "when things slow down just a bit, whether it’s on a vacation with family or just a quiet afternoon":

  • "Educated," by Tata Westover: "A remarkable memoir of a young woman raised in a survivalist family in Idaho who strives for education while still showing great understanding and love for the world she leaves behind."
  • "Warlight," by Michael Ondaatje: "A meditation on the lingering effects of war on family."
  • "A House for Mr. Biswas," by V.S. Naipaul, which Obama said he reread after the author's recent passing: "The Nobel Prize winner's first great novel about growing up in Trinidad and the challenge of post-colonial identity."
  • "An American Marriage," by Tayari Jones: "A moving portrayal of the effects of a wrongful conviction on a young African-American couple."
  • "Factfulness," by Hans Rosling: "A hopeful book about the potential for human progress when we work off facts rather than our inherent biases."

Share the list.

Thanks for reading, and see you all day on