Jun 2, 2019

Axios AM

🎬 See you at 6 p.m. ET/PT for the premiere of Season 2 of Axios on HBO ("What matters"), leading off with Jonathan Swan interviewing Jared Kushner, at home and at the White House.

🥞 Happy Sunday. Today's Smart Brevity count: 999 words ... < 4 minutes!

  • The most-read N.Y. Times story last week was Navy pilots reporting UFOs.
1 big thing: The unruly Democratic field

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The number of Democrats running for president is just too damn high. And that's causing problems for the candidates and the Democratic Party, Alexi McCammond reports.

  • The DNC is trying to narrow the field — and getting hammered for it.
  • The candidates are being forced to get creative to stand out.
  • And if some of their fundraising pitches are sounding more desperate, that's because they are.

Driving the news: The DNC has announced new rules for candidates to qualify for the September debates, which double the requirements for the summer debates.

  • There's still room for up to 20 candidates to participate (10 per night). But several of the 24 candidates are struggling to meet the requirements for the June 26-27 debates in Miami.

"The Democratic primary process is designed so that you don’t have 22 people in the race in June of an election year," said Adrienne Elrod, a Democratic strategist and former director of strategic communications for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

  • Because of the unusually large field, "candidates have to do more with less," Elrod added.

Staffing is one example — there are only so many people to go around.

  • At this point in 2015, Elrod said, Clinton's campaign had 20 communications staffers at her national headquarters. Kamala Harris currently has six.

Candidates' emails sound more urgent. Beto O'Rourke's campaign professed to be "leveling with you" about how "our fundraising has slowed down."

  • A recent fundraising email from Kirsten Gillibrand's campaign called her the "underdog in this race right now."
2. Tuesday is a big day for the world
Photo Jeff Widener/AP

Tomorrow and Tuesday mark 30 years since a pro-democracy protest in Beijing's Tiananmen Square ended in bloodshed.

  • Commemorations of the event are banned in mainland China, and those who merely discuss it are often punished by authorities. (AP)

Why it matters: The Chinese government still suppresses talk of Tiananmen Square because it recognizes that even police states can be vulnerable.

  • What to watch for: Will citizens in Beijing find a way to call attention to the anniversary, and how will the government react?

In the photo above, an unknown Chinese man became known as "tank man" after standing alone to block a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square.

Backstory: Early on June 5, 1989, AP photographer Jeff Widener, who had been smuggled into the Beijing Hotel by an American college exchange student, heard approaching tanks and rushed to his sixth-floor balcony.

  • "I started to take a photograph and a guy walks out with shopping bags and I'm thinking to myself, 'you know this guy's going to mess up my photograph,'" Widener told AP for an anniversary story.
  • What happened next: "The man moved at least twice to block the tanks and climbed on the turret of one to converse with a crew member. Eventually, he was whisked from the scene by two men in blue, whose identities, like that of the man himself, have never been revealed."

Below, Taiwanese take selfies yesterday with an inflatable "tank man" erected by an artist in Liberty Square, at Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall.

Photo: Chiang Ying-ying/AP
3. What freedom looks like

You might've heard ... Thursday is the 75th anniversary of D-Day, one of the most consequential 24 hours in modern history.

  • Sacrifice and heroism unfolded as the Allies moved stealthily to break Hitler's stranglehold on Europe on June 6, 1944.
  • Why it matters: D-Day, the horrifying tipping point of World War II, defined the future of the continent — and the free world. (AP)
Photo: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance via Getty Images

Above, historic U.S. military vehicles parked on Omaha Beach, France, yesterday as beachgoers bathed in freedom.

Below, U.S. assault troops land on Omaha Beach during the invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944.

Photo: Hulton Archive/Keystone via Getty Images
4. Pics du jour
Photos: City of Virginia Beach via AP

It was an hour before quitting time, as workers prepared to head home for the weekend, when a gunman stormed into Virginia Beach's public works building," The (Norfolk) Virginian-Pilot writes.

  • The gunman was a 40-year-old city engineer who had worked in the public utilities department for at least nine years. ("A quiet engineer who lived a quiet life on a quiet cul-de-sac," per the WashPost.)
  • He was shot dead in a gun battle with police. No motive is known.

His victims' service with the city ranged from 11 months to 41 years.

Bonus: Article du jour
President Trump welcomes MBZ in the Oval Office in 2017. (Photo: Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images)

"The Most Powerful Arab Ruler Isn’t M.B.S. It’s M.B.Z.," the N.Y. Times' David Kirkpatrick writes:

  • Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, 58, "crown prince of Abu Dhabi and de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, is arguably the most powerful leader in the Arab world."
  • "[H]e may be the richest man in the world. He controls sovereign wealth funds worth $1.3 trillion, more than any other country."

Why he matters: "He is also among the most influential foreign voices in Washington, urging the United States to adopt his increasingly bellicose approach to the region."

  • "[H]is influence in Washington appears greater than ever. He has a rapport with Mr. Trump, who has frequently adopted the prince’s views on Qatar, Libya and Saudi Arabia, even over the advice of cabinet officials or senior national security staff."

Incredible quote ... Bruce Riedel, a Brookings scholar and former CIA official:

  • "He thinks he is Machiavelli but he acts more like Mussolini."
5. America underwater
Photo: Yell County Sheriff's Department via AP

Above, water rushes through a breached levee along the Arkansas River, northwest of Little Rock in Dardanelle, hometown of Sen. Tom Cotton.

  • Spring flooding along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers is inundating the breadbasket and beyond, with emergencies this weekend in South Dakota Nebraska, Iowa (downtown Burlington overrun), Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana and more.

🚑 Beto O'Rourke is heading to Oklahoma to tour flood damage.

  • Go deeper with Axios Science Editor Andrew Freedman.
6. 1 AOC thing
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) works behind the bar at The Queensboro, a restaurant in Queens, to raise awareness for One Fair Wage, which aims to increase the federal minimum wage for tipped workers.

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