Sep 4, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Monday morning, and happy Labor Day. Enjoy the last unofficial day of summer, and thank you for joining Axios on this daily adventure through such a historic and consequential season.

1 big thing: A global crisis

Based on the past U.S. response to major provocations by North Korea, look for a show of force from the U.S. military, in conjunction with regional partners, in coming days. This could include a fly-over of the Korean Peninsula with nuclear-capable bombers, as well as joint training exercises. SecDef Jim Mattis set the tone with his stern statement at the White House: "We have many military options, and the President wanted to be briefed on each one of them. ... Any threat to the United States, or its territories – including Guam – or our allies will be met with a massive military response."Trump used cliffhanger language when asked, as he left church, if he plans to attack North Korea: "We'll see." Trump's dilemma in one paragraph, by the N.Y. Times' Glenn Thrush and Mark Landler: "[T]he crisis lays bare how his trade agenda — the bedrock of his economic populist campaign in 2016 — is increasingly at odds with the security agenda he has pursued as president. It is largely a problem of Mr. Trump's own making. Unlike several of his predecessors, who were able to press countries on trade issues while cooperating with them on security, Mr. Trump has explicitly linked the two, painting himself into a corner."We asked several national-security experts to read between the lines of the administration's response to this global crisis: Ian Bremmer, president and founder of Eurasia Group, emails: "trump's lack of foreign policy experience is coming to roost ... if there's a winner here so far, it's kim jong un. there's a reason that much more capable democrat and republican presidents have kicked this issue to their successors."CFR President Richard Haass, author of "A World in Disarray," said Mattis' language ("threat" rather than "capability") suggests the U.S. is focused on a preemptive response (against a threat deemed to be imminent), rather than a preventive attack, "something that would be unacceptable to many Americans and to South Korea."Haass II: "Preemption ... would place the onus on NK not to do something that would trigger a preemptive strike [put missiles on alert, or launch them] rather than on us to undertake a preventive, bolt out of the blue attack."Ned Price, a CIA alumnus and National Security Council spokesman under Obama: "[Y]ou see the pieces of a whole-of-government diplomatic response coming together." But Price said Trump personally "played right into Pyongyang's hands by creating daylight between our partners," South Korea.Be smart: In Trump's hawkish spontaneity and his administration's more deliberate response, we see this White House's enduring tension: Top aides try to erect guardrails around a president who resists them. Until now, the stakes have been smaller. Now? We'll see.

2. Can Congress save the Dreamers?

Trump is expected to announce tomorrow that he'll end protections for young immigrants who were brought into the country illegally as children, but with a six-month delay, per AP's Jill Colvin and Catherine Lucey:

  • "The delay in the formal dismantling of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA program, would be intended to give Congress time to decide whether it wants to address the status of the so-called Dreamers legislation."
  • But Politico's Eliana Johnson reports: "[A] senior White House aide said that chief of staff John Kelly, who has been running the West Wing policy process on the issue, 'thinks Congress should've gotten its act together a lot longer ago.'"
  • AP says it's unclear "how the six-month delay would work in practice and what would happen to people who currently have work permits under the program, or whose permits expire during the six-month stretch."
  • "Trump had been unusually candid as he wrestled with the decision ... During his campaign, Trump slammed DACA as illegal 'amnesty' and vowed to eliminate the program the day he took office. But since his election, Trump has wavered on the issue, at one point telling [AP] that those covered could 'rest easy.'"

Big businesses have been quietly working to protect workers whose lives and careers could be upended. Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted: "250 of my Apple coworkers are #Dreamers. I stand with them. They deserve our respect as equals and a solution rooted in American values."

And N.Y. Times columnist Nick Kristof tweeted: "Dreamers registered their addresses under DACA, so now the government knows exactly where to go to arrest them and their parents."

3. Houston humanity

New Yorker cartoonist Chris Ware "singled out moments of grace as inspiration for this week's cover. Ware, a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, reflected on his experience in the Lone Star State":

I lived in San Antonio in high school, in the mid-nineteen-eighties, and attended college in Austin ... I liked Houston for its big buildings, its diversity, and its slack zoning laws, which made neighborhoods unpredictable and surprising.

One night, my cartoonist friend John Keen and I stopped at a restaurant-bar that was about halfway to Houston, in the very Texas-sounding town of Winchester. The parking lot was locked and loaded with about two dozen pickup trucks, and, as scrawny liberal Austinites, we braced ourselves and pushed open the saloon doors, only to find black and white farmers talking and laughing, playing poker, and shooting pool together. In a corner, an interracial couple quietly ate barbecue. This Winchester bar, we realized, was more integrated than the University of Texas we'd just left.

Houston Chronicle banner, "Houston 'open for business' ... CITY OF CONTRASTS: As many residents return to life as normal, crisis continues for those displaced by Harvey." (Read the digital paper free.)

Bonus: What the president is reading

N.Y. Daily News goes with: "STOP THE KIMSANITY." (See the page.)

4. The talk of tech

The A.I. arms race ... "Secretive Apple Tries to Open Up on Artificial Intelligence: Tech giant launches a blog, participates in conferences as it seeks to draw attention to its AI efforts," by the Wall Street Journal's Tripp Mickle:

  • What's new: "The battle for artificial-intelligence expertise is forcing Apple ... to grapple with its famous penchant for secrecy, as tech companies seek to woo talent in a discipline known for its openness.
  • Why it matters: "The shift is driven by AI's growing importance in areas like self-driving cars and voice assistants such as Siri."
  • The tension: "Rivals including Alphabet Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Facebook Inc. have been racing for years to gather talent in the field — largely by recruiting Ph.D. students and professors from university computer-science programs. Those academics say they want to join companies but still publish regularly, present research and discuss their work."

P.S. Apple got the N.Y. Times to add a correction to its "The Great American Janitor Test" tour de force: "An earlier version of this article misstated a difference between Apple today and Kodak decades ago. Apple, like Kodak, has created tens of thousands of working-class jobs; it has not failed to do so."

5. Tops in media trends

Stat du jour, from a N.Y. Times piece about the "master class in marketing" for Taylor Swift's new album, "Reputation," which — believe it or not — doesn't drop in full until Nov. 10:

"In 2014, when Ms. Swift released her last album, '1989,' streaming accounted for only 23 percent of music consumption in the United States ... Now, streaming [including Spotify, Apple Music] is 63 percent of the market."

Static for Netflix for the movie theater ... "Earlier this month, New York- based MoviePass slashed its prices and launched a program allowing subscribers to watch one movie a day in its partnered theaters for less than $10 a month. The response was instantaneous: On the first day, heavy traffic crashed the website. By the second day, more than 150,000 people had signed up," per the San Jose Mercury News.

  • "But not everyone thinks the Netflix-like subscription model can work for movie theaters."
  • Shortly after the rollout, "AMC — MoviePass' biggest movie theater partner — ... denounced MoviePass's plan, saying 'that price level is unsustainable and only sets up consumers for ultimate disappointment down the road if or when the product can no longer be fulfilled.'"
  • "AMC also said it is considering legal action to stop MoviePass."
  • "MoviePass [takes] the brunt of the financial cost by paying for the difference between the $9.95 and the actual box office ticket cost per month per customer."
6. 1 thing to look forward to

"The Vietnam War," a 10-part, 18-hour documentary by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, premieres on PBS on Sunday, Sept. 17. Watch the trailer. Two great preview pieces that are worthy of your time:

"Ken Burns's American Canon: Even in a fractious era, the filmmaker still believes that his documentaries can bring every viewer in," by The New Yorker's Ian Parker:

There are more Vietnamese voices in "The Vietnam War" than Burns at first thought necessary. ... It has animated three-dimensional maps and foreign-language interviews. There's rock music, as well as a score commissioned from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross; Erik Ewers, a longtime editor at Florentine, who has worked on dozens of hours of film chivvied along by ragtime and bluegrass, told me, with feeling, that the opportunity to use "Dazed and Confused," by Led Zeppelin, was "a dream come true."

The film includes striking sequences in which well-known black-and-white photographs, always central to Burns's work, coëxist with color film and color photography. The subject, being recent and contested—and its traumas sometimes evident in the stiffness around the mouths of witnesses—has its own narrative potency. ... Still, when the narration begins, its liturgical phrasing, and its reach for a negotiated settlement among viewers, will seem familiar.

Savor the whole thing.

In "Ken Burns Tackles a Different Civil War," N.Y. Times ideas reporter Jennifer Schuessler says the film "offers an uncannily well-timed reflection of our current societal fractures — a kind of origin story for the culture wars."

  • "The $30 million film, more than 10 years in the making, offers an intensely immersive, often head-spinning history lesson, combining grand sweep and archival depth with sometimes devastatingly emotional first-person interviews with people from all sides (including more than two dozen Vietnamese, from both the winning and losing sides)."
  • "There are scenes covering 25 battles, 10 of which are examined from multiple perspectives."
  • "Every word of the script, written by the historian Geoffrey C. Ward, was carefully weighed. And perhaps none were as carefully debated as that opening narration, which describes the war as ending in 'failure' (not 'defeat,' Mr. Burns noted, though he used the word himself). 'I think we probably spent six months on the word 'failure.'"
  • "As for 'begun in good faith,' Mr. Burns said he stands by those words, which he said reflect the intentions of those who fought the war, even if they are perhaps 'too generous' to our leaders."
  • Worth the click: "Shot by Shot: Building a Scene in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick's Vietnam Epic."
Mike Allen