Jan 4, 2020

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Happy Saturday!

  • Today's Smart Brevity™ count: 968 words ... 3½ minutes.
1 big thing: Pivot to confrontation
This billboard in Tehran says in Persian: "Martyr Hajj Qasem Soleimani." Photo: Vahid Salemi/AP

In authorizing the targeted killing of top Iranian general Qasem Soleimani, President Trump chose his lifetime instinct for projecting strength over his vocal aversion to foreign intervention.

  • "Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him," Trump said at Mar-a-Lago.
  • "Soleimani made the death of innocent people his sick passion."

What's next: Leon Panetta — former CIA director, SecDef and White House chief of staff — told CNN's Wolf Blitzer that the U.S. is "closer to war with Iran than we’ve been in the last 40 years," and warned of a "cycle of violence that ... could take us to war."

  • "[T]he Iranians are going to plan, without question, an attack on either U.S. forces or U.S. bases either through their proxies or ... directly," Panetta said.
  • "We have a lot of troops stationed in the Middle East. We have a lot of targets that the Iranians could go after."

Behind the scenes: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "had gone to Palm Beach to brief Trump on airstrikes the Pentagon had just carried out in Iraq and Syria against Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia groups," the L.A. Times' David Cloud reports.

  • "One briefing slide ... listed several follow-up steps the U.S. could take, among them targeting Suleimani ... Unexpectedly, Trump chose that option."
Funeral procession for Soleimani in Baghdad today. Photo: Khalid al-Mousily/Reuters

In discussions that began over the weekend, officials "reminded Trump that after the Iranians mined ships, downed the U.S. drone and allegedly attacked a Saudi oil facility, he hadn’t responded," the WashPost reports (subscription).

  • Trump was motivated partly "by what he felt was negative coverage after his 2019 decision to call off the airstrike after Iran downed the U.S. surveillance drone."
  • "Trump was also frustrated that the details of his internal deliberations had leaked out and felt he looked weak."

The big picture: "The U.S. drone strike ... marks a pivot toward direct confrontation with Iran, further entangling the U.S. in the Middle East after years of trying to avoid a major conflict," The Wall Street Journal reports (subscription).

  • "With Islamic State seemingly routed in Iraq and Syria, and Tehran lashing out in the face of a deteriorating economy, the U.S. and Iran [are vying to] shape the ragged peace in an unsteady part of the world.”
2. Thousands in Baghdad mourn general
Photo: Popular Mobilization Forces Media Office, Iraq, via AP

Above: In Baghdad today, thousands of Iraqi mourners hold a funeral procession for Qasem Soleimani, with chants of: "America is the Great Satan."

Below: In Tehran, Iranians demonstrate yesterday against the U.S. airstrike.

Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images
3. Exclusive poll: Dynasty! GOP voters eye Ivanka, Don Jr. for 2024
Expand chart
Data: Online SurveyMonkey poll (Margin of error: ±2.5 percentage points). Chart: Axios Visuals

In a SurveyMonkey poll for Axios, Republican voters chose children of President Trump — Don Jr. and Ivanka — as two of the top four picks for president in four years, Neal Rothschild writes.

  • Why it matters: An early poll like this is largely a measure of name ID. But it's also a vivid illustration of just how strong Trump's brand is with the GOP.

Ivanka and Don Jr. are near the top of a long list of politicians who have held elected office, many of them vocal supporters of the president.

  • Don Jr. has emerged as one of the most prominent defenders of his dad, frequently going after the left on Twitter, where he has 4.2 million followers, and serving as a popular warm-up act for presidential rallies. In October, at a rally in San Antonio, the crowd chanted "2024!" as Don Jr. spoke.
  • Ivanka Trump has pushed paid family leave as part of her White House work, and represents the president on the world stage, including championing his Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative. She danced with women entrepreneurs in Paraguay, and visits American workplaces.

Go deeper: Carlos Lozada review of "Triggered" on the cover of tomorrow's WashPost Outlook section, "Donald Trump Jr. previews a 2024 presidential run."

4. Pics du jour
Photo: Lynne Sladky/AP

Above: Faith leaders pray with President Trump at a Miami church during yesterday's launch of his re-election campaign's Evangelicals for Trump coalition.

Below: Trump holds up a sign given to him at the rally. (He was co-author of a book called "Never Give Up," published in 2008.)

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images
5. 🐶 Paid family leave extends to pets, grandkids

A tightening labor market "and a vast cohort of millennial workers beginning to start families are putting pressure on employers to expand their benefits to attract and retain workers," the WashPost's Jena McGregor writes on the Sunday Business cover (subscription).

  • "Large employers are offering more weeks of paid leave to employees trying to meet family obligations, such as caring for an elderly parent or sick older child, coping with the death of a family member, or in some instances taking care of a new pet."

"We’re seeing an increasing trend in interest in covering things that plague families beyond parental leave," Carol Sladek, who leads work-life consulting for the human resources firm Aon, told The Post.

  • "It’s definitely bubbling up from employees: 'But what about me? I’ve already raised my kid. I’m in my 50s, and my 85-year-old mom is sick.'"
6. 1 city thing: Mansion tax
Manhattan sunset, seen in September from Arthur Ashe Stadium in Queens, home of the U.S. Open. Photo: TPN/Getty Images

"Average prices of Manhattan co-ops and condos fell to $1.8m in the fourth quarter, according to Douglas Elliman, the largest real estate brokerage in the New York City area," the Financial Times reports (subscription).

  • "The price per square foot ... declined 6.1 per cent to $1,581."
  • Why it matters: "The Manhattan property drop is in sharp contrast to the rally on Wall Street, where stock markets have hit new records."

What's happening: New York City's mansion tax, which took effect July 1, "levied a sliding scale of charges on apartments selling for more than $1m."

  • "Trump’s tax law limited the amount of state and local taxes households could deduct from their federal taxes."
  • That "has been blamed for spurring a flight by wealthy New Yorkers to Florida, which has no personal income tax."

Younger buyers still flooded into Brooklyn and Queens, and sought out studios and one-bedrooms in Manhattan, the FT added.

Mike Allen

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