Feb 9, 2019

Axios AM

✈️ Good Saturday morning. Today is the 50th anniversary of the maiden flight of the Boeing 747 — the first "jumbo jet" — around Everett, Wash.

1 big thing: The Trump resist, delay, deflect plan
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

President Trump watched live cable coverage of yesterday's chippy Hill testimony by acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker, and liked what he saw.

  • "He liked the combative approach," said an outside West Wing adviser familiar with Trump's thinking. "He thought the Democrats were grandstanding."
  • Inside the White House, according to the adviser, here were the lessons learned: Do not give an inch, push back, resist, delay, deflect.
  • The officials recognize a key flaw in this strategy: Some Trump Cabinet members, likely bound for the witness chair, don't have the experience or agility to pull a Whitaker.

Longtime Hill watchers struggled to remember a time when an administration witness had treated a committee with such disdain:

  • In the most memorable moment, Whitaker sassed House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.): "Mr. Chairman, I see that your five minutes is up," using the committee's rules to bat away a question.
  • MSNBC host Ari Melber called Whitaker "remarkably rude … at times a jerk" to members who were asking straightforward questions.
  • Remember: The Senate is expected to confirm Bill Barr as attorney general as soon as next week. So Whitaker's performance is mainly a window into Whitaker.

A House Democratic leadership aide familiar with the new majority's investigation strategy told me after yesterday's hearing:

  • "We watched Dems, having been frustrated for two years with little to no oversight from the Republicans, demanding answers from a top administration official — the first under this new Congress — who came in belligerent and unwilling to cooperate is even the smallest ways."
  • "This is no means the end."

The GOP's gamble: The White House recognizes that it can do little to resist the House Dems' demands for testimony. Republicans just hope that over time, they can argue to their base that Dems have been guilty of overreach and "show trials."

  • A Republican political operative and Capitol Hill veteran told me: "It doesn’t take long for ordinary voters — who are very different from people in Washington — to start seeing participating committee members as pompous, rude and belittling, and begin to side with whoever is sitting in the hot seat."
2. Kara Swisher: Bezos' next battle

"Rather than struggling with his media foes in the quiet back room of a law firm," Recode co-founder Kara Swisher writes in her N.Y Times column, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos "decided to do it the internet way," much as President Trump does, "and just say it all out loud on Medium and Twitter."

  • "Bypassing the traditional media, he wrote a highly personal post alleging a shakedown."
  • "By pushing back, Mr. Bezos has taken a deeply embarrassing situation and turned it to his own advantage."

"While jokes abound, he’s having a bit of a heroic moment here, as the guy who will not take it anymore."

  • "Bezos is striking a blow for everyone. Regular people suffer data hacks and privacy violations daily, largely from having their information mined and manipulated in order to build enormous advertising businesses, as Facebook and Google do, or to sell us more stuff (hello, Amazon!)."

His next battle? "Bezos clearly is winning here. He should use the opportunity to reflect on how he can lead the fight to protect everyone’s privacy and digital dignity, even as he takes back his own."

3. U.S. dominance in tech wealth creation upended by Asia wave

"A shift is underway among the world’s richest young entrepreneurs. ... [The Asia-Pacific region] is home to a rise in new self-made billionaires," Bloomberg's Andrew Heathcote writes.

  • "Six of the world's 10 wealthiest self-made billionaires age 40 and under are from the Asia-Pacific region, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index."
  • "Four are Chinese and two are Australian."
  • "Just three are from the U.S., which used to dominate the list."
Bonus: Pic du jour

David Ryder/Getty Images

A woman shops for bread yesterday at a grocery store in Seattle, which was enveloped by a rare series of snowstorms.

4. Second accuser rattles Virginia

A classic lead ... "RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia's state government seemed to come unglued Friday as an embattled Gov. Ralph Northam made it clear he won't resign and the man in line to succeed him was hit with another sexual assault accusation and barraged with demands that he step down, too."

  • "Top Democrats, including a number of presidential hopefuls and most of Virginia's congressional delegation, swiftly and decisively turned against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, who stands to become the state's second black governor if Northam quits."
  • "It is obvious that a vicious and coordinated smear campaign is being orchestrated against me," Fairfax said. "I will not resign."

How Northam has hung on for over a week:

  • By staying out of sight! "He promised to start an honest conversation about race and how to heal the lingering wounds of Virginia's painful past. Then he disappeared," AP's Alan Suderman writes.
5. China is playing leapfrog

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The West is hobbled by blind spots when it comes to China’s ambitions to dominate next-generation technologies like AI, robotics and quantum computing, but experts say its history makes the U.S. uniquely ill suited to navigate this seismic shift, writes Axios' Kaveh Waddell.

What's happening: China all but missed out on the West's 20th century technological explosion. However, its lagging position may become a boon as it attempts to leapfrog over the West, experts say.

  • This edge is called a second-mover advantage — "the advantage of being behind," says Gregory C. Allen, of the Center for a New American Security, author of a new report on China's AI ambitions.
  • The U.S. military has long held a lead in both spending and technology, but the physics of inertia threaten to keep it stuck making incremental improvements to the 20th century tech that pushed it to the top.
6. 1 surf thing
Photograph by Dina Litovsky/Redux for The New York Times

"The Fight for Gender Equality in One of the Most Dangerous Sports on Earth ... These women want the right to compete in big-wave contests — and get paid as much as men do," by Daniel Duane in tomorrow's New York Times Magazine:

One of [Keala] Kennelly’s Teahupoo barrels had won Barrel of the Year in a so-called open category that includes men, marking the first time a female surfer had ever won. Onstage that night behind a black lectern that made her seem tiny, Kennelly leaned into a microphone.
"When I was a little girl, I didn’t really want to be a little girl," she said. "Because when I was a little girl, I kept getting told, 'You can’t do that because you’re a girl.'" She rattled off a litany: "'Women can’t surf.' 'O.K., women can surf, but women can’t get barreled.' 'Women can’t surf big waves.'" Visibly moved, she continued. "So, who I really, really want to thank is everybody in my life that told me, 'You can’t do that because you’re a woman.' Because that drove me to dedicate my life to proving you wrong, and it’s been so damn fun."

Hang 10.