Jul 29, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Sunday morning.

The president is making news with pre-brunch tweets: "I would be willing to 'shut down' government if the Democrats do not give us the votes for Border Security, which includes the Wall!"

  • "Had a very good and interesting meeting at the White House with A.G. Sulzberger, Publisher of the New York Times. Spent much time talking about the vast amounts of Fake News being put out by the media & how that Fake News has morphed into phrase, 'Enemy of the People.' Sad!"

Axios' Alexi McCammond is in Michigan this weekend, following the gubernatorial campaign of Abdul El-Sayed, 33. Follow us on Instagram for dispatches.

1 big thing ... Both parties' way to win: Trump it

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Midterms are 100 days from today ... Control of Congress, much like everything in politics, media and culture these days, will come down one thing: Trump. 

  • Can Democrats turn Trump venting into anti-Trump voting?
  • And does the Trump bag of tricks — bashing immigration, the media, witch hunts and the MS-13 gang — work for local Republicans, who'll need Trump-like turnout? 

Trump, of course, wants it to be about Trump, telling Fox News' Sean Hannity that he plans to campaign "six or seven days a week when we're 60 days out" — just after Labor Day.

  • And so do Dems. In this year's opening wave of ads for Congress, Trump was mentioned in nearly 40% of GOP ads — and in 27% of Democratic ads, USA Today reported using data from Kantar Media.

The Boston Globe's Matt Viser found the same phenomenon in ads for Florida governor and elsewhere — nationally, more than a quarter of political ads mention Trump.

  • Ken Goldstein, a professor at the University of San Francisco who has done extensive research on political ads, told Viser this is a perfect storm for presidential mentions: “In 2002 you had pro-incumbent president ads. In 2010, it was all anti-incumbent president ads. And then this year, it’s both.”

National Journal's Josh Kraushaar notes the president's winning record with primary endorsements:

  • "Trump is the GOP’s King Midas, turning even some underwhelming candidates into unbeatable juggernauts — at least among rank-and-file Republican voters."

But here's one of the reasons Dems are favored to take the House: Jonathan Swan points out that for some vulnerable Republicans running in swing districts, not only does the Trump bag of tricks not work for them, they believe it actively hurts them.

  • Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who represents part of Miami-Dade County, is a good example. He has quietly made it known to the White House he wants the president nowhere near his district. He's proposed a tax on carbon dioxide emissions, and committed other Trumpian apostasies like enthusiastically supporting Dreamers.
  • The White House is dealing with this problem by dispatching Vice President Pence to House districts throughout the country, and saving Trump for big rallies in places where he remains popular and can make a difference by revving up the base.

This summer, Hurricane Trump has become a net negative for more Rs:

  • A top Republican operative tells me: "Last month we would have kept the House. Last 30 days have been bad. Will always be a lot about Trump, which is OK, but can't be like [the] last month."
  • "Kids at border and Putin created so much noise [that it was] impossible for anything else to get through. Before that, we could have a conversation and offer a choice for November."

Be smart: Trump's approval rating in his own party is a lofty 88% — nearly a record at this point in a presidency. So he's definitely a turnout asset. But given how divisive he is, he just happens to be a turnout asset for both sides.

2. Global heat wave so pervasive it's surprising scientists
Expand chart
Comparison between maximum June land temperatures in 1976, when Europe had a major heat wave, and 2018. Adapted from Zeke Hausfather/Berkeley Earth. Graphic: Axios Visuals

The deadly heat waves, floods and fires occurring from Japan to the Middle East, and North America to Europe have clear links to human-caused climate change, according to climate scientists, Axios science editor Andrew Freedman writes:

  • Why it matters: This summer's abnormal weather is just the beginning of what's in store for us in coming years.
  • The biggest near-term impacts of climate change on society come in the form of weather and climate extremes, so this summer illustrates the danger of even a relatively small amount of warming. So far, the planet has only warmed by close to 1°C, or 1.8°F, above preindustrial levels. We're on a trajectory to reach 3 degrees Celsius, or 5.4°F, by 2100.

The big picture: All-time high temperature records, along with heavy-rainfall milestones, have fallen as a warmer, wetter climate exerts its influence on day-to-day weather.

  • And it's not just heat records that are noteworthy this summer. Large expanses of forests are burning in response to hot, dry conditions, from Scandinavia to Siberia, and California to Oregon.

Between the lines: Climate scientists told Axios that while they are not surprised by the simultaneous extremes observed so far this summer — reports have warned about this for years — they are taken aback by the severity and number of these extreme events.

  • Daniel Swain, a climate researcher at UCLA, told Axios: "[W]e’re now seeing decades-old scientific predictions being validated in the real world, right before our eyes."

Go deeper: See Andrew's astonishing list of records that have been set just in the past few weeks.

3. Revealed: Secret TSA surveillance program
Behavior checklist for TSA traveler surveillance program (The Boston Globe)

"Federal air marshals have begun following ordinary US citizens not suspected of a crime or on any terrorist watch list and collecting extensive information about their movements and behavior," reports Jana Winter, a Boston Globe Spotlight fellow:

  • "The previously undisclosed program, called 'Quiet Skies,' specifically targets travelers who 'are not under investigation by any agency and are not in the Terrorist Screening Data Base,' according to a Transportation Security Administration bulletin in March."

The new domestic surveillance program is drawing criticism among the air marshals who have to carry it out:

  • "[S]ome air marshals, in interviews and internal communications shared with the Globe, say the program has them tasked with shadowing travelers who appear to pose no real threat — a businesswoman who happened to have traveled through [Turkey] ... a Southwest Airlines flight attendant [who was on duty] ... a fellow federal law enforcement officer."
  • Why it matters: "It is a time-consuming and costly assignment, they say, which saps their ability to do more vital law enforcement work."

One air marshal messaged another: “jeez we need to have an easy way to document this nonsense. Congress needs to know that it’s gone from bad to worse.”

Bonus: Pic du jour

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Fourth day of raging Northern California wildfire ... A deer stands on a road covered with fire retardant yesterday as the Carr fire burns near Redding, in Shasta County.

  • "Two young children and their great-grandmother are the latest victims of [the] massive and fast-moving wildfire," the L.A. Times reports.
  • "With the unyielding 100-plus degree temperatures and bone-dry vegetation, authorities said there was no end in sight to the fire."

Officials "expressed particular alarm about its rapid expansion. Between Friday night and Saturday morning, the fire doubled in size to more than 80,000 acres with only 5% containment."

  • "Despite the efforts of 3,400 firefighters aided by bulldozers and helicopters throughout the day, the blaze continued spreading toward residential areas west and south of downtown Redding."

"The fire, started Monday by a vehicle mechanical failure on Route 299, previously claimed the lives of Redding fire inspector Jeremy Stoke and bulldozer operator Don Ray Smith."

  • "[A]t least 500 homes and other structures have succumbed."
4. Afghanistan strategy suggests retreat
Relatives bury Mohammad Akhtar, 31, a driver for the Agence France-Presse news agency who was killed July 22 in a suicide attack near Kabul airport. (Rahmat Gul/AP)

"The Trump administration is urging American-backed Afghan troops to retreat from sparsely populated areas of the country, ... all but ensuring the Taliban will remain in control of vast stretches of the country," N.Y. Times Pentagon correspondents Thomas "T.M." Gibbons-Neff (who was deployed twice to Afghanistan as a Marine infrantryman) and Helene Cooper report:

  • "The approach is outlined in a previously undisclosed part of the war strategy that President Trump announced last year."
  • "It is meant to protect military forces from attacks at isolated and vulnerable outposts, and focuses on protecting cities such as Kabul, the capital, and other population centers."

"The withdrawal resembles strategies embraced by both the Bush and Obama administrations that have started and stuttered over the nearly 17-year war."

  • "It will effectively ensure that the Taliban and other insurgent groups will hold on to territory that they have already seized, leaving the government in Kabul to safeguard the capital and cities such as Kandahar, Kunduz, Mazar-i-Sharif and Jalalabad."

Why it matters: "The retreat to the cities is a searing acknowledgment that the American-installed government in Afghanistan remains unable to lead and protect the country’s sprawling rural population."

  • READ ME ... The long view: "Over the years, as waves of American and NATO troops have come and left in repeated cycles, the government has slowly retrenched and ceded chunks of territory to the Taliban, cleaving Afghanistan into disparate parts and ensuring a conflict with no end in sight."
5. Koch brothers rebrand
David Koch (left) and Charles Koch (The Wichita Eagle via AP)

"The Democrats' super villains for much of the last decade have quietly launched a rebranding effort [designed to] vanquish the 'Koch brothers' moniker," AP's Steve Peoples reports from a Koch donor retreat in Colorado Springs:

  • "The catalyst came earlier in the year when ailing billionaire conservative David Koch stepped away from the family business, leaving older brother Charles as the undisputed leader of the Kochs' web."
  • After a Charles Koch retreat, "company officials quickly began pushing journalists across the country to change references from 'Koch brothers' in their coverage to 'Koch network' or one of their less-recognizable entities."
  • "Asked about the shift, ... Koch's chief lieutenants explained that 82-year-old Charles Koch was always far more involved with their political efforts than his ailing [78-year-old] brother."

Why it matters: "[T]he conservative network remains one of the nation's most influential political forces."

  • "Koch officials have vowed to spend between $300 million and $400 million to shape the 2018 midterm elections."
  • Last year, the Charles Koch Foundation gave $90 million for projects on 300 college campuses.
6. 1 swell thing
Koa Smith points at a wave during his two-minute ride. (Images from video/Chris Rogers via AP)

In an epic ride unlike any documented before, Koa Smith, a 23-year-old from Hawaii, last month rode a wave off of Namibia, on the western shore of Africa, for two minutes and stayed upright for nearly a mile, AP's Eddie Pells reports:

  • Smith traveled through an unheard-of eight barrels — the hollow formed by the curve of the wave as it breaks over the rider's head.
  • Smith said: "I'd like to think that everything I've done my whole life led up to that moment."
  • How we know about it: "Smith and videographer Chris Rogers filmed the entire ride using both a drone that hovered overhead, and a GoPro attached to a mouthpiece that Smith wore while he rode.

"Much as a meteorologist tracks storms several days before they hit, Smith and many world-class surfers have mastered the art of reading weather charts to predict when and where the greatest sized ocean swells will hit":

  • "The locale of his greatest triumph is called Skeleton Bay — a mystic stretch of beach fronting the South Atlantic on the western coast of Africa."
  • "It's a two-day plane ride from Hawaii, followed by a car ride through the desert, culminating with a journey down a stretch of sandy, unmarked roads that lead to the ocean."
  • "Smith qualified for 10-and-under nationals when he was 6; he had his first Nike contract by age 12."

What's next: Surfing debuts at the Olympics in 2020.

Koa Smith rides a wave off the coast of Namibia. (Image from video/Chris Rogers via AP)
Mike Allen

Thank you for reading. Updates all day on Axios.com.