Jul 23, 2018

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Good Monday morning.

🎙️ I'll join Dan Primack for today's debut of Axios' first podcast, Pro Rata, covering the collision of business, tech and politics. Join our conversation: Subscribe here.

Breaking: "One dead, 13 injured, gunman killed in mass shooting in Toronto."

Situational awareness: "A transgender activist who won a discrimination lawsuit after her school refused to let her use the girls' bathroom will be TV's first transgender superhero," per AP. "Nicole Maines will star in The CW/Warner Bros.' 'Supergirl.'"

1 big thing: "America First" becomes a global reality

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump loves to brag of doing the biggest, best, most never-been-before acts in history.

  • Mission accomplished: In 35 days — through five meetings, from Singapore to Helsinki  — Trump has rattled and reordered the world, throwing decades of order and common assumptions into chaos.  
  • In a typographical reflection of his diplomacy, Trump tweeted last night, responding to Iran's threat of "the mother of all wars" (Drudge banner: "TRUMP TWEET BOMB"): "To Iranian President Rouhani: NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE. WE ARE NO LONGER A COUNTRY THAT WILL STAND FOR YOUR DEMENTED WORDS OF VIOLENCE & DEATH. BE CAUTIOUS!"

"America First is now as much a reality as it is a slogan." CFR President Richard Haass tells me.

As a memorable freeze-frame of these historic, consequential days, check out Haass' catalog of our upside-down, looking-glass world:

  • "Allies are adversaries and adversaries are friends."
  • "Autocrats are preferred to democrats."
  • "Unstructured summits with foes go more smoothly than organized summits with friends."
  • "A vague promise to get rid of North Korea’s nuclear weapons is acceptable while a specific agreement that precludes Iran’s nuclear weapons is not."
  • "It is acceptable for others to interfere with the politics of America’s democracy, as the president is increasingly prepared to interfere in the politics of other democracies."
  • "Protectionism has replaced free trade."
  • "Unilateralism is favored over multilateralism."

And, when it comes to style:

  • "Diplomacy is about personal relationships."
  • "The president is at once his own chief of staff, spokesman, national security adviser and top diplomat."

Why it matters, from Haass, whose book has the prescient title, "A World in Disarray":

  • "What is clear above all is that the 45th president values little of his global inheritance; less clear is that he has anything to take its place other than non-stop disruption."

Be smart ... Ian Bremmer, Eurasia Group founder and president, tells me Trump has succeeded in one way: He’s in everybody’s head; all anyone talks about is Trump.

  • But Bremmer added, with his trademark punctuation: "internationally the united states is becoming weaker and less relevant by the day."
  • Trump "isn’t personally responsible for that — u.s. influence globally has been eroding for decades. but the president is doing his best to speed that process up."
  • And "god forbid there’s a serious crisis on his watch. with institutions and alliances as weak as he’s helped make them, some are going to break."

P.S. "Global economic leaders are pushing back against ... Trump’s latest rants on global trade and currencies, speaking out against higher tariffs while backing central bank independence," Bloomberg reports:

  • "Officials from Germany to Japan and South Africa at the Group of 20 meeting of finance ministers in Buenos Aires rejected Trump’s unilateral stance."
2. Shot: Meat piles up in U.S. as exports slow

"Meat is piling up in U.S. cold-storage warehouses, fueled by a surge in supplies and trade disputes that are eroding demand," per The Wall Street Journal's Jacob Bunge (subscription):

  • What's new: "Federal data, coming as early as [today], are expected to show a record level of beef, pork, poultry and turkey being stockpiled in U.S. facilities, rising above 2.5 billion pounds."
  • Why it matters: "U.S. consumers’ appetite for meat is growing, but not fast enough to keep up with record production of hogs and chickens."
  • "That leaves the U.S. meat industry increasingly reliant on exports, but Mexico and China — among the largest foreign buyers of U.S. meat — have both set tariffs on U.S. pork products in response to U.S. tariffs on steel, aluminum and other goods."
  • "U.S. hams, chops and livers have become sharply more expensive in those markets, which is starting to slow sales."

The upshot: "Growing meat stockpiles may bring down prices for meat-hungry U.S. consumers, along with restaurants and retailers. But slowing overseas sales and rising domestic stockpiles threaten profit for meat processors and prices for livestock and poultry producers."

P.S. Last-ditch effort by Europe to avoid trade war: "Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, will meet Mr. Trump in Washington on Wednesday, in a meeting that EU officials said would be aimed at 'de-escalating,'" per the Financial Times (subscription).

  • "But ... the European Commission is also pressing ahead with work to identify US products that could be hit with retaliatory tariffs."
3. Chaser: Trump is the summer topic GOP candidates can’t avoid

"Trump is determined to make trade part of the midterm discussion — even though many in the White House are skeptical that it is a good issue, particularly in battleground Midwestern states," the WashPost's Michael Scherer and Josh Dawsey report:

  • "Two senior White House officials said they receive the most complaints from Republican incumbents and candidates on trade and the president’s tariffs, as international retributions have begun to take a toll on the price of corn, soybeans and bourbon."
  • "Trump’s advisers admit privately that the rollout and cleanup of Trump’s 'zero-tolerance' family separation policy was botched by the administration in June, exacting unneeded political damage."

"None of this has dampened Trump’s own desire to make himself a centerpiece of the fall campaign":

  • "White House officials are trying to book two or three days a week for much of the fall for Trump to travel, in line with previous presidents."
  • "He plans to hit Illinois and Iowa next week to talk about the economy and visit a steel mill."
  • "[S]ome aides, such as Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway, have argued that many of the controversies of the summer won’t resonate in the midterm elections."
Bonus: Pic du jour

Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

A true fan braves a delayed start of the finale Subway Series game between the Yankees and the Mets at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx yesterday.

  • Alas for the fan, the game was rained out — postponed to Aug. 13.
4. 🐂 Coming attractions in corporate culture

After WeWork announced it won't serve beef, pork or poultry at company functions, and won't reimburse its 6,000 employees for meals with meat, the N.Y. Times talks to co-founder and chief culture officer Miguel McKelvey:

  • "The company is phasing out leather furniture, single-use plastics and is going carbon neutral. In time, he said, the company will evaluate its consumption of seafood, eggs, dairy and alcohol."
5. Data of the day: Being 30, then and now

In the mid-to-late-20th century, the American economy and culture were ripe for 30-year-old men, who — more than European and Japanese — typically landed well-paid careers, bought homes, and supported large families.

Since then, getting ahead has become much harder, Axios' Stef Kight and Harry Stevens report:

Expand chart
Data: College attendance, median income, and home ownership from U.S. Census Bureau; cost of tuition from CollegeBoard; median debt from "The Great American Debt Boom, 1948-2013" by Alina Bartscher, Moritz Kuhn, Moritz Schularick and Ulrike I. Steins; marriage figures from a Pew Research Center analysis of the 1960-2000 decennial censuses and 2010 and 2016 American Community Survey (IPUMS). Note: Dollars are inflation-adjusted to 2016. Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

Go deeper.

6. Bite du jour

Andrew Rosenberg, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists, to the N.Y. Times ("Lawmakers, Lobbyists and the Administration Join Forces to Overhaul the Endangered Species Act"), on a flurry of measures in the last two weeks by Republican lawmakers determined to weaken the 45-year-old legislation:

  • “I think the Endangered Species Act is endangered. They haven’t been able to do this for 20 years, but this looks like their one chance.”
7. Climate change getting cred with (some) in GOP

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals

Climate change is starting to become a political worry for some Republicans, Amy Harder writes in her weekly "Harder Line" energy column:

  • What's new: Some congressional Republicans are beginning to find it in their political interest to at least acknowledge climate change and oppose efforts to weaken existing policies."
  • "The subtle but significant shift is fueled by disparate factors, including a stronger economy and President Trump’s dismissive policies on climate."
  • Swamp lingo: "Increasingly, Republicans are voting against opposing moves on climate policy — a political double negative. Last July, dozens of House Republicans voted to defeat an amendment that would have blocked a Defense Department study of climate change."

Go deeper.

8. "Leader of the Persistence"
Courtesy New York Magazine

"In the absence of a clear favorite to challenge Trump and the Republicans, [Sen. Elizabeth] Warren [D-Mass.] has emerged in just the past few weeks as the de facto leader of the Democratic Party," New York Magazine's Rebecca Traister writes:

  • "Perhaps it was hard in the wake of 2016 to imagine pinning Democratic hopes on another woman. But sometimes you need a crisis (or five) to see the obvious, and this summer’s cascade of them has brought Warren’s role into sharper relief."

"[S]he’ll have to reckon with the fact that she’ll be depicted as the reanimation of Hillary Clinton, no matter the stark differences between the two":

  • "[I]n declining to run in 2016, she ceded some of that symbolic claim to Sanders. In retrospect, it was likely a mistake for her to have sat it out, as it had been for Clinton to decline to challenge George W. Bush in 2004."

"[T]he Trump administration has given Warren an opening to showcase anew her prickly pugilism."

  • Warren to Traister: "I’m optimistic. ... But I’m furious.”

Go deeper.

9. “Doing something, not being someone”
Theresa May speaks Belfast, Northern Ireland, on Thursday. (Charles McQuillan/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

"With Brexit looming, [British Prime Minister] Theresa May battles Trump, Europe, and her own party," Sam Knight writes in The New Yorker:

  • "May’s assignment has been to quell a populist wave, not ride it; to sublimate the contradictory forces within Brexit and to protect the country from itself. 'In that sense she is the antithesis of Trump,' [a] former Cabinet colleague said."
  • "May will probably be destroyed by the experience. No one expects her political career to extend past an eventual agreement with the European Union, if it gets that far. 'The Conservative Party is a violent place,' one of her former advisers said."
  • "Trump arrived in the middle of it all, like a late-season hurricane."

Worthy of your time.

10. 🍋 1 fun thing: "Lemonade for liberty"

"Grown-Ups Fight for Children’s Right to Sell Lukewarm Lemonade: After little lemonade stand vendors are shut down, a movement springs up to protect them. Country Time’s ‘Legal-Ade’" — Wall Street Journal A-hed by Corinne Ramey (subscription):

  • "Reports of kids’ lemonade stands being shut down for breaking local health or permitting laws have long left grown-ups feeling sour. Now, a growing movement of adults is fighting back."
  • "A libertarian nonprofit [Freedom Center of Missouri] has mapped reports of shut-down stands to raise awareness; its litigation director says lemonade stands are protected by the U.S. Constitution."
  • "A Texas-based youth-entrepreneurship nonprofit, Lemonade Day, is lobbying local health departments to change regulations."
  • "The enemy, activists say, is a hodgepodge of local rules and regulations. ... Don’t even think about selling cookies unless they’re commercially packaged."
Mike Allen

Thanks for reading. We'll have updates all day in the Axios stream.