Apr 22, 2017

Axios AM

By Mike Allen
Mike Allen

Most (not all) Axios AMers loved the faster-format weekend Top 5 we tried on Easter. These are fascinating, complex times, and I have a lot to say. But one of the top values of Axios is that we don't waste your time. And there are some days when your time is better spent doing something besides reading a newsletter. This is one of those days. Happy Saturday — see you at brunch. And you can always reach me by replying to this email, or mike@axios.com.

1 big thing: The "100 days" week

When President Trump told AP's Julie Pace yesterday that he'd announce a "massive" tax cut for both individuals and corporations next week ("bigger, I believe, than any tax cut ever"), he "surprised Capitol Hill" and left his own Treasury officials "speechless," as the N.Y. Times put it.

  • Between the lines: Insiders tell us the surprise was deliberate: Trump wanted to light a fire under his own aides, who are working on the tax package this weekend.

Trump's vow to unveil the plan "Wednesday or shortly thereafter" puts the announcement just after Congress returns from the two-week Easter recess — and just ahead of Friday's deadline for avoiding a government shutdown, and Saturday's 100-day mark for his presidency.

Sources quickly told Axios' Jonathan Swan that it would be kind of principles, plus: a 100,000-foot document, with no real path for how to get there — just targets.

  • No BAT: Bloomberg correctly reported that the plan "likely won't include a border-adjusted tax that House Speaker Paul Ryan has proposed." (Awkward!)

Despite breathless reporting about House action on health reform next week, a Republican lobbyist told me there's zero chance to pull that off at the same time you're negotiating a continuing resolution to avoid a shutdown: "You'd have a better chance of repealing the laws of physics."

  • Here's the real skyline: Health care passes the House by the end of May ... Health care passes the Senate by the end of July ... Tax reform to the president's desk by the end of the year.

P.S. In case you wonder how closely the president tracks timelines, he told Julie Pace: "I've only been here now 93 days, 92 days. President Obama took 17 months to do 'Obamacare.' I've been here 92 days, but I've only been working on the health care, you know, I had to get like a little bit of grounding, right? Health care started after 30 day(s), so I've been working on health care for 60 days. ... we're very close. And it's a great plan ... we have to get it approved."

2. The Wilderness: disarray and pipe dreams

A flurry in The Wilderness is triggering a new wave of angst for Dems. This week, we had: the announcement of the first public event by former President Obama (speaking to students Monday at University of Chicago) ... the publication of "Shattered," the juicy autopsy of Hillary's campaign ... the launch of Elizabeth Warren's book tour ... Bernie's road show ... and more GOP weakness in special elections.

All this has done is highlight Democratic rifts, and the prayers for a new The One. Or even the old One: Dreams of Obama returning frequently to the public stage are unlikely to be satisfied. A speed read:

  • The key point, from The Atlantic's Clare Foran: "[I]deological divides within the party [including abortion and economic populism] continue to cause division even after the 2016 presidential election, and that Trump alone will not be enough of a unifying force to paper over those rifts."
  • The problem: "The same debates that divided Democrats throughout the 2016 presidential primary ... threaten to make it more difficult for Democrats to rally around the very candidates who could help the party make inroads in conservative parts of the country."
  • "Very raw": It may have been inevitable, the N.Y. Times' Jonathan Martin points out, that there would be a collision when the biggest star on the left (Bernie) is a class warrior at a time when Democrats are increasingly defined by cultural issues. JMart's front-page dispatch, about a DNC "Unity Tour" stop in Omaha this week, "At a 'Unity' Stop in Nebraska, Democrats Find Anything But."
  • And for those who want hope ... Top of WashPost column 1, "Democratic newcomers gear up for 2018 fight," by Ed O'Keefe and Mike DeBonis: "At least 15 declared [House] candidates or contenders on the verge of announcing have emerged in districts that Democrats must win ... [T]he key ingredient this year is the grass-roots urgency, but the hope is to combine that with organizing heft."
3. Life lesons: "Verbal judo"

A secret to life is having a sane, calm, big-hearted person in mind whose behavior you'll model when you're inclined to flip out in an everyday situation.

The Rental-Counter Rule is: When things get slow or dumb, what kind of behavior are you going to model for your significant other, your kids or the people around you?

So think of someone with composure, and be them. Mine is Josh Deckard, a Bush 43 guy I go to church with. When I'm inclined to lose it, I just think, "What would Josh do?" and simmer down.

Whether you're raising kids or managing people, you'll get some worthy tips from a fun and illuminating read that's the cover of tomorrow's N.Y. Times Business section, "How Airline Workers Learn to Deal With You."

The article — by Ron Lieber, the paper's "Your Money" columnist — is written off of a class in "verbal judo" that "offers a window on how flight crews are taught to defuse situations." The takeaways:

  • The Voice: "[W]hen gate agents or flight attendants slow down dramatically, lower their voice or get down on one knee to address you, it's probably on purpose. And you'll probably calm down, lest you feel utterly hysterical and completely ridiculous."
  • The most American (nationality, not airline) question of all is: "Why?" When we explain why, we're showing respect.
  • The Choice (Is Yours): "This bit of context setting is part of a five-step process that begins with an employee's ask and ends with a confirmation and the requested action. After the why, there may need to be a set of options if someone is not satisfied with the explanation and proceeds to do his own thing."
  • I love this one ... The Mile-Making Machine: "Things go awry. No airline is perfect, and no single flight is, either. Not everyone wants a free drink for the trouble ... Enter Delta's hand-held mile-making machine, which it uses for 'service recovery.' Did your tray table fall apart in your hands as you attempted to use it? That will be 5,000 SkyMiles into your account. ... [F]light attendants have flexibility in distributing them."
4. Brick-and-mortar stores shut at record pace

Based on the pace of store-closings so far this year, the brokerage Credit Suisse estimates that U.S. retailers will close more than 8,600 locations this year, which would eclipse the number of closings during the 2008 recession.

That's the takeaway from the lead story of the Wall Street Journal's second section, by Suzanne Kapner:

  • The killer stat: "[C]losings have been announced for 2,880 retail locations this year, including hundreds of locations being shut by national chains such as Payless ShoeSource Inc. and RadioShack Corp. That is more than twice as many closings as announced during the same period last year."
  • Lingo, for the land grab over the past three decades, icluding the influx of fast-fashion and off-price chains: "over-storing."
  • How brick-and-mortar chains are coping: "In a bid to better compete with Amazon.com, [Walmart] has been scooping up e-commerce startups, including Jet.com and ModCloth. And just this past week, PetSmart Inc. bought Chewy.com, a fast-growing online rival."
5. 1 fun thing: "10 things to toss"

The WashPost Outlook section has an annual "Spring Cleaning" feature, in which a variety of writers nominate something we'd be better off without. The highlights of tomorrow's edition:

  • Countdown clocks, by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.): "Just 364 days, 23 hours and 59 minutes to go until The Washington Post publishes its 2018 Spring Cleaning issue. ... [I]t seems like news channels are always counting down to something. But I can't quite agree with the networks about what's considered a clock-worthy 'event.' New Year's? Sure. A presidential address? Possibly. Rachel Maddow's Trump tax return 'exposé'? Hardly."
  • No reservations, by Post restaurant critic Tom Sietsema: Customers of hot D.C. restaurants "are increasingly asked to stand in line for the opportunity to taste the handiwork of top chefs. ... [A]s someone whose first priority is diners, I'd like to point out that 'restaurant' is derived from the French word for 'restore,' and restaurants that don't let you plan in advance are anything but fortifying."
  • "Unconscious bias," by Kara Swisher, Recode co-founder and executive editor: "You can't throw a hammer in Silicon Valley these days and not hit a gender or race bias controversy. ... The worst excuse is what is widely called 'unconscious bias' — bias that kicks in automatically, with our supposedly unthinking brains making often-inaccurate snap judgments. ... Here's a suggestion for tech execs: Pick up your head and look."

Other entries ... "Healthy substitutes" by Nina Teicholz ... "Cropped pants" by Tim Gunn ... "Playoffs" by Dan Sternberg ... "Self-care" by Amanda Ericsson ... "Tweet storms" by Jeff MacGregor ... "Wedding registries" by Caitlin Flanagan ... "College football" by Patrick Hruby.

Mike Allen