Axios Sneak Peek

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November 07, 2021

Welcome back to Sneak. That extra hour of sleep was clutch for both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

Smart Brevity™ count: 921 words ... 3.5 minutes. Edited by Glen Johnson.

1 big thing: Hawley warns men about porn, games

Sen. Josh Hawley is seen speaking with Mike Allen during an interview for "Axios on HBO."
Mike Allen speaks with Sen. Josh Hawley. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) told Mike Allen for "Axios on HBO" tonight he'll make masculinity a signature political issue, because he claims "the left" is telling men: "You're part of the problem. ... Your masculinity is inherently problematic."

  • "As conservatives, we've got to call men back to responsibility," Hawley said. "We've got to say that spending your time not working ... spending your time on video games, spending your time watching porn online ... is not good for you, your family or this country."

Why it matters: As an ambitious Republican frequently mentioned as a possible future candidate for president or vice president, Hawley, 41, is using American masculinity to appeal to suburban parents, and to working men won over by Donald Trump.

Hawley raised the issue on Oct. 31 as a keynoter at the National Conservatism Conference in Orlando:

  • "Can we be surprised," he asked, "that after years of being told ... that their manhood is the problem, more and more men are withdrawing into the enclave of idleness, and pornography, and video games?"
  • "We need the kind of men who make republics possible," he added.

Asked during the "Axios on HBO" interview to paint a picture of his ideal man, Hawley said:

  • "Well, a man is a father. A man is a husband. A man is somebody who takes responsibility."

Keep reading.

2. Amtrak chief hails Biden's "transformational" infrastructure deal

Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn is seen during an interview with "Axios on HBO."
Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Amtrak CEO Bill Flynn also told "Axios on HBO" the $66 billion coming to rail through the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill will be "absolutely transformational" and "more funding than we've had in our 50 years of history combined."

The big picture: Flynn spoke to Axios' Margaret Talev about Amtrak's 50th anniversary, President "Amtrak Joe" Biden, navigating COVID-19 and preparing for climate change. The setting was the new Moynihan Train Hall expansion of Penn Station in New York, just days before final passage of the infrastructure bill.

  • Amtrak's ridership numbers are now at about 65% of pre-COVID levels and trending up, he said.

Details: About half of the money targeted for Amtrak would go to expanding intercity passenger rail across the U.S. — targeting places where there are now few or no routes.

  • "Phoenix to Tucson is a great example," Flynn said. "Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Cincinnati. Los Angeles to Las Vegas."
  • As for a dream stop that doesn't currently exist: "I think Nashville would be a great place to stop. I mean, how many country-western songs involve trains?"

Asked if Amtrak's commitment to reducing emissions by 40% by 2030 is enough, Flynn said reductions are "never enough" but would be an "important goal and an important achievement."

  • "We take environmental threat and environmental risk very seriously."

Keep reading.

3. More Democrats cool on Biden pick

Saule Omarova is seen in a photo supplied by the Senate Banking Committee.
OCC nominee Saule Omarova. Photo: Senate Banking Committee

At least three Senate Democrats have raised concerns with the White House over the nomination of Saule Omarova to serve as comptroller of the currency, people familiar with the matter tell Axios' Hans Nichols.

Why it matters: With all 50 Republicans expected to oppose her nomination, the president is on notice her candidacy is in jeopardy. This comes as he's also weighing whether to replace Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell with Fed governor Lael Brainard — its own decision fraught with political risks.

  • Some progressives, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), oppose Powell.
  • They've signaled that installing a strong regulator at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency is a top priority for them.

Omarova — a 55-year-old Cornell University law professor — has started to meet with senators.

Among those who are concerned: Sens. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). That list may grow in the coming days.

  • While Tester has publicly expressed his “concern,” the potential opposition of additional Democrats would make the math to confirm her nearly impossible.
  • Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), the top Republican on the Senate Banking Committee, told Axios "Republicans will overwhelmingly oppose this self-described radical.”

A White House official told Axios: "Saule Omarova is eminently qualified and was nominated for this role because of her lifetime of work on financial regulation, including in the private sector, in government and as a leading academic in the field.

  • "The White House continues to strongly support her historic nomination."

Keep reading.

4. Klain messages back

White House chief of staff Ron Klain is seen while speaking on "Meet the Press."
Screenshot: NBC News

Ron Klain's appearance on "Meet the Press" today underscored the messaging problem confronting the White House despite a week with good jobs numbers and a historic infrastructure agreement, write Axios' Margaret Talev and Glen Johnson.

Why it matters: The election results from Tuesday show voters still see a lot of negativity: relentless inflation, Democratic infighting, an uncertain price tag for the party's big-spending social plans and a political disconnect from parents still reeling with school issues.

What they're saying: As chief of staff, Klain is the biggest White House messaging gun next to Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and press secretary Jen Psaki.

He said he felt voters' pain.

  • It’s been a rough and tough year," Klain told NBC's Chuck Todd. "Americans are tired of how long it’s taken to get the economy moving, to get COVID under control. I feel the frustration personally myself. I think everyone does. And I think that frustration wears on people.”
  • “The voters sent a message on Tuesday. They wanted to see more action in Washington. They wanted to see things move more quickly."
  • Klain added: "Three days later, Congress responded, passing the president's infrastructure bill.”

Keep reading.

5. Pic du jour

President Biden is seen in silhouette leaving the stage in Glasgow, Scotland, as special climate enjoy John Kerry steps up to the lectern.
Photo: Evan Vucci/AP

President Biden yielded the stage Tuesday to special climate envoy John Kerry.

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