Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Denver news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Des Moines news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Minneapolis-St. Paul news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tampa Bay news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Charlotte news in your inbox

Catch up on the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Evan Vucci / AP

Over the past three months, Steve Bannon has been reading David Halberstam's book, "The Best and the Brightest." (A NYT reporter spotted him with the book in an airport in December.)

It's a devastating account of self-regard, delusion, and the tragic series of miscalculations that led America into Vietnam. The book shaped Bannon's thinking during the transition, and he recommended it to associates, including Jared Kushner and Anthony Scaramucci, as a warning against hubris.

He's told associates the book is a warning to "always keep the 'law of unintended consequences' in the front of your mind." And that "the governmental 'apparatus' has an institutional history, memory and methodology."

Re-read "The Best and the Brightest" and you'll get a sharper understanding of the biases from Trump's chief strategist, and how he processes the world:

  1. Halberstam holds in contempt the highly educated, verbally sophisticated elites — JFK's band of brilliant young men — making decisions in Washington.
  2. The author flatters hard-won experience — "true wisdom" — over intellectual theorizing.
  3. He critiques Washington's compliant press corps.
  4. He reinforces Bannon's belief that "personnel is policy" and that the very act of selecting a cabinet can lock in an administration.

If you have time for just one passage to mind meld with Bannon, make it this one:

"One of the things which surprised me was how thin most of the newspaper and magazine reporting of the period was, the degree to which journalists accepted the norms of government and, particularly in the glamorous Kennedy era, the reputation of these new stars at face value. Credit was given more readily for educational prowess and for academic achievement than for accomplishment in governance...Being verbal seemed to be an end in itself. Among those dazzled by the Administration team was Vice-President Lyndon Johnson. After attending the first Cabinet meeting he went back to his mentor Sam Rayburn and told him with great enthusiasm how extraordinary they were, each brighter than the next... "Well Lyndon," Mister Sam answered, "you may be right and they may be every bit as intelligent as you say, but I'd feel a whole lot better about them if just one of them had run for sheriff once." It is my favorite story in the book, for it underlines the weakness of the Kennedy team, the difference between intelligence and wisdom, between the abstract quickness and verbal facility which the team exuded, and true wisdom, which is the product of hard-win, often bitter experience. Wisdom for a few of them came after Vietnam."

Why this matters: Republicans in Washington are scrambling to understand Trump's chief strategist. Some are strategizing ways to shape his thinking, including using the language of populist nationalism to steer him towards mainstream party thinking.

First, they'll discover there are limits to Bannon's power (evidence: Trump delaying on DACA — President Obama's legal protection of the children of illegal immigrants.) Second, they'll learn that Bannon's guardrails are higher than most realize. He's not only anti-establishment; he's studiously resistant to being co-opted.

Go deeper

24 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Biden's latest executive order: Buy American

President Joe R. Biden speaks about the economy before signing executive orders in the State Dining Room at the White House on Friday, Jan 22, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

President Joe Biden will continue his flurry of executive orders on Monday, signing a new directive to require the federal government to “buy American” for products and services.

Why it matters: The executive action is yet another attempt by Biden to accomplish goals administratively without waiting for the backing of Congress. The new order echoes Biden's $400 billion campaign pledge to increase government purchases of American goods.

Tech digs in for long domestic terror fight

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

With domestic extremist networks scrambling to regroup online, experts fear the next attack could come from a radicalized individual — much harder than coordinated mass events for law enforcement and platforms to detect or deter.

The big picture: Companies like Facebook and Twitter stepped up enforcement and their conversations with law enforcement ahead of Inauguration Day. But they'll be tested as the threat rises that impatient lone-wolf attackers will lash out.

The pandemic could be worsening childhood obesity

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The 10-month long school closures and the coronavirus pandemic are expected to have a big impact on childhood obesity rates.

Why it matters: About one in five children are obese in the U.S. — an all-time high — with worsening obesity rates across income and racial and ethnic groups, data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show.