One of the hardest things about reporting on President Trump is his tendency to propose wild ideas out loud and then repeat them before coming to his senses or getting talked off the ledge.

The big picture: The media, us very much included, break news on controversial ideas that never happen, leaving all of us to wonder: Was this a real idea killed by exposing it, or a POTUS brain blip? It’s the virtual reality dimension of this presidency.

An off-the-top-of-our head list:

In some cases, Trump follows through, or at least comes very close:

  • Trump signed off on an order to evacuate families of service members from South Korea. Allies would have viewed that as a prelude to war, and former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis managed to stop it. But the order was drafted, per sources who were there at the time.
  • The U.S. won't leave the WTO, in all likelihood. But the administration drafted legislation, as scooped by Swan, that would effectively blow up the nation's WTO commitments.

Remember: Trump has already withdrawn the U.S. from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Paris climate agreement, and done what no president dared: move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.

  • The president has been so globally disruptive that you can’t ignore his private venting — even stuff that sounds unlikely.
  • He has begun withdrawing from Syria. Is anyone willing to bet against him doing the same in Afghanistan?
  • And even though he never withdrew from KORUS (the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement) — which aides viewed as potentially calamitous — an order was drafted, as Bob Woodward recounts in "Fear."

Be smart: Trump blurts out most ideas that roll through his mind. The most frustrating part for top officials is they must quickly move the machinery of government to conform to — or more often to terminate — the suggestions. 

  • P.S. ... Trump has suggested the shutdown could drag on as long as a year. It sounds unthinkable and absurd. But so did the travel ban. 

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The U.S. is now playing by China's internet rules

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's crackdown on TikTok suggests that the U.S. government is starting to see the internet more like China does — as a network that countries can and should control within their borders.

The big picture: Today's global internet has split into three zones, according to many observers: The EU's privacy-focused network; China's government-dominated network; and the U.S.-led network dominated by a handful of American companies. TikTok's fate suggests China's model has U.S. fans as well.

GOP plans "nightly surprise" for revamped convention

President Trump at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Photo: Bill Clark/Getty Images

The reworked Republican National Convention will be a four-night spectacle including still-under-wraps venues, a 10 p.m. "nightly surprise" and guests and themes playing to "the forgotten men and women of America," two senior Trump campaign officials involved tell Axios.

Driving the news: The messaging will focus heavily on "very granular details" of what a second term for President Trump would look like — answering a question Trump left hanging in a Fox News event earlier this summer — and attack cancel culture, "radical elements" of society and threats to public safety.

43 mins ago - Health

Axios-Ipsos poll: Fear of voting

Data: Axios/Ipsos poll; Note: ±3.0% margin of error for the total sample; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Democrats are twice as likely as Republicans to worry about in-person voting — with nearly two in three seeing it as a large or moderate risk to their health — according to this week's installment of the Axios-Ipsos Coronavirus Index.

Why it matters: This could pose a significant disadvantage for Joe Biden and other Democratic candidates in November if the pattern holds — especially in states where high infection rates persist, or where there are significant hurdles to mail-in, absentee or early voting.