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!

Photo: KRT via AP Video

Kim Jong-un has gone two months without a ballistic missile test. That's unusual for the guy President Trump calls "Rocket Man." The portly dictator fired missiles every month between February and September — 22 in total, and he detonated the most powerful nuclear bomb in North Korea's history.What we're hearing: Secretary Jim Mattis won't say he's encouraged by Kim's pause — only that he's watching closely. Mattis won't publicly discuss even the possibility of preemptive strikes to take out North Korea's nuclear facilities.I asked Mattis whether he agreed with National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster that a "preventive war" was a viable option — in McMaster's words, "a war that would prevent North Korea from threatening the United States with a nuclear weapon.""You'll have to ask him [McMaster]," Mattis replied, adding, "I'm not going to answer the question."Between the lines: That response isn't unusual for Mattis; he always avoids discussing military plans. But it's telling that he's not publicly endorsing the more bellicose talk coming from the White House.What we're seeing: I flew with Mattis yesterday to the Rocky Mountains, where he spent the day visiting U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) and the joint U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). While Mattis attended classified briefings, the traveling press went inside the Cheyenne Mountain Complex (a Cold War era fortress made famous in the movie "WarGames"). We also visited the Peterson Air Force Base, the hub for monitoring threats to the homeland.The military officials who work here are responsible for defending America's airspace. The command centers they work in are the hubs for tracking North Korean missiles — which appear on the giant screens as a red donut that expands into a fan that shows which part of the world the missile threatens.Underneath the screens a sign with giant black block letters:"WE HAVE THE WATCH."When North Korea launches a missile, a white light starts shining and a horn starts honking. They gave us a trial run.Bottom line: After a day with these military officers, you can't help but be struck by the breadth of U.S. assets around the world and in space. But if this war of words between Trump and Kim becomes a real war, those radars, satellites and missile interceptors won't be able to prevent death on a scale the world has rarely seen.

Be smart: We have no idea why Kim has paused tests. All the North Korea experts are just guessing when it comes to this secretive man / regime.

Go deeper

32 mins ago - Health

Fauci: COVID vaccine rollout needs to prioritize people of color

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Alex Wong via Getty Images

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci highlighted the need to address racial disparities in the COVID-19 vaccination process, per an interview with The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday.

What he’s saying: "I think that's the one thing we really got to be careful of. We don't want in the beginning ... most of the people who are getting it are otherwise, well, middle-class white people."

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Obama speechwriter fears Biden unity drive is one-sided

Cody Keenan (right) is shown heading to Marine One in December 2009. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.

What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."