Essential Reads

Essential Reads is your one-stop source for the top stories of the day as reported by your favorite Washington Week panelists. It's a simple way to save time and stay informed about the news you need to know. Check it out every day!

Mar 13, 2012

  • U.S. Officials Debate Speeding Afghan Pullout

    By Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, New York Times

    The Obama administration is discussing whether to reduce American forces in Afghanistan by at least an additional 20,000 troops by 2013, reflecting a growing belief within the White House that the mission there has now reached the point of diminishing returns.
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Mar 12, 2012

  • The Calculus Behind the Race to Tampa

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    When they hand out the bunting, funny hats, and elephant pins at Republican Party headquarters, no one talks about the math test. For the next several weeks and perhaps months, GOP politics are going to center around a complex debate about delegates that will remind us all of those math problems you hated in grade school:

    If Rick leaves Philadelphia headed for Tampa on a train powered by coal his grandfather mined and Mitt drives his Mustang to the same destination, how many attacks on the elite media will it take Newt to stop them?
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  • U.S. Soldier's Alleged Deadly Rampage: Taliban Vow Revenge

    By Muhammad Lila and Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    The Taliban has vowed revenge against "sick-minded American savages" after a U.S. soldier was accused of going on a deadly shooting rampage Sunday. The group said it would "take revenge from the invaders and the savage murderers for every single martyr," according to a statement posted on its website, the Times of London reported.

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  • Obama Hits Factories as He Paints Romney as Wall Street

    By Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

    President Barack Obama wants voters to know that not all chief executive officers are created equal. Some excel at manufacturing jobs, while others succeed in making money. In the battle to be the nation’s CEO-in-chief, Obama is building the argument that the U.S. economy would suffer with the latter, someone from the private equity world where Mitt Romney, his chief potential challenger and Bain Capital LLC co- founder, hails.
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  • Gas Prices Sink Obama’s Ratings on Economy, Bring Parity to Race for White House

    By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen, Washington Post

    Disapproval of President Obama’s handling of the economy is heading higher — alongside gasoline prices — as a record number of Americans now give the president “strongly” negative reviews on the 2012 presidential campaign’s most important issue, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
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    (CNN)

  • Attack May Derail Effort to Force Taliban Into Talks

    By David E. Sanger, New York Times

    The outrage from the back-to-back episodes of the Koran burning and the killing on Sunday of at least 16 Afghan civilians imperils what the Obama administration once saw as an orderly plan for 2012: to speed the training of Afghan forces so that they can take the lead in combat missions, all while drawing the Taliban into negotiations to end more than a decade of constant war.
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Mar 09, 2012

  • Is Mitt Romney the New Bob Dole?

    By John F. Harris and Jonathan Martin, Politico

    Many Republican political professionals are worried that Mitt Romney’s public image is now defined by a word never associated with winning presidential campaigns — weakness — and are urging him to take dramatic steps to recast his reputation between now and the fall.
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  • Senate Rejects GOP Attempt to Advance Keystone XL

    By Richard Simon and Christi Parsons, Los Angeles Times

    With gas prices becoming a high-octane campaign issue, the Democratic-led Senate beat back a Republican effort to advance the controversial Keystone XL oil pipeline project. Thursday’s vote to attach the project to a must-pass transportation bill failed 56 to 42, with 11 Democrats joining Republicans to support the measure. Sixty votes were needed for passage.
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  • Pro-Santorum Ad Hits Both Rivals

    By Janet Hook, Wall Street Journal

    Rick Santorum’s supporters, one day after clamoring for rival Newt Gingrich to drop out of the Republican presidential race, are heading to the Deep South to air a new ad arguing that neither of his rivals can win in the fall general election.
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  • Obama’s Super Paranoia

    By Major Garrett, National Journal

    In Obamaland, the 3 a.m. phone call has become the 3 a.m. e-mail. In their own way, both speak to a crisis mentality and a groping for security. The contexts couldn’t be more different, but the anxiety—real and imagined—is no less genuine. To review, the 3 a.m. phone call was in a TV ad Hillary Rodham Clinton ran against Obama in the heat of the Texas and Ohio primaries in 2008. It asked voters to ponder the fate of America if Barack Obama were president and a national crisis struck in the middle of the night.
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    President Obama speaks at a truck manufacturing plant in North Carolina (CNN)

  • Deep South Primaries Offer Little Hope for Romney, Opportunity for Santorum

    By Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post

    For Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, the Deep South primaries in Alabama and Mississippi on Tuesday will be a race for conservative primacy in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination. Unless one of them decisively puts the other away, however, Mitt Romney could be the big winner no matter where he finishes.
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Mar 08, 2012

  • Panetta: U.S. Has Potential Military Plans for Iran

    By Yochi J. Dreazen, National Journal

    The Pentagon is preparing an array of military options for striking Iran if hard-hitting diplomatic and economic sanctions fail to persuade Tehran to drop its nuclear ambitions, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told National Journal in an interview on Thursday.
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  • Obama Mines for Voters With High-Tech Tools

    By Jeff Zeleny and Jim Rutenberg, New York Times

    With a “chief scientist” specializing in consumer behavior, an “analytics department” monitoring voter trends, and a squad of dozens huddled at computer screens editing video or writing code, the sprawling office complex inside One Prudential Plaza looks like a corporate research and development lab — Ping-Pong table and all.
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    President Obama uses a laptop during a White House Twitter event in 2011 (The White House)

  • No Quit in these Presidential Candidates

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Poor Mitt Romney. He won six of 10 states on Super Tuesday, including hotly contested Ohio. He lengthened his lead in the count of delegates who will actually choose the Republican presidential nominee. But he's still a long way from claiming victory. Why? Because there's no compelling reason for Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich or Ron Paul to drop out of the race. Each has a reason to keep fighting at least through April — and maybe all the way to the convention in August.
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  • Obama Campaign Team: Primary Race Weakens Romney

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    War with Iran is lurking, gas prices are rising, twisters are mowing through the heartland, but if Mitt Romney is having a bad day, President Obama's Chicago campaign team is chipper. Even if Romney won six of 10 Super Tuesday contests, the president's top campaign advisers told reporters Wednesday that the former Massachusetts governor -- still the focus of their battle plan -- is a weakened candidate because of his ultra-right policies, his rhetoric, and the negative advertising deployed to help him knock out opponents.
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  • Romney Camp Tells Rivals: You Can't Catch Him

    By Sam Youngman, Reuters

    Mitt Romney's campaign told his Republican presidential rivals on Wednesday they could not catch him and nudged them to quit the race even though he failed to deliver a knockout blow in the biggest round of nominating contests.
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  • Pentagon Leaders Reject Military Intervention in Syria

    By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

    Any U.S. military effort to protect civilians in Syria zone would take weeks to implement, the top Pentagon civilian and military officials said Wednesday, underscoring the limited U.S. options for ending President Bashar Assad's violent campaign against Syrian rebels.
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Mar 07, 2012

  • Romney’s Rivals Have Scant Hope of Closing the Delegate Gap

    By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

    Though Mitt Romney’s opponents continue to insist there is a road to the Republican presidential nomination for them after the Super Tuesday contests, the arithmetic suggests otherwise. How long it will take for the other contenders and their supporters to figure that out — and to make peace with it — is another question.
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    Mitt Romney in Boston, Mass. (CNN)Mitt Romney in Boston, Mass. (CNN)

  • Obama Scolds G.O.P. Critics of Iran Policy

    By Jackie Calmes and Mark Landler, New York Times

    President Obama on Tuesday forcefully rebuked Republicans on the presidential campaign trail and in Congress for “beating the drums of war” in criticizing his efforts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, underscoring how squarely the national security issue had entered the election-year debate.
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  • Netanyahu and Obama Still Divided Over Iran

    By Yochi J. Dreazen, National Journal

    President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been working hard to present a united front on Iran, the nation at the heart of a simmering dispute between the two close allies. But there is no disguising the fact that the two leaders remain sharply divided on the way forward.
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