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!

May 04, 2012

  • Chinese Foreign Ministry Says Chinese Dissident Chen Guangcheng Can Apply to Study Overseas

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    The United States is encouraged by signs from the Chinese that a resolution on the future of blind human rights activist Chen Guancheng can still be reached, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said today.

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  • Bin Laden Documents Offer Different Picture of Terrorist Leader

    By Yochi J. Dreazen, National Journal

    U.S. officials have long argued that Osama bin Laden was actively plotting new attacks inside the United States right up to the end, including ambitious plans for strikes timed to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks or designed to derail passenger trains and cause large numbers of civilian deaths. But that’s not the picture of the leader which emerges from Thursday’s release of nearly 200 pages of materials recovered from the bin Laden compound after his killing at the hands of American commandos one year ago. The 17 sets of papers include five written by bin Laden and two others that were sent to the terrorist leader by other senior Qaida leaders.

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  • The Most Important Voters of 2012

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    Ohio Republican Senate candidate Josh Mandel is 34, but he looks 19. He's not clean-cut—he's freshly shorn. So when the young State Treasurer explains that he's going to beat incumbent Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown by winning over working-class voters who spend their day with equipment that is hot, heavy, and dirty, it seems like a long shot.

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  • Romney Faces a Narrow Path to 270 Electoral Votes, but His Team Remains Optimistic

    By Dan Balz and Philip Rucker, Washington Post

    Mitt Romney faces a narrow path to the presidency, one that requires winning back states that President Obama took from Republicans in 2008 and that has few apparent opportunities for Romney to steal away traditionally Democratic states. Months ago, Obama’s campaign advisers laid out five distinct ways for the president to clear the threshold of 270 electoral college votes and win reelection.

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  • Recovered Bin Laden Letters Show a Divided Al Qaeda

    By Peter Baker, New York Times

    Sitting in his secret refuge, hiding from the world, Osama bin Laden spent the last months of his life rethinking strategy, worrying about his legacy and struggling to maintain control over the sprawling terrorist network that operated in his name. He had grown disgruntled with far-flung offshoots theoretically under his umbrella and fretted that too many of the “brothers” were alienating Muslims with attacks on fellow believers.

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  • SPIN METER: Lawmakers' Talk of Cuts is Just Talk

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    If there's one thing Republicans and Democrats in Washington say they agree on, it's the need to reduce federal spending. And it's something they almost never do, as recent events have proved again. Last week the U.S. Postal Service asked the Senate for permission to proceed with a multibillion-dollar savings package that included closing thousands of money-losing post offices. The Senate refused, voting instead to give the Postal Service another $11 billion amid speeches hailing the historic role of post offices in small towns.

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May 03, 2012

  • While Obama Dominates Foreign Policy, Romney Sticks to Economy

    By Beth Reinhard and Alex Roarty, National Journal

    Mitt Romney had a tough act to follow. The Republican presidential contender was stumping in the Virginia 'burbs on Wednesday, just hours after President Obama basked in the glory of a prime-time, nationally televised victory speech from an Afghanistan war zone. The contrast was one of the first of what will be many reminders in the 2012 campaign of the disadvantages of running against a sitting president.

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    GOP Candidate Mitt Romney in Chantilly, VA (CNN)

  • A Delicate New Balance on National Security

    By Peter Baker, New York Times

    One moment he boasts about taking out America’s No. 1 enemy, and the next he vows to bring home troops from an unpopular war. For President Obama, the days leading up to his re-election kickoff have been spent straddling the precarious line between hawk and dove, and possibly redefining his party for years to come.

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  • Romney Team May Have Stirred Storm Over Gay Aide

    By Michael Barbaro, Helene Cooper and Ashley Parker, New York Times

    It was the biggest moment yet for Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team: a conference call last Thursday, dialed into by dozens of news outlets from around the globe, to dissect and denounce President’s Obama record on national security.

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  • Blind Chinese Activist Abandoned by US?

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    Chen Guangcheng fearful of Chinese government after escaping house arrest.

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  • Secrecy Paramount on Obama’s 36-Hour Secret Afghan Trip

    By Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

    The cryptic call summoning reporters to the White House came at 12:19 p.m. Sunday from a private number and lasted only 25 seconds. By the following night, Air Force One was in the air. In the next 36 hours, the 13-member pool of reporters who travel wherever the president goes would spend almost 28 hours in the air, fly in dual-rotor Chinook helicopters across the Hindu Kush mountain range, visit the presidential palace in Kabul, cover an address to the nation. All of it done under a cover of darkness.

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  • Bin Laden and Ballots

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    We're far enough away from it now that we can probably all agree: It was a mistake for George W. Bush to land on that aircraft carrier in a flight suit to proclaim "Mission Accomplished." And not just because the war in Iraq was far from over at that point. Every president crows about his successes in war — assuming he has anything to crow about. But he should try to seem modest and statesmanlike while doing so.

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May 02, 2012

  • Obama Says With War Near End, Defeat of al-Qaeda in Reach

    By Julianna Goldman and Mike Dorning, Bloomberg News

    President Barack Obama assured the American public the defeat of al-Qaeda is within reach as he marked the first anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden with a visit to Afghanistan and an agreement that prepares the way to bring U.S. troops home. “My fellow Americans, we have traveled through more than a decade under the dark cloud of war,” Obama said at Bagram Airfield, where he had arrived about six hours earlier. “Yet here, in the pre-dawn darkness of Afghanistan, we can see the light of a new day on the horizon.”

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  • Charlie Wilson's War; Obama's Peace

    By Major Garrett, National Journal

    Embedded deep within President Obama's appearance in Afghanistan on the one-year anniversary of the special forces raid that killed 9/11 architect Osama bin Laden was a post-Cold War commander-in-chief's declaration he wouldn't repeat the mistakes of his Cold War predecessors. Obama didn't say it in so many words, but his 11-minute address to the nation from Bagram Air Base was a promise to wage Charlie Wilson's war under the guise of Obama's peace.

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  • Reality Check

    By Todd S. Purdum, Vanity Fair

    Set aside, for the moment, the tendentious charge of The New York Times’s public editor, Arthur Brisbane, that the newspaper’s principal political task between now and Election Day should be to aggressively investigate “Who is the real Barack Obama?” The premise assumes not only that there is just one real Obama but also that he and the Times may somehow have conspired to obscure him.

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  • In Kabul, Obama Highlights Foreign Policy Record

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    President Barack Obama answered political taunts with presidential muscle Tuesday, addressing the nation from Kabul as Republicans said he's overdoing the celebration of Osama bin Laden's death one year ago. The president's secret flight to Afghanistan — where he signed off on details for withdrawing U.S. troops from the decade-long war there — was the type of campaign counterpunch that may play out many times in his re-election battle against Republican Mitt Romney.

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    President Obama's address to the American people from Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan (CNN)

  • Setting the Record Straight on Rubio's Am Ex

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Even if Florida Sen. Marco Rubio isn't getting vetted by the Mitt Romney campaign (yet) as a potential running mate, he is enduring an unusual amount of grilling. On Monday, he acknowledged in an interview with Fox News (around 16:20) that it was "a mistake'' when he was a state lawmaker to use an American Express card paid for by the Republican Party of Florida to pick up thousands of dollars in personal expenses.

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  • Obama is Both Commander, Campaigner in Chief Ahead of bin Laden Anniversary

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    Rarely has a president blended the role of commander in chief with that of campaigner in chief quite as vividly as President Obama has done in the days surrounding the first anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death.

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May 01, 2012

  • Obama Defends Spotlighting Death of bin Laden

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    President Obama's latest campaign ad, released to supporters on Monday, runs more than halfway through its seven-minute account of the president's first-term accomplishments before Osama bin Laden gets a walk-on. The president appears in footage shot a year ago telling the world that the most hated terrorist on the planet had been discovered in Pakistan and killed by U.S. forces.
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    Osama bin Laden (CNN, File Photo)

  • 'Forward' Starts in Reverse; Obama Campaign Anchors 2012 Message to Economic Deluge of 2008

    By Major Garrett, National Journal

    The first 38 seconds of President Obama's new 7-minute campaign video are devoted to the economic deluge he inherited. Team Obama doesn't blame President Bush's administration for this bitter economic bequest by name, but the inference is inescapable.

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