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 09, 2012

  • Undaunted Tactics: The Strategy of Silence for Obama and Romney

    By Major Garrett, National Journal

    When historian Stephen Ambrose wrote about the trek of explorers Merriwether Lewis and William Clark for water passage to Oregon across the American West, he titled the book "Undaunted Courage." In the presidential arena, recent events have reminded even supporters of President Obama and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney that tactics often trump courage. On gay marriage, Obama remains stuck in an amorphous limbo. Does he or does he not support gay marriage? Vice President Joe Biden does. Education Secretary, long-time Obama friend and basketball mate Arne Duncan does. Obama? Who knows. Courage? Hardly. Tactics? Yes. More on that in a moment.

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May 08, 2012

  • Romney’s Secret Relationship With Voters

    by John Dickerson, Slate

    Mitt Romney has been running a vast focus group for months. He says that almost every day during his campaign he has secretly sat down with three or four families who are being hurt by Obama’s economy to learn what their lives are like. He's been on the road for a long time, which means he must have met hundreds of families. Since the whole business happens on the QT, you can imagine the candidate suddenly appearing from behind the detergent display at the all-night Target to get the views of the startled Anderson family.

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  • Clinton: Terrorists seek 'more perverse,' 'terrible' ways to kill innocents

    With Pete Williams, NBC News

    Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters Tuesday that terrorists keep trying to come up with “more and more perverse and terrible ways to kill innocent people,” after a plot by al-Qaida's affiliate in Yemen to bomb a U.S.-bound airliner was foiled by the CIA. U.S. officials said Monday that the plot involved a bomb that improved on the one that had been sewn into the underpants of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who failed in a plot to blow up a Detroit-bound airliner on Christmas Day 2009.

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  • Obama and the Politics of Gay Marriage: It's Complicated

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    The chance that President Obama will finish “evolving” on the issue of gay marriage before November is about as slim as the winning margin that he or Mitt Romney can assume in this horse race. Vice President Joe Biden rekindled the perennial debate over the president’s views on the subject when he said on Sunday that he was “absolutely comfortable’’ with same-sex marriage. Education Secretary Arne Duncan made similar remarks on Monday.

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  • Americans Elect Sputters in Effort to Field Nominee

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    The experiment in independent political thinking that is Americans Elect is poised to flame out while the presidential contest gains altitude. Why the group's ambitions are falling flat in a political climate seemingly over-ripe for a prominent third-party is worth a look. Despite optimism and expertise, an innovative website designed to put the voters in the driver’s seat, and a budget of about $40 million, Americans Elect has not produced -- and likely will not produce -- an independent-party candidate who possesses marquee national appeal.

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  • Romney backer sees treason, Obama's campaign cries foul

    By Sam Youngman and Jeff Mason, Reuters

    It was one of the defining moments of the 2008 presidential campaign: A woman at a rally for Republican John McCain, while asking McCain a question, called Democratic contender Barack Obama "an Arab" who couldn't be trusted.

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May 07, 2012

  • Obama launches campaign against Romney, but his real opponent is the economy

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    President Obama formally launched his reelection campaign here Saturday with some old favorites, from “fired up, ready to go” to a closing bow to “hope and change.” But almost everything else about the day spoke to the differences between his first and second runs for the president. The president used his rallies to try to begin to disqualify Mitt Romney. Yet the coming election is still more about him than his probable Republican rival. Obama’s biggest opponent may be an economy that is still struggling to gain the kind of momentum that will convince voters that the recession is truly over.

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  • Hope, Change, and Fear: President Obama launches his re-election campaign

    by John Dickerson, Slate

    Barack Obama once wanted to “Win the Future.” Now he's just hoping to get there. "Forward" is the new message of his re-election campaign, which he outlined Saturday in the first two official speeches of his 2012 presidential campaign. While his message still contains the old slogan’s optimism of a brighter tomorrow, the force of the president's new argument is not so much that Americans could achieve greatness but that they must lock arms to keep Mitt Romney from dragging the country back to a dark past. Hope and change are still alive, said the president, referring to his 2008 election themes. But this time fear is also his running mate.

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  • Elizabeth Warren: Can a liberal champion win over the center in Massachusetts?

    By Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

    There was a time in this country when “class warfare” was more than an epithet politicians hurled at each other. That is one reason the Everett Mills was a place where Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren had no trouble bringing a crowd to its feet.

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  • French Elections and Euro Falls

    With John Harwood, CNBC

    What is the potential fallout with international markets and diplomatically with the U.S.?

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  • Coming Clean On Drones

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    In recent weeks, a parade of top officials has given sober, underpublicized speeches explaining why President Obama not only considers "targeted killing" drone strikes against terrorists legal but has massively expanded their use, even approving a strike against a U.S. citizen, the New Mexico-born Al Qaeda preacher Anwar Awlaki, in Yemen last year.

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May 04, 2012

  • The Pace We've Come to Expect

    By Greg Ip, The Economist

    For the second month in a row, America’s labour market has disappointed, once again raising questions about whether the economic recovery is truly entrenched. Nonfarm payrolls rose just 115,000 in April from March. While the unemployment rate dipped to 8.1%, the lowest since early 2009, from 8.2%, it did so for the wrong reason: the labour force (those working or looking for work) shrank by 342,000.

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  • 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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