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 11, 2012

  • What Kind of Kid Was Mitt Romney?

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    One of the many tensions in evaluating presidential candidates is that we don't want to disqualify them based on the stupidity of their youth. George W. Bush's blanket denial that "when I was young and irresponsible I was young and irresponsible" seems like a good rule. On the other hand, we want to know who these candidates are who seek to lead us (especially when they spend so much time offering us synthetic versions of themselves).

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  • Same-Sex Marriage Support Shows Pace of Social Change Accelerating

    By Peter Baker, New York Times

    When Bill Clinton was president, he waited until almost 1 in the morning in 1996 to sign a bill defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman. He did not like it, but was unwilling to veto it 45 days before an election. Sixteen years later, President Obama endorsed same-sex marriage, a journey reflecting not just his own personal “evolution,” but also the dizzying pace of social change in an age of technology.

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  • Asked About Gay Rights, Boehner Sticks to Economy

    By Janet Hook, Wall Street Journal

    One day after President Barack Obama roiled the political world by declaring his support for gay marriage, House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) Thursday seemed determined to keep his distance from the subject. Pressed on the gay marriage issue at his weekly press conference, Mr. Boehner repeatedly tried to steer the discussion back to the economy.

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    House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio (CNN)

  • Michele Bachmann’s New Swiss Political World

    By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

    Today we learned that Michele Bachmann has applied for and been granted Swiss citizenship. That’s a surprising development, given her general view of European-style welfare states.

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  • Dems' Elections Chief: Gay Marriage Will Have Little Impact

    By Susan Davis, USA TODAY

    The House Democrats' top campaign strategist said President Obama's declaration that gay Americans should be able to marry will have little ripple effect on races this November.

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May 10, 2012

  • Obama Evolves on Gay Marriage

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    President Obama's announcement Wednesday that he was done "evolving" and now supports same-sex marriage was, in retrospect, inevitable. Vice President Joe Biden made it so Sunday, when he remarked almost casually that he had grown "comfortable" with gay marriage. Biden's comfort level made Obama the nation's least comfortable politician, tied up in a knot of convoluted positions that he had hoped voters on both sides would overlook.

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  • Obama’s Gay Marriage Turnabout Forced Public by Biden

    By Margaret Talev and Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

    At a fundraiser with gay activists in New York last June, the day before state legislators passed a same-sex marriage law, President Barack Obama considered the choice they were making. He concluded he’d almost certainly have voted “yes” too. Conversations with staff, family, friends and supporters also moved him in that direction.

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  • Foiled Bomb Plot Highlights Growing CIA-Saudi Arabian Ties

    By Yochi J. Dreazen, National Journal

    The U.S. intelligence community has won plaudits for helping derail a series of recent terror plots, including this week’s disclosure of an al-Qaida affiliate’s attempt to use a sophisticated underwear bomb to destroy a Western jetliner. But the U.S. has a quiet ally who has been instrumental in stopping both the new plot and an earlier militant attempt to destroy U.S. cargo planes by secretly shipping explosives in conventional mail packages: Saudi Arabia, a country once derided as a financial supporter of Islamic militants around the globe.

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  • Obama’s Gay-Marriage Stance Brings Uncertain Political Fallout

    By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

    President Obama hoped that announcing his change of heart in favor of same-sex marriage would put the issue to rest as a topic in his bid for re-election. The immediate result, however, was that both sides seized upon it as an opportunity to energize their bases.

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    President Barack Obama (CNN, File Photo)

  • Putin to Skip Group of 8 Session, Delaying Postelection Meeting With Obama

    By Helene Cooper and Ellen Barry, New York Times

    Russia’s newly inaugurated president, Vladimir V. Putin, will not attend a summit meeting of world leaders in Maryland next week, the White House said on Wednesday, postponing until June the much-anticipated first meeting of President Obama and Mr. Putin as the leaders of their respective countries.

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  • The Audacity of Evolution

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    Joe Biden has such power over evolution he might make an amoeba get up and walk. Three days ago the vice president announced on Meet the Press that he supported same-sex couples getting married. Wednesday, President Obama announced that after a many-year evolution on the issue, he believed the same thing. The first African-American president became the first ever to announce his support for same-sex marriage. This is a landmark civil rights moment that happened awfully fast.

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May 09, 2012

  • Is Al Qaeda Bomb Builder Masterminding Plot?

    With Pierre Thomas, ABC News

    Pierre Thomas reports on chances of a new terror threat.

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  • Will Toxic GOP Governors Infect Romney?

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Florida Gov. Rick Scott didn't endorse Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney until last month, after rival Rick Santorum dropped out. It was a tardy and lackluster show of support. "Mitt Romney will be our party's nominee, and it is critical that all Republicans coalesce," Scott said in a written statement, as if forced to acknowledge the inevitable, like it or not. The two former corporate executives, who could probably spend all day swapping success stories, have never campaigned together.

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  • Insider Who Thwarted Underwear Bomb Plot was Supposed to Carry it Out

    By Pete Williams and Robert Windrem, NBC News

    An insider who worked with the United States and an allied security service to thwart an al-Qaida bomb plot hatched in Yemen was the man picked to carry out the suicide attack on a U.S.-bound airliner, U.S. and Yemeni officials tell NBC News.

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  • Sen. Richard Lugar Defeated in Indiana's GOP Primary

    By Susan Davis, USA TODAY

    Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana lost his re-election bid in the state's Republican primary Tuesday, ending the 36-year career of a GOP elder statesman and handing the Tea Party movement its biggest upset victory so far in the 2012 elections. Lugar was ousted by state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, whose campaign against Lugar was backed by conservative groups including the Tea Party Express, the anti-tax Club for Growth, the National Rifle Association and the Tea Party-aligned Freedom Works, and by former Republican Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

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    Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., speaks in Indianapolis after his primary defeat (CNN)

  • 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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