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!

Jul 19, 2012

  • All quiet on the war front

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    Here's an important fact you haven't heard much about in the presidential campaign: The armed forces of the United States are at war in at least four countries, and that number could increase any day. About 87,000 Americans are still fighting in Afghanistan, and some are likely to stay past 2014. We're at war in neighboring Pakistan too, mostly using unmanned drones but with a handful of people on the ground.

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  • Philosophic Clash Over Government’s Role Highlights Parties’ Divide

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    It took only a few days for it to become a favorite Republican talking point. President Obama told an audience that “if you’ve got a business, you didn’t build that; somebody else made that happen.” Suddenly his critics had proof that he does not believe in individual success or the free market. Mitt Romney scrapped much of his stump speech on Wednesday to focus on the line and sent surrogates to reinforce the point. Mr. Obama’s aides said he was taken out of context, that he was referring to the value of public structures like bridges and roads in the nation’s commerce.

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  • Oops: What Bernanke Said Five Years Ago Today.

    By David Wessel, The Wall Street Journal

    Five years ago, July 18, 2007, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testified before the House Financial Services Committee as he is today. The housing bubble was bursting, cracks in the global financial system were just beginning to appear, but Bernanke didn’t sound terribly worried or prescient.

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Jul 18, 2012

  • Romney and Obama Resume Economic Attacks, Despite a Few Diversions

    By Peter Baker and Trip Gabriel, The New York Times

    The argument between Mitt Romney and President Obama over who is better suited to help American workers get back on their feet got personal again on Tuesday, with Mr. Romney saying he was “ashamed” of Mr. Obama for giving government loans to well-connected donors. The overarching dispute is which candidate’s view of government might lift a struggling economy: Mr. Romney’s belief in lower taxes and fewer regulations, or Mr. Obama’s vision of a vital role for government.

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  • Romney campaign says Obama should "learn to be an American"

    By Sam Youngman, Reuters

    Republican Mitt Romney's campaign unleashed new attacks on President Barack Obama on Tuesday, with one of Romney's surrogates saying he wished Obama "would learn to be an American" before apologizing within hours for the remark. On a conference call with reporters, former New Hampshire Governor John Sununu blasted Obama and his campaign, calling them a "bunch of liars."

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  • Obama Stresses Story Over Policy in Re-election Strategy

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    Michelle Obama put out the word Monday that President Obama will celebrate his 51st birthday next month with donor friends at their house in Chicago, including a few small-dollar contributors who will be flown in as winners of yet another campaign raffle. Last year at a dazzling Chicago extravaganza to celebrate his mid-century mark, the president raised funds from well-wishers at events small and large held in the sweltering Aragon Entertainment Center. Jennifer Hudson and Herbie Hancock supplied the music for an energized evening organized around a re-election race that still seemed distant.

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  • Pennsylvania in Play?

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Just six weeks ago, conventional wisdom was that Pennsylvania was off the table. Mitt Romney's campaign didn't list it as a top target, and his state chairman said the GOP nominee himself was skeptical he could win there. A Republican nominee hasn't won the state since 1988 and it didn't look like 2012 would be any different. Today the picture does look different. The Rust Belt has been getting a lot of attention from both campaigns as they court white, blue-collar voters. Romney is holding a rally in Irwin, PA, Tuesday afternoon, and President Obama's campaign announced it is running a tough new anti-Romney ad exclusively in the state. Pro-Romney super PACs are also spending money there.

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  • U.S. economic fears shift from Europe toward ‘fiscal cliff’

    By Michael A. Fletcher and Zachary A Goldfarb, The Washington Post

    The main threat to the economy is shifting from what others may do to us to what we are doing to ourselves. For much of the year, economists worried about the impact of the slowdown in Europe on the U.S. economy. Now, analysts say anxiety about the impact of the fast-approaching fiscal cliff — the series of federal spending cuts and tax hikes set to take effect at the beginning of 2013 if Congress and the Obama administration do not act — is displacing Europe as the primary threat to the nation’s sputtering economy.

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Jul 17, 2012

  • Obama Winning Ugly

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    If Barack Obama wins this election, he's going to win ugly. Job creation is anemic, voters think the country is going in the wrong direction, and the president has been unable to convince them otherwise. So, the path is clear: Destroy your opponent and pander to your base. Obama Wan Kenobi, it's your only hope. This has been obvious for months. It was clear, at the very least, from the president's campaign kick-off back in May.

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  • Obama and Romney Step Up Accusations on Jobs

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama and Mitt Romney escalated their running battle over capitalism, integrity and the economy on Monday as each sought to portray the other as part of the nation’s problem rather than its solution. At a freewheeling town-hall-style meeting with supporters here, Mr. Obama took aim at Mr. Romney’s corporate tax proposals, saying they would create jobs overseas rather than at home. Mr. Romney’s campaign accused Mr. Obama of “crony capitalism” by using government resources to reward donors at the expense of the middle class.

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  • Obama Campaign Continues Attack on Romney

    With Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg

    President Barack Obama's campaign stop in Cincinnati, Ohio and the campaigns continued attack on Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's record while at Bain Capital.

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  • Obama Ad Targets Romney’s Tax Returns

    By Laura Meckler, The Wall Street Journal

    The Obama campaign is working to keep alive the controversy over Republican rival Mitt Romney’s refusal to release more than two years of his personal income taxes. On Tuesday, it questions that decision in a new TV ad airing in the Pittsburgh market, where Mr. Romney will be campaigning. The ad, entitled “Makes You Wonder,” is a quick hit– expected to run for only a day—and the goal may be to generate free media attention as much as to move views of voters who see the spot.

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  • Drought in U.S. reaching levels not seen in 50 years, pushing up crop prices

    By Michael Fletcher and Peter Whoriskey, The Washington Post

    A drought gripping the Corn Belt and more than half the United States has reached proportions not seen in more than 50 years, the government reported Monday, jacking up crop prices and threatening to drive up the cost of food. Though agriculture is a small part of the U.S. economy, the shortfall comes as the nation struggles to regain its economic footing. Last week, the Agriculture Department declared more than 1,000 counties in 26 states as natural-disaster areas.

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Jul 16, 2012

  • Democrats threaten to go over ‘fiscal cliff’ if GOP fails to raise taxes

    By Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post

    Democrats are making increasingly explicit threats about their willingness to let nearly $600 billion worth of tax hikes and spending cuts take effect in January unless Republicans drop their opposition to higher taxes for the nation’s wealthiest households. Emboldened by signs that GOP resistance to new taxes may be weakening, senior Democrats say they are prepared to weather a fiscal event that could plunge the nation back into recession if the new year arrives without an acceptable compromise.

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  • Obama to tout auto bailout, tax policies in Ohio

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    President Barack Obama is preparing to tell Ohio voters that Republican Mitt Romney's tax proposals would spur job growth in foreign countries including China. The president also plans Monday to highlight his administration's 2009 bailout of the auto industry, which saved thousands of jobs in Ohio, according to Democrats. Romney opposed Obama's use of massive federal loans to keep Chrysler and General Motors afloat while they reorganized under bankruptcy protection.

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  • In Pawlenty, Romney Campaign May Find Down-to-Earth Appeal

    By Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times

    It was four years ago this summer, when Tim Pawlenty ranked high on the list of John McCain’s potential running mates, and Mr. Pawlenty and his wife, Mary, were plowing through a voluminous questionnaire probing deep into their finances and almost every other aspect of their lives.

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  • Oops! I Did It Again

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    "Presidents cannot admit mistakes," a senior Bush administration official once told me. Admitting mistakes makes a president look weak, gives critics ammunition, leads to more questions, and sets a dangerous precedent for the next time everything doesn't go to plan. Once you've admitted a mistake, where do you stop? You definitely don't want to admit a mistake in an election year. So when Charlie Rose showed up at the White House asking the president what he thought his big mistake was, all that remained a mystery was how Obama would evade the question.

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  • Analysis: Rivals on left, right battle in Supreme Court

    By Joan Biskupic, Reuters

    They are heavyweights in the ring that is the U.S. Supreme Court. These button-down, Ivy League-credentialed versions of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier represent Washington versus the states and the competing left-right ideologies behind that conflict. And the punches they throw - and take - while at the courtroom lectern have captured as much attention as their stances on the law.

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Jul 13, 2012

  • The Numbers Behind Obama's Negative Ad Campaign

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Looking for a little hope and change from President Obama’s reelection campaign? Give it up. The vast majority of the president’s television spending this week bashes Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, either over his business record, his position on abortion rights, or his tax plan. Since April, just over half—about $27 million out of $51 million—of Obama’s television spending has been on negative ads, according to a GOP media tracker. But his campaign has taken an overwhelmingly negative turn at a time when the economic recovery is stalling, and it buttresses what the Republicans have been saying for months: The president’s overall strategy is to ruin Romney’s reputation, leaving voters without a viable alternative.

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  • High Hurdles

    By Fawn Johnson, National Journal

    The air conditioning at the Firehook Bakery near Farragut Square in Washington is barely keeping up with the 100-degree temperature outside. Pamela O’Leary and Mwende Katwiwa find a private table in back. Katwiwa readies her notebook and pen, while O’Leary sips her coffee. “What are the main differences between Washington, D.C., and other places you’ve worked?” Katwiwa asks.

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