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!

Nov 16, 2012

  • Demystifying the fiscal impasse that is vexing Washington

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    Many Americans must be wondering: What is all this about a “fiscal cliff”? And why did it receive so little attention during the presidential campaign?

    Well, it’s complicated — the so-called cliff, that is. And most solutions are politically painful. In a rare show of bipartisanship, or mutual protection, both parties ducked the debate until after the election. What follows is an attempt to demystify the issue, which President Obama and the lame-duck Congress now are struggling over, and which may occupy them right through the holidays.

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  • The 4 issues dragging down the economic recovery

    By Jim Tankersley, National Journal

    It seems bizarre even to mention this less than two weeks after the vote, but President Obama just won an election that was all about the economy. That’s what six in 10 voters on Nov. 6 told exit pollsters they were most concerned about. Not balancing the budget, reforming the social-safety net, or making the rich pay more in taxes—rather, improving an economy still laboring to find a growth groove more than three years after the Great Recession officially ended. “Our top priority has to be jobs and growth,” Obama said in a press statement on the Friday after the election, and he’s right.

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  • Senate works on financial cliff options

    By Lori Montgomery and Zachary A. Goldfarb, The Washington Post

    As congressional leaders prepare to meet Friday morning at the White House to discuss the looming “fiscal cliff,” much of Washington is focused on the potential for compromise between President Obama and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

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  • G.O.P. Governors meet, amid whispers of 2016

    By Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times

    The polite praise initially showered upon Mitt Romney for having waged a good fight against President Obama has given way to a plea from some Republicans: Please stop talking.

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  • How to run a killer campaign

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Every morning when Barack Obama’s campaign manager Jim Messina turned on his computer, he saw a snapshot of the state of the race. Campaign software engineers had built him a dashboard that showed how many doors volunteers had knocked on the night before, how many phone calls they had made, how much money had been raised, and what was moving on Twitter and other social networks. It also included a feed of traditional news feeds. “That allowed me to get a good sense in the morning of what was going on in our world.” Messina says it was about 10 days before Election Day when he looked at those numbers and the early-vote tallies that he began to smile. “That’s when I started to feel pretty good. I looked at the numbers and we were crushing it out there.”

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Nov 15, 2012

  • David Petraeus to Testify on Benghazi attack

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    Martha Raddatz discusses the former CIA head's knowledge of the terror attack.


    Watch more
  • Obama meets C.E.O.’s as fiscal reckoning nears

    By Helene Cooper and Nelson D. Schwartz, The New York Times

    President Obama extended an olive branch to business leaders Wednesday, seeking their support as he prepared to negotiate with Congressional Republicans over the fiscal impasse in Washington.

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  • Obama says no ‘red lines’ on top tax rate, signaling some flexibility in debt talks

    By Lori Montgomery and Zachary A. Goldfarb, The Washington Post

    President Obama cracked open the door to compromise with Republicans on tax rates for the nation’s wealthiest households Wednesday, saying he is “open to new ideas” for increasing their tax bills without letting the top rate rise as scheduled in January to 39.6 percent.

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  • Libyan officials acknowledge they’ve arrested no suspects in Benghazi consulate attack

    By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

    Two months after the American ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were killed in assaults on U.S. facilities here, there have been no arrests of suspected attackers, and Libyan officials say it is unlikely any will be made anytime soon.

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Nov 14, 2012

  • Petraeus will testify behind closed doors on Benghazi

    By Pierre Thomas and Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    Former CIA Director David Petraeus has agreed to testify at a closed-door session of Congress to answer questions about September's terrorist attack on the U.S. consulate in Libya, but he will likely also be asked about new revelations that his alleged mistress Paula Broadwell is suspected of storing classified military material, at her home.

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  • Scandals remind us generals are not infallible [audio]

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    The investigation that forced the resignation of CIA Director David Petraeus has ensnared Gen. John Allen, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan. The two cases raise questions about the relationship between top officers and their civilian boss. It can be awkward but on occasion the president must disregard the counsel of military commanders.

    Listen here
  • Obama to open talks with $1.6 trillion plan to raise taxes on corporations, wealthy

    By Lori Montgomery and Zachary A. Goldfarb, The Washington Post

    President Obama is taking a hard line with congressional Republicans heading into negotiations over the year-end “fiscal cliff,” making no opening concessions and calling for far more in new taxes than Republicans have so far been willing to consider.

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  • Obama vows firm stance on deficit-reduction plan

    By Jackie Calmes and Steven Greenhouse, The New York Times

    President Obama reassured leaders of labor and progressive groups on Tuesday that he will not yield to Congressional Republicans and extend Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans as he negotiates for a deficit-reduction plan to avoid looming tax increases and spending cuts.

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  • The fiscal cliff: Will Obama, Congress cut budget deal?

    Susan Davis, Richard Wolf and Tim Mullaney, USA Today

    Five people will gather Friday inside the White House to begin making decisions that could affect the pocketbooks of 315 million Americans.

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Nov 13, 2012

  • Petraeus scandal widens: Gen. Allen implicated in affair

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News
    An investigation into the top commander in Afghanistan's possible relationship has been revealed.

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  • David Petraeus and America’s warrior monks

    By James Kitfield, National Journal

    On Veterans Day weekend, Washington was all atwitter over the resignation of CIA director David Petraeus for an illicit affair. A retired general who in the past decade was thrown into the breach of two failing wars and stared down murderous insurgencies was ultimately felled by the one adversary he could not outsmart -- temptation.

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  • Through Post-Election Fog, a Fiscal Cliff Looms

    With David Wessel and Janet Hook, Wall Street Journal

    WSJ reporters look ahead to the immediate challenges for Barack Obama's second term, including the approaching fiscal cliff and the likely way Congress will solve it.

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  • Libyans, diplomats: CIA’s Benghazi station a secret – and quickly repaired

    By Nancy A. Youssef, McClatchy Newspapers

    Just more than a mile from the group of villas that served as the U.S. consulate in Benghazi was another set of U.S.-leased villas – an annex where the CIA had set up shop, and from where would-be rescuers set out on the night of Sept. 11 in response to the attack at the consulate.

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Nov 12, 2012

  • Jill Kelley, Friend of David Petraeus, Received Harassing Emails That Launched FBI Probe

    By Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    The Florida woman who received harassing emails from Paula Broadwell, spurring an FBI probe that ultimately uncovered the Gen. David Petraeus' extramarital affair with his biographer and led to his resignation as director of the CIA, has been identified as Jill Kelley, a local concerned citizen who volunteers to help the military.

    Watch the report
  • Washington Surprised By News Of Petraeus Affair

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    Officials in Washington are still trying to make sense of the sudden resignation last week of CIA Director David Petraeus. More details are emerging about the extramarital affair that brought Petraeus down. It came to light following an FBI investigation, which was not focused originally on the CIA director but soon led to him.

    Listen to the report