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!

Feb 12, 2013

  • Watching Obama for Signs of Change

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    On Tuesday night, the president will address the nation and Congress on the state of the union. But many will watch as well for signs of the state of Barack Obama.

    Inside the White House and out, advisers and associates have noted subtle but palpable changes in Mr. Obama since his re-election. “He even carries himself a little bit differently,” said one confidant who, like others, asked not to be identified discussing the president. He is relaxed, more voluble and even more confident than usual, these people say, freer to drop profanities or dismiss others’ ideas — enough that even some supporters fear the potential for hubris.

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  • Obama Speech Will "Throw Down the Gauntlet" to Congress

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    Here’s what we know about President Obama’s State of the Union address Tuesday night: It will include some news -- as in new challenges aimed at Congress -- and enough rhetoric about economic growth and job creation to sound familiar to most Americans who worry about continued 8 percent unemployment.

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  • Obama Economy Mission Unfulfilled as He Speaks on State of Union

    By Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

    President Barack Obama first spoke before a joint session of Congress during the depths of a recession. Four years later, much of the mission he laid out remains unaccomplished.

    When Obama delivers his State of the Union address tonight, he’ll still be confronting the central challenge of his presidency: The unemployment rate is only a few tenths of a percentage point lower than it was in February 2009, middle- income Americans are earning less, and the economy stalled in the last three months of 2012.

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  • State of the Union: What Do You Want Obama to Say?

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    What is the point of the State of the Union?

    The president's annual address to Congress tends to be a laundry list of policy priorities that fails to make much of a splash either inside the Capitol or with the broader public. His opponents are only listening to find things to take issue with, and his allies are mostly just hoping he tosses a mention to their pet causes.

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  • North Korea Nuclear Test 'Highly Provocative,' Obama Says

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

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  • North Korea Confirms It Conducted 3rd Nuclear Test

    By David Sanger and Choe Sang-Hun, The New York Times

    North Korea confirmed on Tuesday that it had conducted its third, long-threatened nuclear test, according to the official KCNA news service, posing a new challenge for the Obama administration in its effort to keep the country from becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.

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Feb 11, 2013

  • In Address, President Will Focus on the Middle Class

    By Jackie Calmes and Michael D. Shear, The New York Times

    President Obama on Tuesday will seek to move beyond the politics of the moment to define a second-term agenda built around restoring economic prosperity to the middle class, using his State of the Union address to unveil initiatives in education, infrastructure, clean energy and manufacturing.

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  • Marco Rubio Emerges as GOP’s Star. But Is He the Answer for Republicans?


    Lately, it seems just about everyone is fascinated by the junior senator from Florida.

    Time’s current cover proclaims Marco Rubio “The Republican Savior.” The Web site BuzzFeed last week solicited his views on immigration, climate change, gay rights — and the relative artistic merits of Tupac Shakur and the Notorious B.I.G. That test of his hip-hop fluency came after Rubio released a Spotify playlist of 16 songs he is listening to, generating a flood of instant analysis in the blogosphere.

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  • Obama’s Turn in Bush’s Bind

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    If President Obama tuned in to the past week’s bracing debate on Capitol Hill about terrorism, executive power, secrecy and due process, he might have recognized the arguments his critics were making: He once made some of them himself.

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  • Pentagon Goes On The Offensive Against Cyberattacks

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    With the Pentagon now officially recognizing cyberspace as a domain of warfare, U.S. military commanders are emphasizing their readiness to defend the nation against cyberthreats from abroad. What they do not say is that they are equally prepared to launch their own cyberattacks against U.S. adversaries.

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  • How to Name a Mountain After Ronald Reagan

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    Chuck Muth imagines a world where Las Vegas tourists could take a patriotic break from gambling and Cirque du Soleil for a side trip to Mount Reagan.

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Feb 08, 2013

  • Obama to Democrats: 'We've got a lot of work to do'

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    President Obama asked House Democrats to rally around his second-term agenda Thursday and warned of rocky times ahead as a divided Washington tries to bridge partisan gulfs on the federal budget, immigration laws and U.S. gun laws.

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  • Drones Are Focus as C.I.A. Nominee Goes Before Senators

    By Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane, The New York Times

    Engaging a high-ranking Obama administration official for the first time in an extensive public discussion of the use of drones for targeted killing, members of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Thursday pressed John O. Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, about the secrecy of the strikes, their legal basis and the reported backlash they have produced in Pakistan and Yemen.

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  • Brennan Objects To Use Of Waterboarding In CIA Confirmation Hearing

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    President Obama's nominee to run the CIA has his confirmation hearing Thursday afternoon. The hearing of White House counterterrorism chief John Brennan comes as lawmakers are studying a memo on drone strikes overseas. Robert Siegel talks to Tom Gjelten.

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  • How the Gun-Control Movement Got Smart

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    Here is how advocates of gun control used to talk about their cause: They openly disputed that the Second Amendment conferred the right to own a gun. Their major policy goals were to make handguns illegal and enroll all U.S. gun owners in a federal database. The group now known as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence was once known as Handgun Control Inc.; a 2001 book by the executive director of the Violence Policy Center was entitled Every Handgun Is Aimed at You: The Case for Banning Handguns.

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  • Why Understanding the Gun Control Debate Means Understanding Demographics

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    To understand the peculiar politics of passing gun reform legislation, it’s important to understand the link between gun ownership and demography and the increasingly important role that demography plays in voting behavior.

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Feb 07, 2013

  • America's Secret Drone War

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    The CIA uses a secret base in Saudi Arabia to launch drones throughout the region.

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  • Obama's Pick For CIA Chief To Face Senate Scrutiny

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    John Brennan, President Obama's choice to lead the CIA, can look forward to a grilling Thursday on Capitol Hill. As Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, he has been associated with some controversial policies, including the use of armed drones. Brennan's nomination comes before the Senate Intelligence Committee, and members from both parties have their questions ready.

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  • Sen. Marco Rubio to Give GOP Response Tuesday

    With John Harwood, CNBC

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  • New Rove Effort Has G.O.P. Aflame

    By Jeff Zeleny, The New York Times

    Their battle with Democrats will have to wait. For now, Republicans have their hands full fighting one another.

    The strategist Karl Rove and his allies are under withering criticism for creating the Conservative Victory Project, their effort to help rebuild the Republican Party and win control of the Senate. Their pledge to take sides in primary races in an effort to pick candidates they see as more electable has set off a fierce backlash from conservative activists.

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