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 29, 2013

  • GOP Districts Have Become Whiter, More Conservative

    By Susan Davis and Alan Gomez, USA Today

    Momentum to overhaul the nation's immigration laws is fueled by the growing political influence of Hispanics in America, but in the U.S. House there is diminishing incentive for Republicans to support the effort because their constituents have become whiter, more conservative and less diverse than the nation as a whole.

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  • Born to Run

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    President Barack Obama and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie toured the rebuilt New Jersey Shore Tuesday and stopped by an arcade booth called Touchdown Fever. The game offered a stuffed bear to anyone who could toss a football through a tire. President Obama tried five times and missed. Gov. Christie threw the football through the tire on his first try. Obama gave him a high five. Christie then gave Obama the bear he won.

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May 28, 2013

  • Can A Polarized America Help Obamacare?

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    In America the Polarized, almost every issue is viewed through a partisan lens. The most recent trio of troubles to hit the White House--IRS, Benghazi, and DOJ--has elicited predictably partisan feelings. According to an ABC/Washington Post poll released this week, 74 percent of Republicans believe that the GOP-led investigation into the attacks on an American consulate in Libya is legitimate, while 71 percent of Democrats see this as nothing but political opportunism. A Pew poll finds that Republicans are paying much closer attention to all three of these issues than Democrats.

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  • Obama Keeps Distance From Torture Debate, At Least For Now

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    In his Thursday, President Obama discussed drone warfare and the Guantanamo detention camp. But a third controversial issue went largely unmentioned: the use of interrogation methods that are tantamount to torture.

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  • The Cruz Missile

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Sen. Ted Cruz doesn’t have as many friends as he says he does. In the latest round of Cruz’s simmering debate with Sen. John McCain (who labeled Cruz a "wacko bird"), Cruz spoke of "my friend, the senior senator from Arizona" while painting him as out of touch with his party and country. It usually takes a while for senators to learn how to weaponize compliments and imprecations of friendship, but Cruz is a quick study. After a patient attack on McCain's understanding of history, Cruz said: "I know my friend from Arizona is well aware of that because he is such an esteemed historian of this body." Like use of the word "frankly," which in Washington means just the opposite, Cruz’s sentence is best read in reverse: McCain is neither a friend, esteemed, nor a historian. (He is still, however, from Arizona.)

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  • How to Save the GOP

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    The party is in desperate straits. It has lost the popular vote in five of the past six presidential elections. It consoles itself with a majority in Congress, but even there its ranks are dwindling. On nearly every issue of national significance—from social affairs to fiscal matters to foreign policy—its positions are increasingly out of step with those of the majority of Americans. Riven by factions, it sometimes seems more like a collection of squabbling interest groups than a coherent political entity. People have started muttering that it might become merely a regional concern, or even go the way of the Whigs and die out.

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  • GOP Dilemma: Draw New Voters Without Irking Base

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    The Republican Party, having lost the popular vote in five of the last six presidential elections, confronts a dilemma that's easier to describe than to solve: How can it broaden its appeal to up-for-grabs voters without alienating its conservative base?

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  • RCP's Alexis Simendinger On The Role Of Presidents During Disasters

    With Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    PBS: In recent months, President Barack Obama has comforted Newtown families, memorialized Boston bombing victims and toured Oklahoma tornado destruction. Presidential historian Michael Beschloss and Alexis Simendinger of Real Clear Politics analyze with Gwen Ifill the role of presidents during times of national distress and tragedy.

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May 24, 2013

  • Obama Puts Restrictions on Drone Program

    By Christi Parsons and Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times

    Reining back the aggressive counter-terrorism strategy he has embraced for five years, President Obama declared clear, public restrictions for the first time on using unmanned aircraft to kill terrorists, a shift likely to significantly reduce U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere.

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  • C.I.A. to Focus More on Spying, a Difficult Shift

    By Mark Mazzetti, The New York Times

    For more than seven years, Mike — a lean, chain-smoking officer at the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Virginia — has managed the agency’s deadly campaign of armed drone strikes. As the head of the C.I.A.’s Counterterrorism Center, Mike wielded tremendous power in hundreds of decisions over who lived and died in far-off lands.

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  • Obama Bully Pulpit Bullied With Congress Probes Obscuring Agenda

    By Julianna Goldman, Bloomberg News

    President Barack Obama renewed his oath of office in January vowing to use the bully pulpit to rally the American people around his second-term agenda.

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  • Tea Party vs. Old Guard in GOP Senate Rift

    By Charles Babington and Andrew Taylor, Associated Press

    A long-simmering feud between establishment Republicans and tea partyers broke into full view, with Sen. John McCain accusing younger colleagues of overplaying their hands and tempting Democrats to change Senate rules that protect the minority party.

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  • IRS Official Lois Lerner Placed on Leave Amid Scandal

    By Ed O’Keefe and Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post

    The Internal Revenue Service official responsible for the office that targeted certain organizations seeking tax-exempt status was placed on paid administrative leave Thursday, making her the second senior official to be disciplined in the wake of the scandal.

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May 23, 2013

  • Obama, in a Shift, to Limit Targets of Drone Strikes

    By Peter Baker and Charlie Savage, The New York Times

    President Obama plans to open a new phase in the nation’s long struggle with terrorism on Thursday by restricting the use of unmanned drone strikes that have been at the heart of his national security strategy and shifting control of them away from the C.I.A. to the military.

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  • Holder Acknowledges U.S. Citizens Killed In Drone Strikes

    By Carrie Johnson, NPR

    For the first time, the U.S. government has acknowledged killing four American citizens in lethal drone strikes far outside traditional battlefields, confirming information that had been widely known but has only recently been unclassified under orders of the president.

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  • Poll: Most Back ‘Path to Citizenship,’ Setting Up Tough Choice for GOP Lawmakers

    By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen, The Washington Post

    Comprehensive immigration reform will now move to the Senate floor in June with solid overall support from the public. But a bare majority of Republican voters oppose a path to legal status for undocumented immigrants. Most of those against the idea say they won’t back congressional candidates who are supportive of the plan, highlighting conflicting pressures on GOP lawmakers as they consider the politics of their votes.

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  • Ted Cruz's Path From George W. Bush Adviser to Immigration Reform Opponent

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    In 2000, Ted Cruz was known as a Texas-raised, Harvard-trained domestic policy adviser to the George W. Bush campaign. Bush was a two-term governor from a border state who was determined to fix what he saw as a broken, inhumane immigration system.

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  • Analysis: In Any Scandal, Lying to Congress is Tough to Prove

    By Joan Biskupic and Kim Dixon, Reuters

    When embattled Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner was called before a congressional committee Wednesday, she declared that she had done nothing wrong - but said she did not intend to testify. Her defiance only turned up the heat from Republicans who have threatened to take her to court for misleading Congress.

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  • The IRS Hearings: Winners and Losers

    By Ed O’Keefe and Aaron Blake, Washington Post

    Everyone wants a piece of the Internal Revenue Service these days, which is why agency officials have been subjected to three congressional hearings over the past week.

    So now that the dust has settled, who came out on top? Who didn’t?

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May 22, 2013

  • Storm Renews Debate About How to Pay for Disaster Aid

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    Lawmakers publicly assured Oklahoma tornado victims on Tuesday that the federal government stands ready to assist in the recovery effort, but a potential financial aid package renewed debate Tuesday over how to pay for disaster relief.

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