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!

Sep 06, 2013

  • The Fun-House Mirror That Is the Syria Decision

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Alan Lowenthal has a headache.  Who can blame him? The freshman House member, a California Democrat, is genuinely torn—torn up, really—over whether to vote for military strikes against Syria. After a classified briefing Wednesday in the House Foreign Affairs Committee, he was heading back to Long Beach, no closer to a decision than before.

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  • August Town Halls Tell Us Nothing

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    Before Syria took center stage this weekend, the media attention on Congress had been focused on what Members learned while home for August recess. Given the large number of important issues Congress will have to confront this fall – immigration, health care, the debt ceiling, sequestration, etc. – it would make sense to hear what regular Americans have been telling their local representatives about those issues over the summer recess.

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Sep 05, 2013

  • Obama Says ‘World Set a Red Line’ on Chemical Arms

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama declared on Wednesday that the confrontation with Syria over chemical weapons was not a personal test for him but for Congress, the United States and the world as he worked to strengthen support at home and abroad for a punitive strike.

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  • Kerry Turns From Anti-War Protester to Syria Salesman

    By Indira A.R. Lakshmanan, Bloomberg News

    When an anti-war protester interrupted a congressional hearing on Syria this week to yell, “We don’t want another war,” Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged the irony that he first appeared before the same Senate panel 42 years ago as an anti-war activist.

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  • The Syria Mission Is Risky

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    After almost 30 years in the Senate, Secretary of State John Kerry should’ve known that Senate hearings are supposed to be free of news. As Sen. John McCain proved, you can even sit through them and play online poker. So it was unusual and exciting to hear Kerry say Tuesday during his testimony in front of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that he could not promise with metaphysical certitude that ground troops would not be needed in Syria. ““I don’t want to take off the table an option that might or might not be available to a president of the United States to secure our country,”

    A few minutes later, though, Kerry tried to reverse himself, not only clearing the table but trying to seal the room. “Let’s shut that door now,” to ground troops, Kerry said.

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  • House Panel Debate Shows Divide over Syria Resolution

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    The Obama administration's push for congressional approval of military strikes on Syria continued Wednesday in the GOP-led U.S. House, where Secretary of State John Kerry compared inaction against Syria to early efforts to appease Nazi Germany.

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  • Senate Committee Approves Resolution Authorizing U.S. Strike on Syria

    By Anne Gearan, Ed O’Keefe and William Branigin, Washington Post

    The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved a resolution Wednesday granting President Obama limited authority to launch a military strike on Syria in response to its reported use of chemical weapons against civilians.

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  • The Democratic Congressman Who Thinks He Can Stop the Syria War

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    A "conscience vote": That's the congressional euphemism for an issue on which partisan loyalties are so scrambled that lawmakers must make up their own minds. Both Nancy Pelosi and John Boehner have used the term to describe the authorization of military force in Syria, meaning they won't be "whipping," or pressuring members to vote a certain way.

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Sep 04, 2013

  • Obama Says World Set a ‘Red Line’ on Syria

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama declared on Wednesday that the confrontation with Syria over chemical weapons was not a personal test for him but for Congress, the country and the world as he worked to strengthen support at home and abroad for a punitive strike.

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  • Senate Use-of-Force Resolution on Syria Coming Together

    By Jeff Zeleny, ABC News

    A new Senate use-of-force resolution on Syria is coming together tonight, which would set a 60-day deadline for President Obama to act with limited military strikes.

    The final language was still being worked out tonight, Senate aides tell ABC News, but the proposal also would specifically restrict U.S. ground troops from being used.

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  • The Risks of U.S. Military Action Against Syria

    With Indira Lakshmanan, Bloomberg News Watch more
  • Allies’ Intelligence Differs on Details, but Still Points to Assad Forces

    By David E. Sanger and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times

    The British say that there have been 14 Syrian chemical attacks since 2012 and that the last, the most horrific, killed “at least 350” Syrian civilians. The Americans count fewer attacks, but put a stunningly higher, quite precise number on the casualties: 1,429.

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  • Senate Syria Resolution Would Limit Obama to 90 Days

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    Members of the Senate Foreign Relations committee hammered out a deal on Tuesday evening that would set a 60-day deadline for military action in Syria, with one 30-day extension possible, according to a draft of the resolution.

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  • Hawks, Doves, Fence Sitters

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    During the Cold War and for a period after the attacks of 9/11, a national security consensus existed between the two parties. When it came to foreign adventures, the president’s party would support him, and a significant portion of the opposition (sometimes a majority) would go along, too. This consensus has been fraying. On issues from President Obama’s use of drones, to the breadth of U.S. surveillance, to how to respond to the coup in Egypt, there is confusion, instability, and partisanship in Washington.

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  • How the Syria Debate Is Splitting Both Parties

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    What will happen when Congress votes on Syria? At this point, nobody knows, though President Obama said Tuesday he is confident his request for military authorization will be approved, and with Republican House leaders’ backing, some degree of congressional momentum appeared to be building in his favor.

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Sep 03, 2013

  • President Gains McCain’s Backing on Syria Attack

    By Jackie Calmes, Michael R. Gordon and Eric Schmitt, The New York Times

    The White House’s aggressive push for Congressional approval of an attack on Syria appeared to have won the tentative support of one of President Obama’s most hawkish critics, Senator John McCain, who said Monday that he would back a limited strike if the president did more to arm the Syrian rebels and the attack was punishing enough to weaken the Syrian military.

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  • US Ready for Strike on Syria, Hoping for International Support

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

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  • U.S.-Russian Ties Still Fall Short of ‘Reset’ Goal

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    Just days before Vladimir V. Putin reassumed the presidency of Russia last year, President Obama dispatched his national security adviser to Moscow. Mr. Obama had made considerable progress with Dmitri A. Medvedev, the caretaker president, and wanted to preserve the momentum.

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  • On Syria Strike, Obama Administration Ramps Up Pressure on Congress, Shows Flexibility

    By Karen Tumulty and Anne Gearan, Washington Post

    As the Obama administration launched what it described as a “flood the zone” campaign to persuade Congress to authorize military action against Syria, officials said Monday that they are willing to rewrite the proposed resolution to clarify that any operation would be limited in scope and duration and would not include the use of ground troops.

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  • The Six Key Players in Congress' Syria Debate

    Susan Davis and Aamer Madhani, USA Today

    A week ago, it seemed the question of whether to take military action against Syria rested solely on the shoulders of President Obama.

    But he has turned to Congress to authorize military airstrikes against Syria for using chemical weapons, setting up the most consequential foreign policy vote since the 2002 authorization of the Iraq War.

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