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!

Oct 30, 2013

  • Obamacare's 'Whole Truth'

    With John Harwood, CNBC

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  • Where the Buck Stops, Some See a Bystander

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama finds himself under fire on two disparate fronts these days, both for the botched rollout of his signature health care program and for the secret spying on allied heads of state. In both instances, his explanation roughly boils down to this: I didn’t know.

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  • It Gets Better

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    During the public debate over health care in 2009 and 2010, no matter how tightly you may have shut your door, there was one piece of information it was impossible to avoid: the president's promise that if you liked your doctor and your health care plan you would be able to keep it. So it was a surprise to many people to get a letter like the one Independence Blue Cross sent its customers weeks ago. It said that as a result of the Affordable Care Act, "your current plan will be discontinued effective January 1, 2014, and you will need to select a new plan by the end of December to avoid any interruption in coverage."

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  • Should Congress yield control of the debt limit?

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    In the wake of the latest confrontation that pushed the nation to the brink of financial default, lawmakers are posing a management question: Can we continue to trust Congress with raising the nation's debt ceiling?

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  • Does Obama Still Have Faith in Government?

    By Gloria Borger, CNN

    Irony is a part of life, the cliché goes. And right now, President Barack Obama is living the part, in a big way: He's the civil libertarian defending an activist drone program. He's the liberal with a spy agency caught eavesdropping on the private conversations of friendly leaders. And he's the high-tech health care reformer whose website got stuck at Go.

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Oct 29, 2013

  • The NSA Spying Uproar: An RCP Primer

    By Alexis Simendinger, Real Clear Politics

    Spying by the National Security Agency on heads of state, including in countries that consider themselves U.S. partners, has European capitals in tizzies -- and demanding explanations from Washington.

    President Obama and his team argued Monday that whatever the United States has been doing with its secret data-gathering, it’s aimed at safeguarding a dangerous world. According to spokesmen, Obama assured German Chancellor Angela Merkel that her phone communications are not and will not be collected going forward (sidestepping comments about past practices). The Wall Street Journal reported Obama was in the dark until recently about U.S. spying on the communications of other heads of state, but ended the practice when he found out.emanding explanations from Washington.

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  • Obama May Ban Spying on Heads of Allied States

    By Mark Landler and David E. Sanger, The New York Times

    President Obama is poised to order the National Security Agency to stop eavesdropping on the leaders of American allies, administration and congressional officials said Monday, responding to a deepening diplomatic crisis over reports that the agency had for years targeted the cellphone of Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.

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  • At the Source of the Shutdown, the Economy Falters — and Anger at Barack Obama Runs High

    By Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post

    Tom Hackett’s life in the meat business was nearly gone by 4 p.m. on Thursday. What remained behind yards and yards of polished glass were a few scattered remnants of his final inventory — a couple of flank steaks, some shrimp, a lonely half a pound of bologna.

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  • Judge Blocks Parts of Texas Abortion Law

    By Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post

    A federal judge in Texas blocked two key parts of the state’s controversial abortion law Monday, ruling that one part is unconstitutional while another provision imposes an undue burden on women in some instances.

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  • Senate to Vote on Gay Rights Bill by Thanksgiving

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    The U.S. Senate will take up a gay rights bill before Thanksgiving, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Monday.

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  • The Redemption of Clintonism

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    It’s no secret that the post-presidential years have been exceedingly kind to Bill Clinton. The man who left the White House in a cloud of scandal, his party so divided that many rushed into the arms of Ralph Nader, is now so beloved that Republicans running for president invoke his example. At the Democratic convention, meanwhile, he threatens to overshadow the nominee. Women want him, men want to be him, as the saying goes; and pretty much everyone in politics wants whatever it is that he has.

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Oct 28, 2013

  • Why We Need a Witch Hunt

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Washington think tanks, your moment has arrived! is a mess and someone must chronicle exactly what went wrong. The press is trying, of course, but we also must cover the aftermath—the parade of predictable behavior that obscures more than it illuminates. Did you see the hearing in the House Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday? Despite the best efforts of Chairman Fred Upton, between the grandstanding, confused questions, and the witness fog machine, it's a wonder anyone got out alive. Meanwhile, Republicans are pointing fingers, placing blame, and otherwise showing disgust that a program that they have tried to kill is being run so badly. (Perhaps they're jealous that the administration is better at undermining Obamacare than they are.) Administration officials, on the other hand, are caught between covering their backsides, spouting plumes of happy talk, and hiring more people to collect the springs and sprockets from the launch pad where the whole thing went kaput. On Friday, officials in charge of the #techsurge said that would be running smoothly by late November, two months after the launch.

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  • Why Wednesday will be ‘Another Tricky Day’ on Capitol Hill

    By Ed O'Keefe, The Washington Post

    The House and Senate are back in town together for the first time since lawmakers voted to reopen the federal government, and this is the week that the results of the short-term deal brokered to end the impasse start playing out.

    It’s also the week that could cement good, bad or mixed feelings about the new federal health-care law in the minds of the general public, as the nation’s top health official comes to Capitol Hill to explain what’s gone wrong so far with implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

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  • Obamacare's Next Hurdle

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    One of these weeks, now that the Obama administration has recruited a SWAT team of computer whizzes, will recover from its shambolic debut and turn into, well, just another website. After all, it's only a website, and websites can be fixed.

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  • Data Suggests Push to Spy on Merkel Dates to ’02

    By Alison Smale, Melissa Eddy and David E. Sanger, The New York Times

    New details about the monitoring of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cellphone by the National Security Agency further stoked the German government’s anger on Sunday and raised two questions: Why did the United States target her as early as 2002, and why did it take five years for the Obama administration to put a halt to the surveillance?

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  • A Year After Romney Loss, GOP Woes Run Even Deeper

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    A year after losing a presidential race many Republicans thought was winnable, the party arguably is in worse shape than before. The GOP is struggling to control tensions between its tea party and establishment wings and watching approval ratings sink to record lows.

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Oct 25, 2013

  • The Populist Egghead

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    Sen. Ted Cruz may be the conservative movement's first populist egghead—a grassroots leader who is attacked for being too smart to have common sense. In political theater, you're usually allowed to wear only one of these costumes.

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  • Democrats Beginning to Support Obamacare Delays

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    A rising tide of Democrats has begun voicing support for easing the deadlines and penalties of the Affordable Care Act, showing the first cracks in party unity against GOP opposition to the health care law.

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  • Healthcare.Gov’s Problems Aren’t Just with the Uninsured

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    By now just about every single media outlet, comedian, pundit and columnist – left, right and center – has flogged the Obama Administration for their poorly designed and terribly managed health care website. But, what many are missing is the fact that those who are uninsured and struggling to get onto the website (or are giving up all together), aren’t the ones that should worry Democrats the most in 2014. It is the people who are insured, and aren’t going to ever try to log-on to, who are going to determine the political fall-out from this mishap in the midterm elections.

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  • How and Why NSA Spies on U.S. Allies

    By Kimberly Dozier, Associated Press

    German Chancellor Angela Merkel complained to President Barack Obama in a phone call this week after receiving information that her cellphone may have been monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies. The White House said the U.S. isn’t monitoring and won’t monitor Merkel’s communications — but didn’t address what might have happened in the past.

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