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!

Aug 26, 2014

  • Vacation barbs the least of Obama's issues as he returns to DC

    By John Harwood, CNBC

    The bad news for President Barack Obama, as he returns to work in Washington on Monday after a two-week vacation, is all around—armed conflict in Europe and the Middle East, unhappy voters and declining influence at home.

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  • Obama Authorizes Air Surveillance of ISIS in Syria

    By Mark Lander and Helene Cooper, The New York Times

    President Obama has authorized surveillance flights over Syria, a precursor to potential airstrikes there, but a mounting concern for the White House is how to target the Sunni extremists without helping President Bashar al-Assad.

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  • Charlie Crist, Rick Scott battle for every Florida vote

    By Karen Tumulty, The Washington Post

    On the wall of Charlie Crist’s new field office in the largely African American suburb of Miami Gardens, it is still possible to see traces of the previous tenant. Faintly visible through the fresh coat of white paint is a familiar blue O rising like the sun over red stripes.

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  • Inside the Democrats' Plan to Save Arkansas—and the Senate

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    No sign announces the purpose of this little storefront, squeezed between a Bestway Rent to Own and a Rent-a-Center in a dilapidated shopping center. But the words hand-lettered in black and red marker on three pieces of paper taped to the window—"Register to Vote Here"—and a cluster of placards for candidates give it away: It is a Democratic Party field office.

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  • In Colorado, ‘Personhood’ backers try a new tack

    By Reid Wilson, The Washington Post

    Heather Surovik’s story is heartbreaking. In 2012, the young mother was leaving her final prenatal appointment when a drunk driver slammed into her car. Heather survived. The fetus she was carrying, whom she had named Brady, did not. The doctors told her that Brady weighed 8 pounds, 2 ounces.

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Aug 25, 2014

  • American writer held by Syrian militants freed after nearly two years captive

    By Hannah Allam and Jonathan Landay, McClatchy Newspapers

    Al Qaida’s Syrian affiliate on Sunday unexpectedly freed an American writer from nearly two years captivity after secret international negotiations for his release that were apparently led by Qatar. The Nusra Front may have freed Peter Theo Curtis as a gesture to distinguish itself from its more reviled rival, the Islamic State, which declared a caliphate on the huge swaths of Syria and Iraq that it has overrun in offensives marked by mass executions and other atrocities.

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  • How Should Ferguson Move Forward?

    With Pierre Thomas, ABC News

    Rep. Lacy Clay, ABC News' Pierre Thomas and former New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly, on step to reform after unrest in Ferguson.

  • Why the job market actually improved after the BP oil spill

    By Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post

    In the months after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, much of America watched the “spill cam,” a live feed that showed oil flowing into the Gulf. From his office next door to the White House, Joseph Aldy was watching economic data – specifically, unemployment claims from Louisiana. They were his first indication that the dire predictions of job losses following the spill weren’t coming true.

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  • Alaska becomes crucial frontier for Senate Democrats

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    Senate Democratic candidates are walking a political tightrope in the dozen races that will determine control of the chamber next year and shape the final years of President Obama's second term. No place is that more evident than in Alaska, where Sen. Mark Begich is on the attack against the Republican vying to defeat him while at the same time he embraces many GOP lawmakers and policies in his bid for a second term in this conservative state.

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  • Why so many Americans hate politics

    By Dan Balz, The Washington Post

    In a time of political polarization, one thing still unites left, right and center: the disdain people have for Washington, their elected leaders and the political system.

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Aug 22, 2014

  • U.S. General Says Raiding Syria Is Key to Halting ISIS

    By Michael R. Gordon and Helene Cooper, The New York Times

    The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria cannot be defeated unless the United States or its partners take on the Sunni militants in Syria, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday.

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  • A Terrorist Horror, Then Golf: Incongruity Fuels Obama Critics

    By Peter Baker and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, The Washington Post

    He had just hung up the telephone with the devastated parents before heading in front of the cameras. Unusually emotional, President Obama declared himself “heartbroken” by the brutal murder of an American journalist, James Foley, and vowed to “be relentless” against Islamic radicals threatening to kill another American.

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  • With an eye on 2016, Rand Paul takes his campaign-in-waiting to the operating room

    By Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

    Brothers Juan and Andres Hernandez traveled more than four hours here by bus for the chance to reunite with the man they call “Dr. Pablo.”

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  • Obamacare Remains a Huge Liability for Democrats

    By Amy Walter, Cook Political Report

    There was quite a flurry of interest the other day about the fact that highly endangered Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor released an ad praising Obamacare. Ok, he didn’t actually praise it. He didn’t even use the term “Obamacare” or “Affordable Care Act”. Still, given the fact that even President Obama never mentioned the health care law in English language ads during the 2012 campaign, it’s notable that a red state Democrat would be willing to even mention the word health care in 2014.

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  • Loss for Democrats in Midterm Elections Could Be Boon for Clinton

    By John Harwood, The New York Times

    President Obama’s international woes give his former secretary of state good reason to seek political distance. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s recent foreign policy criticisms made that clear.

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Aug 21, 2014

  • Obama says U.S. will be 'relentless' in pursuing Islamic State

    By Christi Parsons, Kathleen Hennessey, W.J. Hennigan, Tribune Newspapers

    A clearly furious President Obama condemned the Islamic militants who claimed responsibility for beheading an American journalist, vowing Wednesday to beat back “this cancer” and showing no sign of constraining the U.S. military intervention in Iraq.

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  • U.S. troops entered Syria in failed attempt to free Foley, others

    By Nancy Youssef and Jonathan S. Landay, McClatchy Newspapers

    Several dozen U.S. special forces troops flew into Syria last month in a bid to rescue several Americans held by the Islamic State, including journalist James Foley, but they pulled out after discovering that the captives had been moved, senior U.S. officials said Wednesday.

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  • Why Washington Should Declare War on ISIS

    By James Kitfield, National Journal

    When a centrist Democrat, a Republican hawk, a libertarian, and a tea partier all find common ground on Capitol Hill, it's worth noting this rare outbreak of bipartisan consensus. Sens. Tim Kaine, James Inhofe, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz all believe the White House should seek new approval from Congress for U.S. military operations in Iraq. President Obama should give the senators exactly what they are requesting.

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  • Exclusive: Baghdad Open to Letting U.S. Warplanes Fly From Iraqi Bases

    By Yochi Dreazen and Gordon Lubold, Foreign Policy

    Iraqi officials have given their American counterparts clear signals that Baghdad is willing to let U.S. fighter jets operate out of Iraqi air bases, a move that would allow planes to stay airborne longer and deliver more strikes. But the Obama administration, at least for now, doesn't seem all that interested.

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  • Holder Seeks To Soothe Nerves During Visit To Ferguson

    By Carrie Johnson, NPR

    The nation's top law enforcement officer traveled to Ferguson, Mo., on Wednesday to wrap his arms around a community in pain.

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