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 14, 2013

  • Another Day, Another GOP Attempt to Rebrand the Party

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    Just what the world needs: another super PAC? is the brainchild of GOP consultant and CNN pundit Alex Castellanos, whose clients have included Mitt Romney and former President George W. Bush. Castellanos is joining a growing cottage industry of Republicans who are trying to rebrand and rebuild the party as President Obama begins his second term. He points to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as role models,

    “If you are tired of the old, slow, dumb, top-down Washington way of doing things, you are thinking like a new Republican,” Castellanos said, describing his new initiative as a “super PAC marries a think tank.”

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  • Congress Has No Clear Path to Avoid Broad Budget Cuts

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    A divided Congress will take next week off and then return to a familiar conflict: a looming, self-inflicted budget deadline that threatens economic stability with no resolution in sight on how to resolve it.

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  • Growth Isn’t Enough to Help the Middle Class

    By Jim Tankersley, The Washington Post

    Two kinds of middle-class Americans are struggling today — people who can’t find any work or enough work, and full-timers who can’t seem to get ahead.

    Democrats and Republicans prescribe economic growth to help both groups. There was a time that would have been enough. But not today.

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  • Senate Democrats, Accusing G.O.P. of Obstruction, Try to Force Hagel Vote

    By Mark Mazzetti and Jeremy W. Peters, The New York Times

    Accusing Republicans of a new level of obstruction, Senate Democrats moved on Wednesday to force a vote on President Obama’s nomination of Chuck Hagel to be secretary of defense.

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Feb 13, 2013

  • Obama's Wish List

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    The president's State of the Union address was more than 6,000 words, but its message to voters could fit inside a single tweet: I am full of ideas that will directly affect your life, but these people in the audience are blocking them. The president brought a ton of proposals on Tuesday night: universal preschool, tax reform, immigration reform, a minimum wage increase, a cap-and-trade program for carbon emissions, infrastructure investments, new housing incentives, manufacturing incentives, energy plans, a program for scoring college education by affordability, and paycheck equity. They all seemed to have ready-made hashtags: #manufacturinghub, #fixitfirst, and #collegescorecard. There was no moon shot or a plan for overhauling Social Security, but in the aggregate it was a lot, especially in the current environment where the Senate can't pass a budget, House conservatives are ready to burn the ships, and Barack Obama and the John Boehner openly question the other's toughness.

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  • Obama Urges a Move Away From Narrow Focus on Politics of Austerity

    By Karen Tumulty and Philip Rucker

    Just about every argument in Washington since the 2010 midterm elections, which returned control of the House to Republicans, has centered on reducing the federal deficit. On Tuesday night, President Obama leaned into his second term by declaring that a single-minded focus on deficit reduction would jeopardize the nation’s future. And he sounded an urgent call to rebuild.

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  • In a Shift for GOP, Marco Rubio Demonstrates the Power of Spanish

    By Beth Reinhard, National Journal

    By delivering the Republican response to the State of the Union speech in Spanish, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., on Tuesday broke through an increasingly powerful language barrier between the political establishment and the nation’s fastest-growing demographic.

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  • Republicans tear into Obama on spending

    By Susan Davis, USA Today

    The second-term priorities President Obama outlined in his State of the Union Address on Tuesday face significant roadblocks in a divided Congress, and Republicans were quick to point them out Tuesday.

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  • Why Would Anyone Oppose the Violence Against Women Act?

    By Molly Ball, The Atlantic

    Today's GOP has a talent for gratuitously making itself look bad.

    On Tuesday, a growing faction threatened to derail the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which passed the Senate with 22 dissenting Republican votes. A couple of months ago, Senate Republicans defeated a treaty on disabilities -- rebuking their own party's war heroes, Bob Dole and John McCain, who spoke in support of the measure. One can imagine that for their next stunt, Republicans will oppose a bill to help the elderly across the street, or vote against a resolution honoring motherhood and apple pie.

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  • Victims Of Cyberattacks Get Proactive Against Intruders

    By Tom Gjelten, NPR

    U.S. companies that have their networks routinely penetrated and their trade secrets stolen cannot be surprised by a new National Intelligence Estimate on the cyber-espionage threat. The classified NIE, the first-ever focusing on cybersecurity, concludes that the U.S. is the target of a major espionage campaign, with China the leading culprit.

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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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