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!

Jun 09, 2014

  • Critics of P.O.W. Swap Question the Absence of a Wider Agreement

    By David Sanger and Matthew Rosenberg, The New York Times

    When the heads of the two major intelligence committees criticized the Obama administration on Sunday for swapping Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl for five members of the Taliban, they homed in on one part of the deal that the White House has struggled for a week, unsuccessfully, to explain. The question is why the five were released without any commitments to a larger agreement, under which the Taliban would renounce international terrorism, and begin a process of reconciliation with the government of Afghanistan.

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Jun 06, 2014

  • Safe Choices

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    During the 2008 campaign, Hillary Clinton ran a blunt television ad asking whether Barack Obama could handle a foreign policy crisis. In it, a phone rang and a variety of children were shown in their beds. “It’s 3 a.m. and your children are safe and asleep. Who do you want answering the phone?” asked the narrator. After the parade of adorables, the ad showed Clinton on the phone. It was a contrivance since she’d never answered a red phone either. But now she has, and over more than 600 pages of Hard Choices, her memoir of her time as secretary of state, Clinton details what it’s like to steer U.S. diplomacy in a dangerous and changing world.

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  • Obama Honors Moment of Liberation in Normandy

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    At a time of renewed tension harking back to a darker era, the leaders of the United States, Canada, Europe and Russia put aside their differences for a few hours on Friday to honor the moment decades ago when their predecessors joined forces to liberate a continent from tyranny.

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  • Taliban's Bowe Bergdahl Exchange Video: Analyzing the Signs

    With Martha Raddatz, ABC News

    Why the white flag? What did the number 41 mean? Experts weigh in on shocking Taliban video.

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  • Fears for Sergeant’s Life Led to Secrecy About Swap, Obama Official Says

    By David E. Sanger and Peter Baker, The New York Times

    A senior Obama administration official said Thursday that the operation to free Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl was kept a closely held secret because of fear that splits within the Taliban could lead gun-wielding guards to kill the soldier before he was turned over to American forces last weekend.

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  • Senators reach bipartisan deal on bill to fix VA

    By Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

    Senators announced a broad proposal Thursday to address health-care failures at the Department of Veterans Affairs that would authorize spending $500 million to hire more doctors and nurses, allow veterans to be cared for outside the overburdened system and give the next veterans secretary greater authority to fire employees for incompetence.

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  • Newest Cabinet Member Is Never Far From Her Roots

    By Jackie Calmes, The New York Times

    When President Bill Clinton had thrashed out his first difficult budget with advisers, he turned to one of his younger aides for the final word, a seal of approval. “Sylvia, are the folks in Hinton going to think we’ve done right by them?” he said.

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Jun 05, 2014

  • Senators' doubts persist as administration explains Bergdahl deal

    By Michael A. Memoli and Christie Parsons, Tribune Newspapers

    Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl appeared "drugged" and "very weak" in a Taliban video shown to senators Wednesday during a classified briefing, the administration's most broad-ranging consultation with lawmakers after a controversial prisoner swap.

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  • Behind P.O.W.’s Release: Urgency and Opportunity

    By Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti, David E. Sanger and Helene Cooper, The New York Times

    Weeks before a Black Hawk helicopter lifted off in the dying light of eastern Afghanistan, carrying with it an American soldier who had spent five years in the hands of the Taliban, American officials grew increasingly worried that Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl’s life might be in jeopardy.

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  • Obama, Seeking Unity on Russia, Meets Obstacles

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama started his day in Warsaw struggling to convince his friends in Central and Eastern Europe that the United States is being tough enough with Russia. He ended his day in Brussels, still struggling, but this time to persuade America’s core Western allies to stay tough with Russia.

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  • Senators working on new bipartisan deal to fix VA

    By Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

    Senior senators are working on a new plan to address concerns at the Department of Veterans Affairs with hopes of striking a bipartisan deal in the coming days that would help address long wait times for veterans seeking medical care at government-run facilities.

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  • Mississippi Mud

    By John Dickerson, Slate Magazine

    The candidate who boasted she had castrated hogs won the Republican Senate primary in Iowa Tuesday, and in the bitter Mississippi GOP primary race, it might just come to that. The fight in the Magnolia State has been ugly, weird, full of old grudges and fault lines, and new national rancor over the soul of the Republican Party. Now the contest has been thrown into a three-week runoff.

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Jun 04, 2014

  • Tuesday’s primaries: The winners ... and more

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    On a day with primary elections in eight states, the marquee race in Mississippi, where six-term GOP Sen. Thad Cochran faced his toughest re-election fight ever, remained too close to call hours after the polls closed. The state’s Republican establishment backed Cochran against state Sen. Chris McDaniel, a favorite of the tea party.

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  • In Show of Support, Obama Meets With Ukraine Leader

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    President Obama met on Wednesday for the first time with the newly elected president of Ukraine and pledged American support for efforts to stabilize a country torn by corruption, economic turmoil and a violent pro-Russian insurgency broadly believed to be fomented by Moscow.

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  • Bowe Bergdahl: Terrorist Hostage or POW?

    By Michael Crowley, TIME Magazine

    The freed American soldier was held by an officially designated terror group. But a White House official tells TIME, "We did not negotiate with the Haqqanis."

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  • Taliban release video of Bergdahl handoff to U.S.

    By Christi Parsons and Kathleen Hennessey, Los Angeles Times

    A Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday that American defense officials "have no reason to doubt" the authenticity of a newly released video that appears to show the calm and peaceful handoff of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl by his Taliban captors to U.S. custody last weekend.

  • Critics Are Questioning American Military Credo of Leaving No One Behind

    By Eric Schmitt, Mark Mazzetti and Peter Baker, The New York Times

    The deadly rescue mission in Afghanistan in 2002 began when Petty Officer First Class Neil C. Roberts, a member of the Navy’s classified SEAL Team Six, fell out of a helicopter that came under enemy fire as it tried to land on the snowy ridge line of an 11,000-foot mountain.

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  • White House first discussed Bergdahl prisoner exchange with lawmakers in 2011

    By Ed O’Keefe, The Washington Post

    Obama administration officials first discussed with senior House Republicans the possibility of swapping five terrorism detainees from the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in exchange for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl in late November 2011, according to senior GOP aides.

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Jun 03, 2014

  • Obama, in Warsaw, Pledges Solidarity With Eastern Europe

    By Peter Baker, The New York Times

    As he began a four-day trip to Europe, President Obama announced new measures intended to bolster security in Central and Eastern Europe in response to Russia’s intervention in the crisis in Ukraine, including its annexation of Crimea.

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  • Obama defends swap of Taliban detainees for Army Sgt. Bergdahl

    By Christi Parsons and Kathleen Hennessey, Los Angeles Times

    President Obama defended his administration’s decision to trade Taliban detainees for the release of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl on Tuesday, saying there wasn’t time to consult with Congress as he followed the “pretty sacred rule” that Americans don’t leave men and women in uniform behind on the field of battle.

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