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!

Dec 02, 2011

  • Justice League

    By Yochi J. Dreazen, National Journal

    The Arab League, an unwieldy 22-nation conglomerate of autocrats and monarchs, has long been the object of scorn. Established in Cairo in 1945 by a half-dozen Arab countries, it was known—if known at all—for its incompetence and hostility toward Israel. The league declared war on the Jewish state in 1948, froze out companies that did business with Israel, and expelled Egypt after it signed the Camp David peace accords. A 2002 summit in Beirut devolved into chaos when Lebanon’s president refused to give Yasir Arafat, the Palestinian leader, a prime speaking slot; the Palestinians walked out in protest, and nothing substantive got done. A 2004 summit to devise a consensus position on the Iraq war achieved so little that Arab commentators derided the meeting as “ridiculous,” “a failure,” and “instantly forgettable.” Both Washington and Jerusalem have completely ignored the Arab League’s repeated offer for a wide-ranging peace deal with Israel. In a March interview, a senior Obama administration official told National Journal that the group “was at best useless and at worst actively unhelpful.” Eight months later, the Arab League is emerging as one of the White House’s most important—and most unlikely—regional allies.

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  • Expiration of jobless benefits sparks debate

    By Michael A. Fletcher, Washington Post

    The looming expiration of federal unemployment insurance is reigniting a debate that could result in substantial changes to a program that serves as a lifeline to millions of jobless Americans. The failure of the congressional supercommittee to reach a debt-reduction agreement that would have included an extension of benefits has left people who have been out of work for more than six months in danger of losing their payments. If lawmakers allow the unemployment program to expire on Dec. 31, an estimated 1.8 million people would lose benefits by the end of January.

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  • Democrats See an Advantage in Debate Over Payroll Tax

    By Jackie Calmes, New York Times

    After struggling all year for an economic message that resonates broadly with Americans in hard times, President Obama and Congressional Democrats have settled on one they believe can carry through next year’s election as they use a fight over payroll taxes to portray Republicans as defenders of the wealthy at the expense of the middle class. With Mr. Obama leading the charge in Washington and political swing states, Senate Democrats have put proudly antitax Republicans in the position of opposing a tax cut for more than 160 million mostly middle-class Americans because they object that it includes a tax on about 350,000 people, those with more than $1 million in annual taxable income.

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  • Contagion Catastrophe

    By Jim Tankersley, National Journal

    This is the worst-case scenario from Europe, and it just might come true: Italy defaults on its debts. Every major Italian bank collapses. Recession grips the eurozone. Sovereign defaults and bank failures ripple across the Continent. Saddled with bad loans to nations and lenders in Europe, American banks hemorrhage cash. Credit freezes in the United States. Multinational companies, unable to raise money, curb U.S. investment and hiring. Wall Street demands, but fails to get, new bailouts. The entire developed world plummets into recession and, quite possibly, depression. This, in contrast, is the placid warning that President Obama gave Americans about the threat: “If Europe is contracting,” he said on Monday, “then it’s much more difficult for us to create good jobs here at home.” There’s still a chance that Europeans, through some combination of fiscal and monetary action, can stop the crisis before it shatters the feeble U.S. recovery. But the worst case is so much worse than Obama’s description, and Washington has failed to prepare voters for the possibility.

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  • Republican Leaders Still Seem Torn About Romney

    By Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

    Republican leaders remain bullish about their party’s chances of winning the White House, but after spending much of this year unsuccessfully trying to recruit new candidates, they are coming to the conclusion that their eventual nominee will carry substantial flaws into the general election. A month before the first round of voting begins, with the top of the field seeming to take shape, many Republicans remain torn over whether to back Mitt Romney and still want to see how Newt Gingrich or another alternative develops.

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Dec 01, 2011

  • Slugging it out with Gingrich

    By Doyle McManus, Los Angeles Times

    The Romney camp is worried. By this point in the Republican presidential campaign, Mitt Romney's backers had hoped that conservative voters would be coalescing around the former Massachusetts governor as the inevitable nominee. But that's not happening.

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  • Contagion? What contagion?

    By Greg Ip, The Economist

    The financial crisis of 2008 mowed down banks in America and Europe with equal abandon. Not so this year’s upheaval. European banks, struggling to fund themselves, are tightening credit. American banks are eager to lend, albeit not to Europe. Their loan growth this quarter will the fastest since mid-2008, reckons Nomura, a bank. This is partly because America’s banks are reasonably healthy.

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  • Amid Questions, Cain Stays Defiant

    By Jeff Zeleny and Susan Saulny, New York Times

    As leading Republicans began openly questioning how Herman Cain has handled the allegations against him, he remained defiant Wednesday with a message that he had repeated over and again: “Don’t give up!”

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  • Euro Central Bank Might Consider Bond Purchases

    Featuring David Wessel, Wall Street Journal

    In his Capital Corner segment, David Wessel points out European leaders must address the imminent danger of economic collapse or they may face 'a Lehman moment.' Meanwhile, the ECB indicated it may consider buying bonds to prop up economies.

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  • In 2012 GOP race, governors stay on sidelines

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    Less than five weeks before the first votes are cast in Iowa, Republican governors are still on the sidelines in the contest to decide who their presidential nominee will be in 2012. Only a few governors have endorsed a candidate in the Republican race. The hesitance of the others suggests that, like many Republican voters, they have yet to find an ideal candidate. But in remaining neutral, the governors may be squandering the potential to have a significant influence in the outcome.

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  • Cain Revelations Weigh on G.O.P. Governors’ Meeting

    By Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

    As Herman Cain was reassessing his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Wednesday, the party’s governors were assessing how he has handled the string of allegations about his sexual conduct toward women. The controversy came up here during the annual meeting of the nation’s Republican governors. It was used as an example of how not to handle a political firestorm.

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  • Rick Santorum: Commenters weigh in on his campaign with a seriously ill daughter at home

    By Karen Tumulty, Washington Post

    A sick child-- and especially an incurably sick child--is every parent’s worst nightmare. So we all are forced to picture ourselves in Melinda Henneberger’s in­cred­ibly moving story of Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum’s (R) family, and how it is dealing with the illness of his 3-year-old daughter Bella while he runs a longshot campaign for president.

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  • Huntsman: Does he really have the makings of a third-party candidate?

    By Nia-Malika Henderson, Washington Post

    Huntsman’s favorite-candidate status among Beltway pundits, and liberals, has led to questions about whether he would consider mounting a third party bid if he failed to win the GOP nod (which at this point, let’s face it, looks pretty likely). But every time he’s asked about a possible independent bid, Huntmsan says no.

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  • GOP governors worry Obama might escape his woes

    By Charles Babington, Associated Press

    Republican governors, who swept to big victories last year, think President Barack Obama faces huge political obstacles. But they're hardly brimming with confidence about the 2012 election. Meeting this week in Florida, GOP governors and their advisers fret that their party could lose its advantage on the tax-cut issue by appearing too eager to protect the rich.

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  • The Up-Close-and-Personal Candidate? A Thing of the Past

    By Jeff Zeleny, New York Times

    The aspiring Republican presidential candidates have logged countless hours in the living rooms of voters, pitching their platforms and firing jabs at President Obama. Yet there is one difference this election season. The contenders, even here in the early-voting states, are far more likely to make their visits on television than to ever drop by in person.

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  • U.S. Weighs Sanctions Targeting Iran's Central Bank

    by Tom Gjelten, NPR

    Iran has been dealing with economic sanctions for years, but the country could soon face measures tougher than anything it has encountered before: Legislation moving through the U.S. Congress would target the central bank of Iran, with the likely effect of severely limiting Iran's oil exports.

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  • Obama, GOP Agree on Tax Break, Not How to Pay for It

    By Alexis Simendinger, RealClearPolitics

    President Obama and Senate Republicans found common ground Wednesday, a most unusual occurrence. They agreed that Americans deserve extensions of the temporary payroll tax holiday and of unemployment insurance into 2012. They disagreed, however, about how to offset the costs, forecasting potentially weeks of partisan shish kebab.

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  • If I Were King ...

    By John Dickerson, Slate

    When a presidential candidate makes a promise, it's always useful to ask: How are you going to pull that off? There usually isn't an answer. Health care will be repealed, the budget balanced, and 15-minute brownies made in 10. Newt Gingrich is the only candidate who talks about how he would actually enact some of the promises he makes and the changes he would bring to the office of the presidency. Whether you agree with him or not, this is a useful and laudable thing. Candidates should be able to show that they have some concept of how to engage the massively complex organization they hope to take hold of. This would tell us something about them, and force those of us casting votes to be more realistic about what presidents can accomplish.

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Nov 30, 2011

  • Herman Cain's campaign crumbling after affair allegation

    By John Whitesides and Sam Youngman, Reuters

    Republican presidential contender Herman Cain told aides on Tuesday he would reassess the viability of his struggling campaign after an Atlanta woman accused him of conducting a 13-year extramarital affair. The allegations could be the end of the political line for Cain, who led the Republican White House race barely more than a month ago but has nosedived in polls after a series of sexual harassment charges and campaign missteps.

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  • After 2008, Romney works a very different campaign

    By Dan Balz, Washington Post

    Four years ago, Mitt Romney was done in when he ended up fighting a multi-front battle against different opponents. This year, it has been his lucky fate to escape any real battles from any specific opponent. That will soon change. Romney’s 2008 strategy, built on the assumption that someone not nationally known could take the nomination only by winning early and often, was based on some sound assumptions. What he didn’t anticipate was how the campaign would unfold against him.

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