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The Edge: Breaking the Cycle

The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.

Breaking the Cycle


President Obama's allies have worked hard to persuade Americans that the economy is heading on the right track. So it was somewhat jarring to hear Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a potential 2016 Democratic presidential contender, argue there was a "crisis of confidence" facing the country. That's not something seen in the White House talking points.

The comments say as much about the messaging of a future Democratic presidential field as about O'Malley's own interest in the office. His remarks aren't reflective of a politician trying to tie himself to the president's economic record—they sound in anticipation of a future electorate looking for a change in leadership. With the president's job approval flagging, more Democrats are expressing skepticism that their next nominee will want to run as a third term of the Obama administration.

It's unusual, as my colleague Jill Lawrence pointed out, for a prominent Democrat to be channeling Jimmy Carter at a time Democrats hold many levers of power in Washington. But it accurately reflects a widespread economic angst in the country, one that Republicans will be trying to exploit as the next presidential election draws closer.


Josh Kraushaar


IN PHOENIX, OBAMA TO ADDRESS FANNIE MAE, FREDDIE MAC. President Obama traveled out West today to resume his cross-country speaking tour in Phoenix, where he was slated to discuss responsible homeownership and the government's continued role in the $10 trillion home-loan market. Obama is expected to endorse bipartisan Senate efforts to reduce the government's risk in future credit crises by winding down mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, The New York Times reports. Obama was also expected to state that he would only sign a law that largely makes private investors, and not taxpayers, the risk takers for the two companies. Read more

MILITARY EVACUATES U.S. EMBASSY IN YEMEN. In a sign of growing concern that a terrorist attack may be imminent, the State Department on Tuesday evacuated 50 to 100 non-essential government personnel from Yemen due to an "extremely high" security threat level, the Associated Press reports. A suspected U.S. drone reportedly killed four alleged al-Qaida members in Yemen today, according to Yemeni security officials, who also said a Yemeni military helicopter was shot down by militants. British authorities also withdrew diplomatic staff from Sana, the country's capital. The State Department also strongly urged U.S. citizens currently in Yemen to leave the country immediately because "our ability to assist U.S. citizens in an emergency … remains limited," The Wall Street Journal reports. Read more

  • If al-Qaida's objective was to sow fear and disrupt U.S. operations, then its threat is already a success, National Journal's Sara Sorcher writes. Read more

SENS. McCAIN, GRAHAM MEET WITH EGYPTIAN LEADERS. On assignment at the behest of President Obama,Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., met with leaders on both sides of Egypt's growing political crisis today to discuss the turmoil and violence that have besieged the country since President Mohamed Morsi was deposed on July 3, and to advocate for the release of political prisoners, Reuters reports. "The people who are in charge were not elected. The people who were elected are in jail. The status quo is not acceptable," Graham said. The senators followed their talks by stating that cutting off $1.5 billion in U.S. military aide to the country would be a bad decision. Read more

  • The White House is reportedly considering Secretary of State John Kerry's recommendation of Robert Ford, current U.S. envoy to Syria, to be the next ambassador to Egypt, the AP reports. Read more

GEORGE W. BUSH HAS STENT INSERTED FOR BLOCKED ARTERY. A stent was used to open an arterial blockage in former President George W. Bush's heart this morning, The Washington Post reports. The blockage was diagnosed during a scheduled exam on Monday. Bush was reported to be in good condition following the surgery, and a statement released by his office said that the former president is "in high spirits" and is "eager to return home tomorrow and resume his normal schedule on Thursday." Read more

FORT HOOD DEFENDANT: 'I AM THE SHOOTER.' In an opening statement that took just over 1 minute, Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan told a jury of Army officers today that "the evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter" behind the 2009 massacre at the Fort Hood Army base, The New York Times reports. Hasan, 42, is the Army psychiatrist on trial for the rampage that killed 13 and wounded more than 30 others. The Times describes his soft-spoken statement as close to an apology. "We the mujahedeen are imperfect Muslims … I apologize for any mistakes I've made in this endeavor." Hasan is the only defendant in recent memory to represent himself in a military capital-punishment case. Read more

WITH POST PURCHASE, AMAZON'S BEZOS MAKES BIG SPLASH IN D.C. News Monday of Amazon founder Jeff Bezos's purchase of The Washington Post and affiliated publications for $250 million ignited the media world, with many commentators wondering about the billionaire's motivation and political coordinates. It is his first true foray into the world of Washington politics, The New York Times reports. Others are eager to see whether the purchase can revive a once-formidable news brand that has been bleeding money in recent years. The Atlantic's James Fallows writes that the sale may signal "the beginning of a phase in which this Gilded Age's major beneficiaries re-invest in the infrastructure of our public intelligence."

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  • Over the years, the Graham family, which purchased The Washington Post in 1933, became synonymous with the paper they owned, The Post's Robert Barnes and David Fahrenthold write. Read more

IRAN'S ROUHANI 'SERIOUS' ABOUT NEGOTIATING ON NUKES. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who took office over the weekend, said today during his first news conference as president that he is "seriously determined" to begin "serious and substantive" negotiations with the United States concerning Tehran's nuclear program, Reuters reports. Rouhani, 64, made clear that Iran would not abandon its nuclear program, saying it would continue "on the basis of international law." Asked if he wants to meet with Obama during a planned trip to the United Nations in New York, Rouhani replied, with a smile: "If we see there is no covert secret agenda and there are good intentions, who will be meeting and who will be negotiating, these will be sideline issues." Read more

NEW TIMBRE FOR SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE UNDER MIKULSKI. Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., is in the midst of a spending battle in Congress, and will try to prevent a shutdown of the government when Congress returns from the August recess, The New York Times reports. Mikulski must craft an agreement among the Democrat-controlled Senate, Republican-led House, and the White House to keep the government funded before the next fiscal year begins on Oct. 1. Her colleagues describe her as a "pragmatist" and "accommodating," but "tough" in her efforts to get appropriation bills onto the floor for debate. Read more

WENDY DAVIS SIGNALS POSSIBILITY OF TEXAS GUBERNATORIAL BID. Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis was in Washington on Monday and brought news with her: A run for governor of her state may be in her future, The New York Times reports. "I can say with absolute certainty that I will run for one of two offices: either my State Senate seat or the governor." Davis, a Democrat, rocketed to national fame following her 11-hour filibuster in June of a bill restricting abortion rights. The Times notes that "the woman who turned pink sneakers into a symbol of resilience is under growing pressure from fellow Democrats to run." Read more

  • Davis's speech at the National Press Club was an attempt to highlight her bipartisan credentials, BuzzFeed's Kate Nocera writes. Read more

REPUBLICAN FEC COMMISSIONER: AGENCY EMAILS WITH IRS RAISE QUESTIONS. Federal Election Commission Vice Chairman Don McGahn said Monday that a number of undisclosed e-mails between FEC employees and the Internal Revenue Service raise question about improper contact between the two federal agencies in connection with efforts to target conservative political groups, CNN reports. McGahn, a Republican FEC commissioner, said an FEC investigator contacted IRS division chief Lois Lerner, who has been embroiled in the IRS controversy, to discuss the American Future Fund, a conservative advocacy group. "Who's the dog and who's the tail (in this case)? Who knows," McGahn said. But "dealing with Lois Lerner is probably out of the ordinary." The Democratic chairwoman of the FEC dismissed McGahn's claims. Read more

SHRINKING TRADE GAP SIGNALS ECONOMIC GROWTH. The U.S. trade gap is the lowest it has been in more than three and a half years, the Commerce Department said today, according to Reuters. The inflation adjusted trade gap fell 17 percent, down to $43.2 billion because of declining imports and record high levels in exports. That spells good news for second-quarter gross domestic product growth, with economists saying the original estimate of 1.7 percent could be adjusted upward to as high as 2.5 percent. However, some economists warn that the reduction in the trade gap could be short lived because of rising energy prices and the weak global economy. Read more


METRO, THROUGH THE YEARS. The United States Capitol Historical Society will hold a book discussion on Washington Metroland, on the history of the Metrorail system, at noon at 200 Maryland Ave. NE.

MONITORING THE MEDIA. The Heritage Foundation will hold a book discussion on Collusion: How the Media Stole the 2012 Election and How to Stop Them From Doing It in 2016 at noon at 214 Massachusetts Avenue NW.


"I miss Congress like I miss an abscessed tooth." -- Former Rep. Steve LaTourette, R-Ohio (National Journal)


SIGN OF THE TIMES? When Nili Philipp, a modern-Orthodox Jew living in Israel, rode her bike through Haredi, or the Jewish ultra-Orthodox, neighborhoods, she would dress more modestly, and yet men often spat on, cursed at, and, on one occasion, threw a rock at her, Haaretz's Allison Kaplan Sommer and Slate's Dahlia Lithwickwrite for The New Republic. After Haredi men committed violence against her friends, Philipp turned to attorney Orly Erez-Likhovski. The two, along with a few other women, decided to sue against modesty signs, which urge women to dress conservatively. Sommer writes that Philipp's actions make her a "pivotal figure in a clash between the ultra-Orthodox and a widening coalition of women to determine the core values of Israeli society." Read more


BOOZE IS STILL BIG BUSINESS FOR THE STATES. Some conservative groups, like FreedomWorks, are clamoring for states to privatize the sale of liquor. But wrestling liquor sales away from the 17 states that have a booze monopoly isn't so easy, National Journal's Matt Berman writes. Liquor is a big business for states like Pennsylvania, whose liquor control board this week announced a record-breaking fiscal 2013 revenue of $2.17 billion. While Democrats point to the numbers as evidence of "a truly valuable asset setting records thanks to the hard work of state employees," Republicans deride them for being "the only show in town." Elsewhere around the country, privatization is being considered, with Washington state providing a model in 2012 that led to boosted liquor sales. But with so much money on the line, change won't come easy. Read more


WHAT WE SPEAK, AND WHERE. The U.S. Census Bureau has created an interactive map showing the 20.8 percent of American households (comprising 60.6 million people) in which a language other than English is spoken. The map allows users to view the distribution of languages and household members' proficiency in English. Spanish is the most widespread non-English language, spoken in about two-thirds of the households featured on the map. The information contained on the map is derived from the 2011 edition of the American Community Survey. Read more


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Don't Miss Today's Top Stories

Chock full of usable information on today's issues."

Michael, Executive Director

Concise coverage of everything I wish I had hours to read about."

Chuck, Graduate Student

The day's action in one quick read."

Stacy, Director of Communications

Great way to keep up with Washington"

Ray, Professor of Economics

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