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.
New Region, Old Ritual: Back to Peace Talks
The Obama administration induced Israelis and Palestinians to re-embark on peace talks Monday, after three years of suspension that followed many more years of paralysis. What are the chances of success this time around?
On the positive side, the talks are being pushed hard by Secretary of State John Kerry, who passionately wants to leave a diplomatic legacy, and chief Israeli negotiator Tzipi Livni, whose entire political career has been built around her fervent belief that time is running out for Israel. Hamas, the chief obstacle to peace in the past, is weaker thanks to the recent ouster of its chief ally, former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.
On the negative side—and when it comes to Mideast peace, that's the side that stands out—Israel is led by a mulish prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who, despite his goodwill release of 104 Palestinian prisoners, refuses to halt settlement construction. The rise of radical Islamist parties throughout the region will only further radicalize Hamas, weakened though it is, and prevent Fatah from conceding too much.
The odds are, as always, against, but all sides agree it must be tried.
PRESIDENT'S ECONOMIC PUSH CONTINUES. President Obama reiterated his economic focus in his weekly address on Saturday, echoing the themes of his recent speeches on jobs and the economy. Citing Washington's preoccupation with "[a]n endless parade of distractions, political posturing and phony scandals," Obama emphasized the need to focus on improving the lot of the middle class. He promised to outline over the course of the next few weeks "a strategy that builds on the cornerstones of what it means to be middle class in America, and what it takes to work your way into the middle class." His first stop is Tuesday at an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tenn. Read more
- Retail warehouses, such as Amazon's fulfillment center, may seem like a logical venue for Obama to talk about job growth, but they are also places filled with low-paying and highly unstable temporary jobs, The Huffington Post reports. Read more
E.U. TO EGYPT: END CONFRONTATION WITH MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD. Catherine Ashton, the European Union's foreign policy chief, urged Egypt's interim leaders Monday to back down from escalating clashes with the Muslim Brotherhood, Reuters reports. Ashton's request came during a visit to Egypt and just two days after 80 supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi were killed in Cairo, the latest bloody incident in the military's crackdown against pro-Morsi demonstrators. The U.S. fears the ongoing violence could launch a long period of instability in Egypt and prompt the Brotherhood to respond with violence in equal measure. The Brotherhood has said it will not be deterred by the violence and plans to march on the Interior Ministry's offices Monday evening. Read more
BUDGET NEGOTIATIONS FAIL TO BRING TWO SIDES CLOSER ON COMPROMISE. Senior White House officials are meeting with Senate Republicans in an effort to avoid a do-or-die deadline fight over federal spending in the fall, The Wall Street Journal reports. The two sides remain distant on fundamental questions, however, such as whether to raise tax revenue and how to reduce costs of Medicare. During Obama's blitz of economic speeches last week, his aides met twice with eight Senate Republicans to search for compromises. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew appeared on four Sunday talk shows to insist Congress must act soon to raise the debt limit to remove the "cloud of uncertainty" surrounding the nation's ability to pay its bills. Read more
COORDINATED BOMBINGS KILL DOZENS IN IRAQ. A series of coordinated car bombings swept across Iraq Monday, reviving concerns that the sectarian violence that has plagued the country for the past decade is returning, The New York Times reports. At least 58 people died and more than a hundred were wounded, according to officials. The majority of the bombs were detonated in Shiite dominated neighborhoods of Baghdad. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the coordinated nature of the blasts is indicative of previous attacks by al-Qaida's branch in Iraq. Read more
HILLARY CLINTON RETURNS TO WHITE HOUSE, THIS TIME FOR LUNCH. Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton returned to the White House on Monday for a private lunch with President Obama, The New York Times reports. While observers can only speculate as to what the two discussed, the rising turmoil in Egypt, emerging peace talks in the Middle East, and an ongoing diplomatic crisis involving former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden were likely topics, the Times notes. But a political tête-à-tête may have also taken place, with many wondering whether Clinton's potential 2016 presidential bid was the meeting's raison d'être. Read more
- Clinton is a bigger obstacle than sexism to the possible presidential ambitions of Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Amy Klobuchar, National Journal's Jill Lawrence writes. Read more
POLITICAL OPPOSITION TO NSA SURVEILLANCE MOUNTING QUICKLY. A House vote to defund the National Security Agency's telephone data-collection program last week, which unexpectedly came up just seven votes short, is a sign of rapidly growing political momentum for reining in government surveillance, The New York Times reports. A wide swath of bipartisan lawmakers in both the House and the Senate who are expressing a desire to restrict the NSA's spy programs has evolved from a collection of fringe libertarian Republicans and ardent liberal Democrats to include former advocates of the Patriot Act and influential top lawmakers such as Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., who is pushing for changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Read more
- Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., offered a confusing defense of the NSA during an appearance on This Week on Sunday, The Atlantic's Conor Friedersdorf writes. Read more
HOUSE GOP SEEKS TO REDUCE FEDERAL REGULATIONS. In the last week before its August recess, the House will vote on a slate of legislation that seeks to limit the rule-making authority of the federal government, The Hill reports. The legislation is being championed by House Republicans, who have dubbed this week "Stop Government Abuse Week." The centerpiece is a bill that would give Congress the ability to block any federal rule that would cost $100 million or more. The package of bills would also impact a number of agencies, including the Internal Revenue Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. Read more
GILLIBRAND GAINS TRACTION ON MILITARY SEXUAL-ASSAULT REFORM. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand's, D-N.Y., proposal to reform how military sexual-assault cases are handled is slowly gaining traction in the Senate, the Associated Press reports. Gillibrand's proposal, which now has 44 supporters, would give military trial lawyers the responsibility of deciding whether serious crimes go to trial, a responsibility that previously fell on military commanders. A different proposal from Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., would keep the power to decide whether a case goes to trial in the commander's hands, but a review process would be initiated if a commander declined to bring a serious crime to trial. Read more
CARTER TRAVELING TO NORTH KOREA TO AID JAILED AMERICAN. South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported that former President Carter is traveling to North Korea to negotiate the release of an American citizen detained there, Politico reports. The White House confirmed the report, but emphasized that Carter is embarking on a "private trip." Carter is working to secure the release of Kenneth Bae, who was arrested while leading a tour group and was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. Read more
VERDICT COMING IN BRADLEY MANNING TRIAL. Army Col. Denise Lind, the military judge presiding over the court-martial of Pfc. Bradley Manning over the release of classified national security documents, said today that she will announce a verdict in the case on Tuesday, Reuters reports. Manning faces 21 criminal counts, the most serious of which—aiding the enemy—carries a possible sentence of life imprisonment. Lind said that she will deliver the verdict at 1 p.m. Tuesday. Manning's attorneys have maintained that their client, who has admitted releasing the documents to Wikileaks, was a whistleblower, not a traitor. Manning pleaded guilty in February to less serious counts relating to his disclosures. Read more
RAND PAUL RESPONDS–STRONGLY–TO CHRISTIE CRITICISMS. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., fired a salvo of his own on Sunday in response to criticism from fellow Republicans, including New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, that libertarians such as Paul are naive about national security issues, The Hill reports. Paul attacked Christie and Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., for their spending policies. "They're precisely the same people who are unwilling to cut the spending, and their 'gimme, gimme, gimme — give me all my Sandy money now,' " Paul said. "Those are the people who are bankrupting the government and not letting enough money be left over for national defense." King responded that Paul's comments were "indefensible." Read more
- The high-octane tussle unfolding between Paul and Christie is good for each man's 2016 presidential aspirations and is unlikely to quiet down any time soon, The Washington Post's Sean Sullivan writes. Read more
LEGAL FIGHT LOOMING FOR DETROIT PENSIONS. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said over the weekend that he would represent Detroit retirees in bankruptcy court because he believes their pensions are guaranteed by the state's constitution, The Wall Street Journal reports. "We're going to aggressively defend the Michigan Constitution," said Schuette, a Republican, whose decision pits state law against federal bankruptcy code. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew said Sunday that Detroit may largely be on its own in fixing its financial crisis. "I think the issues that Detroit has in terms of problems with its creditors, it's going to have to work out with its creditors," Lew said. Read more
- Detroit is planning to push retirees too young for Medicare off city-run health coverage and into insurance markets being created under the Affordable Care Act to help reduce the city's $5.7 billion obligation in retiree health costs, The New York Times reports. Read more
OBAMA TAKES ECONOMIC SPEAKING TOUR TO TENNESSEE. President Obama will deliver a speech on jobs and the economy at an Amazon fulfillment center in Chattanooga, Tenn. According to the White House, the address "will focus on manufacturing and high wage jobs for durable economic growth, and the president will discuss proposals he has laid out to jumpstart private-sector job growth and make America more competitive, and will also talk about new ideas to create American jobs."
"First of all, the kid's going to grow up in Gracie Mansion. So I'm going to say, 'Kid, don't complain.'" -- Former Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-N.Y., asked if he will tell his son about the scandal that led to his resignation from Congress (Staten Island Advance)
HOW TO HAVE A LIFE AFTER BLOWING THE WHISTLE. One whistle-blower lives near Yellowstone National Park on the verge of homelessness, another sells iPhones, and yet another works at an advocacy group in Washington. "Heroes. Scofflaws. They're all people who had to get on with their lives," The Washington Post's Emily Wax writes. Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, who is currently wanted by the U.S. government, will eventually have to find a way to do the same, if he doesn't end up in prison. Even in cases in which a whistle-blower's allegations are eventually proven true, he can find himself without his previous job and largely blocked from the field. "I was just blacklisted. People were afraid to deal with a federal government whistleblower," said former NSA officer Thomas Drake, on trying to find employment. Read more
FORMER LAUTENBERG AIDES: BOOKER DEFIED HIS WISH TO RETIRE ON HIS OWN TERMS. Newark, N.J., Mayor Cory Booker jumped the gun in announcing his bid for the seat held by late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., two former Lautenberg staffers told the Newark Star-Ledger. According to the former aides, Lautenberg chief of staff Dan Katz told Booker adviser Mark Matzen that the ailing senator was likely to retire, and asked he be allowed to leave office on his own terms. Booker declined, effectively announcing his candidacy in late December. "It was a simple request, and Cory Booker didn't want to abide by that," said Lautenberg's son, Josh. "You look at Frank Pallone, Rush Holt, Sheila Oliver, or anyone else, and these folks all waited. They gave him the respect he deserved after many years of service." Read more
CHART OF THE DAY
MAPPING A COUNTRY IN CRISIS. Al Jazeera is mapping reports of rival protests that are occurring across Egypt between supporters and opponents of ousted President Mohamed Morsi. The interactive map can be filtered by category—such as "Pro-Morsi," "Anti-Morsi," "Clashes," "Injuries," and "Deaths"—as well as location and whether the information is verified. Locations can also be clicked on to read more information about an incident, with links to its original reporting provided. See it here