The Note's Must-Reads for Thursday January 9, 2014

The Note's Must-Reads are a round-up of today's political headlines and stories from ABC News and the top U.S. newspapers. Posted Monday through Friday right here at

Compiled by ABC News' Jayce Henderson, Will Cantine and Jordan Mazza

FOREIGN AFFAIRS The Washington Times' Guy Taylor: " Iraqi diplomat wants Obama engagement in al Qaeda crisis" Iraq's ambassador to Washington says the Obama administration doesn't fully grasp the consequences of failing to more aggressively combat a surging al Qaeda threat inside his country, pointedly suggesting that President Obama has been less engaged with Baghdad than his predecessor. "The administration has to have a better understanding of any adverse impact of any delay in provision of support to Iraq," Ambassador Lukman Faily told The Washington Times in an interview Wednesday. "It cannot afford a whole town or province of Iraq falling to al Qaeda and becoming a safe haven. It's against the U.S. strategic interest. It's against the U.S. national security to do that." LINK

GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE ABC News' Shushanna Walshe: " How Will The Bridge Scandal Affect Chris Christie's Political Future?" E-mails released Tuesday that appear to connect top aides of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie to the controversial closure of several lanes on the world's busiest bridge because of political retribution has the possible presidential candidate's future now in question. The e-mails first released by The Bergen Record and obtained by ABC News seem to show Christie aides closing several lanes of the George Washington Bridge because a Democratic mayor loyal to his party - Mark Sokolich of Fort Lee - declined to endorse the governor in his re-election bid. LINK

The Wall Street Journal's Ted Mann and Heather Haddon: " Bridge-Spat Emails Pose Questions For Christie" Emails suggesting that close aides to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie engineered traffic jams as political retribution against a Democratic mayor are turning into a major test for the national ambitions of a popular Republican considered a leading 2016 presidential contender. On Wednesday, the newly released emails showed that a top Christie aide suggested that another longtime associate of the governor create "traffic problems" in Fort Lee, N.J. Weeks later, the second official imposed lane closures leading to the George Washington Bridge that choked the town across the Hudson River from New York City in auto gridlock. Town officials said school buses and emergency vehicles were severely delayed in some instances. LINK

The Hill's Alexandra Jaffe: " Christie says he was unaware of emails about bridge closure" New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) said Wednesday he didn't know that a senior official in his office was directly involved in an act of retribution against a New Jersey mayor who refused to endorse him in the 2013 gubernatorial race. Christie said "people will be held responsible for their actions" and called the behavior of his deputy chief of staff "unacceptable" after she apparently sent inculpating emails last year about closing lanes for four days on the highly trafficked George Washington Bridge. The ensuing political firestorm threatens to damage a 2016 bid by the likely presidential candidate. Not only does the bridge incident show a lack of control by Christie over his office, but it undermines the tough, law-abiding image the former U.S. attorney built during his time as a prosecutor. LINK

The New York Daily News' Chelsia Rose Marcius, Leslie Larson and Larry McShane: " 'It's the worst example of a petty political vendetta': Fort Lee, NJ, Mayor Sokolich on retaliatory George Washington Bridge closings" Bully-boy Gov. Chris Christie's White House hopes hit a massive roadblock after emails implicated a top aide in a punitive George Washington Bridge traffic nightmare. "Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," read the damning Aug. 13 email made public Wednesday - the political payback to the mayor of Fort Lee, N.J., for his refusal to endorse the GOP incumbent last year. "Got it," shot back Christie's high school buddy David Wildstein to the message from Bridget Anne Kelly, the governor's deputy chief of staff for legislative and intergovernmental affairs. LINK

The Washington Post's Philip Rucker and Aaron Blake: " E-mails suggest Christie aides jammed traffic as political revenge" A series of e-mails and text messages disclosed Wednesday show that a senior aide and appointees of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie forced days of traffic jams as apparent political retribution against a Democratic mayor, throwing a cloud of scandal over the Republican Party's leading 2016 presidential hopeful. The communications show that Christie's deputy chief of staff and two of his top appointees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey closed a pair of access lanes from Fort Lee, N.J., onto the George Washington Bridge into New York, causing days of gridlock and mayhem in the Fort Lee area in September. LINK

GOP The Los Angeles Times' Michael Memoli: " Republicans call for a new approach to fight poverty" Prominent Republicans are working to recast the party's message about tackling poverty and boosting the middle class amid concerns that a relentless focus on the troubles of Obamacare will not be enough to guarantee electoral success. The move seeks to address widespread public anxiety about the uneven economic recovery, a topic that Democrats have largely had to themselves in recent months. But even as party strategists push for a higher-profile approach, conservative lawmakers face a difficult challenge in crafting a message that appeals to middle-income and working-class voters while maintaining support among the party base. LINK

INCOME INEQUALITY / UNEMPLOYMENT USA Today's Susan Page: " White House Adviser: On Jobless Benefits, Let's Talk" Senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer had an offer Wednesday for congressional Republicans weighing legislation to renew long-term unemployment benefits: Pass a three-month extension now, and President Obama will negotiate ways to offset the costs of extending them for the full year. The benefits for those who have been out of work for 26 weeks or more expired just after Christmas, and reviving them has been a top administration priority. But spokesman Jay Carney as recently as Tuesday refused to bite when asked if the White House might discuss "pay-fors" in an effort to win GOP support. LINK

The New York Times' Jeremy W. Peters: " 2 Parties Place Political Focus on Inequality" Senator Kay Hagan, a North Carolina Democrat who is up for re-election, is admonishing Republicans back home as "irresponsible and cold-hearted" for slashing unemployment benefits. Senator Marco Rubio, Republican of Florida, says that her party's thinking is "stale and old and doesn't really address the magnitude of the problem." LINK

Politico's Jake Sherman: " Jobless benefits not top priority to House GOP" President Barack Obama's desire to renew emergency jobless benefits is running into a familiar avalanche of indifference: the House. House Republicans are showing little appetite, urgency and interest in extending the program, and are hinting that they are content to let the issue disappear if the Senate fails to pass its own legislation. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO " NJ Public Officials Demand Answers From Gov. Christie On Bridge Lane Closings" LINK " Obama Dines With Biden Day After Gates Memoir Slams VP" LINK " Dennis Rodman's Controversial B-Day Gift To Kim Jong-Un" LINK

BOOKMARKS The Note: LINK ABC News Politics: LINK George Stephanopoulos' Blog: LINK ABC News on Twitter: @ThisWeekABC | @ABCPolitics ABC News Mobile: LINK ABC News Apps: LINK ABC News YouTube: LINK

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