The Note’s Must-Reads for Wednesday, March 19, 2014

By Will Cantine

Mar 19, 2014 3:24am

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 www.abcnews.com

Compiled by ABC News’ Jayce Henderson, Will Cantine and Janine Elliot

RUSSIA // UKRAINE
ABC News’ Dana Hughes: “John Kerry to Russia: You Lost the Cold War, Get Over It”  Secretary of State John Kerry had harsh words today for Vladimir Putin, saying he is surprised and disappointed in a speech the Russian president gave about the country’s right to take over Crimea from Ukraine. “It really just didn’t jibe with reality or with what’s happening on the ground,” Kerry said, speaking to a group of university students at the State Department. “The president may have his version of history, but I believe that he and Russia, for what they have done, are on the wrong side of history.” Kerry refused to give any details about what the United States will do if Russia goes further toward annexing the Crimean peninsula but said such an act would be as “egregious as any step that I can think of that could be taken by a country in today’s world, particularly by a country like Russia where so much is at stake.” LINK

USA Today’s Michael Winter: “Shots fired in Crimea, Ukraine soldier killed” Ukraine authorities authorized soldiers to shoot in self-defense Tuesday after an officer was killed when gunmen attacked a besieged military base near the capital of Crimea, according to news reports. The shooting came hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin and Crimean leaders signed a treaty that makes the Black Sea peninsula part of the Russian Federation, a move the White House and European leaders called an illegal annexation. Residents of Crimea voted Sunday to secede from Ukraine. LINK

Wall Street Journal’s Jay Solomon and Carol E. Lee: “How Putin Parried Obama’s Overtures on Crimea” U.S. officials negotiating with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov over the future of Ukraine were surprised last week after the experienced diplomat excused himself to phone President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. His making such a call wasn’t unusual: Mr. Lavrov often sought instructions from the Kremlin leader. The Americans were stunned, however, when Mr. Lavrov reported that Mr. Putin had refused to take his call. Coming during the final U.S. attempts to preserve the modern borders of Europe, the episode with Mr. Lavrov here last week underscored the Obama administration’s inability to penetrate the Kremlin and its struggles to comprehend Mr. Putin’s calculations five years after President Barack Obama decided to reset Washington’s ties with Moscow. LINK

Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev: “Biden Calls Russia’s Move Into Crimea A ‘Land Grab’” U.S. Vice President Joe Biden called Russia’s move into Crimea “nothing more than a land grab” and said the U.S. may boost its participation in NATO military exercises in the nearby Baltic region. “The world has seen through Russia’s actions and has rejected the flawed logic behind those actions,” Biden said today in Warsaw in the first public remarks by a U.S. official after Russian President Vladimir Putin told lawmakers in Moscow that Crimea is an “inalienable” part of Russia. The U.S. and its allies are “absolutely confident that we’re up to the challenge” of confronting Russia, Biden said after meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk, who said the annexation of Crimea is “not acceptable.” LINK

GOP
The Wall Street Journal’s Mark Peters: “GOP Newcomer to Face Illinois Governor In Fall” Republican newcomer Bruce Rauner held off a crowded primary field Tuesday and will challenge Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn this fall in a race predicted to be the GOP’s best chance to topple a Democratic governor. Mr. Rauner, a former private-equity executive who pumped millions of his own money into the race, defeated state Sens. Kirk Dillard and Bill Brady and state treasurer Dan Rutherford. Mr. Quinn overwhelmingly bested challenger Tio Hardiman. LINK

The Los Angeles Times’ Bob Secter: “Primary Over, Illinois GOP Is In Strong Position In Governor Race” President Obama’s Illinois has been one of the most reliably blue on the political color scale, but Tuesday’s primary positioned Republicans for a strong shot at retaking the governor’s mansion in a state mired in chronic fiscal disarray. Venture capital tycoon Bruce Rauner, a politically influential player among this city’s corporate elite but a first-time candidate, narrowly captured the Republican nod for governor over three party veterans in a race fueled by the new nominee’s vast personal wealth and biting disdain for public employee unions. LINK

The Hill’s Cameron Joseph: “Oberwise Wins GOP Primary To Face Durbin” Illinois state Sen. Jim Oberweis (R) has won his Senate primary and will face Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) in the fall. Oberweis, a wealthy dairy magnate, hardline conservative and perennial candidate, leads businessman Doug Truax (R) by 55 percent to 45 percent, with 54 percent of precincts reporting. The Associated Press has called the race. The newly minted nominee has previously lost races for Senate, governor and U.S. House. LINK

The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan: “Rauner Wins Republican Primary For Illinois Governor, Will Face Quinn” Wealthy former private equity executive Bruce Rauner won the Republican nomination for governor of Illinois Tuesday, setting the stage for a general election showdown against Gov. Pat Quinn (D), viewed by many observers as the most vulnerable Democratic governor running for reelection this year. A first-time candidate, Rauner defeated three other Republican officeholders and overcame a coordinated effort from labor and other Democrats designed to weaken him. With 95 percent of precincts reporting, the Associated Press called the race for Rauner, who led state Sen. Kirk Dillard (R) 40 percent to 37 percent, a closer margin than many had anticipated. LINK

Politico’s John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman: “GOP Health Plan Could Be Road To Nowhere” Here’s the dirty secret about the House Republicans’ efforts to replace Obamacare: They haven’t even decided if they will hold a vote. Not to mention, the House GOP would still have to repeal Obamacare in order to implement whatever alternative health care plan they release, which isn’t going to happen as long as President Barack Obama is sitting in the Oval Office. In the next few weeks and months, the House Republican Conference — with Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) playing the key role — will spend lots of time talking about crafting its own health care plan, one that would be positioned as an alternative to the 2010 Affordable Care Act. LINK

MEDAL OF HONOR
ABC News’ Mary Bruce: “Obama Awards Medal Of Honor To 24 Vets Who Suffered Bias” Righting an historical wrong, President Obama today awarded the nation’s highest military honor to two dozen Army veterans who were previously overlooked, saying “today we have the chance to set the record straight.” “No nation is perfect. But here in America, we confront our imperfections and face a sometimes painful past, including the truth that some of these soldiers fought and died for a country that did not always see them as equal,” the president said. The “truly historic” group includes 19 Hispanic, Jewish and African-American soldiers who were unjustly denied the Medal of Honor because of prejudice, passed over because of their race or ethnicity. Today’s ceremony comes after a 12-year Pentagon review of records from WWII, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, to determine if deserving veterans were being overlooked because of discrimination. LINK

The New York Times’ Monica Davey: “Businessman Wins Republican Primary For Governor In Illinois” Bruce Rauner, a multimillionaire businessman making his first run for political office, won the Republican nomination for governor of Illinois on Tuesday, setting up what is expected to be one of the nation’s most contested races for governor this fall. Mr. Rauner, little known to Illinois voters before an intense run of television commercials, is expected to bring a serious challenge to Gov. Pat Quinn, a Democrat seeking a second full term in office. Although control of Springfield, the capital in President Obama’s home state, has been solely in the hands of Democrats for more than a decade, a fierce contest is anticipated, in part because of the economic picture in Illinois, given the state’s poor credit ratings and high unemployment rate compared to other states. LINK

The New York Daily News’ Joseph Straw: “Obama Awards Medal Of Honor – The Military’s Highest Decoration For Bravery – To 24 Veterans Across Three Wars Who Were Originally Overlooked Due To Their Race” The nation did right Tuesday by two dozen of its greatest heroes – many of them passed over due to their race or religion – by finally granting them its highest military honor. At a White House ceremony, President Obama bestowed the Medal of Honor on the soldiers – most of them Jewish, black or Hispanic — including Pfc. Leonard Kravitz, of Brooklyn, an uncle of Grammy-winner Lenny Kravitz. A government review concluded the soldiers — including another New Yorker, Sgt. Alfred Nietzel of Queens — were denied Medal of Honor years ago because of bias. LINK

USA Today’s David Jackson: “Obama Awards Belated Medals Of Honor” President Obama honored two dozen neglected heroes Tuesday. They had names like Garcia, Morris and Weinstein — Hispanic, African-American and Jewish soldiers from decades past who, according to a congressionally ordered investigation, had been denied the Medal of Honor because of their race, creed or color. “This ceremony is 70 years in the making,” Obama said as he presented the long-delayed Medals of Honor to 24 soldiers from World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. LINK

SYRIA
ABC News’ Dana Hughes: “Secretary Kerry: Syrian Embassy Was ‘An Insult’” Secretary of State John Kerry said the United States closed the Syrian Embassy in Washington and is kicking out Syrian diplomats because the Assad regime has no legitimacy.”We’ve all see in the pictures of the emaciated corpses. You can’t believe you’re in 2014, ” he said.  “And so we just felt the idea that this embassy is sitting here with representation that we could take seriously is an insult, and we closed it. It’s that simple.” An outraged Kerry rattled off grim statistics to a group of university students participating in a town hall meeting at the state department. LINK

Wall Street Journal’s Sam Dagher: “Syrian Official Casts Doubts on Geneva Talks, Say Assad Won’t Go” The Syrian regime sees no point in further peace talks in Geneva if the opposition and its Western backers keep insisting that President Bashar al-Assad relinquish power, the deputy foreign minister said. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, Faisal al Mekdad indicated his regime had the backing of longtime ally Russia in its stance on the Geneva talks. The stalled negotiations are one of the major Middle East initiatives now clouded by uncertainty as a standoff escalates between Russia and the U.S. over Moscow’s plan to annex Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula. The bitter fallout has raised doubts about the viability of recent U.S.-Russian diplomatic cooperation on Syria. LINK

ABC NEWS VIDEO
Vladimir Putin Moves Closer to Annexing CrimeaLINK
Russian President Putin Expands Borders With the Annexation of CrimeaLINK
Joe Biden Denounces Russia’s ‘Flawed Logic’LINK
25 Veterans Awarded ‘Overdue’ Medal of HonorLINK

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