Morning Must Reads: Hu’s In Town?

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White House

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

–Leaders from 46 countries have descended on Washington for this week’s nuclear summit. Whether anything beyond mere symbolism can be achieved is not yet clear.

–The meeting to watch today? Obama’s sit-down with Chinese President Hu Jintao. He needs to lock up China’s support for U.N. sanctions against Iran.

–Obama says his biggest concern is a nuclear al Qaeda.

–At the SRLC, Haley Barbour continued to boost big tent conservatism. The Mississippi governor and RGA chair is highly respected in the party and usually has a very good ear for politics, but his dismissal of the McDonnell slavery omission Sunday was a mistake. Putting the historical and moral errors aside, here’s the political problem: It invariably leads to headlines like, “Another Southern Republican Governor…” and continues a media narrative that can do long-term damage. Larry Sabato tweets: “By mid-century half of all Americans will be members of minority groups. Dems get 75% of all minority votes. Republicans:Do the simple math!”

Chris Cillizza looks at his growing influence.

Tom Schaller does the Borda Count on the SRLC straw poll ballot. When second choices are factored in, Romney’s victory margin is wider. Not that the straw poll means much.

–The New York Times explains how, just like 2010, there were also congressional elections held in the year 1994. Fascinating!

–With neither Republicans nor Democrats interested in scrapping over social issues, Mark Halperin writes “this could end up being one of the most anticlimactic Supreme Court confirmations of the modern era.”

–Rather than scrutinizing the nominee’s positions on abortion or gay marriage, Republicans may well be more interested in questioning Obama’s SCOTUS pick on government “overreach.”

–The National Bureau of Economic Research hasn’t called the recession yet.

–I linked to a few stories last week that were positively sunny on the economy. Kevin Drum lists 10 things that keep him up at night. He’s not doomsaying, just pointing out that recovery is likely to happen slowly, and that our options are severely limited if things were to go south.

Ezra Klein and Felix Salmon both highlight a new paper on financial innovation and crises. The problem it sketches out is this: Financial innovation produces new, elegant mathematical devices that package debt with the promise of high returns for low risk. Investors flock to them, but sooner or later some of the untested instruments blow up. Even a small blip in the data can cause panic. With highly leveraged financial institutions left with a handful of these things, the damage is magnified. If dealing with institutions’ size and leverage aren’t enough, the financial sector will continue to have problems. I think the challenge is largely cultural: just because no one understands new financial instruments or the risks they carry doesn’t mean people won’t buy into them (literally and figuratively.)

–The St. Pete Times profiles Kendrick Meek, the Democrat waiting in the wings for the Crist/Rubio battle royale to wrap up.

–The Inquirer looks at Joe Sestak, the once establishment up-and-comer now bucking the party by primarying Specter.

–And Tina Fey presents “The Sarah Palin Network.”

What did I miss?