US Press: pick of the papers

The ten must-read opinion pieces from today's US papers.

1. Fill in the Blanks (New York Times)

Why does Obama let his critics define him, asks Bill Keller.

2. Can Obama calm Democratic panic? (Washington Post)

Democrats are anxious about the 2012 elections, says E.J. Dionne Jr.

3. Nine weeks and shrinking ... (Chicago Tribune)

This editorial notes that tax reform may be the only deficit reduction plan Washington can adopt this year.

4. Changing the direction of U.S.-Pakistan relations (Los Angeles Times)

The US treats Pakistan as an instrument for fighting or spying on neighbouring territory. George Perkovich says that that has to change.

5. How the US funds the Taliban (Boston Globe)

Juliette Kayyem argues that linking military planning to a strategy to build up the Afghans has created an extortion racket.

6. At last, an end to "don't ask" (Denver Post)

This editorial criticises last-minute attempts to keep the misguided law alive, and urges that legalizing gay marriage be next up.

7. The Bleeding Cure (New York Times)

Paul Krugman argues that austerity is inflicting vast pain now, and killing our future, too.

8. Bachmann irresponsible on vaccine (USA Today)

Presidential candidates get megaphones, says this editorial -- but there's an implicit requirement to be careful.

9. At the Pentagon, the specter of a sequester (Washington Post)

Congressional spending cuts loom large, says George F. Will.

10. The truth about evangelicals (USA Today)

Progressive Jews are unfairly demonizing conservative Christians, says Mark I. Pinsky.

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Donald Trump's inauguration signals the start of a new and more unstable era

A century in which the world's hegemonic power was a rational actor is about to give way to a more terrifying reality. 

For close to a century, the United States of America has been the world’s paramount superpower, one motivated by, for good and for bad, a rational and predictable series of motivations around its interests and a commitment to a rules-based global order, albeit one caveated by an awareness of the limits of enforcing that against other world powers.

We are now entering a period in which the world’s paramount superpower is neither led by a rational or predictable actor, has no commitment to a rules-based order, and to an extent it has any guiding principle, they are those set forward in Donald Trump’s inaugural: “we will follow two simple rules: hire American and buy American”, “from this day forth, it’s going to be America first, only America first”.

That means that the jousting between Trump and China will only intensify now that he is in office.  The possibility not only of a trade war, but of a hot war, between the two should not be ruled out.

We also have another signal – if it were needed – that he intends to turn a blind eye to the actions of autocrats around the world.

What does that mean for Brexit? It confirms that those who greeted the news that an US-UK trade deal is a “priority” for the incoming administration, including Theresa May, who described Britain as “front of the queue” for a deal with Trump’s America, should prepare themselves for disappointment.

For Europe in general, it confirms what should already been apparent: the nations of Europe are going to have be much, much more self-reliant in terms of their own security. That increases Britain’s leverage as far as the Brexit talks are concerned, in that Britain’s outsized defence spending will allow it acquire goodwill and trade favours in exchange for its role protecting the European Union’s Eastern border.

That might allow May a better deal out of Brexit than she might have got under Hillary Clinton. But there’s a reason why Trump has increased Britain’s heft as far as security and defence are concerned: it’s because his presidency ushers in an era in which we are all much, much less secure. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.