US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Wall Street protesters need to be focused, practical (Chicago Sun Times)

Of course Occupy Wall Street makes sense, says this editorial. As do Occupy Chicago, Occupy Atlanta and all the other offshoots of this national grassroots protest movement against the lopsided power of corporate and Wall Street interests in American political and economic life.

2. Don't make it hard to vote (Philadelphia Inquirer)

In 14 states controlled by Republican legislators, voters face new restrictions that "could make it significantly harder ... to cast ballots in 2010," reports this editorial.

3. How to Fix California's Democracy Crisis (New York Times)

Direct democracy in California was meant to bring the people into the governance process, but voters have become consumers of television sound-bite campaigns, writes James S. Fishkin.

4. Who signed Anwar al-Awlaki's death warrant? (Washington Post)

Richard Cohen does not share Ron Paul's indignation, but does share his dismay: A U.S. citizen was killed on a functionary's say-so.

5. NASA needs clear mission (Omaha World Herald)

There is no way to know what advances might come from new NASA research, concedes this editorial. What is certain, though, is that without a farsighted commitment by NASA, those advances will not be made in America.

6. How the Campaign Season Got So Long (Wall Street Journal)

Thank Jimmy Carter for the seemingly interminable presidential horse race, says Larry J. Sabato -- and the state of Florida, too.

7. You Have to Gamble on Your Health (New York Times)

H. Gilbert Welch asks: Is screening for prostate cancer and breast cancer worth it? No matter what the task force recommends, there is no easy answer.

8. Morality, not theology (Los Angeles Times)

With his swipe at Mitt Romney's Mormonism at the Value Voters Summit, Robert Jeffress played into the worst stereotypes about the GOP as a bigoted and theocratic party for evangelical Christians alone, writes Jonah Goldberg.

9. Districts should be based on common interests (Boston Globe)

The districts should be as compact as possible, respect municipal boundaries as much as possible, and split up natural constituencies as little as possible, says this editorial.

10. This Is Not Your Father's Democratic Party (Roll Call)

For anyone old enough to remember Bucky Dent's memorable home run in the 1978 Yankees-Red Sox playoff, the current makeup and political strategy of the Democratic Party has to seem very odd, and while that was an asset in 2006 and 2008, it very definitely looks like a problem in 2012, writes Stuart Rothenberg.

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The US election is now a referendum on the role of women

Melania Trump's recent defence of her husband's indefensible comments, shows why a Cinton victory is vital.

Maybe one day, when this brutal presidential election is over, Hillary Clinton will view Melania Trump with sympathy. The prospective Republican First Lady’s experience sometimes seems like an anxiety dream rerun of Clinton’s own time stumping for job of wife-in-chief back in 1992. Even before Bill Clinton had the Democratic nomination, rumours about his infidelities were being kicked up, and in a bid to outflank them, the Clintons appeared in a joint interview on the CBS current affairs show 60 Minutes. “I'm not sitting here some little woman standing by my man like Tammy Wynette,” she said, the extreme humiliation of her situation registering as perhaps the tiniest flicker across her perfectly composed face. “I'm sitting here because I love him and I respect him.”

Another decade, another TV interview, another consort to a nominee called on to defend her husband’s honour. After the release of Donald Trump’s grotesque “grab her by the pussy” comments from 2005, Melania headed out to do her wifely duty. But where the Clintons in 1992 had the benefit of uncertainty – the allegations against Bill were unproven – Melania is going up against the implacable fact of recorded evidence, and going up alone. Even leaving aside the boasts about sexual assault, which she’s at pains to discount, this still leave her talking about a tape of her husband declaring that he “tried to fuck” another woman when he was only newly married.

What Melania has to say in the circumstances sounds strained. How did she feel when she heard the recordings? “I was surprised, because [...] I don't know that person that would talk that way, and that he would say that kind of stuff in private,” she tells CNN's Anderson Cooper, giving the extraordinary impression that she’s never heard her husband sparring with shock-jock Howard Stern on the latter’s radio show, where he said this kind of thing all the time.

She minimises the comments as “boys talk” that he was “egged on” to make, then tries to dismiss women’s allegations that Trump behaves precisely as he claims to by ascribing their revelations to conspiracy – “This was all organized from the opposition.” (Shades here of Clinton’s now-regretted claim of a “vast right-wing conspiracy” against her own husband during the Lewinsky scandal.) “I believe my husband. I believe my husband,” she says, though this is a strangely contorted thing to say when her whole purpose in the interview is to convince the public that he shouldn’t be believed when he says he grabs pussies and kisses women without even waiting because when you’re a celebrity you can do that.

Melania’s speech to the Republican convention bore more than a passing resemblance to elements of Michelle Obama’s speech to the Democratic convention in 2008, but in fact Melania is working to a much, much older script for political wives: the one that says you will eat platefuls of your husband’s shit and smile about it if that’s what it takes to get him in power. It’s the role that Hillary had to take, the one that she bridled against so agonisingly through the cookie-competitions and the office affairs and, even in this election cycle, Trump’s gutter-level dig that “If Hillary Clinton can't satisfy her husband what makes her think she can satisfy America?”

Clinton soldiered through all that, in the process both remaking the office of First Lady and making her own career: “a lawyer, a law professor, first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, a US senator, secretary of state. And she has been successful in every role, gaining more experience and exposure to the presidency than any candidate in our lifetime – more than Barack, more than Bill,” as Michelle Obama said in a speech last week. It was a speech that made it stirringly clear that the job of a First Lady is no longer to eat shit, as Obama launched into an eloquent and furious denunciation of Donald Trump.

A Trump win, said Obama, would “[send] a clear message to our kids that everything they’re seeing and hearing is perfectly OK. We are validating it. We are endorsing it. We’re telling our sons that it’s OK to humiliate women. We’re telling our daughters that this is how they deserve to be treated.” She’s right. From the moment Clinton was a contender for this election, this wasn’t merely a vote on who should lead the United States: it became a referendum on the role of women. From the measly insistences of Bernie Sanders voters that they’d love a woman president, just not the highly qualified woman actually on offer, to commentators’ meticulous fault-finding that reminds us a woman’s place is always in the wrong, she has had to constantly prove not only that she can do the job but that she has the right even to be considered for it.

Think back to her on that 60 Minutes sofa in 1992 saying she’s “not some little woman standing by her man.” Whatever else the Clinton marriage has been, it’s always been an alliance of two ambitious politicians. Melania Trump makes herself sound more like a nursemaid charged with a truculent child when she tells Cooper “sometimes say I have two boys at home, I have my young son and I have my husband.” Clinton has always worked for a world where being a woman doesn’t mean being part-nanny, part-grabbable pussy. Melania says she doesn’t want pity, but she will receive it in abundance. Her tragic apologetics belong to the past: the Clinton future is the one Michelle Obama showed us.

Sarah Ditum is a journalist who writes regularly for the Guardian, New Statesman and others. Her website is here.