US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. In Iraq, a man of the shadows (Washington Post)

Is Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - suspicious eyes, wary demeanor, brows furrowed by years living in the underground - really the face of today's Iraq? Unfortunately, the answer is yes, and America helped make it that way, writes David Ignatius.

2. Cuba restrictions: bad on policy, bad on tactics (St. Petersburg Times)

U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Miami is using thousands of Cuban-American families as pawns in a game of chicken with Democrats and President Barack Obama over next year's federal budget.

3. Save marriage: let gays wed (Washington Post)

It might be up to gay men and lesbians to save marriage, according to Jonathan Capehart.

4. What Wyden-Ryan hath wrought (Washington Post)

Matt Miller explains why the new Wyden-Ryan Medicare framework is the most fascinating policy and political maneuver of the year.

5. The 'hot mess' of politics (Los Angeles Times)

Political figures including Gingrich are lucky Americans' tolerance for screw-ups is fairly high, according to Meghan Daum.

6. Republicans and Democrats play games with payroll tax cut (New York Daily News)

Both parties need to get their heads out of the schoolyard and into the public interest.

7. Huge odds that Newt comes up snake eyes (Boston Herald)

Newt Gingrich provided on Monday redundant evidence for the proposition that he is the least conservative candidate seeking the Republican nomination, writes George F. Will.

8. The great eight: attacks to remember (Politico)

The Republican presidential field's long nightmare is almost over, writes Maggie Haberman.

9. Mayor Bloomberg rightly takes aim at online gun sales (New York Daily News)

Anonymous Internet cash business puts weapons in criminals' hands, no questions asked.

10. A United States of Europe? (Los Angeles Times)

There are uncanny similarities between the current round of wheeling and dealing and the founding of the United States of America. Bruce Ackerman asks whether we are witnessing the birth of the United States of Europe.

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Emmanuel Macron offers Theresa May no comfort on Brexit

The French presidential candidate warned that he would not accept "any caveat or any waiver" at a press briefing in London.

Emmanuel Macron, the new wunderkind of French politics, has brought his presidential campaign to London. The current favourite to succeed François Hollande has a natural electoral incentive to do so. London is home to 300,000 French voters, making it by France's sixth largest city by one count (Macron will address 3,000 people at a Westminster rally tonight). But the telegenic centrist also took the time to meet Theresa May and Philip Hammond and to hold a press briefing.

If May hoped that her invitation would help soften Macron's Brexit stance (the Prime Minister has refused to engage with his rival Marine Le Pen), she will have been left disappointed. Outside No.10, Macron declared that he hoped to attract "banks, talents, researchers, academics" away from the UK to France (a remark reminiscent of David Cameron's vow to "roll out the red carpet" for those fleeing Hollande). 

At the briefing at Westminster's Central Hall, Macron quipped: "The best trade agreement for Britain ... is called membership of the EU". With May determined to deliver Brexit, he suggested that the UK would have to settle for a Canadian-style deal, an outcome that would radically reduce the UK's market access. Macron emphasised that he took a a "classical, orthodox" view of the EU, regarding the "four freedoms" (of people, capital, goods and services) as indivisible. Were Britain to seek continued financial passporting, the former banker said, it would have to make a significant budget "contribution" and accept continued immigration. "The execution of Brexit has to be compliant with our interests and the European interest".

The 39-year-old avoided a nationalistic tone ("my perspective is not to say France, France, France") in favour of a "coordinated European approach" but was unambiguous: "I don't want to accept any caveat or any waiver to what makes the single market and the EU." Were the UK, as expected, to seek a transitional arrangement, it would have to accept the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Elsewhere, Macron insisted that his liberal economic stance was not an obstacle to his election. It would be fitting, he said, if the traditionally "contrarian" France embraced globalisation just as its counterparts were rejecting it. "In the current environment, if you're shy, you're dead," he declared. With his emotional, straight-talking approach (one derided by some as intellectually threadbare), Macron is seeking to beat the populists at their own game.

But his views on Brexit may yet prove academic. A poll published today showed him trailing centre-right candidate François Fillon (by 20-17) having fallen five points since his denunciation of French colonialism. Macron's novelty is both a strength and a weakness. With no established base (he founded his own party En Marche!), he is vulnerable to small swings in the public mood. If Macron does lose, it will not be for want of confidence. But there are unmistakable signs that his forward march has been halted. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.