US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Grand rhetoric, smaller ideas (Washington Post)

State of the Union speech is full of soaring rhetoric but skips over some major challenges, says this editorial.

2. State of the Union: Mixing politics and policy (Los Angeles Times)

Obama offers economic fixes -- and previews his 2012 campaign -- in his State of the Union speech, according to this editorial.

3. Romney's Fair Share (Wall Street Journal)

The candidate's tax return is an argument for tax reform, argues this editorial.

4. A test for Egypt: hearing all voices (New York Times)

Egypt won't be a full democracy until its people value the lonely defiance of a man like Maikel Nabil, argues Michael Wahid Hanna.

5. Republicans and the constitution (Chicago Tribune)

The Republican presidential candidates talk a lot about amending the constitution, but they don't mean it, writes Steve Chapman.

6. Defence cuts and America's outdate miltary (Wall Street Journal)

Yes, the US spent more after 9/11 -- but in ways that impeded modernization, writes Mackenzie Eaglen.

7. Central America's free-fire zone (Miami Herald)

Dramatic crisis in Honduras demands action, argues this editorial.

8. Obama's common touch (Los Angeles Times)

It was a blue-collar State of the Union speech, aimed at the swing voters the president needs to woo, writes Doyle McManus.

9. A way to make people buy homes again (New York Times)

There is a way to buy a home with less risk to one's hard-earned cash: a down-payment protection plan.

10. Now, GOP ought to be licking its chops (New York Post)

Barack Obama doesn't have his mojo back, writes John Podhoretz.

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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.