US Press: pick of the papers

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

1. Taxes at the top (New York Times)

The tax policy question of why the rich bear a light tax burden comes up with Mitt Romney's "Dance of the Seven Veils" around his own taxes, says Paul Krugman.

2. Happy trails, Rick Perry (Los Angeles Times)

The departure from the GOP race of "the divisive, inarticulate Texas governor" is good news to everybody except late-night comedians, argues this editorial.

3. Get politics out of infrastructure (Politico)

Though maybe good for electroral politics, shunning foreign investment is not going to boost the economy, according to Christopher Lee and Sean Medcalf.

4. The Americans no one wants to talk about (Washington Post)

Political debates seldom touch on the most pressing issues of hardship, writes Michael Gerson.

5. What Ron Paul wants (Wall Street Jorunal) ($)

Even though he knows he can't win, the republican candidate wants to make clear his views on national security and presidential power, according to Kimberley A. Strassel.

6. Buying democracy (Denver Post)

Spending on political advertising is an assault on democracy, writes Ken Gordon.

7. Where are the republican populists? (Washington Post)

The economically conservative and corporate wing of the Republican party always seem to win, according to E.J. Dionne.

8. The things soldiers do (Chicago Tribune)

What seems acceptable in war is deplorable outside of it, writes Leonard Pitts.

9. What to do about Iran (Boston Globe) ($)

The US should have strategic patience instead of rushing to war, argues Nicholas Burns.

10. State of the Union: A civil action (Politico)

Congress should appear as one body, not two sides, according to Jon Cowan and Jim Kessler.

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Emmanuel Macron can win - but so can Marine Le Pen

Macron is the frontrunner, but he remains vulnerable to an upset. 

French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron is campaigning in the sixth largest French city aka London today. He’s feeling buoyed by polls showing not only that he is consolidating his second place but that the voters who have put him there are increasingly comfortable in their choice

But he’ll also be getting nervous that those same polls show Marine Le Pen increasing her second round performance a little against both him and François Fillon, the troubled centre-right candidate. Her slight increase, coming off the back of riots after the brutal arrest of a 22-year-old black man and Macron’s critical comments about the French empire in Algeria is a reminder of two things: firstly the potential for domestic crisis or terror attack to hand Le Pen a late and decisive advantage.  Secondly that Macron has not been doing politics all that long and the chance of a late implosion on his part cannot be ruled out either.

That many of his voters are former supporters of either Fillon or the Socialist Party “on holiday” means that he is vulnerable should Fillon discover a sense of shame – highly unlikely but not impossible either – and quit in favour of a centre-right candidate not mired in scandal. And if Benoît Hamon does a deal with Jean-Luc Mélenchon – slightly more likely that Fillon developing a sense of shame but still unlikely – then he could be shut out of the second round entirely.

What does that all mean? As far as Britain is concerned, a Macron or Fillon presidency means the same thing: a French government that will not be keen on an easy exit for the UK and one that is considerably less anti-Russian than François Hollande’s. But the real disruption may be in the PR battle as far as who gets the blame if Theresa May muffs Brexit is concerned.

As I’ve written before, the PM doesn’t like to feed the beast as far as the British news cycle and the press is concerned. She hasn’t cultivated many friends in the press and much of the traditional rightwing echo chamber, from the press to big business, is hostile to her. While Labour is led from its leftmost flank, that doesn’t much matter. But if in the blame game for Brexit, May is facing against an attractive, international centrist who shares much of the prejudices of May’s British critics, the hope that the blame for a bad deal will be placed solely on the shoulders of the EU27 may turn out to be a thin hope indeed.

Implausible? Don’t forget that people already think that Germany is led by a tough operator who gets what she wants, and think less of David Cameron for being regularly outmanoeuvered by her – at least, that’s how they see it. Don’t rule out difficulties for May if she is seen to be victim to the same thing from a resurgent France.

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