US press: pick of the papers

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

1. Memo to Mitt: The Safety Net Needs Fixing (Wall Street Journal)

Texas ranchers are saving exotic wildlife. Anti-hunting groups want to put them out of business says Alan S. Blinder.

2. Different liberal camps divide progressives (Washington Post)

Conservatives are getting the attention as they duke it out in this GOP primary season. But on a surprising range of issues, there's an important, if quieter, conflict between two progressive camps, wries Fred Hiatt.

3. Severe Conservative Syndrome (New York Times)

Mitt Romney has a gift for words -- self-destructive words, says Paul Krugman.

4. Barack Obama's religion problem (Politico)

I find disquieting parallels between the way Obama handled the recent dust-up with the Catholic Church and contraception and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process a year ago, when he talked about returning to pre-1967 borders, argues Martin Frost.

5. The Strange Career of Voter Suppression (New York Times)

The 2012 general election campaign is likely to be a fight for every last vote, which means that it will also be a fight over who gets to cast one, says Alexander Keyssar.

6. It's rough being the front-runner (Chicago Tribune)

Mitt Romney's recent losses to Rick Santorum in Colorado, Missouri and Minnesota revealed a truism that Romney might want to study -- but not too much! Says Kathleen Parker.

7. Super-PAC politics drags in the Obama campaign (Detroit Free Press)

t's a damned if you do or don't situation, but we'd really prefer President Barack Obama did not indulge the super-PAC madness unleashed by an awful 2009 Supreme Court decision, says Kurt Strazdins.

8. A positive grade for integration aid plan (Star Tribune)

Task force strikes good balance between support, accountability, says this editorial.

9. Our make-believe federal budget (Politico)

Many people inside the Washington Beltway will be pouring through President Barack Obama's Fiscal 2013 budget proposal to find out what he proposes to cut, what initiatives he plans to invest in and what new policies he might propose, writes David M. Walker.

10. Immigration, deportation -- and no right to return? (Los Angeles Times)

The Justice Department says that deported immigrants who win their cases on appeal can return to the U.S. But it appears that's not true, says this editorial.

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A father’s murderous rage, the first victims of mass killers and Trump’s phantom campaign

From the family courts to the US election campaigns.

On 21 June, Ben Butler was found guilty of murdering his six-year-old daughter, Ellie. She had head injuries that looked like she’d been in a car crash, according to the pathologist, possibly the result of being thrown against a wall. Her mother, Jennie Gray, 36, was found guilty of perverting the course of justice, placing a fake 999 call after the girl was already dead.

When the trial first started, I clicked on a link and saw a picture of Ben and Ellie. My heart started pounding. I recognised them: as a baby, Ellie had been taken away from Butler and Gray (who were separated) after social services suggested he had been shaking her. He had been convicted of abuse but the conviction was overturned on appeal. So then he wanted his daughter back.

That’s when I spoke to him. He had approached the Daily Mail, where I then worked, to tell his story: a father unjustly separated from his beloved child by uncaring bureaucracy. I sent a writer to interview him and he gave her the full works, painting himself as a father victimised by a court system that despises men and casually breaks up families on the say-so of faceless council apparatchiks.

The Mail didn’t run the story; I suspect that Butler and Gray, being separated, didn’t seem sufficiently sympathetic. I had to tell him. He raged down the phone at me with a vigour I can remember half a decade later. Yet here’s the rub. I went away thinking: “Well, I’d be pretty angry if I was falsely ­accused and my child was taken away from me.” How can you distinguish the legitimate anger of a man who suffered a miscarriage of justice from the hair-trigger rage of a violent, controlling abuser?

In 2012, a family court judge believed in the first version of Ben Butler. Eleven months after her father regained custody of her, Ellie Butler was dead.

 

Red flags

Social workers and judges will never get it right 100 per cent of the time, but there does seem to be one “red flag” that was downplayed in Ben Butler’s history. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to assaulting his ex-girlfriend Hannah Hillman after throttling her outside a nightclub. He also accepted a caution for beating her up outside a pub in Croydon. (He had other convictions for violence.) The family judge knew this.

Butler also battered Jennie Gray. As an accessory to his crime, she will attract little sympathy – her parents disowned her after Ellie’s death – and it is hard to see how any mother could choose a violent brute over her own child. However, even if we cannot excuse her behaviour, we need to understand why she didn’t leave: what “coercive control” means in practice. We also need to fight the perception that domestic violence is somehow different from “real” violence. It’s not; it’s just easier to get away with.

 

Shooter stats

On the same theme, it was no surprise to learn that the Orlando gunman who killed 49 people at a gay club had beaten up his ex-wife. Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group, looked at FBI data on mass killings and found that 16 per cent of attackers had previously been charged with domestic violence, and 57 per cent of the killings included a family member. The Sandy Hook gunman’s first victim was his mother.

 

Paper candidate

Does Donald Trump’s presidential campaign exist if he is not on television saying something appalling about minorities? On 20 June, his campaign manager Corey Lew­andowski quit (or was pushed out). The news was broken to the media by Trump’s 27-year-old chief press officer, Hope Hicks. She was talent-spotted by The Donald after working for his daughter Ivanka, and had never even volunteered on a campaign before, never mind orchestrated national media coverage for a presidential candidate.

At least there aren’t that many staffers for her to keep in line. The online magazine Slate’s Jamelle Bouie reported that Trump currently has 30 staffers nationwide. Three-zero. By contrast, Bouie writes, “Team Clinton has hired 50 people in Ohio alone.” Trump has also spent a big fat zero on advertising in swing states – though he would argue his appearances on 24-hour news channels and Twitter are all the advertising he needs. And he has only $1.3m in his campaign war chest (Clinton has $42.5m).

It feels as though Trump’s big orange visage is the facial equivalent of a Potemkin village: there’s nothing behind the façade.

 

Divided Johnsons

Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the Johnson family Christmas celebrations. As Boris made much of his late conversion to Leave, the rest of the clan – his sister Rachel, father Stanley and brothers, Leo and Jo – all declared for Remain. Truly, another great British institution torn apart by the referendum.

 

Grrr-eat revelations

The highlight of my week has been a friend’s Facebook thread where she asked everyone to share a surprising true fact about themselves. They were universally amazing, from suffering a cardiac arrest during a job interview to being bitten by a tiger. I highly recommend repeating the experience with your own friends. Who knows what you’ll find out? (PS: If it’s juicy, let me know.)

Peter Wilby is away

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

This article first appeared in the 23 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Divided Britain