US press: pick of the papers

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

1. Iran is ready to talk (New York Times)

With Iran reeling from sanctions, the proper environment now exists for diplomacy to work, writes Dennis Ross.

2. The health care law in red and blue (Politico)

Many GOP congressional districts have much to gain as the new heath care coverage rolls out, say Larry Levitt, Drew Altman and Gary Claxton.

3. Containment won't work against Iran (Wall Street Journal)

It is becoming popular to invoke the Cold War, when the policy of containment managed to avoid all-out war with a nuclear Soviet Union. But the analogy fails on several grounds, writes Daniel Schwammenthal.

4. Rick Santorum's pincer movement (New York Times)

Santorum's advantage is that he can get to Romney's right and to his left at once, writes Ross Douthat.

5. Does the GOP care about Latino voters? (Washington Post)

When it comes to Latino voters, Republicans must have un impulso suicida, says Dana Milbank.

6. Just how much does Gingrich hate Romney? (Roll Call)

Stuart Rothenberg asks: Is Romeny's bitterness and animosity toward the former Massachusetts governor so deep that he is willing to put aside his personal ambitions and yield the spotlight, in which he clearly revels?

7. Polarization and the Independents (Weekly Standard)

The independent vote will be determinative in November, writes Jay Cost.

8. Drumming up a phony war on religion (Washington Post)

It is Rick Santorum who wins the award for histrionics. Progressives, he said last week in Texas, are "taking faith and crushing it," writes Eugene Robinson.

9. The limits of European solidarity (Wall Street Journal)

To avoid a complete breakdown, Brussels panjandrums must recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach to Europe is no longer sustainable, say Naruab Tupy and Richard Sulik.

10. Obama can't have it both ways on taxes (Washington Examiner)

Raising taxes on any working American will hurt the economy for everybody, says this editorial.

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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.