US press: pick of the papers

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

1. America's drone wars (LA Times)

Obama's comments on drone strikes should start the process of greater openness about the program, especially the targeted killing of Americans, says this editorial.

2. The cost of a bloody florida battle (New York Times)

Mitt Romney is the victor in Florida, but he's the worse for wear, writes David Firestone.

3. The media loves Newt (Washington Post)

We love your feigned umbrage and your wild superlatives. We admire the way you frequently send us to Google to test your veracity, writes Dana Milbank.

4. Is he unelectable? (Wall Street Journal)

The case against the case against Romney, made by James Taranto.

5. The politics of dignity (New York Times)

You may think that the situations in Egypt and Russia have nothing in common. Think again, says Thomas Friedman.

6. America's waning influence (LA Times)

Any honest diplomat will tell you that American power and global influence is waning, and if we shy away from acknowledging that fact, we'll only speed up the process, writes Rosa Brooks.

7. In censorship, Twitter fails to defend free speech (San Fransisco Chronicle)

Twitter is trying to make a good-faith effort to uphold the values of transparency and free speech while complying with the laws of countries that have no respect for either, says this editorial.

8. Implementing health reform (Politico)

Consumers dread choosing health insurance, largely because they don't understand it, says Lynn Quincy.

9. Stop bothering the Fed, you peasant taxpayers! (Miami Herald)

When it comes to the Fed, the press plays more like one of those toy poodles that sits in your lap, says Glenn Garvin.

10. Right-to-work laws stand for choice (Boston Globe)

Soon, Indiana will be the first state in more than a decade that has succeeded in banning labor contracts that oblige all employees to pay money to a union as a condition of employment, writes Jeff Jacoby.

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François Fillon's woes are good news for Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron

It is too late for the Republicans to replace their scandal-tainted candidate.

It's that time of the week again: this week's Le Canard Enchaîné has more bad news for François Fillon, the beleagured centre-right candidate for the French presidency. This week's allegations: that he was paid $50,000 to organise a meeting between the head of the French oil company Total and Vladimir Putin.

The story isn't quite as scandalous as the ones that came before it: the fee was paid to Fillon's (legitimate) consultancy business but another week with a scandal about Fillon and money is good news for both Emmanuel Macron and Marine Le Pen.

The bad news for the Republicans is that Fillon is on the ballot now: there is no getting off the train that they are on. Destination: blowing an election that was theirs to be won.

Who'll be the ultimate beneficiary of the centre-right's misery? Although Macron is in the box seat as far as the presidential race is concerned, that he hasn't been in frontline politics all that long means that he could still come unstuck. As his uncertain performance in the first debate showed he is more vulnerable than he looks, though that the polls defied the pundits - both in Britain and in France - and declared him the winner shows that his popularity and charisma means that he has a handy cushion to fall back on.

It looks all-but-certain that it will be Macron and Le Pen who face each other in the second round in May and Macron will be the overwhelming favourite in that contest.

It's still just about possible to envisage a perfect storm for Le Pen where Fillon declares that the choice between Macron and Le Pen is a much of a muchness as neither can equal his transformative programme for France, Macron makes some 11th-hour blunder which keeps his voters at home and a terrorist attack or a riot gets the National Front's voters fired up and to the polling stations for the second round.

But while it's possible he could still come unstuck, it looks likely that despite everything we've thought these last three years, the French presidency won't swing back to the right in 2017.

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