US press: pick of the papers

1. Mitt Romney camp's latest gaffe may be etched in history (Washington Post)

Etch a Sketch? Actually, it appeared more like Romney was playing Chutes and Ladders: He just landed on Space 87 and slid all the way back to 24, says Dana Milbank.

2. Politics, odors and soap (New York Times)

This year's Republican primaries have been a kaleidoscope of loyalty, authority and sanctity issues -- such as whether church-affiliated institutions can refuse to cover birth control in health insurance policies -- and that's perhaps why people like me have found the primaries so crazy, says Nicholas Kristof.

3. George Osborne's Budget (Wall Street Journal)

The worst part of Mr. Osborne's budget is that it keeps government in the dubious business of picking winners and losers, says this editorial.

4. The new globalist is homesick (New York Times)

The persistence of homesickness points to the limitations of the cosmopolitan philosophy that undergirds so much of our market and society, writes Susan Matt.

5. Romney's challenge to sway evangelical voters (Washington Post)

Outside of Mormon strongholds, voters most concerned about a candidate's religious views are rejecting Romney, writes E.J. Dionne Jr.

6. Don't close the GOP show (LA Times)

We in the mainstream media are just hoping to see the gaudy spectacle of this primary campaign continue as long as possible, says Doyle McManus.

7. Pope is coming -- time to round up dissidents (Star Tribune)

The church's coldness toward peaceful pro- democracy activists isn't all that surprising. Since 2009, Cardinal Ortega has become a de facto partner of Raul Castro, meeting with him regularly and encouraging his limited reforms, says this editorial.

8. Of super PACs and corruption (Politico)

It's time to rethink the whole relationship between independent spending and corruption, writes Richard Hasen.

9. Springsteen captures the state of America (Chicago Tribune)

One of the elder statesmen of American popular music delivers what might fairly be called a State of the Union address, writes Leonard Pitts.

10. Enough! Afghan war just isn't working (USA Today)

Bob Beckel says Afghanistan has been a tribal nation for centuries, and it will not become "democratic" soon, if ever, and Cal Thomas writes that the recent massacre of 16 Afghan civilians doesn't help us win the "hearts and minds" of the people we are trying to protect.

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Emmanuel Macron's "moralisation of politics" comes at a heavy price for his allies

"Fake" jobs in French politics, season 3 episode 1.

Something is rotten in the state of France. No political party – at least none that existed before 2016 – seems immune to the spread of investigations into “fake” or shady parliamentary jobs. The accusations sank centre-right candidate François Fillon’s presidential campaign, and led to Marine Le Pen losing her parliamentary immunity in the European parliament (and proxy wars within her party, the National Front). Both deny the allegations. Now the investigations have made their way to the French government, led by Edouard Philippe, Emmanuel Macron’s Prime Minister.

On Wednesday morning, justice minister François Bayrou and secretary of state for European affairs Marielle de Sarnez announced their resignation from Philippe’s cabinet. They followed defence minister Sylvie Goulard’s resignation the previous day. The three politicians belonged not to Macron's party, En Marche!, but the centrist MoDem party. Bayrou, the leader, had thrown his weight behind Macron after dropping his own presidential bid in April.

The disappearance of three ministers leaves Emmanuel Macron’s cross-party government, which includes politicians from centre left and centre right parties, without a centrist helm. (Bayrou, who has run several times for the French presidency and lost, is the original “neither left nor right” politician – just with a less disruptive attitude, and a lot less luck). “I have decided not to be part of the next government,” he told the AFP.

Rumours had been spreading for weeks. Bayrou, who was last part of a French government as education minister from 1993 to 1997, had been under pressure since 9 June, when he was included in a preliminary investigation into “embezzlement”. The case revolves around whether the parliamentary assistants of MoDem's MEPs, paid for by the European Parliament, were actually working full or part-time for the party. The other two MoDem ministers who resigned, along with Bayrou, also have assistants under investigation.

Bayrou has denied the allegations. He has declared that there “never was” any case of “fake” jobs within his party and that it would be “easy to prove”. All the same, by the time he resigned, his position as justice minister has become untenable, not least because he was tasked by Macron with developing key legislation on the “moralisation of politics”, one of the new President’s campaign pledges. On 1 June, Bayrou unveiled the new law, which plans a 10-year ban from public life for any politician convicted of a crime or offence regarding honesty and transparency in their work.

Bayrou described his decision to resign as a sacrifice. “My name was never pronounced, but I was the target to hit to attack the government’s credibility,” he said, declaring he would rather “protect this law” by stepping down. The other two ministers also refuted the allegations, and gave similar reasons for resigning. 

Macron’s movement-turned-unstoppable-machine, En Marche!, remains untainted from accusations of the sort. Their 350 new MPs are younger, more diverse than is usual in France – but they are newcomers in politics. Which is exactly why Macron had sought an alliance with experienced Bayrou in the first place.

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