US press: pick of the papers

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

1. Hospitals aren't hotels (New York Times)

We hurt people because it's the only way we know to make them better. This is the nature of our work, which is why the growing focus on measuring "patient satisfaction" as a way to judge the quality of a hospital's care is worrisomely off the mark, says Theresa Brown.

2. Mitt Romney meets 'peasants with pitchforks' (Washington Post)

When Pat Buchanan ran for president in the 1990s, the conservative commentator lovingly referred to his partisans as "peasants with pitchforks." The pitchfork brigade now enjoys more power in Republican politics than even Buchanan thought possible, writes E.J. Dionne Jr.

3. Viral video, vicious warlord (New York Times)

I'd like to thank the makers of the "Kony 2012" video for goading me to write about Joseph Kony. Yes, the video glosses over details, but it has left the American public more informed. Last year, Rush Limbaugh defended the Lord's Resistance Army because it sounded godly, writes Nicholas D. Kristof.

4. The secret of Santorum's success (Politico)

Though Santorum's received the most intense scrutiny of all, he endures because he has taken his message, and himself, directly to voters. And the more voters see of the real Rick Santorum, the more they like him, writes Gary Bauer.

5. Bombing Syria risks making things worse (USA Today)

Despite the blood-soaked images from Syria, the proper course is to methodically align the forces that will remove Assad while limiting the risks, preferably as an alternative to an attack but at least to prepare the way for one, says this editorial.

6. Obama dribbles from mandate to man date (San Francisco Chronicle)

One month the White House sniggers about an overly male GOP not backing its birth-control mandate. But Obamadom doesn't want to seem too metrosexual, so the president jumped from mandate to "man date", says Debra J Saunders.

7. Romney and the un-Romney (LA Times)

With no disrespect to Gingrich or Ron Paul, the Republican race is down to two serious contenders: a doctrinaire conservative and an erstwhile moderate whose repositionings have created confusion about his core convictions, writes this editorial.

8. Gingrich's ego is a win for Romney (Boston Globe) (£)

Since Iowa, Gingrich and Rick Santorum have been fighting for the right to take on Romney as the one and only true conservative in the 2012 contest. The trouble is, they are still fighting each other, writes Joan Vennochi.

9. Romney turns his pandering skills to gas prices and whiffs again (St Louis Today)

The ploy of presidential candidates blaming sitting presidents for rising gas prices is nearly as old as the internal combustion engine, says this editorial.

10. GOP hitting reset every election night (Politico)

It could take an entire college semester to make sense of the formula devised by the Republican National Committee, writes Trey Hardin.

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French voters face a choice: Thatcherism or fascism

Today's Morning Call. 

Francois Fillon has been handed the task of saving France from a Marine Le Pen presidency and, by extension, the European Union from collapse, after a landslide win over Alain Juppé in the second round of the centre-right Republican party primary, taking 67 per cent of the vote to Juppé's 33 per cent. 

What are his chances? With the left exhausted, divided and unpopular, it's highly likely that it will be Fillon who makes it into the second round of the contest (under the French system, unless one candidate secures more than half in the first round, the top two go to a run off). 

Le Pen is regarded as close-to-certain of winning the first round and is seen as highly likely to be defeated in the second. That the centre-right candidate looks - at least based on the polls - to be the most likely to make it into the top two alongside her puts Fillon in poll position if the polls are right.

As I explained in my profile of him, his path to victory relies on the French Left being willing to hold its nose and vote for Thatcherism - or, at least, as close as France gets to Thatcherism - in order to defeat fascism. It may be that the distinctly Anglo-Saxon whiff of his politics - "Thatcherite Victor vows sharp shock for France" is the Times splash - exerts too strong a smell for the left to ignore.

The triumph of Brexit in the United Kingdom and Donald Trump in the United States have the left and the centre nervous. The far right is sharing best practice and campaign technique across borders, boosting its chances. 

Of all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most avoidable, so I won't make one. However, there are a few factors that may lie in the way of Le Pen going the way of Trump and Brexit. Hostility towards the European project and white  racial reaction are both deeply woven into the culture and politics of the United Kingdom and the United States respectively. The similarities between Vote Leave and Trump are overstated, but both were fighting on home turf with the wind very much at their backs. 

While there's a wider discussion to be had about the French state's aggressive policy of secularism and diversity blindness and its culpability for the rise of Le Pen, as far as the coming contest is concerned, the unity of the centre against the extremes is just as much a part of French political culture as Euroscepticism is here in Britain. So it would be a far bigger scale of upheaval if Le Pen were to win, though it is still possible.

There is one other factor that Fillon may be able to rely on. He, like Le Pen, is very much a supporter of granting Vladimir Putin more breathing space and attempting to reset Russia's relationship with the West. He may face considerably less disruption from that quarter than the Democrats did in the United States. Still, his campaign would be wise to ensure they have two-step verification enabled.

A WING AND A PRAYER

Eleanor Mills bagged the first interview with the new PM in the Sunday Times, and it's widely reported in today's papers. Among the headlines: the challenge of navigating  Brexit keeps Theresa May "awake at night", but her Anglican faith helps her through. She also lifted the lid on Philip May's value round the home. Apparently he's great at accessorising. 

THE NEVERENDING STORY

John Kerr, Britain's most experienced European diplomat and crossbench peer, has said there is a "less than 50 per cent" chance that Britain will negotiate a new relationship with the EU in two years and that a transitional deal will have to be struck first, resulting in a "decade of uncertainty". The Guardian's Patrick Wintour has the story

TROUBLED WATERS OVER OIL

A cross-party coalition of MPs, including Caroline Lucas and David Lammy, are at war with their own pension fund: which is refusing to disclose if its investments include fossil fuels. Madison Marriage has the story in the FT

TRUMPED UP CHARGES?

The Ethics Council to George W Bush and Barack Obama say the Electoral College should refuse to make Donald Trump President, unless he sells his foreign businesses and puts his American ones in a genuine blind trust. Trump has said he plans for his children to run his businesses while he is in the Oval Office and has been involved in a series of stories of him discussing his overseas businesses with foreign politicians. The New York Times has detailed the extentof Trump's overseas interests. 

TODAY'S MORNING CALL...

...is brought to you by the City of London. Their policy and resources chairman Mark Boleat writes on Brexit and the City here.

CASTROFF

Fidel Castro died this weekend. If you're looking for a book on the region and its politics, I enjoyed Alex von Tunzelmann's Red Heat, which you can buy on Amazon or Hive.

BALLS OUT

Ed Balls was eliminated from Strictly Come Dancing last night, after finishing in the bottom two and being eliminated by the judges' vote.  Judge Rinder, the daytime TV star, progressed to the next round at his expense. 

AND NOW FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

Helen reviews Glenda Jackson's King Lear.

MUST READS

Forget Castro's politics. All that matters is he was a dictator, says Zoe Williams

The right must stop explaining away Thomas Mair's crime, I say

It’s time to end the lies on immigration, says Anna Soubry

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