Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning’s papers.

1. If Scotland does secede, I won't be alone in mourning my country (Observer)

Those of us who count ourselves as British fear that Scottish independence would tear the nation apart, writes David Mitchell.

2. Bahrain is trying to drown the protests in Shia blood (Independent on Sunday)

Claiming that the opposition is being orchestrated by Iran, the al-Khalifa regime has unleashed a vicious sectarian clampdown, writes Patrick Cockburn.

3. To have a hope of power, Labour must turn from dull into dynamic (Observer)

Ed Miliband's party needs to forget complacent assumptions and remember that the task is both big and urgent, says Andrew Rawnsley.

4. Europe and immigration are vital issues, so let's discuss them (Sunday Telegraph)

The voters want a debate on Europe's influence, says this leading article, and the government should let them have it.

5. Live up to your own slogan, Dave (Independent on Sunday)

"All in this together" must count as one of the worst slogans dreamt up by supposedly intelligent people, says a leading article. More effectively than any lines devised by the Labour Party, it invites cynicism – so David Cameron must address social inequality if he has any chance of making it believable.

6. Cameron has the makings of a truly great prime minister (Sunday Telegraph)

Many of those in No 10 end up as essentially irrelevant figures, but a small few attain truly heroic status, says Peter Oborne.

7. Twitter is home to the dull and dysfunctional – I'll never join (Independent on Sunday)

This is the age of the ego, says Janet Street-Porter authoritatively. If celebrities want privacy, they must give up sending press releases and posing for Hello!.

8. Stop punishing the McCanns (Sunday Times) (£)

As I sat welling up in my kitchen listening to Kate McCann tell her distressing story, hundreds of people logged on to Twitter to type out poison about her in real time, says India Knight.

9. So their dossier was sexed up. No wonder the cabal want "closure" (Mail on Sunday)

Major General Michael Laurie has now admitted to the Chilcot inquiry that he was pressured to make the case for war in Iraq, writes Suzanne Moore. Eight years on, it still matters – because our lack of clarity about Libya stems from our embarrassment about Iraq.

10. The press must put its house in order (Observer)

Lies, bullying and kiss-and-tell profiteering do, sadly, go unpunished too often in newsrooms, says a leading article. But much investigative energy is spent unearthing grave abuses of power – so self-regulation is better than legislation.

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What Donald Trump could learn from Ronald Reagan

Reagan’s candidacy was built on more than his celebrity. Trump not only lacks experience as an elected official, he isn’t part of any organised political movement.

“No one remembers who came in second.” That wisdom, frequently dispensed by the US presidential candidate Donald Trump, came back to haunt him this week. Trump’s loss in the Iowa Republican caucuses to the Texas senator Ted Cruz, barely beating Senator Marco Rubio of Florida for second place, was the first crack in a campaign that has defied all expectations.

It has been a campaign built on Trump’s celebrity. Over the past eight months, his broad name recognition, larger-than-life personality and media savvy have produced a theatrical candidacy that has transfixed even those he repels. The question now is whether that celebrity will be enough – whether a man so obsessed with being “Number One” can bounce back from defeat.

Iowa isn’t everything, after all. It didn’t back the eventual Republican nominee in 2008 or 2012. Nor, for that matter, in 1980, when another “celebrity” candidate was in the mix. That was the year Iowa picked George H W Bush over Ronald Reagan – the former actor whom seasoned journalists dismissed as much for his right-wing views as for his “B-movie” repertoire. But Reagan regrouped, romped to victory in the New Hampshire primary and rode a wave of popular support all the way to the White House.

Trump might hope to replicate that success and has made a point of pushing the Reagan analogy more generally. Yet it is a comparison that exposes Trump’s weaknesses and his strengths.

Both men were once Democrats who came later in life to the Republican Party, projecting toughness, certainty and unabashed patriotism. Trump has even adopted Reagan’s 1980 campaign promise to “make America great again”. Like Reagan, he has shown he can appeal to evangelicals despite question marks over his religious conviction and divorces. In his ability to deflect criticism, too, Trump has shown himself as adept as Reagan – if by defiance rather than by charm – and redefined what it means to be “Teflon” in the age of Twitter.

That defiance, however, points to a huge difference in tone between Reagan’s candidacy and Trump’s. Reagan’s vision was a positive, optimistic one, even as he castigated “big government” and the perceived decline of US power. Reagan’s America was meant to be “a city upon a hill” offering a shining example of liberty to the world – in rhetoric at least. Trump’s vision is of an America closed off from the world. His rhetoric invokes fear as often as it does freedom.

On a personal level, Reagan avoided the vituperative attacks that have been the hallmark of Trump’s campaign, even as he took on the then“establishment” of the Republican Party – a moderate, urban, east coast elite. In his first run for the nomination, in 1976, Reagan even challenged an incumbent Republican president, Gerald Ford, and came close to defeating him. But he mounted the challenge on policy grounds, advocating the so-called “Eleventh Commandment”: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.” Trump, as the TV debates between the Republican presidential candidates made clear, does not subscribe to the same precept.

More importantly, Reagan in 1976 and 1980 was the leader of a resurgent conservative movement, with deep wells of political experience. He had been president of the Screen Actors Guild in the late 1940s, waging a campaign to root out communist infiltrators. He had gone on to work for General Electric in the 1950s as a TV pitchman and after-dinner speaker, honing a business message that resonated beyond the “rubber chicken circuit”.

In 1964 he grabbed headlines with a televised speech on behalf of the Republican presidential candidate, Barry Goldwater – a bright spot in Goldwater’s otherwise ignominious campaign. Two years later he was elected governor of California – serving for eight years as chief executive of the nation’s most populous state. He built a conservative record on welfare reform, law and order, and business regulation that he pushed on to the federal agenda when he ran for president.

All this is to say that Reagan’s candidacy was built on more than his celebrity. By contrast, Trump not only lacks experience as an elected official, he isn’t part of any organised political movement – which enhanced his “outsider” status, perhaps, but not his ground game. So far, he has run on opportunism, tapping in to popular frustration, channelled through a media megaphone.

In Iowa, this wasn’t enough. To win the nomination he will have to do much more to build his organisation. He will be hoping that in the primaries to come, voters do remember who came in second. 

This article first appeared in the 05 February 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Putin's war