Hard News by Russell Brown

After Aznar

The right-wing blogosphere is up in arms about the Spanish election result. With Aznar's rejection by an electorate that apparently swung against him in the days following last week's murderous bombings, they believe, the terrorists have won.

This is certainly a matter of concern; particularly with elections coming up this year in two of the "coalition" countries, Australia and the US. But the response has been obtuse, patronising and, at times, unpleasant.

Instapundit, the one most of them cop their opinions from, was beside himself yesterday, declaring: "It never ends. Unless, that is, you stand up to it," and quoting sundry fellow travellers declaring that this just goes to show that multilateralism is an even worse idea than we all thought. That we just can't trust those lily-livered Europeans. Or anyone, presumably.

He carries on by wagging the finger at Spain's new Prime Minister, Zapatero.

Let's hope that the "tough line" expectation is met, in deeds, not just words. Zapatero is promising a tough line: ("'My most immediate priority is to beat all forms of terrorism,' said Zapatero, asking for a minute's silence in honour of the 200 people killed in the bombings on four packed commuter trains.") Let's hope.

And on it goes: always with the bluster. "Stand up to it", "kill them" "get tough", as if bluster (profoundly idle, in the case of those expressing it) were the only acceptable response. But the Spaniards did not respond to the horror that way. They took to the streets with dignity and in their millions. To patronise them from across the Atlantic because of what they did next, as individuals - and that's what's really being said - isn't very smart.

Conservative columnist David Frum - the former Bush speechwriter who devised the fateful phrase "Axis of Evil" - wrote that "terrorism has won a mighty victory in Spain", and then got really insulting.

People are not always strong. Sometimes they indulge false hopes that by lying low, truckling, appeasing, they can avoid danger and strife. ... And this is what seems to have happened in Spain.

Those Spanish cowards, eh? Frum and his chums presumably wish to apologise for inadvertently giving the impression last week that Spaniards were brave and noble people who filled their streets to declare "No Pasaran!" to the terrorists. Always knew brave America couldn't trust Europeans. Or, well, anyone really …

But when we've finished with this self-serving tosh, did some Spaniards perhaps wonder why they had 1300 troops risking their lives in Iraq when, as it presently appears, some people came out of Morocco, thousands of kilometres away from Iraq, and did this? Did they perceive that Aznar's government had tried to manipulate public perception by blaming ETA when some evidence pointed to Islamic terror? Did events (as it appears) draw out those who might not otherwise have voted, tipping the result? Were people supposed to line up for more of the same? To return a governmwent in which they had lost confidence, to flee to authority, purely to teach nameless terrorists a lesson?

But where the bombings may have done for Aznar's Popular Party is simply in restoring Iraq, terror and the coalition of the willing to the national agenda. According to last year's Pew survey, Spaniards were actually less keen than Germans or Italians on a foreign policy that closely aligned their country with the US. Sixty two per cent, many more than voted for the Socialists, believed that Western Europe should pursue "a more independent relationship with the US on diplomatic and security affairs."

On a similar theme, Calpundit advances the theory that the Aznar foreign policy wasn't going to survive without Aznar (who was retiring after the election) anyway.

The Christian Science Monitor has a very useful roundup of reports from Spain and reactions from elsewhere. Worth reading.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, The Nation has the disturbing story of al-Jazeera journalists being picked up and imprisoned by occupying forces, and Riverbend tells the (apocryphal?) story of yet another arbitrary detention. And Bush's approval rating amongst the families of US military personnel has fallen to 36%. Cowards too, presumably ...

Back home, what on earth has happened to Don Brash? I used to credit him with some decency, but a leap in the polls appears to have brought out a streak of arrogance - either that, or he's being coached into it. Whatever, his letter to the Dean of Christchurch Cathedral, Peter Beck, declining an invitation to speak, following Helen Clark's recent speech there, seemed unnecessarily aggressive, his comment about Clark to a third party ("atheist … indifferent to the institution of marriage …unholy alliance") unduly personal. He fully deserved to get tagged for lecturing other people about marriage having broken up his own first marriage by having an affair. Ironically, as the Herald pointed out, Brash has also declared his lack of belief in a conventional God. He would have been on sure ground criticising Clark for having a crack at a judge last week. But this? What is he thinking?

Anyway, there won't be a blog from me tomorrow morning because I'll be getting things together for my return to current affairs radio. I begin hosting the Wednesday Wire, 12-2pm on 95bFM tomorrow, and, having made the decision, I'm quite excited about. First guest up will be Roger Kerr of the Business Roundtable, who I trust will be sufficiently "pro-business" for the thought police. I will continue with Mediawatch and I don't expect the two to clash at all. You can listen to 95bFM online here.