Certainly the blog topic of the day, at least in my little insulated corner of the sphere. I continued a lengthy discussion at Michael Totten's, and most everyone's page I hit upon took time to say something about it.
This came over from WaPo today, a pretty devastating critique of Aznar's infomanipulation starting just hours after the bombing. I think the key moment in the entire week is described here:
On Saturday night -- hours before the polls opened -- the government announced the arrests of three Moroccans and two Indians, and the discovery of a videotape from a purported al Qaeda official asserting responsibility for the attacks. Thousands of Spaniards of responded by taking to the streets, banging pots and pans in protests and denouncing the government.
News Hour had a Spanish anchor and a visiting Spanish researcher this evening, and I think the above quote becomes relevant when matched with this item:
What is interesting to look at the polls from two days ago in Madrid is that Aznar's party support decreased by a little, it only decreased by 700,000 votes. What is very impressive is the increasing total participation, which increased by 8.5 percent, giving Mr. Zapatero the highest support in the history of Spanish democracy -- around 11 million votes.
You can only explain that by people who were going to stay home and decided to vote for Mr. Zapatero considering that they didn't support Mr. Aznar's stance on the war in Iraq.
Two big questions for the US election have been the same since 9/11: will Bush have found Osama, and will there be another attack (followed by: what will be the public's read of that attack? Does the attack galvanize popular support and bind what was divided? Or does it confuse and sever, and lead to angry outbursts of electoral rage?) We'll have to wait for the US's answers, but we know the answer to the last question for Spain now. Both the policy failure and the trust issue were major problems for Aznar and his designee. That undercurrent provided all the tinder for the spark of terror. But even that event did not, by itself, make people get up at night and bang pots, and then get up the next morning and oust a government. It was the credibility issue, sparked by the craven twisting of tragic events for political gain.
As with every story I've done on the Spanish elections, it seems, I ask: stop me when this begins to sound familiar.
Bush finally got off the sidelines a little on it today, which is fine. And frankly he gave a very, dare I say, diplomatically worded response while chatting with the Dutch:
they'll kill innocent people to try to shake our will. That's what they want to do. And they'll never shake the will of the United States. We understand the stakes. And we will work with our friends to bring justice to the terrorists.
[emphasis mine as I heard it while watching the video]
By the way, look at what Balkenende--the Dutch guy--said about Holland's committment to Iraq after the July 1 handover:
It's good to add that we did not talk about the situation after the half of July. That is the responsible of the Dutch government and Dutch parliament and we'll talk about it, as I made it clear already, earlier.
So what he's saying here is that after the handover, all bets are off. Although Zapatero makes clear that he won't be renewing the service plan with Bush, neither man is shirking obligations through the handover period, and neither is making any promises afterward. It's supposed to be a handover, right? So why does Zapatero get the grief, and Belkenende gets a "good job"--literally--from the President?
Colin Powell gives very calming responses to the appeasement media hype. Every now and again you see flashes of the old Colin. I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop when Rumsfeld opens his mouth with some poetry about doing and not doing, and sometimes what not doing makes you have to do. For now, McClellan is the attack dog:
I'm not the one who does the analysis of elections. But I will point out the facts. And it is the wrong message to let terrorists think that they can influence policy, that they can influence policy. Terrorists will not prevail, and we must stand together and show resolve and strength in the face of these kind of brutal attacks on innocent men, women and children. We will not be intimidated. An attack on one country is an attack on all of the civilized world. And the civilized world must continue to stand together. You simply cannot make peace with terrorists.
He also says something that I think is correct, and makes the appeasement framing pretty moot and thus defeats it:
Terrorists want to spread fear and chaos. They have no regard for innocent life. It doesn't matter who and when and where they strike, they simply want to strike and spread fear and chaos and intimidate us.
It doesn't matter when and where they strike, they simply want to strike and spread fear and chaos and intimidate us. Exactly right. So taking actions based on what you hope or think al-Qaeda will get out of it as a message, misses the point entirely--they don't care. They will find something to get angry and bomb you about, whether you bomb them back or send them flowers. It's just damn rude of the US to be telling Spain how to deal with terrorism, when they actually have a terrorist group LIVING there.