Aznar's recipe was simple: Reaganomics. He slashed taxes, slimmed down the public sector, and freed up the labor market. The results were spectacular. By 2000, unemployment was at 15%. By early 2004, at the end of his second term, at 11.2% - a reduction by 50%. Throughout Aznar's eight years in power, the Spanish economy grew at an average of 4% yearly, far outstripping the EU's paltry average of 0.6%. Average income had risen to 84% of the EU: in 1996, BMW sold roughly 12,000 cars in the whole of Spain. Eight years later that number had nearly tripled. Spanish banks were awash in money, the two biggest ones noting maximum profits in 2003. One year later, the second biggest one, BBVA (Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria), would take over Bancomer, Mexico's biggest, for 3.3 billion EUR. And Aznar managed to do all this and at the same time keep a tight budgetary control - while Germany, France and other countries fiddled and cheated with the stated EU monetary goal to keep the budget deficit under 3%.
This is the man who in 2000 said:
"Socialism, in my view, is a thing of the past. If anybody can come up with a better form of social protection than having a job, then please tell me."
March 11, 2004. Three days prior to the general elections, a coordinated series of bombings rips though the Cercanias system (commuter trains) of Spain's capital Madrid, leaving 191 dead and 1,755 wounded. A panicking Partido Popular, knowing that its involvement in the Liberation of Iraq is not well received by a majority of the population and fearing it will be punished if it directly links the attacks to islamic terrorists, totally bungles its communication with the media, halfheartedly pointing towards the Basque separatist terror organization ETA while it is abundantly clear the former are the perpetrators. On election day, the punishment follows. In the event, the PP's reluctance to lie the blame with the islamoterrs was explained as an admittance of guilt by a majority of voters - it is well possible that if the PP, which had been leading in the polls, had been straightforward over what it really thought, it still might have won. As it was though, its bad PR brought one man into power who would spell Spain's doom - the leader of the Socialist Party PSOE, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero. Literally EVERYTHING this man did was wrong.
Four years of Zapatero rule sufficed to halt Spains economic boom. TIME magazine ran a gushing story in early 2004 under the title Spain Rocks! - it can't and won't do so now. Truth to be told, for awhile Zapatero was smart enough not to alter Aznar's economic policy too much. But after Aznar's first set of dramatic reforms, which led to halving unemployment, a second set was necessary to maintain the momentum, which the Zapatero government utterly failed to do. E.g., one of the biggest challenges is still the rigidity of Spains labor market, it being still extremely difficult and expensive to fire people. Like in neighbouring France, companies are very reluctant to hire new (permanent) employees and as a result there is a disproportionately (and unhealthy) high number of short-term contracts. Essentially, during three years the PSOE reaped the fruits of the PP's good stewardship of the economy, but in 2007 the first signs of a slowdown manifested themselves, and by early 2008 unemployment was back where it was ten years ago, inflation was at its highest level (4.4%) since 2002 and economic growth prospects for 2008 are expected to stall at 2.7%, the lowest percentage in six years.
Where Zapatero failed to provide reforms in the economy, in another field he excelled: liberal, "progressive" legislation. The abortion rate in Spain was already alarming - in the ten years between 1995 and 2004, thus mostly under Aznar rule, it nearly doubled from 49,000 to 85,000 a year. Coupled with a deathbed birthrate hovering around 1.1 children per couple, the world's lowest, the abortion phenomenon mathematically ensures the near extinction of Spaniards within a century. In the given situation, a responsible government would have done everything in its might not to legalize abortion, and thus even more drain the dwindling supply of newborns. Zapatero did the exact opposite - in 2005, he introduced legislation that made abortion easier. This was, however, just the beginnings of his efforts to kill off as many traditional Spanish values as possible. In the same year, an "express divorce" bill was passed - with predictible results: in two years, from 2005 to 2007, the number of divorces jumped a staggering 74%. For every 2.3 marriages there is now one divorce. Of course, marriages are a serious matter and if partners despite their best efforts find no suitable way to peacefully and harmoniously live together and consume all the benefits of a good and true relationship, divorce is sometimes the best option. But removing each and every barrier has the same effect on the weaker willed as it has on kids allowed to roam the candy shelf at will. And so Spain's divorce rate is, three years after Zapatero's law, the highest in Europe. What will the net result be? All sociological studies all over Europe confirm the same scenario: one parent households are poorer and more vulnerable. In such a situation, if the woman becomes pregnant, the sooner she will step into an abortion clinic. And why not? That poor gal soon doesn't even have to worry about the costs anymore: in February 2008, the Spanish Socialists promised that if re-elected the government woulf field the bill. But perhaps nothing illustrates better the total disconnection from reality of the Zapatero government than the fact that in 2006 the PSOE introduced a bill in the Congress of Deputies calling for "the immediate inclusion of (simians) in the category of persons, and that they be given the moral and legal protection that currently are only enjoyed by human beings". The justification of the PSOE was that "humans share 98.4% of our genes with chimpanzees, 97.7% with gorillas, and 96.4% with orangutans. Today only members of the species Homo sapiens are considered part of the community of equals. The chimpanzee, the gorilla, and the orangutan are our species's closest relatives. They possess sufficient mental faculties and emotional life to justify their inclusion in the community of equals." Saying that with that bill the Spanish socialists had gone bananas makes all the more sense since humans share 50% of their genes with bananas. What makes less sense is that they would give equal rights to our hairy distant relatives while they wouldn't give them to the approximately 100,000 Spanish unborns - 270 a day in 2006, one for every six pregnancies, the main cause of death in Spain now - processed through the abortion clinics's fleshmills. In December 2007, for the first time in history, a Spanish television network showed an abortion on TV, with a nurse injecting a deadly poison into the foetus through a pregnant woman's vagina. No doubt some social worker had judged that for some reason the woman was too psychologically stressed to carry the burden of mothership and given the green light. So, no equal rights for the simian relatives on the picca to the right.
Nor was this the end. Also in 2005, gay marriage and gay adoption were legalized. Putting on a pedestal a form of relationship that brings forth no offspring, in a country where children are rapidly becoming a rarity, is, while not even adressing any moral or ethical issues, a demographic folly. Even more insane is allowing gay couples to adopt children, for children raised in such a "household" will tend to see such a "family" as normal, if not the norm, and are at a higher risk to continue the non-offspring producing practice. Anno 2008, in Europe, anyone who dares to speak out against the flurry of liberal legislation risks to be labeled very soon as an archaic prude clinging to old-fashioned and utterly uncool lifestyles. In 2007, the ludicrous and vain Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht even stated "that countries which lack such legislation [gay marriage and gay adoption laws] are simply less further advanced in their evolution process". The truth of the matter is - and any honest sociologist will confirm that - those "old fashioned and utterly uncool lifestyles" do a far better job of providing society with a steady flow of new generations ready to take the burdens of work and life off the shoulders of the older ones. When this basic dynamic falls away - and the combined effect of Zapatero's laws merely hastens the trend - a society is doomed. In Europe the Spaniards are not alone in massively rejecting the responsibilities of a family and meeting the single, quintessential goal for survival - procreation. But they may well be the ones speeding the quickest towards self-chosen extinction.
One cannot really say that all was quiet on the Domestic Front during the Zapatero years, for in 2005 Spanish Parliament passed the 'Reglamento de la Ley de Extranjería', or New Regulation of the Alien Law. This piece of legislation effectively legalized close to 1 million illegal immigrants, who made use of a three-month timeframe between February 7 and May 7, 2005 to get their papers in order. Needless to say, such a bold move requiring close to none conditions to be fulfilled would have to go wrong. Spain finds itself now saddled with 1 million legal aliens, and its immigration problems haven't been solved a bit. In 2007, French Prime Minister François Fillon said, during a interview with French television station TF1, that Zapatero had confided to him that he "bitterly regretted" his decision to grant amnesty to almost a million illegal immigrants and "that there would be no repeat." An assertion Zapatero almost immediately denied, claiming Fillon had "misinterpreted his words". I know who to believe.
In another field, yet another U-turn of the new government would prove to be a total failure. Aznar's Partido Popular had always resisted talks with ETA, the Marxist-Leninist terrorist wing of Spain's separatist Basque movement (the political wing being the leftist party Herri Batasuna). As could be expected from an appeaser, Zapatero did the exact opposite, opening talks with ETA in June 2006. For his efforts he was rewarded with a car bomb attack on December 30 of the same year in Madrid's Barajas International Airport, and the murder, just days prior to the latest election, of Isaias Carrasco, a former town councillor for the socialist PSOE in the Basque town of Mondragon. So much for reaching out to terrorists.
As for foreign policy, the story would prove to be no different. No sooner was the Zapatero government confirmed in office, or it withdrew the Spanish contingent from Iraq, thereby doing exactly what Bin Laden and al-Zawahiri wanted it to do. Indeed, on the eve of the 2004 elections, just days after the Madrid bombings, a video message from "Al Qaeda's military commander in Europe", a certain Abu Dujan al-Afghani, was found in a rubbish bin. It contained a.o. the sentence "If you don't stop your injustices, more and more blood will flow and these attacks will seem very small compared to what can occur in what you call terrorism." Before three months had passed, Spain's 1,300 troops had left Iraq. To paraphrase Winston Churchill: "Never before in the history of human conflict, so many have bowed so much to so few". Once there was a time when 180 Spanish conquistadores brought down an entire Inca empire. Five centuries later a handful of bearded barbarians forced their heirs to run, tail between legs. Hey, what can you expect when you elect a loon who thinks the high point of summer fashion at the time Hizballah provokes a war with Israel is wearing a kaffiyeh?
Other "highlights" of Zapatero's foreign policy included schnoozing up to Cuba's dictator Fidel Castro and Venezuelan would-be dictator Hugo Chavez. With the latter, in 2005 the Spanish government signed the biggest arms deal in years, worth 2 billion EUR and including four Navantia coastal patrol ships as well as four corvettes from the same company, 10 C-295 transport planes and two maritime surveillance planes. Washington's negative advice against the deal on the grounds that Chavez had "totalitarian tendencies" and "was a destabilizing factor in the region" was validated since, as Chavez first, in 2007, had his followers in Venezuela's parliament, in a move not unlike Hitler's 1933 Enabling Act, vote a bill guaranteeing him rule by decree for 18 months and second, almost initiated a war with Colombia in early March 2008.
There used to be a time when the British had a polite advice when in a conversation with Germans, and it was - don't know if they heed it still - "don't mention the war!". For decades, very much the same credo was silently applied in Spain, where the bloody Civil War (1936-1939) had provoked deep rifts into society, the pain of which had somehow been sublimated first under three decades of Franco's rule and then under the subsequent democratic governments, to the extent that Spain seemed to have come at peace with its past. But that was not counting Zapatero. If there ever was a divider on the European Continent, it was him. A lot has been said about Franco's "illegal" coup d'état, but the truth is that the Republicans (Spain's Left, including the PSOE, the Communists, two liberal parties and Galician and Catalonian nationalists) have as much guilt, if not more, for starting the war. The PSOE's leader, Largo Caballero, openly exhorted his followers to wage a revolution, and the Comintern, the USSR-based International Communist Organization, instructed the Spanish Communbists to outlaw Spain's Right. Both sides committed horrible atrocities, both sides had their mass graves, and both sides perpetrated war crimes on an unprecedented scale. Franco's Nationalists finally won. But Franco, who was indeed backed by Hitler and Mussolini, was far smarter than his "allies". He kept Spain out of World War II, thereby preventing immensely more loss and destruction. And after the war, his autocratic rule ever so slowly gave way to democracy, thereby confirming the rule that rightwing dictatorships, in contrast to leftwing ones, are self-extinguishing. And a decade before Franco ceded control to a democratically elected government, his government was responsible for the Milagro Espanol, the Spanish Miracle, Spain's economic boom between 1959 and 1974 which lifted the country out of its poverty and which at its zenith in 1974 led to an income per capita of 79% of the Western European average, a percentage that would only be reached again 25 years later... under Aznar. Serious historians therefore cannot deny that the personage of Franco deserves rather more nuance, instead of the vilifications of the Left. Yet Zapatero chose to up them, and thereby tear old wounds wide open. He removed the last remaining statue of the generalissimo in Madrid and vowed to obliterate all streets and squares named after him. But that was only the most visible part of his actions. Zapatero had a bill passed with the Orwellian moniker Law of Historical Memory" which specifically honors the estimated 285,000 Republican losses of the Civil War and the post-war victims of Franco's regime... but says nothing about the 145,000 Spanish who perished at the hands of the Republicans, nor about the more than 6,000 priests and nuns who were murdered - sometimes raped - by them. The ensuing result is that today, Spain is more than ever a divided society, pitting the relatives of the Republicans against those of the Nationalists, with both sides fiercely defending the actions of their forefathers.
So then, after botching up his country's economy, caving in to islamic terrorists, appeasing basque terrorists, passing laws that destroy society, shitting on tradition, offending allies, befriending dictators, setting the doors wide open for illegals, and rip old wounds open, how would you expect a normal population to treat a fella like Zapatero? In a perfect world, it would be covering him with tar and feathers and give him the boot - if he was lucky.
In Spain, he got re-elected. On March 9, 2008, 35 million voters elected 350 members of the Cortes, Spain's Lower House, as well as 208 members of the Senate, the Upper House. [btw, for a good overview of Spanish parties, check out the contributions of AMDF at Gates of Vienna]. And the PSOE won 169 seats vs the Mariano Rajoy's PP 153. A narrow victory perhaps, but a victory nevertheless, 43.7% against 40.1%. It should have been a solid victory for the right, it turned out to be a defeat. Explain please?
Sir Winston Churchill does a fine job of it:
"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
As does your servant, if you allow for a little chest-thumping:
"The second best argument against democracy is fooking schtoopid Spaniards voting."
Oh come on, don't tell me now my true colors are showing. I still think democracy is by far the best system, ole Winston thought that too. So, if Manuel Ihaventgotacluos really feels he should vote for a cojones-less lunatic who will tax the hell out of him and flood his country with illegals, let him!!! And you ain't seen nothing yet!!! Wait till those urangutans and chimpanzees start voting!!!