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Monday, February 6, 2012

Aznar's reign in Spain at GWU

Former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar/Patricia Leslie

Maybe it was a long plane ride.

Or he had just landed at Dulles and had jet lag.

Or had eaten Italian and was drowsy from dinner.

Whatever it was or is, the former prime minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar who spoke at George Washington University last week, had little life in him when he addressed a group of mostly 150 students to talk about Iraq and terrorism at an event sponsored by the International Affairs Society and the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs.

Maybe that’s the way he always is: lethargic. He would not make it as a candidate here.

But he is not a candidate here.

Okay, he was a candidate in Spain, a successful candidate, and perhaps flash is not important to Spanish voters. Whatever...
Former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar/Patricia Leslie

“Politics is about making things happen…not sitting…,” Aznar said.

“The world is not a perfect place.” Leadership is exercising power with imperfect information. Making decisions, taking action.  “Leadership and popularity rarely go together.”

It’s “essential to know what you believe in.” 

Iraq is now “a working nation, self-sufficient with pluralistic institutions that perform well.” (?)

“Islam can be and should be made compatible with Democratic practices.”

America is not looking at Europe any more. Europe has good relations with the U.S., but Europe is no longer a U.S priority, he said.
 Former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar/Patricia Leslie

Aznar served as prime minister of Spain from 1996-2004 and elected not to seek a third term. He strongly supported the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq against the will of the majority (92%, Wikipedia) of Spanish citizens and many Spanish politicians. Wikipedia says Aznar told the Spanish people in a television interview that he had evidence of "weapons of mass destruction," and they should trust him.   (Spain pulled all its troops from Iraq in 2004.  Eleven Spanish soldiers died in Iraq including seven on the same day, November 29, 2003.)
 Aznar was the subject of a car bomb attack in 1995.

The euro? (Aznar steered Spain to the EU's single currency in 1999.)
The financial crisis? (Spain has the highest unemployment rate, almost 23%, of any of the 17 euro zone countries.)
The downgrading of Spanish debt? (Announced five days before he spoke)

These subjects were not on the agenda. Nor asked by the polite audience in the Q and A which followed his talk.

Prime Minister Aznar seemed to be stuck in the last decade, but not to belittle the threat of terrorism which is very real to Spain and which cost the nation 191 citizens when terrorists bombed the railroad in Madrid in 2004.
He talked about the unpopularity of making unpopular decision. (See Iraq.) And he spent several minutes on the widespread use of Spanish which is found in major American airports, he said.

He asked how many in the room spoke French. One "girl" raised her hand. And he may have said (his voice was soft spoken and the words, frequently hard to understand) that he had put Spanish vs. French on the table with the French president and, and, ?  I believe the point was Spanish is more prevalent worldwide than French.

Former Prime Minister of Spain, Jose Maria Aznar/Patricia Leslie

He is 58, looks 48, is drop-dead handsome, and although his gloomy mood, grey words, and lack of enthusiasm would not make nice on the political stage here, Hollywood may want to get him on contract.

Aznar serves on the board of directors for Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.  Wikipedia says Aznar has expressed doubt that climate change is a global problem, calling it "scientifically questionable' theory.

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