Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Everyone, by now, knows all about the wave of terrorist attacks that has hit Riyadh, Casablanca, and Israel over the past few days. The Spanish press has immediately jumped, en masse, to the conclusion that the War on Terrorism has been a failure so far. Wrong. We know the terrorists aren't completely beaten. They've been badly hurt by the defeats of their supporters, the Taliban and Saddam, and by the international police offensive against the various terrorist gangs. But we haven't got all of them yet, or anywhere near all of them.

The United States and Great Britain never promised that overthrowing Saddam would bring an instant end to terrorist attacks. Far from it. I bet you could find five on-the-record quotes from Powell or Rummy or Fleischer or Bush himself saying precisely the opposite, that we've weakened terrorism but have by no means completely defeated it yet.

Several people have made the point, which I heartily concur with, that there's a major difference in scale between this latest wave of attacks and what happened on September 11, 2001. On September 11, within United States territory, they hijacked four planes and crashed them all, three of them into buildings full of people. It was the greatest terrorist blow that has ever been struck, requiring years of planning, twenty fanatical volunteers, and huge quantities of money and the ability to move it around and exchange it for weapons and other needs. Three thousand people were killed.

Now the best they can do are badly carried-out attacks within Arab territory that kill a couple, three dozen people. Tragic. A damned shame. We will get the people who did this. In fact, we already got most of them. But the terrorists' reach is no longer what it was. And we can thank Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair for that, and we can thank Mr. Aznar for throwing Spain firmly behind Britain and America.

Over here they're playing up the fact that the restaurant that was attacked in Casablanca was called the Casa de España; it has no connection with the Spanish government. Two of the dead were Spanish. Now, it is perfectly obvious that particular restaurant was chosen as the attack site because of its connection with Spain--gee, a Spanish restaurant named after Spain, they choose it to blow up, don't you think they're sending a message? The Aznar government is disingenuously trying to spin the story the other way. Ana Palacio stuck her foot in her mouth again while attempting to "disvinculate" the Casablanca bombing and Spain's pro-Alliance position.

What they ought to do is tell the truth. "Yes, we stuck our necks out against terrorism and on the side of the Alliance. We're proud we did it. Of course this makes us a target, and our security forces are doing everything they can to prevent further terrorist acts. We may not be able to stop them all. There may be more. But that's the price you pay when you make the tough decisions and don't take the easy way out. Spain stood up for honor and decency, against the terrorists and the dictators, in favor of the democratic countries. What do we Spaniards want the world to think about us? That we're courageous people who stand up for what is right or a bunch of cowards slinking around kissing terrorist ass? Are we like the Poles or like the French?"

I'd vote for any leader who talked like that. I bet a lot of Spanish people, and even a few Catalans, would, too.

Meanwhile, Bob Graham has been shooting off his mouth about how we've let Al Qaeda off the hook by devoting our energies to taking out Saddam. That is extremely shortsighted of Graham. The fight against international terrorism continues; it's just not getting much press because the invasion of Iraq is a much sexier story. Recently, for example, they turned loose the biggest antiterrorist operation in Afghanistan since Tora Bora. Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt also blasted Bush for the same thing.

This is great. There are nine candidates for the Democratic nomination, not counting Al Gore. Dean, Kucinich, Moseley-Braun, and Sharpton are running from the far left. Gep is running as a labor liberal. Graham, John Edwards, and John Kerry are running as Bill Clinton clones; Graham may be trying to trend left in the buildup to the primary season, to become the "realistic" candidate embraced by the mainline Dems, rather to the left of most Americans, when they finally figure out that Kooch and Red Howie Dean and Brother Al and Expense-Account Carol and the Gepper are all unelectable as President. Your typical mainline Dem would really prefer one of these five candidates, but he'll have to throw his vote to the electable guy who's farthest left. That's who Big Bad Bob, the Graham Cracker, wants to be.

Gore can beat Graham and Kerry and Edwards, among the electable candidates, if he decides to run; he'd pick up the mainstream Dem vote as the leftiest and most electable of these four guys. Can any of these four guys beat Bush, barring massive disaster or a deep economic slump? I don't think so. Any of them would run a decent race as the Dem candidate and win in most of the blue states, but they'd all get beaten by Bush.

The only Dem candidate I'm afraid of is Lieberman (the damn Vanguardia guy keeps spelling his name with a double N, I had to go look it up to be sure I was right about the single N). Lieberman will win most of the blue states, just like any Dem candidate would, but he's moderate enough to run well in the industrial Midwest, Florida, the more progressive Western states (CO, AZ, NM, maybe even MT) and the border states. None of the rest of those guys will win anything but California, New York, and your Marylands and Minnesotas and Massachussetses. If Lieberman wins the nomination those places where he can challenge Bush will be the battlefield, since Bush sweeps the South, Texas, the Plains, and the less progressive West, and will also put up a fight in everywhere I mentioned, plus the Northwest and even the Northeast. Maybe even California. Bush won't go down easily, and Lieberman is the only Dem candidate who has a chance of beating him.

Why am I so afraid of Lieberman? I might end up voting for him.

Anyway, the Socialists, of course, have jumped all over the Casablanca bombing and are accusing Aznar of getting Spanish citizens murdered. Aznar is hitting back by promising to crack down on illegal immigration, which is populist as hell. Felipe González is striking the most cowardly note, accusing Aznar of irresponsibly making the terrorists mad. Other cowards include the Communists, Convergence and Union, and the Pene Uve. Zap is trying to make George Bush the villain and is running against him almost as much as he's running against Aznar himself.

Gotta hand one thing to Zap and his SocioCommunists--they're running as a Popular Front, basically, except in the Basque Country, where the Socialists are anti-ETA and the Commies are waffling--is that they've managed to convert these elections, which are for all the municipalities in Spain and for thirteen of the seventeen autonomous regions, into almost a referendum on the Aznar government. Of course local and regional issues are going to influence the voters, but the Socialists have managed to capitalize on a strong anti-Aznar feeling on the left and center-left, just as visceral as the Democrats' hate of Bush. They're going to get people out to vote against Aznar in these elections, no question about it.

I will make several predictions, more specific than the last lot, which I figure will be borne out. The three most powerful positions that are actually in play, the Valencia region, the Madrid region, and Madrid city, will be held by the PP. The PP will win at least three of the eight Andalusian capital cities as well as both of those in Extremadura. The Popular Front, with a Communist mayor, wins in Córdoba. The Socialists repeat in their strongholds of Extremadura's and Castile-La Mancha's regional governments--Socialist home base Andalusia, as well as Galicia, Catalonia, and the Basque country, are the four "historical communities" that are holding their regional elections on different dates. Three-way tossup in the Canaries, the PP, the Socialists, and the Canarian Coalition. The Socialists take Aragon. The PP takes the Balearics and Navarra. The PP takes San Sebastian and Vitoria with the support of the Socialists; the Socialists take Bilbao with PP support. The Socialists take most of the Galician cities in alliance with the Galician wacko nationalists, and the Socialists take Asturias and its cities, Oviedo and Gijón. The PP takes its home ground, Castile-Leon, Cantabria, and La Rioja. The Socialists repeat in Barcelona and Gerona, and Convergence repeats in Lérida and Tarragona.

Thus saith Iberian Notes. Hey, we called the 2002 Congressional elections right on the nose and were one of the few and the proud to speculate (didn't have the guts to actually put our money where our mouth was) that Le Pen would outpoll Jospin in the last French elections. Also, the very moment CNN predicted Gore had taken Florida, I said we were gonna be up all night and that this one was going to the wire. All my liberal friends were yelling that it was going to be a Gore sweep. How wrong they were. However, I'd also predicted a clear Bush victory, not a close one and certainly not such a squeaker. Also, all our soccer predictions have gone dreadfully wrong except for all the times we predicted the Barça would lose.

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