Friday, June 20, 2003

John Lilly sent me a letter, and it is absolutely spot-on. No fair commingling Franco's regime with the PP. There are about three connections: Manuel Fraga, President of Galicia, was important in Franco's cabinets through the 60s and 70s, but Fraga was considered pretty liberal for Spain at that time and he was one of the designers of today's Constitution. He has played ball democratically ever since the Transition. Fraga was the founder of the AP, the predecessor of the PP. Jose Maria Aznar, as a youth under Franco's regime, wrote several sophomoric articles praising the Franco National Movement. I'm glad none of you people can find any of the stuff I wrote when I was nineteen. Aznar's father was a pretty big wheel under the Franco government.

Aznar, however, is scrupulously democratic and has been so ever since he discovered sensible conservative politics during his university days. If he were American he'd fit well into the moderate Republicans. He'd be rather left for a Republican on government spending issues. Aznar might also fit in pretty well with the Democrat "far right", but those Charlie Stenholm Texas wheeler-dealer guys might be too corrupt for his taste. See, one of the things Aznar did was to clean up the Spanish conservative wing, getting rid of old Franquistas and local caciques. The most famous to fall were Cantabria's Juan Hormaechea, who did some jail time, and the PP's Balearic confederation, up to their eyeballs in corrupt construction-development sleaze.

By the way, several notable people who later joined the Socialists also worked in the government under Franco. To be fair, these were "technocratic" administration rather than ideological guys--somebody's got to take charge of the country's finances, for example, whether we've got a dictatorship or not. Two examples are former economics minister Miguel Boyer and the late former foreign minister, Paco Ordonez. Boyer has now jumped the Socialist sinking ship and is considered close to the PP.

Forgive me if this is an annoyance, but I don't know where else to
turn! In this Slate piece on the Beckham business the New Republic's F. Foer pulls THE
classic boner of latter-day offhand, ill-informed Spanish political
analysis. The relevant passage:

"Like so many European business stories, Real Madrid's success begins
with government help. Generalissimo Francisco Franco adored the team,
lounging around his palace on weekends and watching it on television;
his dictatorship allegedly secured Madrid the best players of the day.
And this is not only distant history. In 2000, Madrid's right-wing City
Council paid about $350 million to buy the club's training ground."

Now, I'm sure Mr. Foer would argue that he's only associating the PP
with the Franquistas because of their common habit of helping out Real
Madrid. Which would be false, if perhaps strictly defensible. In any
case, it seems to me that referring to the PP as "right-wing" in the
historical context of Spanish politics is pretty obnoxious in its own
right, and certainly misleading to an American audience: on many
important issues the PP is well to the left of, e.g., the Democratic
Party. On most issues, I'd say--and I tend to vote Republican.
Certainly the PP don't run around in patent-leather tricorn hats
jailing Communists, etc.

The NYT used to indulge habitually in this slander-by-implication--to
my great annoyance--but now they seem to refer to the PP as
"center-right," which is at least edging closer to the realm of
accuracy. I guess someone complained. Anyway, I can't figure out how
to get in touch with either the editors of Slate or Mr. Foer (short of
writing a letter to TNR)--although perhaps I'm not trying hard enough.

If this irks you as it does me, perhaps you'd like to comment on it
publicly. Or perhaps not. Anyway, thanks for the blog.

John Lilly

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