Barack Obama's New Best Friend
During his annual September pilgrimage to the shrines of global governance at the United Nations in New York, Spanish Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero boasted that Spain's per capita GDP has now surpassed that of Italy. "This depresses Berlusconi," he joked of the Italian prime minister, adding that Spain was on target to overtake France "within three to four years."
Considering Zapatero's triumphalism, Spaniards are asking themselves why it has taken three humiliating weeks of begging and pleading to get their prime minister invited to a global financial summit in Washington on November 15.
The "Summit on Financial Markets and the World Economy" is being organized by members of the G-7 to discuss the turmoil on world financial markets. Also invited to the meeting are the leaders of the industrialized and developing countries that belong to the G-20. Unfortunately for Zapatero, Spain, which is the world's eighth-largest economy in terms of GDP (the World Bank ranks it eleventh in terms of purchasing power parity), is not a member of either of the two groups. What's worse, U.S. President George W. Bush is hosting the meeting and Zapatero has been persona non grata in Washington since he unilaterally pulled Spanish troops out of Iraq in 2004.
Facing a mountain of criticism (and an avalanche of ridicule) at home, a visibly embarrassed Zapatero launched a diplomatic offensive unprecedented in the annals of modern Spanish history to ensure that Spain gets invited to the summit. Zapatero and his bumbling foreign minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, pounded the pavement for weeks crying "We will be in Washington!" and pleading with anyone who would listen to intercede on Spain's behalf. Countries like Argentina, Brazil and China were recruited for the cause and French President Nicolas Sarkozy even offered Zapatero one of the two seats that France had been offered at the meeting.
In the end, however, it was Bush who had the final say. And Bush, who has been vilified as the personification of evil by Zapatero and his anti-American Socialist acolytes for more than four years, decided to give the hapless Spanish prime minister a break. Zapatero will now be coming to Washington after all.
What does Zapatero hope to achieve with his newfound status as persona grata? He seems to want to bite the hand that feeds him. Like an Energizer Bunny that just keeps going and going, Zapatero has missed not a beat in reiterating his pathological dislike of American-style capitalism.
"Now it has been demonstrated" that "neo-liberal" ideology does not serve "either economically or socially," Zapatero proclaimed. He has assured Spanish voters that he will be going to Washington to enact "changes in the order of global priorities," to eradicate "poverty and hunger," so that "peace and security, the fight against the violent" are the "fruit of a large multilateral concert in which the United Nations will have a central role." It's "time to change, to take sides with the planet" and "respect nature."
Zapatero + Obama = White House Visit
Zapatero's high-minded post-modern rhetoric brings to mind another would-be messiah. Indeed, the big news splattered across headlines all over Spain recently has been that, with the election victory of Barack Obama, Zapatero may now finally get his long-awaited invitation to the White House.