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Endorsements

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MAR. 16, 2004: ENDORSEMENTS

Spaniards have their dead to mourn. The rest of us grieve with the people of Spain, but we must also grieve for them. This weekend’s election was Spain’s most inglorious hour since the restoration of democracy. Terrorists have often attempted to intimidate free peoples – almost invariably without success. Now at last they have won. And they will be back.

But with what effect? Let us look up for a moment from our mourning for the murdered innocents of Madrid to speculate about the political consequences of this attack and the new Spanish government’s swift and abject surrender to the attackers.

It might seem obvious that the Spanish results must injure President Bush and Prime Minister Blair to the benefit of both their domestic political opponents and also of the anti-American bloc in Europe. And so in the very short term it is likely to be. For decorum’s sake, Senator Kerry refrained from crowing over the Spanish result yesterday. But I doubt he will be able to restrain himself for long.

Over the medium term, though, I wonder whether the results will long profit the opponents of Bush and Blair. Up until now, opponents of the Iraq war could claim any number of motives from the most high-minded to the most pragmatic. But the voters of Spain have indelibly associated the anti-Iraq position with one motive above all: fear. David Warren directs us to this quote from “a 26-year-old window frame maker who would not give his surname who … had changed his vote [at the last minute] from Popular to Socialist: "Maybe the Socialists will get our troops out of Iraq, and Al Qaeda will forget about Spain, so we will be less frightened.”

I do not think it is healthy for any political cause to come to be seen as a coward’s cause. The Spanish vote may cause Bush and Blair some trouble in the short run. Very soon though it will lead the list of events that cause John Kerry and other opponents of the war to look frightened and weak.

And if al Qaeda’s success in Spain induces terrorist groups to mount further attacks at election season in the United Kingdom or Italy or Poland, the message will be even sharper – the terrorists want the political parties of the pro-American right to lose, as they did in Spain. Logically, then, that implies that the terrorists want the parties of the anti-American left to win. That has to be a very unwelcome implication for those parties. And if the idea ever takes hold that al Qaeda is planting bombs with a view above all to defeating George W. Bush …. Well let’s just say that even Senator Kerry, much as he delights in collecting the endorsements of foreign leaders real and imaginary, would very much prefer to do without Osama bin Laden’s.

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