ZAPATERO (Spain's Barack Obama*) is the Incredible Shrinking Man. And he's shrinking the whole country with him. Hey, don't blame me for saying it --though I certainly agree. Blame the formerly Zapatero-sympathetic International Herald Tribune/New York Times:
As the international media followed every detail of Nicolas Sarkozy's American vacation last week, it was difficult, from Madrid, not to marvel at the very different scenario in Andalusia, where José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero was taking his holiday.There's more. Alas. A good piece, even with the howler of saying "[Aznar] took Spain into the deeply unpopular war in Iraq, for which the country was punished by an Islamist bomb attack in March 2004 that cost 191 lives." Which is obviously rubbish. It's well known now that the March 11 murderers startet to plot the massacre before the Iraq war, though they used it as a post-hoc cover since they knew -I assume- that they would get the sympathy of the NYT/IHT and the intelligentsia.
Unlike the French president, for Zapatero there was no hobnobbing with other world leaders, no pack of foreign paparazzi clicking in his wake and certainly no public appearances in his swimming trunks. He walked on the beach, fully dressed, and was snapped kissing a young immigrant boy.
That's about as international as the summer vacation is likely to get for Spain's stay-at-home leader, who, both at work and at play, shows little interest in globetrotting.
A decade of soaring economic growth and corporate expansion overseas has put Spain in the big leagues, but the country's political profile is shrinking under the leadership of a man deeply preoccupied with domestic reform and lacking in international experience.
"He is not there. It's as if he were not interested," says José María de Areilza, a former foreign-policy adviser to Zapatero's predecessor José María Aznar.
"This is a media-driven world, and you have to stay in the picture."
[...] Charles Grant, head of the Center for European Reform, a think tank based in London, says the decline in Spain's influence on Zapatero's watch has been "astonishing."
During the governments of the Socialist prime minister Felipe González and the conservative Aznar, who followed him, Spain punched above its weight, he says. But despite a team of respected diplomats, like Miguel Ángel Moratinos, Spain's current foreign minister, and Alberto Navarro, the secretary of state for European affairs, "Spain is not one of the key players who decides what happens" in Europe.
* I can't help seeing a certain parallel between Zapatero and Obama. Both starry-eyed backbenchers, with no political experience, until they got into the spotlight with a messianic, utopian attitude. They're that kind of people who think they'll fix everything that is wrong in the world -or in Zapatero's case, Spain, see above- because somehow they have the recipe to do that. Deep down they know. They simply know. They suffer of what can be labeled as "Adam complex:" they think that they're the First Man, the first one who has the ability and intelligence to solve all the world's ailments. Naively, they don't realize that others tried and failed. Ignorantly, they don't know that it was often with the same 'solutions'. Just ask Chamberlain.
Of course, the big difference is that Zapatero doesn't have a Hillary in his own party who can crush him in the debates...