Lost in Translation

The March 11 bombing in Madrid revealed the limits of the politics of OC bazillionaire George Argyros

He may have been with the people, but Argyros was still spinning the Bush administration line. In a letter released the day of the attack, he condemned "the senseless and reprehensible massacre" while implying that the attacks were evidence that the U.S.-led war on "terrorist violence and brutality" was everybody's war.

That sort of rhetoric might have worked in the U.S. But Spain is not the U.S. When attacked by terrorists and lied to by their political leaders, Spaniards, we have learned, vote the bastards out. A day after the big march, thousands of Madrileños rallied in the streets, blaming the Aznar administration's U.S. alliance for the attacks. By Saturday night, Aznar's handpicked successor Mariano Rajoy alienated many voters when he denounced citizen demands for full governmental disclosure as "serious antidemocratic events that never before happened in the history of our democracy . . . . Their aim is to influence and pressure the will of voters throughout the day of reflection." On Sunday, voters kicked Aznar's Popular Party out of office—onlookers booed Aznar as he voted—and elected Socialist Party candidate José Luís Rodríguez Zapatero, who immediately pledged to get Spanish troops out of Iraq.

Confirming his victory, Zapatero said the war was based on "lies." Job No. 1, he said, was to recall the 1,200 Spanish troops stationed in Iraq and pull Spain out of the U.S. coalition.

Though Argyros has said he can work with the new Spanish government, it's pretty clear that Spaniards can't work with him. And now they won't have to. Days before the bombings, Argyros told the Business Journal he would leave the State Department in November and return to Orange County.

Lucky us.

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