Your poll numbers ain't great. Unemployment is up. Your troops hunker down in Iraq at the edge of harm's way.Now, wouldn't it be interesting if some journalist carried out an investigation to find out exactly in which ways Zapatero has been rewarded for his valiant and heroic efforts to betray American leaders and rejoin what might be called the community of the just?
You can bring the boys home. You can goose the economy, loosening the cash taps now, paying later. You can blame the classic midterm blahs. You can even fine-tune a safe, vote-getting issue at home, while going the international statesman route (a speech on world affairs plus photo-op'ed consultations with a global big-hitter.
Pick one from column A, another from column B. Or none of the above. Or just soldier on.
To the extent politics can replicate a board game, these are, very schematically, the current circumstances of Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen of Denmark.
Atlanticist, visitor to the Bush White House, first non-Socialist leader of his country in almost a decade, belligerent in Iraq with 510 combat troops, a pocket battleship and submarine in the American-led war effort, Rasmussen, like Tony Blair in Britain or his counterparts in Poland, has hit a rough patch.
Last week, it got choppier with a fired military intelligence officer saying Rasmussen had lied to Parliament about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — a charge denied by the Danish Intelligence Service, which said the prime minister hewed to its analysis of the weapons' probable existence, yet one held up now as government untruthfulness by the opposition Social Democrats. ...
In one sense, and with fairly heavy irony, Rasmussen's visit to [Jacques] Chirac (they could easily have been joined by Gerhard Schröder) served to demonstrate that European political discomfort hardly discriminates these days between supporters and opponents of toppling Saddam. ...
A visitor talking to Rasmussen between lunch and speech provided the stick and the sand. The prime minister was asked if the example of the defeat of José María Aznar in Spain, a like-thinker on Iraq and America's security role, and the victory of José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, the new Socialist government chief, scared him.
The answer came out slowly, but three times. No, once. Again, no. And once more, as if to dispel any wisp of doubt, even his own.
Elaboration followed in precise, complete sentences. "I think it's of crucial importance to help a new Iraq government in developing a free, modern Iraq," Rasmussen said.
"We shouldn't be surprised if there are a lot of security problems in the short term. We should remind ourselves that there are a lot of extremists groups which are interested in blocking the process leading to democracy. They fear a situation in which Iraq could be a bright example for the Arab people, a bright example of how democracy could flourish in the Middle East."
No flutter here. Rasmussen did not mention Zapatero by name, but emphasized that the only condition attached to the maintenance of the Danish force would be a request as of July 1 from the new Iraqi political authority — not a United Nations-linked element as is the case with Spain.
Wednesday, April 28, 2004
Vinocur II: Danish Leader Feels the Heat
In his Politicus column, the International Herald Tribune's John Vinocur writes about another Bush ally who "simmers in [the] political stew of Iraq", although he doesn't have to bid for a second term until late 2005.