The New York Times may sneer at the prime minister of Spain (see below), but his achievements are enormous. As Ralph Peters notes, Jose Maria Aznar backed the war in Iraq over intense political opposition. But it is also worth noting that since becoming prime minister in 1997 Aznar has enacted an agenda of which Reagan and Thatcher would have been proud, cutting taxes of all kinds dramatically. (Yesterday I pulled together some figures on Aznar’s tax cuts, but then my laptop crashed. Trust me. His tax cuts have been dramatic.) The Spanish economy has responded, growing at rates that, by Spanish standards, are impressive. Still more important, the Spanish electorate has responded: Although Aznar himself is sticking to his promise to step down as prime minister, his Popular Party is expected to win the elections this weekend by a nice margin.
Aznar’s most striking domestic achievement? Although for years and years Spanish conservatism was associated with Franco, making it psychologically difficult for young Spaniards to embrace the conservative agenda, Aznar has gotten his country past all that. Young and telegenic—a kind of Spanish Tony Blair—Aznar has made conservatism cool.