Last night I had the unique opportunity to speak, unofficially, in support of Barack Obama’s candidacy on a popular Spanish talk radio show hosted by César Vidal. The program was La Linterna and the station was the very right wing COPE. As a matter of fact, while waiting in the booth minutes before going on, I was so surprised by some of the shocking claims coming from the next room — for example that Obama would close the borders to all foreign trade or that FOX News was the only impartial news source in the U.S. — that I almost reconsidered going on.
But when I was finally up, Mr. Vidal and his regular troops (Florentino Portero, Javier Somalo, Gabriel Albiac, and the show’s production team) were extremely friendly and welcoming. I was also joined by two Republican women, one from Republicans Abroad and the other from Spain for McCain. At first, it was a little difficult to get my sea legs and feel totally comfortable expressing myself on the radio in Spanish, but eventually, I was ready for a good discussion. In listening to the above now, I must admit that I am incredibly embarrassed by my lack of eloquence (I don’t go on until around minute 30).
My goal from the beginning was to present an American voting public in support of Obama that was above the name calling and divisiness. While the woman from Republicans Abroad appeared to follow the same tone, the one from Spain for McCain was much more confrontational and accusatorial, also bringing up those absurd Obama shutting the U.S. borders claims and pushing McCain’s counter-intuitive fiscal stance. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to call her on the obvious facts: not only has Obama not proposed any such thing, but the Bush Administration with John McCain in the Senate has the worst record on trade protectionism and spending in recent history. But why bother; Americans have made up their minds, and today the McCain arguments are moot.
When my time was up and we went to commercial break, I joked with the regulars that Democrats were much better for the Spanish right wing Partido Popular. Since Ronald Reagan (in other words, throughout the history of Spanish democracy), every time there has been a Republican in the White House, Spaniards have voted for a Socialist (Reagan, Bush 41, Bush 43), and with a Democrat in the White House (Clinton), Spain finally voted for the Partido Popular. In all seriousness, though, I think that presidents choose their own destinies, and it is up to Zapatero alone to improve relations with the U.S. Just as Bush’s lack of internationalism defined his relationship with the rest of the world, the Spanish president’s demeanor towards the next U.S. president will define Spanish American relations in an Obama presidency. So maybe it is time that Zapatero stopped blaming the U.S. for everything, including Spain’s own economic woes, and he’ll finally get that phone call from the White House.
At one point, I was able to compare the Spain for McCain’s fear-mongering to how Zapatero and the left in Spain always cry “Franco” every time they are down in the polls. We are in the 21th Century and it is time to leave the 20th Century behind, for heaven’s sake. I kept thinking about those tactics today while watching the images of the masses celebrating in the streets of Washington, DC, New York, Chicago, Atlanta and elsewhere. As my friend Alfonso commented earlier, it was like watching Spain finally win the European Cup. Spaniards flooded the streets, and everyone was rejoicing in the historic event except for a few fringe groups who refused to leave the past behind. I might not have had the chance to get in all my guy’s arguments, but at least I was the one celebrating.