Knights and squires of the new millennium

There are gamblers, and there are people whose records seem to indicate they only bet on sure things. Aznar and Murdoch each, singularly, belong to a group. Care to bet which gentleman belongs to which group?

The appointment of former Prime Minister of Spain, José María Aznar, to the board of the media empire, News Corporation, has come as more than a mild surprise. Although in our provincial world Spain is seldom a notable part of the news, we all do remember the third axis of idiocy at the Azores, George Bush and Tony Blair being the other two, as they met to stamp an unnecessary imprimatur to the Iraq invasion. If not by name, one is likely to remember the caricature of the little guy with the big mustache.

At that particular time it was difficult to figure out what the heck Aznar was doing there. It was Bush’s plot, and Blair was a much-needed foreign co-conspirator and confidant. But Aznar? Other than for color, and an appearance of a broad coalition which didn’t exist, maybe his Anglo-Saxon brothers in government just wanted to tickle his ego… or, better yet, to use him. Let’s face it, a triumvirate this was not! Spain was unable to sway support for the US from either of her daughter nations, Mexico or Chile, at the Security Council; and, besides, the overwhelming majority of Spaniards (80+ %) were decidedly against the war.

And, all the while, by embracing the pro-war stance Aznar was antagonizing those governments Spain should have been closest to: Chirac’s, in France; and Schroder’s, in Germany. Apparently, he wanted to bring “La Moncloa” at par with the White House and 10 Downing Street. Fat chance!

For what he probably thought to be a place in history, Aznar made not only a reckless bet for himself, but also for a country he represented but did not have a right to put at risk… and he lost; and so did Spain. It was a gamble for personal glory, and he came out a gambling fool.

Now Aznar has become the fourteenth apostle at Rupert Murdoch’s dinner table; a true believer of the free-market orthodox doctrine of unfettered global capitalism. He will be right at home as a conservative to the core. When Murdoch decided on Aznar for his board, he knew that he was getting a righty true and true – definitely no political ambidexterity with this man. But political synchronization aside, why would Murdoch want to have Aznar on his team?

But why not! We can speculate all we want, but only Murdoch knows. Whether today News Corp. is weighing its entrance in the Spanish and/or Latin American markets, and Aznar’s contacts or influence have any capital value, remains to be seen. Although I am of the opinion that Aznar’s sphere of influence, at least in much of today’s Latin America, approaches zero. But whatever happens, even if News Corp. receives no dividends from this relationship, the capital investment made on Aznar is so insignificant that it doesn’t merit to be called a bet.

As a side note, it seems that Aznar’s family firm, Famaztella S. L. (a composite of his and his wife’s last names – Aznar and Botella), has been receiving 120,000 euros a year since September 2004 from News Corp. as consulting fees. Aznar, who has been a member of Spain’s National Council since April 2005, never declared this income to the proper government agency since he felt the company was only engaged in family business. The situation is currently under investigation according to the Spanish press. [Aznar recently resigned from his life membership in the National Council to accept the directorship with Murdoch’s News Corporation.]

Many in Spain, particularly coreligionists in his Partido Popular, would prefer to have Aznar continue in the National Council while also performing other statesman duties; teaching; and perhaps joining the lecture circuit. A la Clinton, they say.

Of course, his friends forget that Aznar is no Clinton and that the US economy is a baker’s dozen times as big as that of Spain. No personal libraries for Spanish PMs or other benefits so common to American top politicians. One can rest assured that Aznar would require two decades in the lecture circuit to equal Clinton’s $7+ million in 2005 for a soft lecture tour. So Spain’s former PM must do his squire duties working for Rupert Murdoch… and perhaps engage in a few other money-making ventures with his son-in-law, Agag.

In any event, Aznar should feel right at home with “fair and balanced” Fox News.
Almost like going back to his childhood in Franco’s Spain. Watching Fox News today in these United States is little different from the propagandistic newsreel, radio and television Aznar grew up with… except that the Generalissimo is now Bush.

By the way, when I mentioned the “axis of idiocy” before, I purposely refrained from saying “axis of idiocy and deceit” for I have a strong feeling that Aznar didn’t have a clue as to what the other two knew; that in fact, he was being deceived, and used, by Bush and Blair.

In today’s world where money, and occasionally a stash of nuclear weapons, is power, people like Bush, Murdoch and Blair make the rules. They are this millennium’s knights of the realm, and people like Aznar can at best aspire to be their squires.

As for the bet at the start involving Aznar and Murdoch, it’s rather obvious who the gambler is… and who bets on sure things.