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Spain as Newfangled Talking Point (The New York Times)

MADRID — Never before has Spain been so central to an American presidential election, Spanish newspapers have been marveling. The country’s prominence in the U.S. campaign, the result of its protracted recession and soaring unemployment, is painfully unprecedented: Mitt Romney first mentioned Spain in the opening presidential debate, then last week it was President Barack Obama.

Romney has held up the country as an example of how high taxes and excessive government spending can precipitate financial ruin. Obama, for his part, hassuggested that the Spanish government and the European Union acted too slowly after the country’s massive real-estate bubble burst. These divergent appraisals track the two candidates’ contrasting political platforms: Obama thinks government should facilitate economic recovery; Romney wants to limit its reach through unstinting budget cuts.

Romney’s view of the country is alarmingly confused, and yet it reflects a wider misunderstanding about what happened in Spain and what needs to be done to fix the situation.

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