John McCain is catching flack Thursday from liberal bloggers for slighting Spain and its prime minister, Jose Luis Zapatero, in a recent radio interview.

Yet McCain, whose campaign has stood by his remarks, and Zapatero have long had a relationship that has been more cool than warm.

Zapatero's left-of-center party won power in March 2004 on a promise to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq, where they were part of the U.S.-led war effort that McCain championed. Also in 2004, Zapatero said that the Iraq war was an "error" and endorsed Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) for U.S. president over George W. Bush.

Zapatero followed through on his promise to pull troops out in the wake of an al Qaeda bombing in Madrid that March, prompting criticism from McCain.

"I think it's a sign that a lot of people in countries in Europe are strongly anti-American and anti-Iraq war," McCain said on Fox News Sunday at the time. "I also believe that history shows that appeasement doesn't work."