A few days ago I posted this video of George W. Bush dodging a pair of shoes thrown at him by an Iraqi journalist during an unannounced press conference in Baghdad. While I didn't celebrate or endorse the incident outright in my post, I did refer to it as a personal indulgence, i.e. something I enjoyed watching.
Now I'm sure that there are plenty on the right who will just chalk my reaction up to the so-called "Bush Derangement Syndrome" that is used as a catch-all descriptor by many on the right for anyone who has anything negative to say about this man; that's not an accurate description of the derivation of my dislike for Bush but I'm sure many will say that it is. And as I mentioned above, I did enjoy watching the video: this man has been responsible for instituting so many policies domestically and abroad that I consider damaging to the people, institutions and spirit of America that having a couple of shoes thrown his way is very low on the scale of what I think he ultimately deserves.
But after thinking about this incident some more and watching the reactions and commentaries in the press I've decided that my reaction, however understandable and justified it may have felt at the time, was the wrong one. I should have spoken out against and condemned these actions as an American citizen; every American citizen should speak out against and condemn any physical attack on our president or any other representative of this country, especially if said attack happens on foreign soil.
Why? Because it's the right thing to do; it's the patriotic thing to do. Bush isn't just the president of the United States; he's the physical embodiment of that office and all of the power and responsibilities that reside therein. A physical attack on our president is a symbolic attack on America, and I can not and will not approve of actions done with the intent of denigrating this country. Regardless of how we may feel about the man's politics and policies (and I think I've been fairly clear on this point over the past year), the office of the presidency deserves our support and respect.
I think about what would have happened had one of those shoes found it's mark and broken Bush's nose, the images of him being whisked away by Secret Service agents with blood flowing down his face; I'm not saying that he doesn't deserve it (he does) but the American people and the image of this country certainly do not. As someone who laments our long fall over the last eight years in the eyes of the world, as someone who has been waiting for the election of an actual responsible adult to take the reins of our government and lead us back up into the light of moral clarity and good judgement, I've realized that had Bush been besmirched that day it would have done just as much or more damage to the image of this country I love so much.
On top of regretting my reaction to this incident, something else about it has also given me serious pause: how was this man able to get off two shots at the president of the United States in a crowded room without the Secret Service intervening? Yes, everyone present had gone through multiple security checkpoints prior to entering the room (hence his choice of weapons) and the Secret Service has stated that they reacted in an appropriate manner and with requisite haste but I still find the apparent vulnerability of the most powerful man in the world a bit unsettling.
In a former post detailing my one (I hope that it's just the first) face to face encounter with Barack Obama, I praised the efficiency and thoroughness of the Secret Service agents present at the event, and when on literally dozens of occasions during the presidential campaign friends and acquaintances (always white people; interpret that as you will) voiced their opinions that a black man would inevitably be assassinated by racist elements within our society, I related my lone experience of being in the presence of the aforementioned agents and my confidence in their abilities. I only hope that the incident with Bush served as a wake up call of just how vulnerable one man, no matter the level of protection he is provided, can be in a dangerous world.
On a lighter note, I do have to praise the alacrity with which Bush avoided those shoes; not only did he dodge both projectiles successfully but he didn't even appear very flustered by the entire incident. Of course, when asked about his harrowing experience in a subsequent interview he answered a journalist's comment that throwing a shoe is considered a huge insult in that part of the world by saying:
I guess...I thought it was interesting, I thought it was unusual to have a guy throw his shoe at you.This is classic George W. Bush: after our armed forces have spent the last 5 1/2 years in that country under his watch trying to win the trust and cooperation of the Iraqi people and even after several years ago images of jubilant Iraqi citizens hitting the toppled statues of Saddam Hussein were broadcast around the entire globe, you really get the impression that he had absolutely no clue as to the cultural significance of the actions he had just witnessed; as always, incurious to the last.
[Update: Sorry, but I just had this thought and had to post this video; enjoy: