Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Bush's Shoe Dodge: Resoled

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:


Anonymous said...

I agree here. I am saddened that it happened at all, and again I praise Bush for his composure. I just wonder if the removal of shoes at all press conferences will now be the norm.

Old Rebel said...


I responded to one of your posts at AmericanNeocon's site. I'm a conservative angry at what "W the Great" has done to this country. I'll occasionally rattle AmericanNeocon's cage and denounce him for identity theft, since there's nothing conservative about Big Government, nation-building, aggressive wars, and trashing the Bill of Rights.

Just thought I'd say hello.

Anonymous said...

JBW, I have to disagree with you. I don't see the attack as a symbolic attack on the U.S. The reporter was symbolically attacking a man responsible for the invasion of his country. Following your argument would lead to a situation where the president is immune to prosecution for crimes of any sort because that would be seen as an attack on the U.S., which he, of course, is anyway. You seem to be saying that if Bush, or anyone who worked for him, is prosecuted then it is an attack on our country.

To say that Bush is the physical embodiment of the office makes him sound like the Sun King or an Egyptian pharoah. I agree with you that he should not have suffered physical harm from an attack. Better that his punishment be meted out by a judge.

But, since he does have imperial immunity from any crimes he has committed, a little embarrassment doesn't seem like a high price for him to pay. And, since I and many other Americans were not in favor of invading the reporter's country, I don't feel that it was an attack on me, symbolically or otherwise.

And yes, I know that Bill Clinton was responsible for the deaths of probably a half million Iraqis. If the reporter had thrown a shoe or two at him, I would feel the same way. Clinton may have had more legal justification, but it was just as immoral.

JBW said...

Tim, I hope PC's don't get as stupid as airports.

MT, I agree with your definition of conservatism; thanks for stopping by.

DLB, I understand why you disagree. I'm just saying: as much as I dislike the man, Bush is still our president and that means if he takes a shoe to the face, America does the same in the eyes of the world. He's neither a king nor a pharaoh and yes, he deserves punishment and I hope that happens under an Obama administration.

Van Zan said...

First of all, as you know, I consider this whole thing farcically overblown..
I don't applaud the shoe-throwing. Neither do I want the shoe-thrower lynched.
I want him fined for causing a disturbance and charged with assault, given a sentence of community service, and let go..

You write: "A physical attack on our president is a symbolic attack on America".
Dangerous rhetoric, JBW.
I'm reminded of a scene in Braveheart where a local garrison commander pronounces "an attack on the soldiers of the king is an attack on the king".

As the man says above, he's not the sun king or a pharaoh.

There way too much awe for the office of President.
I've heard people say "I will not criticize my president"... Just a goddamned minute ! Why the hell not ? He serves YOU.

He represents America, but he is not America.
Like a lawyer is not his client. Like a policeman is not the law.

What if a policeman roughed you up without cause? He would answer for it, if you had a case, you would hope.
He serves the law and he answers to it.

The president serves America and should answer to it.

You can bet DD at American Power, and all his friends - both sensible and lunatic - will expect Obama to answer for every drop of rain on every picnic in every park in all the land for every minute of every day for the next 4 years.

He had a bit of footwear thrown at him... I'm glad it wasn't something more serious.
But for all America to be outraged and feel insulted - like everyone's collective girlfriend was called a fat big and demand someone 'step outside' - is just ludicrous.

JBW said...

Van Zan, I'm not saying that the president is a king or our ruler, and the gods know that I don't think Bush is worthy of respect but I do think that the office he holds is. That's our president; as you say, he serves us and we should be the ones who decide if he's to be lauded or punished. I think it sets a dangerous precedent to just brush off a physical attack on our leader while he's overseas; I certainly wouldn't want the same to happen to Obama once he's in office.

I also think your Braveheart analogy is slightly flawed: an attack on the king (even if indirectly through his soldiers) was not bad because it denigrated the kingdom, it was bad because it denigrated the king, the man himself; he was above that sort of treatment because he was supposedly chosen by God, not because he was the representative for the kingdom.

Now mind you I'm making a big distinction between physical attacks and verbal ones: OF COURSE we should be able to criticize the president; I've done it endlessly with Bush and I plan to do the same if Obama screws up as well. It's freedom of speech and it's integral to a free and just society, but it should never be acceptable to physically attack any elected official as punishment for their wrongdoing; as you say, that's what laws are for, and everyone should be subject to them from the president on down.

So yes, this journalist should be appropriately punished for his actions and then freed; better yet, Bush could show some magnanimity and push for his punishment to be commuted. It would be good PR for our country if the most powerful man in the world showed that kind of compassion to someone who has treated him badly, and right now we can use all the good PR we can get.