So, everyone is all up in arms about the shoe tossing at President Bush by Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi at a news conference with the Iraqi Prime Minister. Was it inappropriate? Sure. No one threw shoes at President elect Obama after his victory (rumor has it Sarah Palin AND Hillary Clinton gave it serious consideration; but both chose a more courageous path).
Now, before we string up this guy or mock President Bush for the balance of his term, we need to take a more “hole-istic” view of this man’s shoes and actions.
First: the press communicated that this is the ultimate sign of disrespect in the Iraqi culture. I refuse to believe this is worse than:
- being voted in as President of Iraq in free and open election.
- receiving any award given by Spike TV.
- being buried in the ground and stoned because you are gay.
Second: President Bush showed great grace and generosity under fire: to al-Zaidi:
- What the press failed to report was the President not only returned the tossed shoes, he also gave the man a gift of Berluti Italian loafers. At $700 a pair, he is likely to keep those babies on his tootsies at his next press conference.
al-Zaidi comes from a family tradition of shoe tossing:
- His forefathers threw sandals at Muslim leaders in the past (all relatives were one and done: his survival is a record setting first).
- Farther back in time, they threw actual feet (owners attached) Not as effective or as accurate.
He measures his options well:
- As a young journalist in 2001, al-Zaidi considered throwing his shoes at Saddam Hussein’s son, Uday. However, al-Zaidi was unwilling to have his feet caned, be dragged through gravel and made to sit in a tank of urine; a favorited tactic of Uday with Iraqi Olympians who failed to win medals.
- Muntadhar al-Zaidi also hates Iran. But after considering the actual decapitation of his head and removal of his feet, he chose to pass on the weekend press conference with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. . . democracy wins out over religious rule again.
Apparently al-Zaidi was not angry about Iraqi independence:
- He was actually infuriated that his $6 million dollar bid to Gov. Blagojevich of Illinois for the open Senate Seat was turned down because it was in Iraqi Dinars.
- He then responded to the ad for the Illinois Senate seat on E-bay and ended up winning a physical chair from the Senate – you’d be angry too; the same leather seat is $350 at Office Max.
Time does not allow me to address the deep seated depression al-Zaidi suffers from due to his athlete’s foot, bunions and chronic dislike of the Kurds.
However, I would suggest a positive gesture from readers of this honest coverage: leave a comment sharing more appropriate items to be thrown at world leaders for future press conferences.