Monday, December 15, 2008

If the Shoe Fits

With the inauguration of Barack Obama approaching and the merciful coup de grâce that it provides for the entire Bush era, I've been trying to come up with a way to properly put into perspective the last eight years of American history. I've wrestled with the best possible means of conveying the enormity, the totality, of George W. Bush's catastrophic failure as president of the United States. I've been looking for the right words to describe the lasting impact that this administration's incompetence, treachery and corruption will have not simply on the way our country is viewed by its own citizens and those around the world, but the damage done to the very institution of the American presidency.

I tried, but I just couldn't come up with a way to put the necessary exclamation point on the whole thing. I didn't think anyone could.

Until yesterday -- when somebody did.

There's plenty of debate raging today over whether the actions of 29-year-old Iraqi journalist Muntadar al Zaidi were completely justified, at the very least understandable, outright despicable, or some combination of all three. Likewise, many are arguing over whether being pelted with footwear is a fitting punishment for George W. Bush; is the sight of Bush ducking for cover as a citizen of the country he's left in war-torn shambles hurls shoes at him something to applaud, laugh at, or be horrified by?

From a practical standpoint, it's indeed a frightening thought that someone could put himself in a position to harm the president of the United States and not be stopped until after the attack; obviously, if al Zaidi had been carrying a weapon more powerful than a pair of size 10s, we wouldn't even be having this discussion right now. There's an argument to be made that regardless of the many sins of George W. Bush, he's still nominally the president and should be afforded the respect that comes with the title. But maybe it's the fact that he wasn't shown even a modicum of respect by his attacker -- that he was shouted down and debased like a common criminal -- which illustrates just what he's done to the office he holds: He's turned it into a global punchline. Bush has taken the most revered position in the world and utterly bankrupted its authority. His failure as a leader is that absolute.

Think about it: Have you ever heard of something like this happening to an American president? Could you imagine it happening to any other president of the United States -- anyone besides George W. Bush?

What occurred yesterday would've been unfathomable in years past.

The fact is that, at this moment and for all intents and purposes, there really is no president of the United States. George Bush isn't simply a lame duck; he's a non-entity -- a completely ineffectual and irrelevant presence who still rides around in Air Force One only as a matter of academic circumstance. He's the ghost president -- stuck in political purgatory, waiting for Barack Obama's oath of office to finally put him out of his misery and usher him and his administration into the light. In the meantime, the enemies that his disastrous policies created see the once-cocksure cowboy stripped of his six-guns and consider it all the proof they need that he's never been anything more than a small man with a big title. As far as they're concerned, not only is he not the sheriff anymore -- he decimated what it means to be sheriff in the first place.

He did it by, among other things, invading Iraq under false pretenses and costing the lives of more than four thousand American soldiers and more than a hundred-and-fifty thousand Iraqis -- Iraqis al Zaidi claimed to be honoring by insulting George Bush in what in the Arab world are the strongest possible terms.

Since yesterday, Muslims and Arabs throughout the Middle East have not simply rushed to the defense of al Zaidi -- they've praised him as a hero. They say that he spoke for the millions of Iraqis and millions more Arabs throughout the region who feel that they've suffered at the hands of the Bush administration's foreign policy for the past eight years. They say that he'll go down in history as the man who stood up and did something many would've thought impossible by lashing out at the president of the United States. They're talking about putting the shoes he threw in a museum as a lasting symbol of defiance.

What Muntadar al Zaidi did has instantly become the stuff of legend.

But I'll bet that as far as he was concerned, he wasn't doing anything but denouncing the man who destroyed his country. He didn't see George Bush as the president of the United States -- he saw him as nothing more than a criminal, a murderer.

And it's not his fault for having that view so much as it's Bush's for abusing his office to the point where it no longer held any value.

I have no doubt that Barack Obama will salvage the good name of the presidency and that he'll be able to do it with almost no effort. In many ways, he already has.

But it's a shame it was ever allowed to be so mistreated in the first place.


Anonymous said...

You're right. Until you made me see the significance of pelting a sitting US president with shoes and insults, I found the whole thing funny. It's sad. I don't know what tomorrow will bring, I wouldn't want to inherit what Obama is, but high time to get on with it and get Bush out of there!

whatsergem said...

...which illustrates just what he's done to the office he holds: He's turned it into a global punchline. Bush has taken the most revered position in the world and utterly bankrupted its authority. His failure as a leader is that absolute.

I was lectured on respecting the Office of the Presidency Bush holds (on a blog that shall remain nameless), and while others agreed with my point of view, THIS is what I wish I could've said.

Fred said...

Thats all Bush & Company are- A bunch of criminals that the majority of Americans allowed to get away with all of it.

No large group stood up, the press rolled over and showed their feather covered bellies and Corporate America made out like the bandits they are.

Now, the majority thinks that Obama is going to fix things for them. Once again, mainstream America will sit by and wait for somebody else to wipe its collective ass and when the possibility of there being too much shit comes to light, the majority will cry and scream in the efforts to blame everybody but themselves.

Pants said...

It's not like nobody saw this coming four years ago. I still think it's weird that a man can get impeached for getting a little cigar action on the side, but not for running the most powerful nation in the world straight into the ground.

lakelady said...

I marvel at the simplicity of the symbolism of this action. The total (and deserved) degradation it implies and at the same time I can't shake the thought it also implies - freedom to dissent. A freedom this reporter didn't have 8 years ago. We'll have to wait and see how the Iraqi system treats him before passing more judgements.

Chez said...

I was waiting for someone to say that.

Votar and I were talking about this earlier and we both came to the same conclusion: Actually, the fact that this man is now ostensibly "free" proves the power of his actions. He believes that life under Saddam was better than the so-called freedom to dissent that he's been granted. I don't mean to diminish the greatness of a free society, but I'm not sure the concept means as much when your countrymen are dead and your nation is a chaotic, bombed-out mess -- and, worst of all, you had no choice in any of it happening.

Joshua said...

It doesn't necessarily follow that, because Zaidi insulted President Bush, he "believes that life under Saddam was better than the so-called freedom to dissent that he's been granted." He can value his current freedom while condemning the self-serving motives behind the war that granted it. Regardless of whether or not the war will be seen as a means by which Iraq was freed from a tyrant and put on the path to prosperity and democracy (which of course still remains to be seen), the Bush administration never had the Iraqi people's interests in mind while showing a staggering amount of arrogance and disregard for the lives of Iraqis and all those in the region through their gross mismanagement of the war - and everyone in the world knows it.

Anonymous said...

2 more gone from CNN.

Anonymous said...

I think it's fantastic. And I think that texts are going around in the Arab world naming today "World Shoe Day".
Bush is lucky all he had to do is duck. I think every Iraqi agrees that life was better under Saddam. Not ideal. But better. And that's very sad.
Oh I could write volumes but instead I'll just say:
Happy World Shoe Day habibis.

VOTAR said...

All evidence points to a second shoer on the grassy dune.

You see there, in frames 226 through 285 of The Zapato Film, the President's head snaps forward and to the left...

forward and to the left...

forward and to the left.

The government is asking you to accept that this was the act of a sole thrower, a loafer who practiced his well-heeled skills, waiting in his hightop slipper nest next to the falafel cart, before making his moccasin on history.

The government is trying to make you believe that the fatal shoe came from the front right, stopped, hovered in mid-air for 1.6 seconds, turned left at a 42 degree downward angle, flip-flopped, and continued past the podium, only to sneak away and give the secret service the boot.

A "magic shoe," if you will.

An American naturalist wrote:
"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country "...against its own government."

I'd hate to be in your shoes today...

Assuming you kept them on.

You have a lot to think about. You've seen evidence the public hasn't seen. Going back to when we were children ...I think most of us in this courtroom thought justice came automatically.
That virtue was its own reward.
That good triumphs over evil.
But as we get older we know this isn't true. Individual human beings have to create justice, and this is not easy because the truth often poses a threat to power and one often has to fight power at great risk to themselves.

Tennyson wrote:
"Authority forgets a dying king."

Do not forget your dying king.
Show this world this is still a government "of the people, for the people and by the people."

Nothing as long as you live will ever be more important.

It's up to you.

Anonymous said...

I'd hate to be in a bunker with a bunch of fickle finks like you guys.

It's like I tell my kids - we disagree in private; behind the doors of our home. Vigorously. Maybe violently. But once a decision is made by the rules we make them and we open the doors and step outside, we are all one and the same. My decision is your decision and if someone throws a shoe at you its the same as if they threw it at me.

I don't care who is the President of the U.S. is or what mistakes he has made or by who's judgment. He's the President of MY COUNTRY and this prissy little punk is fortunate he didn't physically assault the President in this country. No matter how Bush tried to play it down.

It's got nothing to do with "debate" or anyone's self-righteous, know-it-all opinion.
It's got everything to do with having enough backbone to not fuck yourself.

Chez said...

I'd really hate to be in a bunker with somebody who won't even tell me his name.

But that's just me. I'm friendly like that.

Marsupialus said...

While Bush may be everything you say, his administration is still plenty potent. They are doing their level best to destroy as much of the environment as they can in the time left remaining, in transferring as much wealth to their cronies in the time left remaining, and in leaving people others of their ilk -- moles if you will -- employees who have "burrowed in" to continue their reign of terror even after they leave office.

Burns said...

I'm sorry Anonymous 6:52, but there's one little flaw in your reasoning - the decisions you make in private with your family are made "by the rules" - rules that this administration has chosen to circumvent, ignore, or just plain break. We're not talking about a decision that was made within one happy family that everyone agreed to go along with, we're talking about decisions based on lies, manipulation and the basest of motives - greed and arrogance.

Think back to March of 2003. Maybe you don't remember it as well as I do, but the number of people protesting our invasion of Iraq, here as well as across the globe, was truly staggering. Hundreds of thousands of voices across the US, Germany, the UK, Switzerland and elsewhere - all ignored by the man who was supposed to be in charge of protecting the free world from exactly the kind of abuses of power that he was engaging in.

So no, when someone throws a shoe at Bush, they aren't throwing a shoe at me - they're throwing one for me and every other American who has had to watch as that man embarrassed this country, eroded our freedoms and tore apart the lives of thousands of Americans and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's.

Nevada Blue said...

Given Bush had no interest in the state of freedom for Iraqis, it's understandable that they would despise him but embrace the benefits he brought.

He had to offer certain freedoms to continue the ruse. Even so, wasn't Iraqi freedom his third excuse for the war? One loses count.

James said...

I praise this lone voice. Reminds me of 1989....Tiananmen lone citizen staring down his oppressor. It really is heartbreaking to consider from where this passion is born. The humanity....

Werner Patels said...

I was laughed so hard when I saw this on TV. In fact, I laughed for about half an hour and couldn't stop. Seeing Bush trying to duck the shows being flung at him was just more than my spleen could take.

Despite his quick reflexes -- we'll have to give him that -- Bush was reduced to the Average Joe embroiled in a little domestic with the wife tossing things at him.

Nik said...

Just a note -- Bush isn't the only figure to be treated like this overseas. Off the top of my head, Richard Nixon getting attacked by crowds (several times) in South America back in the 1950s leaps to mind.

Anonymous said...

One thing is that the show thrower is a pussy. I mean as a guy who throws a shoe at another man. I could see Carrie Bradshaw doing this but a man? I know in Arab cultures this is the utmost sign of displeasure etc etc. Shows how much of a pussy they all are.

Sad thing is that with all of their new found "freedom" this guy will still be tried - quickly and either sentenced to death or a long prison term. It appears he weill be charged with attacking the Iraqi leader as he was in the proximity of the shoe throw.

Hey at least he wears shoes and not sandals - he has come a long way. Probably drives a diesel mercedes benz instead of a camel and listens to snoop dogg

Deacon Blue said...

Anon 6:52,

At the risk of arguing what I've already argued at another blog, I see in you the same flaw I saw in the commenter there: An expectation that people in Iraq are somehow required to respect OUR president. No, I'm not arguing that assaulting a sitting president or any head of state is appropriate. But the fact is that the folks in Iraq have many reasons to be pissed off at us, AND the leader of the nation that fucked up their nation under the guise of liberating them.

Why are they supposed to respect the office of the President of the U.S.?

And before you or any other jingoistic sonofabitch tells me that WE don't treat the leaders of other countries that way in OUR nation, let me remind y'all of this:

Those leaders didn't march troops and tanks through our streets. They didn't bomb the shit out of our cities. They didn't wreck our economy and then farm out the work of repairing the damage to U.S. firm's that were already cronies to the presidential administration.

The throwing of the show may not have been the right thing to do, but I understand the desire to throw it. And when our president acts like a punk for 8 years, he should consider himself fortunate he hasn't had a show thrown at him by the journalists at press conferences in his own country.

Girl With Curious Hair said...

@ Anonymous 6:52:

Your comment makes no sense what-so-ever.

1. Maybe if the Iraqis had been consulted about being attacked, tortured, displaced and humiliated, they too would agree to being save face. Last I checked, they weren't consulted.

2. I don't know how you do things in your house, but last I checked, America was still a democracy. We are supposed to hold people accountable regardless of their position in society. No one in this country has held this president or his cohorts accountable for the many, many crimes they have committed in our names both here and abroad. If we gag ourselves in our efforts to respect the office of the president(even though Bush doesn't do the same), don't expect his other victims to do so as well. This emperor has been naked for eight years; someone somewhere had to call him on it.

3. That 'prissy little punk' as you call him didn't come to this country and insult anyone. Bush went to there and made a mockery of the pain and suffering that he has inflicted on them as part of his victory lap. If not there, then where do you think it would be acceptable to confront him with his crimes?

4. If an Arab of any stripe had done this same thing to the leader of their own country, people like you would consider him a hero and symbol of freedom--why is it any different when Bush is the rightful target?

Anonymous said...

James, I agree. It reminded me of the guy staring down the tank. Both men said, no more. Enough of this crap. I applaud them both.

Werner, maybe that's why Bush's reflexes are so quick, he's had practice ducking during arguments with Laura.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:23-

A pussy? Sorry flamebait, but you missed it by a mile.

The man took on Bush and showed more spine in one act than the entire moron majority that allowed Bush to get away with his crimes, and still is.

JONATHAN said...

I would only say that that "freedom" has yet to be truly tested. This was not an act of ture dissention because it was against a foreign leader. Had he thrown his shoe at Nouri al-Maliki for instance, I'm sure we would have seen an immediate and radically different response.

Anonymous said...

The "journalist" would not have the balls to throw the shoe at the Iraqi president. By now he would have been executed.

And oh Fred - fuck you

Chez said...

There's nothing I love more than somebody who comes here and acts all bad-ass but stays safely behind the "Anonymous" ID.

You're real tough there, pal.

lakelady said...

I just came across the perfect postscript to this incident. Send your old shoes to the GWBush Presidential Library

Anonymous said...

Oh, Anon- You've now proven yourself to be a complete spineless wonder. Have you noticed that you arent being taken very seriously here? I'll bet that really hurts when you're all alone in mommy's basement counting your riches in whatever online game losers like you are playing these days.

I'll bet you're really tough and have some kind of cool name like "Beefy Guy" or something like that.

Now go have your diaper changed and let the rational and intelligent adults get back to their business.

Anonymous said...

Sending shoes to the library? Lets not forget a little gift in the shoes like a little dog shit, or the scrapings from a cat box. Better yet- How about our friendly and courageous Anon's (Beefy Guy's) diapers!

Fuck Fred said...

Sorry Fred - don't live in the basement and I know I make a shitload more money than you and most people here - especially Chez who remains unemployed till this day.

Most of you who bitch now never did anything to change Bush's power. Where were you when he went up for re-election 4 years ago? Nowehere that's where. You were all probably sipping on capuccinos and playing with your macs while the country went to hell. All of sudden America awoke and saw the injustices on election day? BUllshit you were too blind and/or too stupid to do anything about it. Where were you for the past 8 years? If anyone had the ablls to throw the shoe at Bush it should have been you! The shame is that a foreigner had the balls to do it and not one of you.

Taken seriously? By what this site or you? This site is great comedy but that is all it is. Unfortunately, you and the blog owner feel that this is some great social reawakening site. I don't purport this to be any more relevant than a small town newspaper - a really small town newspaper at that.

But hey - if this is enough to keep people like you and the blog owner with his 100 or so fans engaged - whatever. Me I will go back and look at my bank account as I just got paid again today!! In a few weeks my bonus will be more than most of you made all year. See ya

Ms. Anonymous.

VOTAR said...

I'm sorry, I tried. Honestly I did. I've read this thread a few times over and I still have no idea what it's about.

I don't remember if I had a cappuccino on election day in '04. I do remember voting, however. And I remember that 53 million people disagreed with me -- the same 53 million people who probably still think that an ingenious and effective insult is coming up with clever new names for fried potato sticks, who stand up and salute to the opening stanzas of songs with names like "Shockin' Ya'll," and who dumped cases of Champagne and Dixie Chicks CDs into bonfires.

Because that's the way you deliver a proper insult, of course. Right.

Unfortunately, on that election day there were more of them than there were people like me, exercising the unique power we each have to protest injustice perpetrated by those we are asked to look up to as our leaders. Their collective narrow vision of America's place in the world helped sweep us into this very precarious moment -- and, incidentally, probably helped to ensure the healthy growth of the financial portfolios of certain well-to-do blog slummers.

Outrage over the audacity of someone taking aim at the dignity of the office of the president might be more meaningful at this moment if this particular president had not spent the last eight years wiping his ass with it.

This is the cold, hard truth: a great many people in this world hate what America has become, and they hate that so many Americans take pride in not particularly caring why. When virtually the rest of the civilized world rejected America's unprecedented war of opportunity, naturally the response of a few Americans was to stop buying French wines with names they can't even pronounce anyway ("since it ain't beer, dag-nabbit!") and rename the side dish next to their hamburger.

In contrast, a man threw a dirty show at the President of the United States.

At no point in America's 240 year history can we even conceive of a point so low (even taking into account several wars and various assassination attempts) that such a moment is even possible -- not to cause harm or death or to even make a political statement... but to let "THE LEADER OF THE FREE WORLD" know that he commands less respect by billions of people than a common criminal, that he is afforded less consideration than the smear of dogshit on the bottom of a shoe.

It may seem like a patriotic thing to say "I support MY PRESIDENT no matter what!"

I submit, it is a more patriotic thing to stand with those brave enough to defy a president who has brought such profound shame upon himself and upon the country we trusted him to serve.

Chez said...

Dude, don't try making sense of our friend the anonymous troll. You'll just make your brain hurt.

trish said...

Wow. Bragging about how much money you have.

I'm not sure there's any way you could look much smaller.