Our beleaguered Commander-in-Chief can’t catch a PR break these last trying days of his Administration.
President Bush’s “victory tour” of Iraq was upended over the weekend by a shoe-tossing Iraqi cameraman who wants the U.S. out of his country. It was a scene reminiscent of the “Mission Accomplished” PR gaffe.
Bush intended to sweep into Iraq as a move to highlight improved security conditions there. Instead, he was met with flying footwear at Ground Zero in the supposed “super-secure” Green Zone. Muntadar al-Zaidi claimed his hurtling shoes represented a “farewell kiss” to the President. It was a kiss not returned.
To his credit, Bush handled the embarrassing situation deftly. “All I can report is a size 10,” said the President. He added: “I don’t think you can take one guy throwing shoes and say this represents a broad movement in Iraq. What he wanted you to do was to pay attention to him. And sure enough, you did.” He got that right.
The President is wrong about the incident being isolated and being disingenuous about the publicity angle. UPI’s Martin Sieff reports:
“People across Iraq and the Arab world have been throwing shoes at images of Bush for years. His Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has even been nicknamed Kundara—or “shoe” a play on her first name.”
Thousands of Iraqis have hit the streets in support of Al-Zaidi, demanding his release. The Bush shoe- evading video is a top video on YouTube. Al-Zaidi is a folk hero, a guy whom humorist Andy Borowitz blogged today about being a potential pitcher for the New York Yankees.
About the publicity, the President only wishes he had the same positive impact as the shoe-tosser. Rather than a victory lap, Bush should be steadying himself for the fall-out from the 513-page “official history of Iraq” that is circulating in D.C. The New York Times reported Dec. 14 the study of the
an effort crippled before the invasion by Pentagon planners who were hostile to the idea of rebuilding a foreign country and then molded into a $100B failure by bureaucratic turf wars, spiraling violence and ignorance of the basis elements of Iraqi society and infrastructure.” That is the President's legacy.
Nobody should throw shoes at the President or anybody else. It is dangerous. There is a neat symmetry, however, between the flying footwear and images of Iraqis gleefully pounding their brogans on the toppled statue of Saddam Hussein shortly after American forces liberated Baghdad.
The statue-beating Iraqis radiated pure joy, a symbol of hope. After a long occupation, the thrown shoes represent a beaten-down nation. The President, long ago, said of the Iraqis that nobody likes to be “occupied.” Bush did nothing to undo the occupation mess, leaving that necessary job to Barack Obama.