It’s rare that I plan one of these columns ahead of time. I like to put them off as long as possible. It feeds my desire to procrastinate; and also, I hope, keeps them up-to-the-minute—as much as a biweekly tabloid can be. But this time, since I knew this would be our last issue for 2008 (and a thank you to all of you who picked us up this year), and since this would be the end of an era, I figured I’d reserve this Shallow End to say goodbye to President Bush, a man who may not have been the cause of the tremendous hardships he was confronted with in his eight years of office, but managed to react in the worst way possible to each one of them. What I wanted to write was going to be filled with anger, disappointment and even some sympathy; but nothing I could have jotted down would have been as succinct message as the one delivered by the two shoes of Muntadhar al-Zeidi.
Unless you’ve been shut off from all forms of media, you’ve probably seen the videos, gifs and memes that documented the event. Al-Zeidi, a reporter for an Iraqi-owned television station based out of Cairo, launched his two size-10 shoes at President Bush during a press conference in Iraq.
“This is your farewell kiss, you dog! This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq,” al-Zeidi shouted in Arabic as he launched his pedal projectiles at the lame-duck leader of the free world.
I was delighted. Not because I dislike Bush. Honestly, at this point, I can’t muster the energy to despise him anymore. It used to be that the mere sight of him on television would fill me with the same kind of anger that the thought of the Phillies winning the World Series does. It got to be that I couldn’t even hear what he was saying anymore, because the anger filled my head with white noise. But the refreshing thing about our democracy is that there’s a good amount of turnover. You don’t have to put up with anyone’s bullshit for too long. In the end, he’s right: History will decide his merits as president. I think it’s going to have a hard time finding any, though.
No, I was delighted because it was funny. I thought about the other people in the room—reporters who were dutifully taking down notes, Iraqi dignitaries looking spiffy and austere—who were suddenly transported to a circus. I could hear geeks around the world firing up their computers in order to create the gif that would garner them the Internet fame they so greatly desired. After months of Obama this and Obama that, Bush was finally interesting again.
It helped that no one was hurt. The only exception being (rather sexy) White House press secretary Dana Perino, who suffered a bruised eye in the scuffle following the incident. According to an article by the Associated Press, Perino said of the injury, “It’s not all that pretty, but I’m not worried about it.” Feisty. I like it.
After the giddiness faded, I was slightly upset. Al-Zeidi was able to take off and toss both of his shoes at our president before being tackled by the secret service. How many bullets could he have fired in that time? Just saying—maybe that’s something Obama should look into. Especially if he’s not as nimble as Mr. Bush. Reflexes of a cat, he has; that’s at least one thing that history can smile upon.