Monday, December 15, 2008

Mixed Feelings

As a blogger who has spoken out against Bush and the Iraq War, I have extremely mixed feelings about this incident.

This kind of dissatisfaction with the US and with Bush is something everybody should expect. Even though we're supposedly doing a lot for Iraq, there's no question that we've also made Iraqis' day-to-day lives hard as well. I assume a lot of people in Iraq would like to throw their shoes at President Bush, especially since he's on the way out. He must be a focal point for their anger. They can focus all their bad feelings about the US on Bush alone, while hoping for better things to come with the new administration (as are we all).

But I'm also horrified at the act. I mean, that was the President of the United States. You don't just throw your shoes at the most powerful guy in the world. It's disturbing to watch Bush have to duck. Protest demonstration or no, don't physically threaten the Prez.

And then I read this transcript (which I'll paste in its entirety) from the Times Online, taken from Air Force One:

Mr Bush: Okay, my opening statement: I didn't know what the guy said, but I saw his sole….I'm pretty good at ducking, as most of you will know —

Reporter: You were quick.

Mr Bush: I'm talking about ducking your questions…I — look, I mean it was just a bizarre moment, but I've had other bizarre moments in the presidency. I remember when Hu Jintao was here. Remember we had the big event? He's speaking, and all of a sudden I hear this noise — had no earthly idea what was taking place, but it was the Falun Gong woman screaming at the top of her lungs. It was kind of an odd moment.

Reporter: Well, not to belabour the point too much, on this man, but I have a serious question about it. Obviously he's expressing a vein of anger that exists in Iraq, and —

Mr Bush: How do you know? I mean, how do we know what he's expressing? Who —

Reporter: We had a translator who said he shouted about the widows and orphans.

Mr Bush: I don't know. I've heard all kinds of stories. I heard he was representing a Baathist TV station. I don't know the facts, but let's find out the facts. All I'm telling you, it was a bizarre moment.

Reproter: I wanted to ask something broader.

Mr Bush: I don't think you can take one guy throwing shoes and say this represents a broad movement in Iraq. You can try to do that if you want to. I don't think it would be accurate.

Reporter: Well, then, separately from him —

Mr Bush: That's exactly what he wanted you to do. Like I answered on your question, what he wanted you to do was to pay attention to him. And sure enough, you did…

[A noise is heard aboard the aircraft]

Mr Bush: The other shoe just dropped. Look, I'm going to be thinking of shoe jokes for a long time. I haven't heard any good ones yet.

Again, mixed feelings. Bush's gut instinct is to (publicly) ignore the act, as if it were a terrorist act instead of a protest, so as not to give it any credence. And then he says "I don't think you can take one guy" and I think, great, not even throwing shoes at the President can make you be heard.

Liberals assume that Iraqis hate us. Conservatives assume that they love us. The obvious answer is that both feelings are there, at probably a ratio of half and half. Bush could never admit to that compromise. That is one thing I can't stand about him. Someone throws shoes at him in a symbolic gesture (see here for the cultural implications), and he just laughs it off, saying he could see their "sole." Good one, Mr. Prez. Good one.

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