Are you old enough to remember 1960, when Nikita Khrushchev took off his shoe at the UN and began banging it on the table where he sat?
Wow, what an uproar! The press — and there were seven New York daily newspapers at the time — went bonkers. People were horrified at the notion that a world leader could remove his shoe and disruptively bang away during what should have been the dignified (if unproductive) proceedings of the United Nations.
But the President of the United States, at the time Dwight David Eisenhower, had the class to withhold direct comment.
A clodhopper to the head
Now we have another shoe indicident, in this case a shoe-throwing member of the Iraqui press who tossed his clodhoppers, one at a time, toward President George Bush’s head in Bagdad.
Admittedly, this is not to be taken lightly. A shoe to the head can hurt. Add to that the fact that evidently anything having to do with shoes in Muslim culture is an insult — from showing your soles to someone to a direct hit with flying footwear.
To his credit, the President seemed alert enough to duck — probably his first and only display of diplomatic prowess in eight years.
Never screw up an opportunity
to undo what you’re doing right
President Bush’s followup comment, however, proved that you can take be quick on your feet when it comes to ducking flying shoes, but at the same time come off as an agile-tongued boor with an ill-suited sense of humor.
“All I can report is it is a size 10,” he [the President] said, continuing to take questions and noting the apologies. He also called the incident a sign of democracy, saying, “That’s what people do in a free society, draw attention to themselves,” as the man’s screaming could be heard outside.Screaming? Well, evidently the shoe-thrower was “calling attention to himself” by getting “kicked and beaten” by the Iraqui authorities until he “cried like a woman,” according to a witness whose statement was reported in the New York Times.
Well hey, the protesting shoe-thrower certainly shouldn’t have done it. But on the other hand, the President’s flip remarks were completely uncalled for when the sounds of a man getting kicked and beaten was audible from inside the room.
Otherwise, if you can believe what George Bush says, that’s what we do in a free society — beat the living crap out of anybody who protests against the guys in power.
I mean, if it’s not to stifle protest, what the hell is democracy for?