By Dave Lindorff
When Iraqi journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi heaved his two shoes at the
head of President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad,
he did something that the White House press corps should have done
Al-Zaidi listened to Bush blather that the half-decade of war he
had initiated with the illegal invasion of Iraq had been “necessary for
US security, Iraqi stability (sic) and world peace” and something just
snapped. The television correspondent, who had been kidnapped and held
for a while last year by Shiite militants, pulled off a shoe and threw
it at Bush—a serious insult in Iraqi culture—and shouted “This is a
farewell kiss, you dog!” When the first shoe missed its target, he
grabbed a second shoe and heaved it too, causing the president to duck
a second time as al-Zaidi shouted, “This is from the widows, the
orphans, and those who were killed in Iraq!”
I’ll admit, listening to Bush lie his way through eight years of
press conferences, while pre-selected reporters played along and
pretended to get his attention so they could ask questions which had
been submitted and vetted in advance, I have felt like throwing my
shoes at the television set.
Send an old shoe (or this picture!) to the White House, Wash. DC 20500!
Al-Zaidi, who paid for his courageous act of protest by being
brutally beaten by security guards, is a hero of the profession. He
stopped taking the president’s BS and called him what he is: a murderer
and a criminal, with the blood of perhaps upwards of a million Iraqis
on his hands. Al-Zaidi used what was supposed to be a staged photo-op
for the president as an opportunity to speak up for those whose lives
have been ruined by this president—the ones our suck-up journalists
I’m not suggesting that journalists should routinely leave
presidential press conferences in their stocking feet. We have
different ways of expressing our sentiments to people we feel have
insulted our intelligence than throwing shoes at them, but it would be
nice to see a journalist or two flip the president the bird when he
lies so blatantly to them. Or they could all get up and just walk out,
leaving him standing alone at the presidential lectern.
It’s time for the press corps to stop treating presidents like
royalty. If he accomplished anything at all in eight years in office,
President Bush has demonstrated that, to the contrary, the president is
a very ordinary—and in his case a rather less than ordinary—man. The
office of president deserves no more respect than that of the mayor of
Detroit, or of Wasilla.
My suggestion is that the press corps use the remaining five weeks
of the Bush administration to develop a new relationship with the
presidency—one in which they drop all the phony propriety and tradition
and start acting like boisterous newshounds of old, barking questions,
laughing cruelly at inane answers, demanding follow-ups when they are
given the run-around, and, where necessary, walking out, or perhaps
tossing the occasional shoe.
The journalism profession was a full-blown disaster and an utter
disgrace during the Bush administration, and with all the crises facing
the country and the world, in part because of that failure on their
part, we cannot afford to have them continue that failure into the
With the Bush administration reduced to a running joke at this
point, it gives the journalism profession a chance to redeem itself by
using these few remaining weeks to establish a new tradition for
presidential press conferences and photo-ops—one that can continue on
into the new presidency.
Meanwhile, I’m suggesting that my alma mater, the Columbia
University Graduate School of Journalism, hire al=Zaidi to teach a
class in press conference journalism techniques. They should make it a
multi-year appointment, because if he left after just one year, his
would be difficult shoes to fill.
NOTE: Speaking of shoes and the White House, Skip Mendler of Honesdale, PA has a great idea. He suggests that everyone who is disgusted with the outgoing Bush/Cheney administration send a shoe to the White House. Just imagine a pile up of a million smelly old running shoes in the White House mailroom! I think he's got something. Spread the word!
DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His
latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and
now in paperback). His work is available at www.thiscantbehappening.net