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Bush, Iraq, and the shoes

What an Iraqi journalist’s disrespectful gesture says about President Bush’s legacy

“So much for victory laps,” said Thomas Defrank in the New York Daily News. During President Bush’s farewell visit to Iraq on Sunday, an Iraqi journalist hurled his shoes at him, saying, “This is a farewell kiss, you dog!” (click here for MSNBC video via Think Progress). Bush tried to laugh off the insult—“quickly dubbed a shoe-icide attack”—but it “was an unwelcome metaphor for a president whose legacy in large measure will be defined by the unpopular war, now in its sixth year.”

This incident was indeed symbolic, said Boston Herald editor Jules Crittenden in his blog. You see, nobody ever dared show such disrespect for Saddam Hussein, whose despotic regime Bush toppled. The only reason this unhinged journalist was able to show such violent disrespect to a visiting dignitary and live to tell about it is that Iraq is now a democracy.

It’s hard to deny, though, that this was more than a little embarrassing for Bush, said Sudarsan Raghavan and Dan Eggen in The Washington Post. The shoes started flying just after he explained why, despite all the difficulties, the war was necessary for “world peace.” But hurling shoes and calling someone a dog are about the worst insults possible in Iraqi culture, so the lingering image from what’s likely to be Bush’s final visit to Iraq will be this raucous display of “local resentment” over civilian deaths and American mistakes.

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