Commentary: A shoe full of insults

This editorial appeared in The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

The Bush administration likes to point to statistical and symbolic measures of progress in Iraq, and this week it has a new one to tout – the Footwear-Flinging Index of Freedom.

Commenting after an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes, one after another, at President George W. Bush on Sunday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice termed the incident "a kind of sign of the freedom that people feel in Iraq."

If Rice's point is that no Iraqi would have felt free to hurl his hush puppies at the tyrannical, mercurial Saddam Hussein, well, point granted. That would have been an express pass to martyrdom. But beyond that, what are we to make of Sunday's incident, and the gloating it occasioned in parts of Iraq and much of the Arab world?

First, though, a nod to President Bush. He handled the assault – and the insult (shoes being symbolic of "the lowest of the low") with aplomb. Bush showed sharp reflexes in ducking first one, then the other of journalist Muntader al-Zaidi's fastballs, and courage in not retreating from the press-conference lectern. His "So what?" attitude and his observation that "It was a size 10" struck the right notes.

(Agents protecting the president, however, should work to cut their reaction times. Someone should have shielded Bush from that second shoe.)

To read the complete editorial, visit The (Raleigh) News & Observer.

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