Friday, December 19, 2008

A Hero of Our Time: Muntadar al-Zaidi


When Iraqi journalist Muntadar
al-Zaidi heaved his two shoes at
thehead of President George W.
Bush during a press conference
in Baghdad, he did something
that the White House press
corps should have done years

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.

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
routinely ignore.

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

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 Obama administration.

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

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