Earlier today, President Bush received a Holiday gift from an Iraqi admirer — a pair of shoes tossed at him while he was standing on stage with Prime Minister al-Maliki. Such a gesture is of course a profound insult in Arab culture, but I’ll bet that more than a few Americans take a cue from the gesture and are tempted to add a very special present for the President to their Santa list.
Even before the Post Office opens on Monday, perhaps shoes will begin to appear on the White House lawn, or tied to the White House fence like tennis shoes dangling from neighborhood power lines. The White House police may discover pairs of carefully-placed wingtips outside their door, like child’s slippers left awaiting the arrival of gift-bearing Magi. Perhaps a shoe tree complete with Christmas lights will begin to grow in Lafayette Park or on the sidewalk on Pennsylvania Avenue. Meanwhile, I will bet that others will think to add just one more package to the stack they will carry to the Post Office this coming week. If they do, charities all over Washington will welcome an unexpected bonanza of shoes donated by harried White House staffers attempting to manage the flood of gifts.
Perhaps Iraq is too far away for unhappy Americans to notice a lone shoe-tossing protestor, or perhaps Bush is already so irrelevant that Americans no longer care about him, but I doubt it. The image of the Presidential shoe-dodger could become the most-remembered image from Bush’s final days in office, a bookend to the photo of President-as-fighter-jock standing on the USS Abraham Lincoln in 2003. Perhaps history will remember this President as much for his footwear as history remembers Imelda Marcos for hers. Perhaps he can store his in her closet.