Monday, December 15, 2008

Et Tu, Muntadar?

By now, I suppose everyone around the world has seen the images: 

George Bush, in Baghdad, at the Green Zone, standing at the podium with Iraqi PM Maliki, both ready to field questions from the world's press. Surprise. Bush soon finds himself engaged in a new sport invented right there on the spot called "Dodge Shoes." Thrown by an outraged Arab journalist, Muntadar al-Zaidi, the shoes--first one, then another--narrowly miss the president's noggin. The would-be shoe assassin was quickly "wrestled to the ground" (as they used to say back in the days of Gerald Ford), but really! Facing beatings, torture and death--and yet this young reporter still had to make that largely symbolic gesture.

A wise man (perhaps on drugs) once said that the history of the world could be told in a grain of sand. If so, then several large books could be written about this little incident in the seemingly safe and secure Green Zone. I won't go into all the obvious--and all the not-so-obvious--elements of this affair (I am not being paid enough to do that), but will note a couple of thoughts:

1) Not sure if I was as startled by shoes flying at Bush's head as I was at how quickly that head dodged those shoes. Either Bush had advance warning that an attempt would be made on his head by the thrown shoes, or that is surely one quick head. Not once, but twice, that empty coconut avoided the leather missiles as if this was its standard operating procedure five times a day.

2) Equally surprising was PM Maliki. I guess it comes with the territory. Maliki stands there during the barrage as if little or nothing has happened. "What, me duck from flying shoes when RPG's, rockets and bullets have been filling the air here for five years," he seems to be saying. "You've got to be kidding!"


With temperatures ranging from five to ten below out in far western Kansas, our + 7 degrees here in Topeka feels mighty toasty. May just try and slip out this afternoon, find a shade tree, and enjoy the weather while it lasts. Right! Hell or Texas (take your pick) is looking better and better.

For two hours yesterday, I watched "BookTV." Our friend and late house guest, Michael Burlingame, held forth on his new book, Abraham Lincoln--A Life. And a masterful job Michael did, too. I'm not ever surprised; but I'm always amazed. It is one thing to sit around in our living room, cupping wine, smoking cigarettes I bummed off our good neighbor (another Michael), chatting about this and that and just shooting the breeze in general; quite another thing to be grilled for two hours on LIVE television and never lose a beat. From start to finish, Michael's depth of knowledge and eloquence were constants. Next month, I believe--or it is February?--Michael will honor us with another visit as he speaks here in Kansas.

Future Car of the Day