The trial of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush was postponed on Tuesday. They are trying to decide whether to charge him with assaulting or just insulting Bush.
But Bush can pick up the phone today, call his Iraqi puppet Nuri al-Maliki, and tell him to let Muntadhar al-Zeidi go. At the very least he can tell him to stop torturing the shoe-hurling TV correspondent. Better still, Bush can ask al-Maliki to pardon him.
On the night of the shoe toss, a BBC correspondent in Washington jumped the gun by saying that at least in post-Saddam Iraq a man could hurl his footwear at the American Commander-in-Chief. That was before news of the torture leaked. Al-Zeidi's screams could be heard though from the next room as Bush perversely joked about the whole thing.
In fact, if you look at Bush's face after he emerges from his crouch after the first shoe was flung, you can see a distinctly Bushian smirk on his face, a look now familiar to millions of people. That twisted smile showed he was comfortable: he was on his own level now, dodging a shoe, rather than reporters' questions. "Bring it on." That's Bush's approach. Something he can grasp much better than policy: a guy throwing his shoes at him.
Then Bush revealed yet again the feebleness of his mind when he explained what he thought was al-Zeidi's motive for launching two missiles at his head: He was trying to get on TV. That's right. A famous man like Bush who is on TV every day can only think that others who aren't are jealous and seek the same limelight. Imagine that: accusing a TV correspondent, who's already on TV every day, of wanting to be on TV.
No. Let's take al-Zeidi's own words to explain his motive. "This is a gift from the Iraqis: This is the farewell kiss, you dog!" came with the first shoe. "This is from the widows, the orphans and those who were killed in Iraq" came with the second. Seems pretty straightforward.
Yet Bush ignored these words and actually said, "I don't know what the guy's beef is."
Of all the insensitive, indeed socio-pathological statements of Bush, going beyond his lack of concern for the suffering of his own citizens (if not of his own class) in New Orleans, was this declaration. He did not know what complaint an Iraqi could possibly have against him.
A man of character, of any decency, indeed a normal human being, let alone a statesman, would say, "I understand the vast suffering of the Iraqi people, the tremendous loss of life, much of it because of mistakes on America's part [of course all of it was set in motion by the US, but Bush would never go that far]. I understand this man's frustration and why he took it out on me. As a Christian man of deep faith, I forgive Mr. al-Zeidi and I call on the Iraqi government to release him and pardon him of any crime."
Since the attack was directed at Bush, and al-Maliki owes his job to him, how could he refuse such a call?
Instead we will soon learn the list of rogues and criminals Bush will pardon, under a quirk of the Constitution in which monarchial powers survived in the presidency. This is not unique to Bush. Presidential pardons have no place in a democracy.
But if he is going to pardon anyone, it should be the man who gave expression to the frustration of the Iraqi people and Arabs everywhere who suffered enough from the decisions of a man who cannot understand what they are complaining about.