The Artless Dodger

It wasn’t just a Size 10 shoe thrown at President Bush at his final press event in Baghdad, it was the coda to his presidency.

An Iraqi television journalist insulted an American president with a pair of thrown shoes. Millions around the world cheered the humiliation.

But for many more, the coda has a different meaning. We are used to incompetence and bad behavior from public officials in democracies, too. But this American president has been different. Those thrown shoes say, good riddance.

Good riddance, because it is not just the squandering of American treasure– the dumb, at-loss-for-syntax to explain much of anything that is transpiring — it is the sense of American power transcribed to a pair of shoes; flimsy, don’t weigh much, can be handed down one owner at a time until they fade away, discarded and meaningless.

An American president elected for his “values” turns out to have presided over incalculable lost value; of the rule of law, of constitutional rights, and now represents a card deck filling with faces of destroyers of American capital; high flying New York attorney, Richard Dreier, Bernard Madoff, Robert Rubin and Phil Gramm, Franklin Raines, Stan O’Neal, Angelo Mozillo, Richard Fuld, Alan Greenspan, and hedge fund operators by the baker’s dozen; a deck being shuffled so fast now by markets that the cards are springing off in disorder, like shreds of clothing or shoes separated by the force of a blast.

George Bush will soon be retired to watch CNN, Fox and network news’ live feeds of unfolding events like the rest of us. He will be secure in knowledge that we are pulled along by force of history more than any one person can determine it. But the outcome for President Bush is not the outcome of a central player in a Shakespearean tragedy; he seems like a bit player in a whirlpool of small talent, of industry at the corner of a painting by Pieter Bruegel; not at all what Karl Rove and Grover Norquist had in mind when George W. Bush was propelled to be the figurehead of the intended Republican century: of limited government, free enterprise and free trade, of commerce where benign patriarchal values of stewardship and personal responsibility would supplant the need of regulation, where monetary policies tamed asset bubbles and good farmers followed warm weather to productive corn and wheat harvests in northern Canada, where the melting Arctic provided new commercial opportunities and manifest destiny in the Northwest Passage.

Now, come the Democrats. They have a short time to show dexterity in changing course or they, too, will have squandered a set of opportunities left to them by the shoe dodger-in-chief.

ALAN FARAGO, who writes on the environment and politics from Coral Gables, Florida, and can be reached at





Alan Farago is president of Friends of the Everglades and can be reached at