The president gets the boot(s)

Call it ShoeTube.

During a press conference on his farewell tour of Iraq, President George Bush was attacked by a journalist who hurled his shoes at him from a distance of roughly 20 feet. You can see the video here:

For an old guy Bush proved surprisingly nimble, ducking the aerial footwear with ease. Then again, he's had a lot of practice ducking the press over the past eight years.

After the attack, the president said, "If you want the facts, it's a size 10," which might be the wittiest comeback of his entire presidency.

This works on so many levels it's hard to know where to start. It's certainly a fascinating commentary on a) how the Iraqis feel about Bush, b) how they feel about their shoes, c) how disturbingly easy it would be to take a shot at the president, assuming you were armed with something more lethal than a pair of Florsheims.

For me it's a fascinating exercise in viral video. When I first saw this video, posted to the Talking Points Memo blog, about 220 people had viewed it. That was at around 6 pm last night, eastern time. This morning, about 14 hours later, it had been viewed more than 378,000 times -- and that's just one of hundreds of versions of the video. Seven of them had garnered more than 200,000 views apiece as I write this.

Why? Because it is the perfect piece of viral video: it's short and strange; it seems to say something, though exactly what is open to interpretation; and I think I can safely say that nobody has ever seen anything like it before.

Meanwhile, pent-up punsters acros the Web jumped in with both feet, so to speak.

The AP: "It gives fresh meaning to the term 'shooed away.'

London Times: "Bush says he saw 'sole' of Iraqi shoe attacker."

The BBC noted that the attacker, TV journalist Muntadar al-Zaidi, was "following in the footsteps" of other Arab protestors for whom references to feet are the deepest possible insult.

And, naturally, countless bloggers made snide jokes about "waiting for the other shoe to drop."

In the BYT (Before YouTube) era, this story would have faded from the media within a day. Now it has the potential to become a meme and last indefinitely. I predict before the week is out someone will take the footage, create a montage, and set it to music.

Even though Bush responded well to the attacks, for his supporters it could end up being the Legacy From Hell -- the final thing Americans will remember about his administration long after all the speeches and sound bites have faded.

Video is powerful, especially when it's in the hands of the people.

What do you think? Is the shoe incident a one-day story, or does it have legs? Post your thoughts below or email me direct: dan (at) dantynan (dot) com.

Dan Tynan bares his soul (and his feet) on his blogs, Culture Crash and Tynan on Tech.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

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