President Bush made his final swing as president through two war zones Monday, visiting with troops that he sent to Iraq and Afghanistan and will soon turn over to a new commander in chief.
Surely the most unexpected point in the carefully scripted, two-day presidential trip came when a reporter threw his shoes at the president during a press conference in Baghdad, both of which Bush artfully dodged from behind the podium.
"This is your farewell kiss, you dog!" the reporter shouted in Arabic while hurling one shoe, and then the other. The reporter was later identified as Muntadar al-Zeidi, a correspondent for Al-Baghdadia television, an Iraqi-owned station based in Cairo, Egypt.
In Iraqi culture, throwing shoes at someone is a sign of contempt. Iraqis whacked a statue of Saddam Hussein with their shoes after U.S. Marines toppled it to the ground following the 2003 invasion.
It was a moment Bush described as "bizarre."
"I'm not insulted. I don't hold it against the government," Bush told ABC News in an exclusive interview. "The guy wanted to get on TV and he did. I don't know what his beef is, but whatever it is, I'm sure someone will hear it."
The reporter could be heard wailing and crying as security dragged him away from the press conference. At first, others at the press conference were unsure as to what was being tossed -- one reporter thought it was a grenade as it sailed by her head.
Later, the president tried to put a funny spin on the event.
"Anyone got any shoe jokes? I am going to need them!" he said on Air Force One as he left Iraq.
He had one for himself.
"I didn't know what the guy said, but I saw his sole," he joked to reporters.
Despite his jokes, the president appeared irritated after the event, perhaps knowing the incident would dominate headlines rather than his message to the troops.
Reaction in Iraq was swift but mixed, with some condemning the act and others applauding it. Television news stations throughout the country repeatedly showed footage of the incident, and newspapers carried headline stories.
The goal of the trip for the president was to highlight a drop in violence and to celebrate a recent U.S.-Iraq security agreement, which called for U.S. troops to withdraw from Iraq by the end of 2011.
"The war is not over," Bush said, but "it is decisively on its way to being won."
Bush then traveled to Afghanistan where he spoke to U.S. soldiers and Marines at a hangar on the tarmac at Bagram Air Base. The rally for more than 1,000 military personnel took place in the dark, cold predawn hours, and Bush was greeted by loud cheers from the troops.
"Afghanistan is a dramatically different country than it was eight years ago," he said. "We are making hopeful gains."
"What you're doing in Afghanistan is important. It is courageous, and it is selfless. It's akin to what American troops did in places like Normandy and Iwo Jima and Korea. Your generation is every bit as great as any that has come before. And the work you do every day is shaping history for generations to come," Bush said.
After the remarks at Bagram Air Base, the president traveled to the capital of Kabul in a fleet of Blackhawk helicopters to meet with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai. The two leaders met out of view and participated in a brief military review.