Clinton, Bush and a Fast-Flying Shoe: Who Dodged It Best?

A woman is taken into custody after throwing something on stage at an event in Las Vegas.
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(Isaac Brekken, Saul Loeb/Getty Images)

Someone threw a shoe at Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas Thursday. Naturally, we felt compelled to compare that incident to President George W. Bush's infamous shoe-dodging at the end of his presidency in December 2008, in Iraq. Because … why not?

Here are some less-than-official ratings on how the two American politicians responded to having footwear winged at them :

SHOE VELOCITY

Clinton may have contended with a much faster flying shoe. As seen in the video, it whizzed by her pretty quickly aided by gravity as it traveled on a more sharply downward arc. This may or may not have been an optical illusion caused by the camera angle, but the empirical evidence is what it is.

This brings about a mathematical question: Does velocity carry an additive property? Bush watched two shoes fly by his head, and their combined velocity surely surpasses that of the single shoe Clinton dodged. As an impartial reporter, I take no firm stand on the validity or invalidity of mathematics, so I am awarding this a push.

ADVANTAGE: Tie.

TARGET DISTANCE

This is pretty clear cut: Clinton's would-be shoe assailant sat in the middle of an auditorium, a good number of rows from the stage. Bush's, on the other hand, sat at the back of a small press room.

Bush ducked not one, but two shoes thrown at much closer range. The reaction time, flexibility and core strength required of Bush was thus far greater than that required of Clinton.

ADVANTAGE: George W. Bush.

DODGE TECHNIQUE

This is a tricky one. Bush demonstrated much more agility and athleticism in his dodge, but Clinton demonstrated something else. The way in which she drew up her shoulders and hands was, well, sort of endearing. Imagine your mother dodging a shoe and then laughing about it.

Here we are faced with two competing styles: Bemused Yet Athletic Old Man vs. Endearing Old Lady. It's simply too difficult to take sides.

ADVANTAGE: Tie.

SECURITY REACTION TIME

No contest. In Iraq, the security team had Bush's shoe-thrower on the ground in seconds. In Las Vegas, fittingly, two bouncer-looking guys escorted Clinton's shoe thrower without really touching her, her arms thrown indignantly into the air, her long, bright-blonde hair hanging still behind her. Clinton's shoe-thrower, it almost seemed, had more important things to do.

ADVANTAGE: George W. Bush.

COMPOSURE, POST-THROW DEMEANOR AND VERBAL RESPONSE

After the initial confusion and repeated questions of whether the shoe was in fact a live bat, Clinton managed three jokes:

  1. "Is that part of Cirque du Soleil?"
  2. "I didn't know solid waste management was so controversial."
  3. "Thank goodness she didn't play softball like I did."

Then, she reflected more calmly, according to the AP:

"That is not the way democracy works," Clinton said as she fielded apologies and questions Thursday from Jerry Simms, the outgoing chairman of the host Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries.

"People bring their beliefs and their concerns to the table, and work them through," Clinton said.

Bush's situation was much more tense. He was meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to sign a Status of Forces Agreement on the continued U.S. presence in Iraq, amid a costly war that would take at least 190,000 lives, according to a 2013 study by Brown University.

When the Iraqi journalist threw his two shoes, he yelled that they were from the widows and the orphans of Bush's war.

Bush managed an appropriately stunned and bemused demeanor in the face of all this, perhaps the most memorable rebuke of a presidency full of rebukes over the Iraq war.

Afterward, he deadpanned in mock seriousness, "It's a size 10 shoe that he threw."

When asked about the shoe-throwing soon afterward in an interview with ABC News' Martha Raddatz, Bush said that "the guy wanted to get on TV, and he did. I don't know what his beef is."

But in the same interview, he re-drew a discredited connection between Iraq and al Qaeda, expressing his justification for going to war in Iraq: "This is where al Qaeda said they were going to make their stand."

When Raddatz pointed out that al Qaeda didn't make that assertion until after the U.S. had invaded Iraq, Bush responded, "So what?"

ADVANTAGE: Hillary Clinton.

WINNER

Both have their merits, but despite Clinton's winningly innocent questions of, "Was that a bat?", Bush wins not only for agility and the thrower's proximity, but for the priceless look on his face as he stared straight back at his assailant.

WINNER: Bush.

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