(CNN) - First Lady Laura Bush said that although she “wasn’t amused” when an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at her husband, she sees the incident as a sign that “Iraqis feel a lot freer to express themselves.”
Earlier this month, an Iraqi journalist threw shoes at President Bush during a news conference in Baghdad. Bush ducked, and the shoes, flung one at a time, sailed past his head.
“It was an assault. And that's what it is,” the first lady said in an interview that aired Sunday on “Fox News.”
“And the president laughed it off. He wasn't hurt. He's very quick. As you know, he's a natural athlete. And that's it. But on the other hand, it is an assault, and I think it should be treated that way,” she said.
During the incident, the shoe-thrower - identified as Muntadhar al-Zaidi – could be heard yelling in Arabic: "This is a farewell ... you dog!" Al-Zaidi is an Iraqi journalist with Egypt-based al-Baghdadia television network.
Hurling shoes at someone, or sitting so that the bottom of a shoe faces another person, is considered an insult among Muslims.
Asked if she thinks someone who attacks another person should be released, Bush said, “that’s going to be up to the Iraqis.”
“And they'll do whatever. But I know that if Saddam Hussein had been there, the man wouldn't have been released. And he probably wouldn't - you know, would have been executed.
“So it is - as bad as the incident is, in my view, it is a sign that Iraqis feel a lot freer to express themselves,” she said.
Muntadhar al-Zaidi goes on trial Wednesday (Dec. 31) on charges of assaulting a foreign leader. Conviction could mean a prison sentence of up to two years.
(CNN) - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that despite President Bush's low approval ratings, people will soon "start to thank this president for what he's done."
So we can sit here and talk about the long record, but what I would say to you is that this president has faced tougher circumstances than perhaps at any time since the end of World War II, and he has delivered policies that are going to stand the test of time," Rice said in an interview that aired on CBS' "Sunday Morning."
The secretary of state brushed off reports that suggest the United States' image is suffering abroad. She praised the administration's ability to change the conversation in the Middle East.
"This isn't a popularity contest. I'm sorry, it isn't. What the administration is responsible to do is to make good choices about Americans' interests and values in the long run - not for today's headlines, but for history's judgment," she said.
"And I am quite certain that when the final chapters are written and it's clear that Saddam Hussein's Iraq is gone in favor of an Iraq that is favorable to the future of the Middle East; when the history is written of a U.S.-China relationship that is better than it's ever been; an India relationship that is deeper and better than it's ever been; a relationship with Brazil and other countries of the left of Latin America, better than it's ever been ...
"When one looks at what we've been able to do in terms of changing the conversation in the Middle East about democracy and values, this administration will be judged well, and I'll wait for history's judgment and not today's headlines."
Asked by CBS' Rita Braver why some former diplomats say Americans are disliked around the world, Rice said that's "just not true."
(CNN) - The Illinois House panel considering impeachment charges against Gov. Rod Blagojevich will not subpoena advisers to President-elect Barack Obama, including incoming White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, after being told by prosecutors that their testimony could jeopardize the ongoing criminal
investigation, the panel's chairwoman said Sunday.
The impeachment panel was urged to issue the subpoenas last week in a letter from Blagojevich's attorney, Ed Genson. Genson urged that more than a dozen witnesses including Emanuel be subpoenaed.
But U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald advised the state impeachment panel that testimony from Obama aides could jeopardize the criminal probe, Illinois Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie told CNN Radio.
Fitzgerald has previously expressed concern about the impeachment panel interfering with his investigation.
Currie said she received the letter from Fitzgerald on Friday, and
although her panel will meet on Monday and might hear from Blagojevich's attorney, there will be no subpoenas of Obama advisers including Emanuel, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett, Democratic U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois or others Genson had asked to hear from.
Calls to Fitzgerald's office Sunday were not immediately returned.
(CNN) - The president-elect's senior adviser said that while Barack Obama is monitoring the situation in Gaza closely, "the fact is that there is only one president at a time."
"There's only one president who can speak for America at a time. And that president now is George Bush," senior adviser David Axelrod said in an interview that aired Sunday on CBS' "Face the Nation."
Israeli airstrikes continued pounding targets in Hamas-ruled Gaza on Sunday, in what Israel said was a response to escalating rocket attacks against southern Israel.
The fighting ignited eight days after a six-month Egypt-brokered cease-fire between Hamas and Israel expired.
Palestinian security sources said Sunday that at least 277 people had been killed and hundreds wounded.
Obama spoke with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday about the violence in Gaza, two transition aides told CNN.
Asked whether Obama takes on a passive role when talking to Rice, Axelrod said, "I would hardly describe him as passive."
"I think they have a good working relationship. And there's a - I think the calls are largely in the area of fact-finding for him," he said.
"But I think he wants to get a handle on the situation, so that, when he becomes president on January 20, he has the advantage of all the facts and information leading up to that point."