It took two shoes to do it, but the lame duck finally has become an Internet phenomenon.
President Bush's shoe-dodging in Iraq this weekend is burning up YouTube, garnering 11 of the top 20 most-watched videos as of late afternoon Monday. But it's also become a forum for anti-Bush - and, almost as common, anti-American - sentiment.
"This is going viral at a rapid pace, unlike anything I've seen postelection," said David Burch, marketing manager for TubeMogul, which tracks YouTube video views. "People are uploading videos of the incident to YouTube at an average rate of 209 per hour. Currently, there are over 5,000 versions, totaling over 8,145,000 views."
Those views make it far more popular than other political videos, including those of President-elect Barack Obama, whose ChangeDotGov videos have garnered less than half that amount over the last month.
"This is kind of a tip of the iceberg," said David All, a Republican blogger and technology consultant who said the video is the perfect example of combining politics, news and the Web. "We all know that humor and videos of this nature are certainly more interesting and viral than what I would call a more traditional news use of the Internet."
During a press conference while on a surprise visit to Iraq this weekend Mr. Bush found himself facing an angry journalist, Muntadhar al-Zeidi, from a Cairo-based television station who hurled both of his shoes at the president, forcing an agile Mr. Bush to duck them both.
Within minutes of the incident being broadcast, videos started appearing on YouTube and other video sites. They have drawn thousands of comments, with some sympathetic to Mr. Bush, but most angry, some virulently anti-American and others bordering on threatening.
Some comments wished the reporter had something more potent than a shoe, and others said they were happy the man at least managed to hit the American flag behind Mr. Bush.
Most striking is how many different people have posted a version of the video. As of late Monday, several videos had more than 500,000 views each, and dozens of versions had topped 100,000 views.
Mr. All said that when news of the incident broke, people across the world went to the Internet to see it for themselves.
"When people hear of something, the first place they're looking is the Internet. They know there's video somewhere," he said.
Some pundits speculated ducking the shoes will become a defining image of Mr. Bush as he prepares to leave office. Some online merchandisers are already selling shirts with "Bush the Sole man" slogans.
The president was not injured, and joked, "If you want the facts, it's a size-10 shoe that he threw."
Meanwhile, Mr. Obama, whose successful presidential campaign was driven in part by savvy Web use, has seen his Internet presence fade since the campaign ended and he has turned his attention to preparing to govern, according to those who track these things.
Viewership of the YouTube videos of Mr. Obama's weekly radio addresses has been falling steadily since his first one a month ago, according to TubeMogul. And Trendrr, which tracks online content, says both blogs and YouTube videos about Mr. Obama have dropped precipitously.
Stephen Dinan can be reached at email@example.com.
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