Apparently, Muntadar al-Zaidi, the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at G. W. Bush during a press conference, is being badly mistreated in jail, according to his brother (broken hand, ribs, face, generally beat up). FP Passport blog is making the case that Dubya ought to pardon the man in order to (1) make sure nothing worse happens to him, making him a martyr to the anti-American cause and (2) as an example of the American treatment of free speech and the press. They refer to what this man did as a "crime of embarrassing" the President.
This makes me wonder: what would happen if a journalist in the United States threw his shoes at the President? I mean, the President is protected 24/7 by trained Secret Service agents, and if you do anything threatening towards him, you can be taken away, detained and questioned. An American shoe-chucker would definitely be arrested. Certainly, he would be out of jail quickly, probably being represented by a starry array of the most talented attorneys in the country.
But let's take a step back: the shoe-chucker is guilty of a crime here. It is criminal assault to throw objects at a person in an attempt to injure them. If you did that to someone on the street, you could be arrested and charged. Of course, he would probably say that his intent was not to injure the President but to embarrass him. To make a statement. That might be the intent, but it is not unlikely that a shoe could cause physical damage. If either of those shoes had landed on Bush's noggin, he could have sustained a concussion, or potentially slipped and fallen and broken his neck.
I think if an American journalist did this, especially in this era of terrorism scares, the Federal government would prosecute him to the full extent of the law.
That's not to say that I don't agree with FP: I think Bush should pardon him as a political act, for the good of the country. But as precedent, I don't know if you want to send a message that it is not a serious crime to throw things at the President. Especially considering the unique security issues that should be considered by the incoming administration.