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It takes a visage to spoil a meal

On the left, Andy Shallal; on the right, Bradley Blakeman. (Lucian Perkins/The Washington Post; Gerald Herbert/AP).

On this, Bradley Blakeman and Andy Shallal can agree: The pizza at Busboys and Poets is pretty great.

That's where it ends.

Blakeman was enjoying the pizza at the Shirlington outpost of Shallal's small restaurant empire last weekend when he happened to look around at the decor. There, amid images of MLK Jr., Gandhi and President Obama, he saw a silk-screen poster of Che Guevara and Vladimir Lenin. He decided to write a letter.

Che Guevara. (Alberto Korda)

Blakeman is a GOP consultant and occasional pundit who worked in George W. Bush's White House. Shallal is an Iraqi immigrant and liberal activist who established Busboys and Poets (there are two others, both in D.C.) as a sort of lefty clubhouse -- a popular gathering place for Democratic causes and fundraisers.

Blakeman, who says he didn't know the restaurant's leanings, e-mailed Shallal to express disgust over the poster of communist revolutionaries, "two of history's most notorious and infamous figures who dedicated their lives to bringing misery and death to thousands of their political enemies," and urged Shallal to remove them: "They are offensive and inappropriate."

Vladimir Lenin (UPI)

Shallal e-mailed back: Guevara and Lenin "represent the struggles of working people. . . . They fought against the accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few." He forwarded the e-mails to us.

Blakeman says he'll never eat at Shallal's place again. "To give the private conversations of a patron to the newspaper is outrageous." Shallal should know better, he said: "A guy who fled oppression and built a business in the U.S. -- he never would have been able to do that under Che Guevara or Lenin."

Shallal's return slap: "Bush caused more death and destruction in the world than Che or Lenin."

Okay, we're not going to play peacemaker here. We'll step aside and let some cable-news talk-show booker take it up with them.

By The Reliable Source  |  November 9, 2009; 1:02 AM ET
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All his travels must have prevented Mr. Shallal from enrolling in any history classes. Although Che was merely a feckless sap and poseur, Lenin was a first class butcher, a role model for the mass murderers of the 20th century. Comparing either to GWB only parades Mr. Shallal's ignorance.

Posted by: rspound21 | November 9, 2009 7:15 AM | Report abuse

Images of Ernesto 'Che' Guevara and V.I. Lenin are iconoclastic; they represent the idea of peasant nobodies standing up to the might of a dictator or empire. They are not confirmations of the greatness of the individuals themselves.

Mr. Shallal has come to a free country to run his business. If he chooses to have these images and risk losing some business, that is his right. I see that no one felt M.K. Gandhi's image was offensive. However, Brits considered him loathsome and Churchill, America's great friend, called him "a half-naked fakir".

Mr. Blakeman can take his GOP appetite to Red White and Blue and enjoy himself.

Posted by: SaamirKaiser | November 9, 2009 7:37 AM | Report abuse

Give me a freakin break. I'm all for intelligent discussion, but when "liberals" invoke Bush this and Bush that, it's just a cheap cop out and does nothing to raise the level of discussion. Mr. Shallal has the right to post whatever he wants in his establishment, but his actions and comments make him sound like a real dufus.

Posted by: KelliJohnsonIsHot | November 9, 2009 9:24 AM | Report abuse

I would second some of the previous comments; many historians would rate Lenin worse than Stalin, and would he have lived longer butchered just as many people.

But I would also agree that Mr. Shallal should be able to post whatever he wants, and Blakeman just sounds like a whiner.

Posted by: davidhumelindsay | November 9, 2009 10:37 AM | Report abuse

It doesn't matter what either guy's beliefs are. To each his own. But forwarding the email exchange to the press is pretty lame and also a bad business decision. I would assume the Iraqi must have been reared in Iraq during the Hussein era where it was fashionable to rat out your neighbor to the government (stasi-style). Since Shallal cannot rat out this Republican operative to the government, he is using the press in a similar manner.

All the Iraqi had to do was 1) do not even respond to the customer or 2) privately explain to his customer why photos of two people responsible for mass killings and dictatorial enslavement are shown in his restaurant.

Is there a Hitler picture in the restaurant as well?

Posted by: MickPack | November 9, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

Blakeman, just eat the G*damned pizza and shut up! It is just a freaking poster for God's sake! This is America!

I would bet you if the posters were all oriented toward notorious right wing causes and personalities--David Duke, Ayn Rand, or the Shah of Iran--he would have been perfectly content with that.

If you don't want to eat there don't! But please, don't make a federal issue of it. The man has a perfect right to his views just like those crazy-a$$ tea partiers who were showing their filthy backsides outside the US Capitol a few days ago.

Posted by: jaxas | November 9, 2009 10:46 AM | Report abuse

I wonder what Blakeman's views are on that ratty, right wing, tea party Beck hineykisser with the sign showing the slaughtered victims of Nazis and equating that with a health care bill in Congress.

So now, just having a political view on health care policy different from Beck and Limbaugh makes one a Nazi? Come on Blakeman, where do you stand on that?

Posted by: jaxas | November 9, 2009 10:50 AM | Report abuse

Only someone who is entirely ignorant of history could defend Lenin.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | November 9, 2009 10:55 AM | Report abuse

I have a feeling that Mr. Shallal's heroes would have me eliminated for expressing my beliefs just as he has done.

Posted by: jamespmarion | November 9, 2009 10:58 AM | Report abuse

Bush caused more deaths?? Um, Mr. Shallal, if you're going to run a business, you might want to learn to count.

Posted by: gdalfonzo | November 9, 2009 11:00 AM | Report abuse

If Mr. Blakeman were that serious he would have sent a paper letter and not e-mail.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | November 9, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

No real objection to Che. Lenin? That's another story. The Bush retort, while valid, is equally hollow. Bush was a failure on so many levels, but the one who really shredded the Constitution was Cheney.

But at the end of the day, it's another ugly reminder of the ways in which politics and partisan dvision have invaded every aspect of out lives. ENOUGH ALREADY! Not everything has to be political. It's just f-cking pizza, after all.

Posted by: njacobs | November 9, 2009 11:47 AM | Report abuse

Blakeman should not be reprimanded for engaging Mr Shallal through a private e-mail about the decor in his restaurant. It only demonstrates his heightened curiosity about the selection of artwork.

Mr Shallal however miscaluclated quite a bit (as a business owner), if he thought that forwarding his response to the Post would garner him any sympathy or increased sales. Most restaurant owners are trying to make a living by selling food and a comfortable atmosphere - not politics. He can choose whatever artwork he wants of course, but perhaps he forgot he lives in a capitalistic country and people can demonstrate their disapproval by merely walking past the entrance and into any of the other many restaurants nearby. Changing the discussion to Pres Bush in his e-mail reply, demonstrates an insecurity and confusion as to what he is even promoting by having the selected artwork up.

Posted by: larrylegend | November 9, 2009 11:54 AM | Report abuse

The pizza is "pretty great."???

Adolescent dormroom posters that motivate someone to complain that they are "offensive and inappropriate."????

"Bush caused more death and destruction in the world than Che or Lenin."?????

Boooo! Ben Konop! Boooo! A little injection of humor is needed.

Posted by: Willbone87 | November 9, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Posters of murderers and a disrespect for customers? Thanks for giving me two reasons to avoid Busboys & Poets, and steer my friends away as well.

Posted by: qaz1231 | November 9, 2009 12:08 PM | Report abuse

Maybe that German restaurant that Tom Sietsema likes up in Frederick should put up a poster of Hitler. After all, he gave Germany the autobahn, the VW and the rocket.

Posted by: GRILLADES | November 9, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

If Blakeman worked in the Bush White House, he has no moral credibility to criticize Che or Lenin. Bush and his murderous enablers and co-conspirators (including Blakeman) --after a fair trial and their convictions for war crimes-- belong hanging from the same gallows where Saddam Hussein was executed. In spite of the efforts of the GOP to trash civil liberties and destroy our economy, this is still a free country. Mr. Shallal is free to choose artwork for his place of business without Republican censorship. Along with Bush, Cheney, et. al. Blakeman is excrement, human waste. I don't care where Blakmeman eats as long as he keeps his Republican stench away from me. I hate the GOP as much as I hate Al Qaeda. I don't pay attention to Republican "restaurant reviews" any more than I pay attention to the periodic rants of Osama bin Laden when they are broadcast. Blakeman, why don't you go play in traffic?

Posted by: marksquarepants | November 9, 2009 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Let's see...all of the persons listed are historical figures. Although the pages are still being written about Obama, all of the persons listed should be studied to understand our collective human story (and that most certainly includes dictators and rebels). To be personally offended by history smacks of limited intellect. To consider a posted picture of any figure an endorsement of their lives and actions when the picture is hanging with a collection of many historical figures smacks of a narrow mind. And, to think that anything you write in electronic form is absolutely personal, confidential and not discoverable, smacks of a quasi-Luddite. Give me an open mind, a love for history (taking the best with the worst) and a big dose of common sense when it comes to modern communication anytime.

Posted by: mraymond10 | November 9, 2009 12:25 PM | Report abuse

What no one - not even the left - talks about is how Lenin eventually saw the errors of his ways and what a behemoth his ideals had become. Unfortunately, Stalin had already become powerful enough that he made sure Lenin never held the spotlight again (and prevented him from getting the proper medical care after he suffered a stroke.)

As far as Che goes, how is what he did any different than the rich elites he fought against did to the poor? Why is death by poverty just A-OK to you folks? (And you can't blame South America's poverty problem as a "lazy" problem like you do about the US poor - there was and still isn't any social mobility in South and Central America.)

And let's not get started on Bush the Butcher...

Posted by: JoshHamilton | November 9, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Blakeman merely exercised his freedom of speech, but for him to pompously cry about this e-mail being forwarded to WAPO is disingenious. He should know better than send something he considered "private" to a person he has never met via the internet. If his intention was not to pi$$-off the restaurant's owner, then what was his intention?

For anyone intersted in history at all, let's not attach the sins of Stalin to Mr. Lenin. Additionally, lets not cast dispersions on Mr. Guevera, without considering his challenges, his bravery, and forces he opposed (while I don't fully agree with him, I respect the stands he made).

NeoCon spinners, let it fly....NOW!

Posted by: free-donny | November 9, 2009 12:42 PM | Report abuse

The forwarding of emails wasn't cool. But the rest of it, both are free to do as they please. Shallal can hang posters of Lenin and Guevara and Blakeman can not go to the Busboys and Poets.

Posted by: LittleRed1 | November 9, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

The problem with the restaurant is not the decor, it is that the food and service are not that good for the price.

Posted by: Bitter_Bill | November 9, 2009 1:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh Please, I just came from Manassass Va, and decided to stop out there for a bite to eat in a hometown restaurant, and they were displaying the good ole boys confederate flag, do you think they should remove it?

Its call freedom, political or not-

Posted by: weaverf | November 9, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

The comment by the gentleperson who said that there was a confederate flag at s local eatery and he/she just ignored it Should compare that to eating at a place that compares
Che and Lenin to MLK - which is hardly a comparison. On one hand we have leaders who advocate the violent insurrection of gov't and on the other people who represent peaceful protests.

However, it is true that Andy Shallal lives in a free country where, unlike in Iraqi, he can say or do what he likes. However, I won't eat in Andy's restaurant. Too much American blood was spilled to turn his country free for me to see his crappy views on his wall.

Posted by: steven7753 | November 9, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Ah yes, time to drag out the "many historians say" and the "those entirely ignorant of history" inanities.

Blakeman states, "two of history's most notorious and infamous figures who dedicated their lives to bringing misery and death to thousands of their political enemies."

Ernesto "Che" Guavara"s dedication to fighting against dictatorships began in 1954 and ended with his assassination (while being held prisoner) in 1967. Most of the that time was spent in the mountains of Cuba and then later, Bolivia. The political enemies he dedicated himself to bring down were of the same cloth our own forefathers dedicated themselves to. Oppressors of freedom.

His first involvement was in Guatemala when the U.S. CIA organized an army that invaded (much like Regan's Contra army in Nicaragua) the country and overthrew the democratically elected government of Jacobo Arbenz. Arbenz's crime was to nationalize many foreign landholdings and distribute it to the peasants. The largest of these foreign landowners was the then United Fruit Company of which then Sec of State John Foster Dulles was a major stockholder. Today the United Fruit Company is known as the Chiquita Brands International. (They have recently been fined millions for engaging in anti-union and other illegal activities in Columbia-remember this while eating your next banana)

Che is hated by the corporations of the world for his democratic struggles. Democratic struggles that demand the rights of workers to a fair share of the wealth they produce. This is seen by the corporate world as a threat to their greed.

Today, 85 years after his death, thousands still stand in long lines to see Lenin"s mausoleum in Red Square.

Lenin led a struggle to free the Russian people from the hideous monarchy rule of the Tsar (again similar to our revolution here against the rule of England's monarchy). Upon victory in 1917, Lenin took Russia out of the imperialist WWI that helped end the war sooner and saved thousands of lives.

The U.S. and other western countries sent military forces to fight with the former Tsarists to overthrow the new government. They were defeated wherein they began designing the policies that would become the Cold War.

I doubt today many here would even know where any of our Presidents are buried. The progressive legacies of Che and Lenin continue to withstand the lies and distortions of the corporate mouthpieces.

The lives of Che and Lenin are known and respected in every town of every country in the world in spite of the millions of words written and billions spent trying to rewrite history.

And that is because the struggle they dedicated themselves to is the same struggle working people all over the world today are still fighting.

Blakeman's anger comes not from merely seeing pictures of Che and Lenin but from knowing that because others still put those pictures up he is still on the wrong side of history!

Posted by: apspa1 | November 9, 2009 2:27 PM | Report abuse

Woo hoo!
Bradley Blakeman just gave my new restaurant 4 stars!!!
If you're ever in Hiroshima stop by 'Happy Harry Truman's Sushi Stop'.
The spicy tuna rolls are to die for...

Posted by: cleanfront | November 9, 2009 2:34 PM | Report abuse

Wow. I thought that all of the party indoctrination schools were out of business but I guess that there was one left for apspa1.

Posted by: rspound21 | November 9, 2009 3:56 PM | Report abuse

I can’t believe that this is “news”! Aren’t there any celebrities in town eating in gtown or members of congress having affairs? It has gone so far that Blakeman posted a reply comment on

Posted by: wawadc | November 9, 2009 4:21 PM | Report abuse

Busboys is a fraud of a place. They open their restaurants in gentrified neighborhoods at the bottom of buildings built by white, wealthy real estate developers. He's not a revolutionary. The real fools are the leftist wanna-bes who buy into this BS just because the guy hangs some posters on his wall. He's a capitalist through and through. Busboys' employees are non-union. Lets see how leftist he is when SEIU shows up to organize at his shop. What a phucking phony.

Posted by: whymeat | November 9, 2009 5:40 PM | Report abuse

all of the people responding negatively to Mr. Shallal's response towards Mr. Blakeman obviously don't understand the point behind Mr. Shallal's retorts. Both Lenin and Che were revolutionaries for countries that had no leadership and they felt as though communism was the best way to stabilize and unite their countries. They are no comparison to the works of Hitler or Bush who has been compared to Hitler several times. I doubt Mr. Shallal agrees with mass murder after all he supports figures such as Ghandi and Martin Luther King who can be seen on the wall as well.
The radical views of Blakeman do not mesh with that of Mr. Shallal's who does not back Bush as Blakeman does. Mr. Shallal was merely stating that if Blakeman disliked Lenin and Che because they killed so many, then there should be no reason for him to support Bush who sent several of his own people to mindlessly kill and be killed without a definite cause.

Posted by: nz92 | November 9, 2009 6:44 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Shallal on the wrong side of history?? haha thats hilarious. Mr. Shallal is far more educated than Mr. Blakeman obviously from Mr. Blakemans statements. Che and Lenin were for their people as opposed to Bush who did nothing for the people except instill fear.

Posted by: nz92 | November 9, 2009 6:47 PM | Report abuse

Yeah Andy! Come on folks, eat there or don't, but this ain't a history course. Reminds me of the scene in Do The Right Thing, when the character Buggin Out wanted the Italian restaurant owner to add black folks to the Italian heroes on his wall. His response, "Get your own shop and put whoever you want on the walls." Word.

Posted by: blakteacher | November 9, 2009 8:35 PM | Report abuse

Mr. blakeman is cut from the same cloth as Mr. Cheney and that crowd. they brought us weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to create a war; they will use country, honor, religion, and whatever it takes to sell the story. they don't fight but they will get others to do it for them, these are disciples of the “chicken hawk party”. John Adams must be turning in his grave, checkout, his organization “freedom watch”.

Posted by: freedom23 | November 9, 2009 9:28 PM | Report abuse

Before reading the text, just looking at the four pictures, my first thought was: they have found actors to play Lenin and Che! With just a little makeup...

Posted by: Inverewe | November 9, 2009 10:34 PM | Report abuse

Lenin was noted for combating anti-semitism. Obviously there is no picture of Hitler at Busboys and Poets. Shallal stuck one to "the man" - Blakeman sounds like a nazi whiner.

Posted by: Mikhail1 | November 9, 2009 10:39 PM | Report abuse

I won't be going to Busboys and Poets again. Liberals can celebrate figures like that if they want, but I won't give them my money to do it. Shallal should put up a visage of Saddam Hussein (who I assume he ran away from when he came to the US). Saddam was in the same league as Lenin and Che.

Posted by: columbiaheights | November 10, 2009 7:07 AM | Report abuse

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