Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize

The Nobel Committee on Friday awarded President Obama its annual peace prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." (The New York Times)

What the commentators said

"This is completely bizarre," said Iain Martin in The Wall Street Journal. "Traditionally it has been standard procedure that winners of the prize do their peacemaking first." With whom has Obama made peace—Hillary Clinton? (watch the Obama Nobel Peace Prize announcement; watch Obama give a statement)

What President Obama has done, said Maria Farrell in Crooked Timber, is make peace possible again. The Bush presidency created a "tidal wave of bad faith" that discouraged international cooperation. Obama has "changed how the world feels about America. He’s lifted the planet’s mood. This guy is global Prozac."

Even the president's fans must admit, said Matt Lewis in, that the Obama Nobel peace prize was, "at least, a bit premature." The award couldn't have been based on accomplishments—Obama has "zero"—but on "lots of 'hope' for the future."

The hope is that Obama will advance "diplomacy rather than confrontation around the globe," said Jacob Heilbrunn in The Huffington Post, and he has already done that. He has improved U.S. relations with Europe and the world; focused on global warming; started talks with Iran ... "it would be hard to think of a more electrifying and deserved recipient of this year's Nobel Peace prize."

This kind of puts the whole Chicago Olympics rejection in perspective, said Rachel Sklar in Mediaite, "eh?" The Nobel Committee said it wasn't rewarding Obama for future achievements but trying to enhance his current diplomatic efforts. "No doubt the cries of 'USA! USA!' will be emanating from Rush Limbaugh’s radio show very soon."

Best opinion: Slate, Wash. Monthly, Sun-Sentinel

President Obama should "politely decline" his Nobel Peace Prize, said Mickey Kaus in Slate, saying he's honored but hasn't had time to accomplish his goals. He'll get "the same amount of glory," and chip away at his "narcissism problem" by showing that "he's uncomfortable with his reputation as a man overcelebrated for his potential long before he's started to realize it."

It's fair to say Obama's Nobel is premature "given his fairly brief tenure," said Steve Benen in Washington Monthly. But there's a legitimate defense for giving him the award—it is, after all, reserved for those "who've shown great leadership in advancing the cause of international peace," which Obama undeniably has. And Obama's Nobel Peace Prize is worth having—it could have "meaningful, and positive, impact," by giving him the "high ground in international settings."

Obviously, this was a symbolic message meant to repudiate "the go-it-alone, reckless cowboy mentality of George W. Bush’s administration," said Michael Mayo in the Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Sun-Sentinel, "and a validation of Obama’s more conciliatory approach and his overall message of hope." But "I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around a sitting U.S. president—commander-in-chief of the world’s most sophisticated military machine—winning a peace prize amidst two wars." If Obama doesn't turn down the prize, he should at least "make sure the $1.2 million prize money goes to a darn good cause (helpful advice: probably not a donation to ACORN)."
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