Reacting to Obama’s Nobel Prize


By Joe Campbell
October 9th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]Andrew Sullivan has the “reax.”

Two struck home for me. Mickey Kaus and Joshua Micah Marshall.

Kaus:

buy cheap Dilantin http://sempera.net/sempera-jobs/network-administrator/ Turn it down! Politely decline. Say he’s honored but he hasn’t had the time yet to accomplish what he wants to accomplish. Result: He gets at least the same amount of glory–and helps solve his narcissism problem and his Fred Armisen (‘What’s he done?’) problem, demonstrating that he’s uncomfortable with his reputation as a man overcelebrated for his potential long before he’s started to realize it. …

I’m not sure Obama can really do this – but on principle it seems the right thing.

Marshall:

This is an odd award. You’d expect it to come later in Obama’s presidency and tied to some particular event or accomplishment. But the unmistakable message of the award is one of the consequences of a period in which the most powerful country in the world, the ‘hyper-power’ as the French have it, became the focus of destabilization and in real if limited ways lawlessness. A harsh judgment, yes. But a dark period. And Obama has begun, if fitfully and very imperfectly to many of his supporters, to steer the ship of state in a different direction. If that seems like a meager accomplishment to many of the usual Washington types it’s a profound reflection of their own enablement of the Bush era and how compromised they are by it, how much they perpetuated the belief that it was ‘normal history’ rather than dark aberration. [my emphasis]

Matt Drudge is claiming that Obama will “accept award on ‘behalf of Americans and America’s values’…” That seems like his best bet to me, so it’s not surprising they landed on it.

Kathryn Lopez of National Review meanwhile has been (like many other right wingers) tweeting many different bitter sentiments – but this one struck me as true:

@kathrynlopez: from a friend: “I feel as if the Onion has really overdone it today. And everyone fell for it.”

In the end, the award would have made more political sense after some accomplishment – but the reasoning behind the award is sound. As the Nobel Committee wrote:

Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play…Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future…For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world’s leading spokesman…

The Nobel Prize for Peace then is not awarded for some tangible accomplishment, but rather as an endorsement of  an approach. This isn’t how we see the other Nobel awards – which reflect either a lifetime of achievement or some great achievement in some particular field which creates the confusion.

It creates a rather high class problem for Obama as he tries to figure out how to manage these expectations. I’m not sure giving the award now was a good political decision by the committee. And my first reaction was incredulity. But if you remove the expectation that this award is about some great accomplishment, then it makes sense.

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