Posts Tagged ‘Andrew Sullivan’

The Utter Moral Certainty of Right Wing National Security Policy

Tuesday, January 5th, 2010

Andrew Sullivan:

[Obama] is the barrier between us and a form of fascism, imbued with utter moral certainty, that now animates the core of the GOP.

I’m less taken with Sullivan’s invocation of fascism to describe the core of the Republican position on national security than I am with his description of their “utter moral certainty.” The proto-fascism charge may be accurate, but as a matter of political rhetoric, it has little impact due to its overuse – as George Orwell acknowledged years ago in his Politics and the English Language. This charge of “utter moral certainty” though is specific and captures something essential about the national security positions of the right wing. That, plus an unbounded faith in the power of centralized government action. How else can one understand the defense of torture? Or the expansion of secrecy? Of the unprecedented expansion of the power of the executive? The holding of prisoners by executive authority alone?

The Left’s Odd Abandoment of Obama: Glenn Greenwald

Wednesday, December 16th, 2009

Whatever Charles Krauthammer or Rush Limbaugh may tell you, there is no evidence that Obama is secretly an extreme leftist. On the contrary, he both ran and has governed as a liberal. The various forces on from the left to the center-left rallied around him in 2008 though – seeing hope in his ascendancy. But like all presidents, Obama while campaigning in poetry now faces the challenge of governing in prose.

Yet what is remarkable is how fashionable it has become for respectable voices on the left to hyperventilate and rant against Obama, most often by equating him with George W. Bush. European leftists, unused to America’s slow-moving political system can be forgiven for not appreciating the scope of what Obama is attempting to do, and for the difficulties in doing it. But among mainstream American intellectuals to the left of center, this is harder to understand.*

Reacting to this anti-Obama sentiment on the left, which most often seems to embrace an hysterical tone more appropriate to spurned lovers than political supporters, Andrew Sullivan (who himself recently announced that he could no longer countenance being on the right-wing because what he sees as their odd rejection of Obama’s core conservatism) began to publish emails from readers purporting to “leave the left” because of this demonization of Obama. (In fairness, let me admit that this meme bothered me too: Andrew Sullivan decided to leave the right after every dissenting voice has already been purged. To leave the left over the rants of some of its prominent members is to overreact.)

Glenn Greenwald responded by doing what he does best: He distorted the opposition beyond recognition in order to make his case that they are wrong. He accused these critics of a veneration of Obama similar to the veneration of Bush and Palin among some on the right:

order topamax canada According to these defenders, it’s just wrong — morally, ethically and psychologically — to criticize the President. Thus, in lieu of any substantive engagement of these critiques are a slew of moronic Broderian cliches…Those who venerated Bush because he was a morally upright and strong evangelical-warrior-family man and revere Palin as a common-sense Christian hockey mom are similar in kind to those whose reaction to Obama is dominated by their view of him as an inspiring, kind, sophisticated, soothing and mature intellectual. [my emphasis]

As always, Greenwald has an interesting point – and there is some subset of people who do take the view he is refuting. But it’s far from clear the commentors on Sullivan’s blog do. (Go ahead and read them.) More importantly, Greenwald’s reaction follows order metformin canada exact same emotional logic he is criticizing: Just as these readers of Andrew Sullivan’s blog have created a politically stereotyped parody of the Left based primarily on what bothers them, and react viscerally, emotionally to it, so Greenwald creates his own politically stereotyped parody of Obama defenders, which he then viscerally, emotionally reacts to.

Another good example of this came earlier this week, as Greenwald responded to his bête noire, Joe Klein:

Klein explained:

[S]ome of the best arguments about why this war is necessary must go unspoken by the President.

So there are deeply compelling reasons to escalate in Afghanistan.  But they’re secret.

Greenwald then goes on a rant about wars justified only by “secret reasons.” Being a fairly intelligent guy, Greenwald clearly knows the difference between things a President cannot say and “secrets” – but he elides this, even contradicts this common-sensical reading, because what his opponent is actually saying does not fit into the political stereotype that Greenwald wants to kick in the groin.

Let me step back again in fairness to Greenwald – who, let me emphasize, I often admire. The way I see it, there are two Glenn Greenwalds. One who will take a step back and observe that Obama is far better than the alternatives and who is able to fairly ascertain that Obama is not guilty of hypocrisy in escalating in Afghanistan and that he should not be blamed for failing to keep those promises he clearly has tried to keep like closing Guantanamo, and who fairly criticizes Obama for a range of issues ranging from Bagram to state secrets.

And then there is the Glenn Greenwald who likes to rant and throw tantrums. The second Greenwald paints the world in vivid colors that bear some resemblance to the more muted colors that my eyes see. The second Greenwald goes on, blithely ignorant of his own more reflective judgments, self-confident and self-satisfied, secure in the knowledge that he himself, merely a critic and holding no formal powers, is above reproach. This second Greenwald is still a useful addition to the political conversation, but in a marginal way.

At his best, Greenwald could be a polemicist, arguing against the conventional wisdom; but he lacks the audaciousness positioning that is the mark of a true polemicist. Too often, Greenwald becomes one of the many voices in our political chorus – a ranter, a talking head.

I would argue the one core principle that allows Greenwald to so often lapse into ranting is his view that: “Political leaders deserve support only to the extent that their actions, on a case-by-case basis, merit that support…” Thus it’s not quite fair to tar Greenwald as someone who abandoned Obama – as he never claimed to embrace Obama. Instead he rationally analyzed and decided to support certain discrete positions Obama took. This is the rationale. But it ignores the second Greenwald certainly who expresses a visceral, emotional distaste for Obama that seems at odds with this rational “case-by-case” analysis of Obama’s actions.

* To be clear, and to preempt attempts to write me off as a victim of Obamania, deluded by hope, I have seriously criticized Obama about Bagram (here and here), on the mere technocratic approach to serious issues (here and here), on his approach to state secrets, and I would endorse several other criticisms of the administration – specifically on their seeming reluctance to embrace what I see as clear principles in regulating the financial industry, on transparency issues, and regarding national security. But I do – at the same time appreciate that Obama is moving in the right direction on these issues – though not on the first two.

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Political Number Games

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

A more proper post coming later, but for the moment, I wanted to provide you with two graphs and one poll result.

First, from the always insightful Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com, who points out that all these polls touting the fact that Americans are almost evenly split on the health care legislation before Congress, 12% of those counted against the bill are those that want it to move farther to the left:

By “left,” Silver means those who think the bill doesn’t go far enough to reform health care – though I suppose those could be people on the right as well. Either way, breaking down the data like this gives a lot more insight than the headline numbers.

Via Andrew Sullivan, an enterprising individual mapped out the “geography of the recession,” with the mounting job losses per county places on a map of the United States and animated over time.

Finally, in a rather misleading piece of analysis, Andrew Malcolm of the LA Times uses recent poll data to suggest that Sarah Palin has a shot in an electoral race against Obama. Rather than looking at head-to-head polling results, he looks at the favorability ratings of Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, and Dick Cheney. He points out that Obama’s are dropping and Palin’s and Cheney’s are rising. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that these last two individuals have no power and thus those favoring them are only supporting the vague promise of an individual. But – on the other hand – this does demonstrate that Palin and Cheney have become the voice of the Republican Party, and does bode well for my prediction that at least one of the two will be on the Republican ticket come 2012. Those suggesting we write them off and ignore them because they represent fringe views are engaging in wishful thinking.

A Unified Theory of Obama

Monday, December 7th, 2009

[digg-reddit-me]Last week, Politico’s John F. Harris wrote a story detailing 7 different stories “Obama doesn’t want told.” Its a misleading headline – as it is about anti-Obama memes that Republicans are trying to get the media to cover. Andrew Sullivan takes the set of Republican talking points offered as a news story, observing:

What strikes me about the attacks is how scattershot they are. The right wants to argue both that Obama is a mean-ass Chicago pol and a push-over… The inconsistencies are legion, because, I suspect, Obama’s enemies have yet to get a single, compelling narrative that rings true. They didn’t manage it in the campaign and they have not managed it since. He’s too big and interesting a figure to be caricatured that way. [my emphasis]

I think both Harris and Sullivan have missed something though – a single, compelling narrative that has been developing about Obama, and one that rings true to a significant subset of Americans. I call it the Unified Theory of Obama. It involves several, though not all, of these narratives listed by Harris. Charles Krauthammer wrote the best single synthesis of this theory in a cover piece for The Weekly Standard last month entitled “Decline is a Choice.” The piece was a brilliant example of “the Big Lie” which is plausible only after a leap of faith, but which because of its sheer audacity affects the entire political conversation. The core “insight” Krauthammer offered was that Obama’s liberalism is a deliberate attempt to undermine America’s power in the world both domestically and abroad. Postulating that the decline of American power is a choice, he suggests that Obama is deliberately choosing to make America decline in power.

You can see this narrative coming together if you listen to enough talk radio. See this interview with Rush Limbaughthis article by Charles Krauthammerthis speech, upon which the article was based; this interview with Krathammer; and this profile of Krauthammer in the National Review which oddly is behind a firewall unlike most of National Review‘s content.) You can see the narrative animating the statements of Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh, of Charles Krauthammer, of Sean Hannity, and of Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck (though these last two also have potential to go off script.)

The narrative goes like this:

This narrative is audacious. And it’s compelling. And it ties so many anti-Obama memes together. It goes well with the ominous music constantly playing on Sean Hannity’s television show. It goes well with the transformation of right wing politics and media into a form of entertainment in which news is presented as if it is the plot of a thriller.* This narrative explains why Obama is popular around the world. (“Europeans like to see the hegemon diminished, and Obama is the perfect man to do that.”) It provides an explanation (about the only plausible one) for why Republicans should be so adamant in their opposition to everything Obama proposes. It provides a storyline that can rally the base behind any alternative candidate. It taps into the inchoate sense that “something’s wrong.” It provides a scapegoat for the end of America’s unipolar moment. Those who feel they are “losing the America they knew” are also given a scapegoat. (“America was once their country. They sense they are losing it. And they are right.”) It plays off of the foundation of anti-Obama attacks from the 2008 campaign – that he was somehow foreign, un-American, radical. The various factual inaccuracies in this narrative are unimportant – because it is fundamentally so at odds with reality that it requires a leap of faith to believe in the first place.

All of these pieces are directed only to the faithful. They aren’t meant for the general public. They are meant to keep the faithful in line. And despite the fact that Krauthammer has articulated this Unified Theory of Obama to the faithful, his columns have not pushed this rather extreme take on the President. Instead, Krauthammer chips away at Obama with smaller pieces attacking this and that, while for the sake of each column conceding that Obama might not be an anti-American radical intent on destroying the nation, as he tries to get the public to see this bigger picture one piece at a time.

This, I believe, is the narrative that the next Republican nominee will carry into the 2012 election in some form. I believe it will founder specifically because most Americans will balk at someone characterizing the president as anti-American. But Krauthammer and his allies have several years to try to figure out how to sell this message – how to convince a majority of Americans to accept it, or barring that how to rally the base using it while keeping it away from the rest of us. And The Weekly Standard has already determined the logical proponent of this Unified Theory of Obama, the logical response to Obama’s “new liberalism – someone to carry Republicans to victory in 2012 by leading a “new populist” movement:

Someone who will give voice to the millions who don’t want government aggrandizing the powerful; who don’t want government risking dangerous fiscal imbalances; who do want public policies that create the conditions for a general prosperity. Someone, in other words, who can play the same role in contemporary politics that Jackson, Bryan, and Reagan did in the past.

She lives in Alaska.

Edit: Two other “unified theories of Obama” that are more sympathetic can be found in Jonathan Chait’s description of Obama using civility and respect as political weapons and in Andrew Sullivan’s description of Obama as a Road Runner constantly inducing his opponents to overstep a la Wile E. Coyote.

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*Not my own idea. It’s from a piece in The New Republic from this November which I can’t find online. Update: The piece by Jason Zengerle is now online.

And it was said that bloggers shall inherit the earth.

Tuesday, December 1st, 2009

A bit under the weather – but not with swine flu apparently. That accounts for the lack of Tuesday blogging.

So, let me briefly blog about…..blogging. Ezra Klein chews on something I’ve been thinking about, as I set my opinions into the public domain day after day, with my name attached to it.

As the Internet becomes more and more pervasive and job applicants have a longer and longer paper trail, prospective employers are going to have to overlook a public record containing opinions that, in previous eras, they would never have seen, and would never have tolerated.

Klein’s reflections note that both he (who had criticized and is now employed by the Washington Post) and economist Willem Buiter (who blogged extremely harsh things about Citibank and has now been hired to be their chief economist) support this hopeful point.

And Andrew Sullivan highlighted a Choire piece observing a little-noticed but significant event – as Joshua Micah Marshall, blogger for Talking Points Memo and Peabody Award Winner has now hired a publisher for his blog.

My friend’s point was: here is an editor, who built and owns his publication, who is now going to be the editor-owner, who will employ the publisher. For those of you who have worked at any sort of publication, the implications of this are staggering…[I]t’s high time media publishing—where, nearly everywhere across the industry, the business side that has failed so utterly at its duties is currently squeezing every last bit of blood out of editorial—tried something different.

And it was said that bloggers shall inherit the earth.

The Un-American Pledge, Nietzsche (Republican), Islamists, Anti-Statism, Health Care Reform (again), and Abortion Politics

Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Today, I present to you an early addition of the best reads for the long Thanksgiving weekend…

1. The Un-American Pledge. Michael Lind explains why the Pledge of Allegiance is un-American.

2. Nietzsche was a Republican. The Economist’s Democracy in America discusses Medicare and Nihilism. As it is undeniable that America’s population is aging, and that this accounts for the massive projected deficits in the future, and as everyone also acknowledges that such deficits are unsustainable, something must be done. The health care plans proposed by the Democrats include – along with various experimental measures to restrain health care spending – a Medicare commission “empowered to make decisions that automatically become law unless Congress comes up with equivalent savings” that will reduce spending as much. Republicans and the blandly smiling wise men and women of the pundit class have made it a point of conventional wisdom that Congress won’t be able to push through the cuts, and will find a way to circumvent this mandate. DiA, echoing a point Ezra Klein has been making repeatedly for the past few weeks, challenges those criticizing the plan to come up with something better:

If you don’t think an independent Medicare commission empowered to make decisions that automatically become law unless Congress comes up with equivalent savings will do the trick, then you have a responsibility to suggest something that will. Otherwise you’re just placing a bet that America’s government is going to self-destruct—a tenable argument, certainly, but not very helpful.

3. Learning from former islamists. Everyone else seemed to recommend this article a few weeks ago when it came out, but I just got to it recently myself. Johann Hari interviewed a number of former islamists who have recently renounced islamism and have begun to fight for their version of a “secular Islam” in Great Britain. He portrays this group as a vanguard. One of the islamists, Maajid Nawaz was a recruiter for an islamist group in Egypt for a time. Nawaz’s description of factors affecting recruitment seems to coincide with both intelligence agencies’ and liberals’ judgments, and to contradict the right-wing understanding:

“Everyone hated the [unelected] government [of Hosni Mubarak], and the US for backing it,” he says. But there was an inhibiting sympathy for the victims of 9/11 – until the Bush administration began to respond with Guantanamo Bay and bombs. “That made it much easier. After that, I could persuade people a lot faster.”

Eventually, Nawaz was imprisoned in Egypt. He was abandoned by the islamist group that he was working for. The only forces protecting him, as a British citizen, were forces he considered “colonial” and corrupt:

“I was just amazed,” Maajid says. “We’d always seen Amnesty as the soft power tools of colonialism. So, when Amnesty, despite knowing that we hated them, adopted us, I felt – maybe these democratic values aren’t always hypocritical. Maybe some people take them seriously … it was the beginning of my serious doubts.”

4. Anti-Statism: As American as Apple Pie. John P. Judis of The New Republic delves into the undercurrent of anti-statism in the American psyche.

5. Getting depressed about the public option. Timothy Noah depressed me more than anyone else with his ruminations on the public option.

6. Feeling better about health care reform. These pieces by Ron Brownstein and Andrew Sullivan though have made me feel much better about health care reform in general. Brownstein’s piece is especially helpful in looking at the various cost-cutting measures in the bill, and has a rather optimistic take. President Obama has apparently made that post “required reading” among White House staff. I’ll be following these posts up at a later date.

7. Abortion politics. The New Yorker had an extraordinary interview about abortion politics with Jon Shields. Shields seems to be, himself, pro-choice, but he seems to have reached an understanding of abortion as an issue which contradicts the propagandistic rhetoric that passes for most liberal commentary on abortion, which presents its opponents as being mainly concerned with keeping women in their place.

[Photo by road fun licensed under Creative Commons.]

Chinese Racism, Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Power, Andrew Sullivan’s Catholicism, America’s Decline (?), and Megan Fox’s Savvy Self-Creation

Friday, November 13th, 2009

Chinese Racism. Reiham Salam posits that China’s ethnocentrism will retard it’s development into a superpower – especially given the demographic obstacles it is facing thanks to it’s One Child Policy.

Andrew Ross Sorkin’s Power. Gabriel Sherman describes the world of Andrew Ross Sorkin, star financial reporter for the New York Times, in New York magazine. He describes the unique amount of power Sorkin has accumulated in financial circles, all from the paper that was traditionally lagging behind the others in financial journalism. Attending a book party, Sherman observes the way Sorkin is treated by the many powerful titans of Wall Street:

“What you noticed when you went was how many powerful Wall Street people were there to kiss his ring,” adds The New Yorker‘s Ken Auletta, a party guest. “He’s a 32-yeard old guy, and there were all these titans of Wall Street crowding around to say hello and make nice to Andrew.”

That type of praise only makes your job harder of course.

Andrew Sullivan’s Catholicism. Andrew periodically writes these moving pieces about his Catholicism, and why he is still a Catholic. Yesterday, in an emotional response to a number of recent events, he writes:

Maybe I am too weak to leave and be done with it. But in my prayer life, I detect no vocation to do so. In fact, in so far as I can glean a vocation, it is to stay and bear witness, to be a thorn in the side, even if the thorn turns inward so often, and hurts and wounds me too.

I stay because I believe. And I stay because I hope. What I find hard is the third essential part: to love. So I stay away when the anger eclipses that. But the love for this church remains through the anger and despair: the goodness of so many in it, the truth of its sacraments, the knowledge that nothing is perfect and nothing is improved if you are not there to help it.

America’s Decline (?). John Plender writing in the Financial Times pokes several more holes in the growing consensus that China’s power will soon eclipse America’s. Rather, he sees China as returning to it’s historic position of economic power – increasing relative to America, but not eclipsing it given the various problems they are facing.


Megan Fox’s Savvy Self-Creation. When I saw the New York Times Magazine was writing a major article about Megan Fox I was intrigued. What about her might be interesting enough to hold up a feature? It turns out that there was quite enough. Lynn Hirschberg writes about a starlet whose main focus is her own image, the character she plays in the media. Fox deliberately holds herself apart from this character:

I’ve learned that being a celebrity is like being a sacrificial lamb. At some point, no matter how high the pedestal that they put you on, they’re going to tear you down. And I created a character as an offering for the sacrifice. I’m not willing to give my true self up. It’s a testament to my real personality that I would go so far as to make up another personality to give to the world. The reality is, I’m hidden amongst all the insanity. Nobody can find me.

As she studies Marilyn Monroe, Ava Gardner, Elizabeth Taylor, and other Hollywood icons, almost all of whom were overwhelmed by their characters, Fox seems to be searching for lessons she can take herself:

Monroe was her own brand before branding existed. “She lived her whole life as a character playing other characters,” Fox said. “And that was her defense mechanism. But Marilyn stumbled and lost her way. She became overwhelmed by the character she created. Hollywood is filled with women who have tried to cope. I like to study them. I like to see how they’ve succeeded. And how they’ve failed.”

Hirschberg didn’t seem to know whether Fox’s obsession with Monroe and other starlets would foreshadow Fox’s own decline, or whether it could be managed. The last lines Hirschberg leaves her readers with are plaintive:

In a few short weeks, she had gone from happily outrageous to virginal and controlled. It was, perhaps, a healthier attitude, but pale by comparison. “I have to pull back a little bit now,” Fox said. “I do live in a glass box. And I am on display for men to pay to look at me. And that bothers me. I don’t want to live that character.”

The Curdling of American Politics

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Andrew Sullivan:

As American politics itself curdles some more into the core divide between fundamentalism and liberalism, the impact of the post-9/11 century deepens. And the murderous marketers of divine certainty make progress – at home and abroad.

Curdling seems to be the perfect analogy.

Must-Reads of Last Week: Data Warfare, Gay Rights, McCaughey, Summers, and Yankee Tickets

Tuesday, October 13th, 2009

Data Warfare. Marc Ambinder got hold of Catalist’s after-action report on the 2008 elections – describing how effective the Democrats were in pushing their voters to vote. According to the report, the combination of the effectiveness of data targeting and the pull of Obama’s candidacy made the difference in at least four states: Ohio, Florida, Indiana in North Carolina.

Gay Rights. Andrew Sullivan takes on the Weekly Standard‘s arguments in favor of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and continues his crusade to push the gay rights movement to agitate for change instead of simple accepting leaders who make the right noises. He continued over the weekend:

The president wasn’t vilified on the streets on Sunday as he has been recently. We are not attacking the president; we are simply demanding he do what he promised to do and supporting the troops who do not have the luxury of deciding to wait before they risk their lives for us.

We know it isn’t easy; but the Democrats need to know we weren’t kidding. You cannot summon these forces and then ask them to leave the stage. We won’t.

Remember: we are the ones we’ve been waiting for. Not him, us.

A Professional Health-Care Policy Liar. Ezra Klein recommends: “Michelle Cottle’s take down of professional health-care policy liar Betsy McCaughey is deservedly vicious and unabashedly welcome.” The entire article is illuminating, but I want to point out Cottle’s nice summary of McCaughey’s brilliance at debate:

Ironically, her familiarity with the data, combined with her unrecognizable interpretation of it, makes it nearly impossible to combat McCaughey’s claims in a traditional debate. Her standard m.o. (as “Daily Show” host Jon Stewart recently experienced) is to greet each bit of contradictory evidence by insisting that her questioner is poorly informed and should take a closer look at paragraph X or footnote Z. When those sections don’t support her interpretation, she continues to throw out page numbers and footnotes until the mountain of data is so high as to obscure the fact that none of the numbers add up to what she has claimed.

But it is Klein, in recommending the article that gets at the heart of why McCaughey is so effective:

She’s among the best in the business at the Big Lie: not the dull claim that health-care reform will slightly increase the deficit or trim Medicare Advantage benefits, but the claim that it will result in Death Panels that decide the fate of the elderly, or a new model of medical ethics in which the lives of the old are sacrificed for the good of the young, or a government agency that will review the actions of every doctor. McCaughey isn’t just a liar. She’s anexciting liar.

Summers. Ryan Lizza profiles Larry Summers for the New Yorker. Read the piece. This excerpt isn’t typical of the approach of the Obama team that the article describes, but it touches on something I plan on picking up later:

Summers opened with a tone of skepticism: The future of activist government was at stake, he warned. If Obama’s programs wasted money, they would discredit progressivism itself. “I would have guessed that bailing out big banks was going to be unpopular, and bailing out real companies where people work was going to be popular,” he said. “But I was wrong. They were both unpopular. There’s a lot of suspicion around. Why this business but not that business? Is this industrial policy? Is this socialism? Why is the government moving in?”

Noblesse oblige. Wright Thompson for ESPN explains the reason for the exorbitant prices and examines their affect on the loyalty of longtime fans. The article provides a close-up view of the  of the corrosive effect of the concentration of wealth and Wall Street culture – and how it destroys what the very things it enriches.

Reacting to Obama’s Nobel Prize

Friday, October 9th, 2009

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

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

Kaus:

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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