The Nobel Peace Prize was already flirting with irrelevance after recent selections like Al Gore, Yasser Arafat, and Jimmy Carter, but after the award was today announced as going to President Barack Obama, in office for only nine months and for only 12 days when the nomination period expired, the award can officially be said to mean pretty much nothing these days. It’s a shame since so many in the past have legitimately deserved recognition for their efforts – Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela and our own Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. Can anyone legitimately argue that Obama has accomplished anything of major substance period, let alone anything that puts him in the league of the likes of those people?
The Nobel Committee said Obama was given the award based on his “changing the international climate” and “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.” Basically, Obama promised a bunch of stuff and we like him, so here ya go! Obama himself said he didn’t think the award reflected his own accomplishments and to his credit said he didn’t think he deserved to be mentioned with other past transformational winners. The most generous of observers are claiming the award is based on the hope and promise of an Obama administration, but that returns to the question, “Has any of that happened yet?”
It’s interesting to see Democratic pushback on skepticism over the merits of an Obama Nobel Peace Prize. The DNC accused Republicans of “throwing their lot in with the Taliban” after RNC Chairman Michael Steele made light of the Obama win. Sen. Barbara Boxer continued the meme by repeating the Taliban smear on MSNBC. The Taliban did indeed say that Obama didn’t deserve the award, so grade school logic apparently allows you to equate laughing at the merits of the Nobel Peace Prize with being murdering misogynistic terrorist-loving thugs.
The only problem is who else is “throwing their lot in with the Taliban”:
- Lech Walesa, whose response was “So soon? Too early. He has no contribution so far.”
- The UK Times Online
- Mainstream news outlets like the New York Times and the Washington Post, who have acted as stunned and skeptical as anyone else
- Matt Lauer: “There are no major foreign policy achievements to date … In some ways he wins this for not being George W. Bush.”
- Mark Halperin, who recently gave Obama an A- on the job he’s had so far and compared his win today to Marisa Tomei’s Oscar
- CBS News
So I’m not really concerned with all the grumbling of critics being “un-American” or “unpatriotic,” particularly by folks who spent the last 8 years grousing about such terms. It seems those offended by Bush’s “If you’re not with us, you’re against us” attitude are quick to use it themselves to demonize opinions they don’t care for. The fact is that the kindest thing you can say about the win is that it’s far too premature. You don’t give awards based on expectations, you give them on results.
All of this debate focuses attention on the reality of Obama’s accomplishments, attention that the White House surely does not want. He had little when he was elected President and he has little nine months into his Presidency. To those who believe he deserves this based on some vague notion of transformational hope sweeping the globe due solely to Obama’s good intentions, smooth speeches and his general existence, I seriously question their grip on reality. I’m not mad about the prize, just confused and amused as Obama is rewarded yet again for style over substance.
I have to say I’m amused at the justifications and rationalizations being employed to explain why Obama deserved this award more than anyone else in the world, explanations that strain the limits of credibility and logic. But here’s the reason the award bothers me and why critics are speaking out about it: Obama and his supporters can and will use the Nobel Peace Prize win as a political cudgel to silence critics and throw prestige toward whatever cause the administration desires. That such a politically powerful award (for those that will now recognize it anyway) was given for so little accomplishment in the real world shows how far the Nobel Peace Prize has fallen and underscores a continuing theme of Barack Obama’s political career: reward for rhetoric and style … and little else.
Cross-posted at Wellsy’s World.