Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama and the Nobel Peace Prize

I find myself in agreement with what Joe Klien says about the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama.

There is a slight whiff of condescension attending the announcement that Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize. There is the sense that he has won simply by not being George W. Bush. Effete Europe is congratulating rowdy America for cleaning up its act and not bringing guns to the dinner table.

Well, I'm as relieved as anybody that the Bushian gunslingers have been given the gate and, as regular readers know, I'm a big fan of patient, rigorous diplomacy – and there’s a certain lovely irony to any prize that brings the Taliban and the neoconservative Commentary crowd together in high dudgeon – but let’s face it: this prize is premature to the point of ridiculousness. It continues a pattern that holds some peril for Obama: he is celebrated for who he is not, and for who he might potentially be, rather than for what he has actually done. If he doesn’t provide results that justify the award, this Nobel will prove a millstone come election time.

And so, how to handle this “triumph” becomes a strategic puzzle that requires serious thought. Two immediate thoughts occur: he can't reject it, but accepting it can’t be about him. He can and should immediately say something like, “I don't deserve this.” That’s a no brainer. The question is, what should he say after that?

Well, here’s part of what President Obama did say:

I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many transformative figures that have been honored by this prize. I will accept this award as a call to action, a call for all nations to confront the challenges of the 21st century.

A pitch-perfect response, wouldn’t you say?

Recommended Off-site Links:
Surprised, Humbled Obama Awarded Nobel Peace Prize - Karl Ritter and Matt Moore (Associated Press, October 9, 2009).
Congratulations, President Obama, on the Nobel Peace Prize – Now Please Earn It - Michael Moore (, October 9, 2009).
Nobel Committee, Strategic as Ever, Taps Obama for Peace Prize - Robert Naiman (, October 9, 2009).
Naomi Klein and Tariq Ali Respond to Awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama - Democracy Now!, October 9, 2009).
Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer: Nobel Peace Prize for Obama “Deeply Problematic” - Chris Steller (Minnesota Independent, October 9, 2009).


Tc said...


Liam said...

It would have been even better if he had declined the prize. The Nobel committee looked foolish here, and Obama could have spared them their foolishness (the Oslo committee has its share of blinkered narrowness, so I don't think anyone needs to treat them with special reverence). In the fullness of time, if he merits the prize, then he should accept it. Not yet. It's like getting a prize for just showing up.

Liam said...

I should note that the prize has been declined at least once before, and appropriately at that time for being unripe.