By Michael D. Shear and Anne E. Kornblut
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, October 9, 2009 1:43 PM
President Obama's Republican adversaries reacted with swift disbelief to news that he had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, with many in the party scoffing that the accolade was hardly justified by a record they described as incomplete at best.
"I think this may be way too preliminary," Republican strategist Ed Rollins told CNN moments after the prize was announced.
"At the end of four years, maybe he has accomplished something and deserves it," he added. "I think it has diminished the award itself. I think certainly you have to give him an 'A' for trying, but at the end of the day, what has he accomplished? Who on the world stage are his allies at this point in time?"
In an official statement, the Republican National Committee said: "The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?' It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain -- President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility or backing up rhetoric with concrete action."
Obama's worldwide celebrity became a campaign issue last year, after his Republican opponent, Arizona Sen. John McCain, produced sneering ads describing him as "the One" and comparing him to the Messiah.
The McCain ad ran after then-candidate Obama toured Europe, promising an open hand to the world and a break from the cowboy-style diplomacy he accused then-President George W. Bush of practicing. And for a time, the ad worked, raising questions about whether Obama's promises were just lofty rhetoric.
Friday morning, several people who worked in the Bush White House said the choice of Obama -- lauded by the Nobel committee for, among other reasons, his call for a nuclear-free world -- primarily represented a condemnation of the Bush era. Some Republicans pointed to concrete gains Bush made in reducing the nuclear stockpile during his two terms in office -- he cut the supply by more than half -- as evidence that the Nobel committee had made its judgment based on politics rather than solid facts.
"The Nobel committee couldn't vote in our 2008 elections, so they decided to vote this year," said John R. Bolton, who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations during the Bush administration. He dismissed the award as "another reflection of the politicization of the peace prize that we've seen for decades now."
Bolton, who also served as Bush's undersecretary of state for arms control, noted that Bush also worked for -- and achieved -- a reduction in nuclear arms. "There was a long record, but they were never going to give it to Bush," Bolton said. "President Reagan called for a world without nuclear weapons; where was his Nobel peace prize?"
Michael Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter, said: "At first I thought the announcement of the prize was a joke. On further reflection, the Nobel Committee has made itself a joke. It has decided to give a ribbon before the race, a trophy for aspiration, a gold star for admirable sentiments."
Asked for his thoughts, Republican strategist Todd Harris, who has worked for several GOP presidential campaigns, was snide.
"Thoughts on what? The moon invasion? The new season of 'The Office?' Or the joke that the Nobel folks just became?" Harris said. "Like most liberals, the Nobel Committee seems to think that Obama's pretty words are a perfect substitute for him actually doing something. But if pretty words alone could provide leadership, then why not just give the presidency and the Peace Prize to a Hemingway novel?"
Bill Kristol, the editor of the Weekly Standard, said he would substitute news of the announcement for his usual parody page in the next issue of the conservative magazine.
"We could point out that peace hasn't broken out anywhere yet during President Obama's tenure, or that even his various peace efforts haven't yet begun to make much progress," Kristol wrote on The Washington Post's Web site. "We could note that, if the . . . Norwegians wanted to give the Nobel Peace Prize to an American, it would have been better to give it to Sen. John McCain for having the guts to push through the surge in Iraq, which has brought relative peace to that country. But that would be overkill. The choice is so self-evidently Not a Parody that no explanation is required or possible.
"So thank you, Nobel Committee, for making my job easier."
Conservative blogs exploded with anger, with writers quickly posting statements of outrage.
"So in less than two weeks of entering office, Obama did something to qualify. What was it?" asks Erik Erickson on the Red State blog, referring to the Feb. 1 deadline for Nobel nominations. "Not closing Gitmo? Continuing the Bush administration's policies in the War on Terror but no longer using the name? Or pronouncing a policy of abject American capitulation to our enemies?"
Response from Democrats to the torrent of GOP criticism was also swift.
"The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists -- the Taliban and Hamas this morning -- in criticizing the president for receiving the Nobel Peace prize," Democratic National Committee communications director Brad Woodhouse told Politico. "Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the president of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize -- an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride -- unless of course you are the Republican Party."
Staff writer Anne E. Kornblut contributed to this report.