Opinions on President Obama's Peace Prize Win

Saturday, October 10, 2009

"Mom!" my 12-year-old yelled from the kitchen. "President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize!"

I told her she had to be mistaken.

This is ridiculous -- embarrassing, even. I admire President Obama. I like President Obama. I voted for President Obama. But the peace prize? This is supposed to be for doing, not being -- and it's no disrespect to the president to suggest he hasn't done much yet. Certainly not enough to justify this prize.

"Extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples?" "Captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future?" Please. This turns the award into something like pee-wee soccer: Everybody wins for trying.

Scroll down the list of peace prize winners. Jimmy Carter won in 2002 "for his decades [emphasis added] of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts." Last year's winner, Martti Ahtisaari, was cited "for his important efforts, on several continents and over more than three decades [emphasis added], to resolve international conflicts."

Obama gets the award for, what, a good nine months? Or maybe a good two weeks -- the nominations were due Feb. 1. The other two sitting U.S. presidents who won the prize -- Woodrow Wilson in 1919 for his role in founding the League of Nations, Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War -- were in their second terms.

I imagine that Obama, when they woke him up this morning to deliver the news, grasped the bizarreness of it all. In 2006, when he was only a star senator, he mocked his instant celebrity at the Gridiron Club dinner.

"I've been very blessed," he said. "Keynote speaker at the Democratic convention. The cover of Newsweek. My book made the bestseller list. I just won a Grammy for reading it on tape. And I've had the chance to speak not once but twice before the Gridiron Club. Really, what else is there to do? Well, I guess, I could pass a law or something."

If the Nobel Committee ran out of worthy candidates, it might have engaged in a bit of recycling. Nothing wrong with a second prize to Aung San Suu Kyi (1991).

And I suspect it did not do the president any favors. Obama's cheerleaders don't need encouragement -- and his critics will only seize on the prize to further lampoon the Obama-as-messiah storyline.

Now what does he do for an encore?

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