The Live Fix: Obama's Surprise Nobel Peace Prize Win

Chris Cillizza
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 9, 2009; 11:00 AM

Every Friday, The Fix goes live, as Chris Cillizza discusses the latest news about Congress, the Obama administration, upcoming elections and all the latest political news.

A transcript follows.


Chris Cillizza: WOW.

What a morning.

For those of you who are in a media blackout, President Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize this morning for his work -- albeit it VERY abbreviated -- on fostering international peace.

That announcement has made my morning very busy -- you can read my first take on the political implications on The Fix -- and kept me from my beloved Starbucks.

So, this is a decaffeinated chat. I will do my best to keep up the energy. To ensure that I have just chugged four red Bulls.


Washington DC: Since the nomination was due on February 1, President Obama must be the greatest president in history. In only 12 days, he had done enough to win the Nobel Peace Prize. What do you think he can do next? Cure cancer, and win the Nobel prize in Medicine? Will that take 13 days?

Chris Cillizza: Here's one side of the argument....


St Peters, Pa.: All the teeth-gnashing over this award being given "too soon" seems a little silly to me. The prize is sometimes given for accomplishments and sometimes given for raising awareness on certain causes. Al Gore wasn't given the prize for stopping climate change, after all. Also, let's remember that the last sitting U.S. president to receive the prize, Woodrow Wilson, got it for two major accomplishments: The Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. Oops. Maybe the Nobel committee realizes it's best to use the prize to spur the president toward the bold action he's promised.

Chris Cillizza: And here's the other....


Long Island, NY: Chris

Hopefully you're fully caffeinated for today's discussion.

What's the chatter in regards to the Nobel news this morning?

As the old saying goes a week is a long time in politics.

7 days ago the right was spinning the IOC's award to Rio as a repudiation of Obama, now he's a Nobel winner in the eyes of the int'l community.

Both the IOC Board and the Nobel Board are relatively small bodies (97 people voted in the 1st round of IOC bidding with their own agendas, 5 Norwegians vote for the Peace Prize) so I'm somewhat amused with the hyperventilating on both sides on the "message" of the two events.

Both the right and left will spin these events to match their own agendas (e.g. the National Review newsroom cheering the elimination of Chicago's defeat last week).

Chris Cillizza: Long Island, I think you summarize things nicely.

My guess is that both sides will try to use the surprising award for their own partisan purposes -- Democrats will tout it as tangible evidence that Obama has changed how the U.S. is viewed in the world, Republicans will argue this is yet another victory of style over substance for Obama -- and the people in the vast ideological middle will probably see the prize as nice (if a bit premature) and go on with their day.

I do think winning the Nobel will help bolster Obama's credibility within his own party on Afghanistan, which is a potentially sticky wicket given the concerns many Democrats have about repeating the mistakes the Bush Administration made in Iraq.

But, if the initial reaction from Republicans is any indication, Obama winning the Nobel is not a political game-changer in any real way. Rather than congratulating him, Republicans have been very aggressive in questioning how a president who had been in office for two weeks when the nomination period ended could have possibly won.


Boulder, Colo.: Note to Obama and Nobel Committee: Do NOT let Kanye West into the award ceremony. "Piedad Cordoba created more peace last year!"

Chris Cillizza: Well said.


Austin, Tex.: Need a boost of energy? Try Tim Eaton's 2009 release "Porcupine". Evocative of Blood On The Tracks-era Dylan, it boasts excellent writing and performance.

Definitely deserving of mention in some end-of-year Best Of 2009 lists, but probably isn't "hip" enough to land there.

Chris Cillizza: So great....keep the music recommendations coming.

Randomly, I am listening to "Blood on the Tracks" as we speak.

And, speaking of Austin, I hope you have checked out Bob Schneider. For my money, "2002" is one of the most beautiful road-to-recovery songs ever written.


Purcellville, Va.: Have you heard ANYone say, "Wow, score one for the U.S.A!" I know it's your job to analyze these things, but can't we just take a brief moment and be proud as Americans for our first sitting president to win the Nobel Peace Prize?

After reading many of the comments on the Post's coverage today, I think if Jesus came back and appointed Obama his first disciple, half the conservatives would become atheists instantly.

Chris Cillizza: There's no question that the partisan atmosphere on both sides is toxic right now.

While Republicans have hammered Obama, Democrats haven't exactly been wilting lilies this morning either.

Check this one out from the Democratic National Committee: "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."


So, yes, partisanship is alive and well and living in Washington.


Washington D.C.: Years ago, Lennon of the Beatles was asked how he would end the Vietnam war. He said that he would declare peace.

What would the world reaction be if Obama declares peace with Afghanistan?

Instead of war, he could initiate a massive series of initiatives to build up their agriculture industry for supporting alternative biotech energy programs - thus moving towards education, employment and economic stability. Just one thought.

Chris Cillizza: Anyone who makes a Lennon reference makes it into the chat. It's the Live Fix "Beatles" rule.

Speaking of which, do I need to buy a Wii (or some such console) so that I can play "Rock Band: Beatles"? I think I may.


Ashburn, Va.: Why do his accomplishments while in office have to be the only consideration?

Chris Cillizza: They don't. And, clearly, they weren't.

Remember that Obama made a much-ballyhooed (and much criticized by Republicans) trip to Europe last summer when he was still a candidate for president.

The message of that trip -- and of Obama's campaign more broadly -- was that he represented a sharp contrast with the Bush Administration's approach to America's place in the world.

My guess is that messaging -- and the excitement it generated in Europe -- had as much if not more to do with Obama winning the award than what he has done since coming into office.


Winchester, Va.: I'm not following. Sure, Obama had been in office mere days when the Nobel nominations were made. But, wouldn't the actual vote for the winner have been made some time later? I'm not getting this outcry unless it's over Obama's accomplishments or lack thereof in the first MONTHS of his presidency.

Chris Cillizza: Right. The argument put forward by many people is that the Nobel Peace Prize is typically granted for a lifetime of work in promoting piece ala Nelson Mandela. Not nine months of work.

Again, just outlining the argument. Don't shoot the messenger.


St Paul : Hi Chris -- So maybe giving Obama the Nobel Prize is a little premature, but what's he supposed to do? Give it back? What's wrong with recognizing that, after the arrogance and incompetence of the Bush administration, he's restored some measure of respect for the United States?

Chris Cillizza: Slate's Mickey Kaus is advocating that Obama decline the prize -- essentially saying "thanks but I've got a lot more work to do before we start handing out plaudits."

Interesting. But not happening.

Here's Mickey's piece:


Chicago: Josh Marshall pretty much nails it here: Unexpected Developments


Chris Cillizza: Will read once I am done chatting (I can multi-task but not that well).

But, for those interested in reading a variety of perspectives on the Obama Nobel, here's Josh's piece.


Chris Cillizza: Interesting statement from Minnesota Governor and likely 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty: ""I would say regardless of the circumstances, congratulations to President Obama for winning the Nobel Prize."


San Francisco: I'm as big an Obama fan as anyone, but I'm definitely in the "too soon" camp, and I imagine he has to feel the same way. Could he decline the award, and come up with some crafty way of saying "I still have work to do"? I think this would enhance his stature even further, and quell his critics at the same time. An unprecedented move, certainly, but so is giving the award to someone so early.

Chris Cillizza: See answer above. And, Obama is speaking on the award even as we chat. He has said he was "surprised and deeply humbled" to win, words that suggest to me he is not planning to decline it.


Silver Spring, Md.: I just don't understand how we ever reached the point where the majority opinion of five, politically connected Norwegians matters so much to the rest of the world?

Chris Cillizza: As I noted above, I think it is entirely possible that by the next Live Fix chat, the hubbub over this announcement will have dissipated to almost nothing as the back and forth over the health care debate and the decision-making about troop levels in Afghanistan reassert themselves at the center of the political debate.


Boston: Don't buy the Wii to play Rockband - you can't download the albums that are going to be released online only on the Wii (not enough hard drive space? Not sure why this is so). Try Playstation or Xbox.

Chris Cillizza: Ok. Good deal. And do we have a preference on which is better? (And which is cheaper?)


giving Obama the Nobel Prize is a little premature: The prize hasn't been awarded: only announced.

Goodness whatever happened to the accuracy in these online chats?

Chris Cillizza: Love it.

Stickler for precise wording!


Maryland: Was this an award for Obama or for the record statement of how strongly the European community disliked Bush?

Chris Cillizza: I think this is savvy analysis.

While there's little doubt about the exalted place Obama holds in the hearts and minds of many Europeans, it's hard to imagine he would hold that status if he had not followed George W. Bush into office.

I quickly read the Josh Marshall piece that was posted earlier in this chat and that is his essential argument. That the Nobel committee gave Obama this award to encourage the sort of internationalism he has ushered in and to scold Bush for the way he acted on the world stage.


Outside the Beltway: Come on Chris, try to answer the question/comment from Outside the Beltway - or do you just answer the easy ones?

Chris Cillizza: Um, what?


Jacksonville, Fla.: Music recommendation: Freshly Ground

Two songs of theirs I like, although they have a pretty wide range of styles: I'd Like and Touch in the Night

Chris Cillizza: Terrific. Many thanks.



Dunn Loring, Va.: Any chance you'll correct Purcellville's statement that Obama is the first sitting president to win the Nobel Peace Prize or will you continue your trend of letting liberals spread whatever lies they want about Obama's "greatness"? Wilson won in 1919 and Teddy R won in 1906.

Chris Cillizza: Um, let's all take a deep breath. Consider the record corrected.


Des Peres, MO: Hey, Sizzler. Don't you guys have a Panera Bread outfit nearby? Go and try one of their Icy Mochas--Variety, spice of life. And it might improve the accuracy of your predictions. cheers

Chris Cillizza: I do and I will...also, let us now move into campaign politics...I think we have covered what we can about Obama and the Nobel.


Hamilton, Va.: Just FYI, today is the anniversary of John Lennon's birth. He would be 69.

Chris Cillizza: Didn't know that. "Strawberry Field Forever" may be my favorite Beatles song.

Although if I was one of the Beatles, I would be Ringo...just happy to be there.


Austin, TX: ...and you're right about Schneider's "2002". Heartbreaker of a song.

Chris Cillizza: Just stunning.

"Thought I'd drop you a line/line to say I was doing fine/cause baby it's been a long, long time/since you walked out my door"

Chills up the spine.


Console: Go with the PS3 if you don't have a Blu-Ray player. Go with the X-Box if you want to be able to stream Netflix movies.

Chris Cillizza: Aha! Ok. Good deal. Xbox seems to be leading in early voting. But can I justify it to mrs. Fix?


Hampton, NJ: If I can slip in a political question - what is your take on the NJ Governor race. Is it really possible that Corzine could be re-elected in spite of New Jersey being the highest taxed and most corrupt state in the nation?

Chris Cillizza: Yes.

Regular Fix readers know that I have long been skeptical of Corzine's ability to win this race given his disastrously low approval ratings and the commonly held belief in the state that he has done very little to move the state forward.

But, in the last two weeks, Corzine has begun to coalesce wayward Democrats behind his candidacy while former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie (R) has continued to watch his vote share erode.

Interestingly, most of the voters who have leapt off the Christie bandwagon have gone to independent candidate Chris Daggett who, despite the fact that no one knows who he is, is polling in double digits.

If Daggett can keep that share of the vote, Corzine can win even though we continue to believe that his ceiling is 45 percent of the vote.


Nobel Prize in Medicine: Oh please, Chris. I'm sorry to burst your booster bubble, but there is no way Obama's going to score a Nobel in Medicine for curing cancer- we all know Chuck Norris has that locked down.

Chris Cillizza: Chuck Norris doesn't do push ups. He pushes the earth down.


Correction: You have frequently referred to your Starbuck's drinks as "coffee" when they are clearly "lattes." As someone who spent years learning the art of correctly steaming milk, I am offended you would deny baristas the respect we deserve. This is clear evidence of your anti-barista bias. Also, you occasionally use the word "that" when you should use "which." Consider my chat subscription canceled, sir.

Chris Cillizza: That seems fair.


Princeton, NJ: Could anyone, anyone even Fred Thompson, run a worse campaign than Mr Deeds?

I know it wasn't your fault, Chinese Wall, blah, blah, blah, but since the Post was largely responsible for foisting Mr Deeds on the Democrats, don't you think they have an obligation to at least support the sucker?

Chris Cillizza: I thought that Deeds ran a very savvy campaign in the primary -- allowing Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran to pummel one another while painting himself as the nice guy who was focused on solutions for the state.

His campaign pre-thesis in the general election wasn't much to write home about and post-thesis it now appears as though he overplayed what was a terrific issue in the context of a political race.

Deeds clearly had McDonnell reeling by pressing the thesis story but he missed an opportunity, in my mind, in the midst of all of that to begin making the positive case for his candidacy.

In even the nastiest elections, voters want to feel like they are casting an affirmative vote for a candidate -- a vote about something positive that person is doing or will do rather than simply against their opponent.

Deeds hasn't given Virginia voters that positive reason to vote for him. And, if the Post poll is right (and I think it is), it may well be too late now.


Tim Easton, not Eaton: Ugh, did I really write "Tim Eaton"? His name's Easton. Just FYI.

Chris Cillizza: Yes, love Tim Easton.


Richmond, VA: What, if any, backlash will be seen from Corzine's ad regarding Christie's weight?

Chris Cillizza: To be honest, the ads appear to be having their desired effect -- to make sure New Jersey voters know what Christie looks like.

Whether using your opponent's weight issue as a campaign attack is morally right or wrong, there is little debate that how candidates look matter in terms of their ability to win votes.

Since time immemoriam, voters have responded better -- and been more willing to give the benefit of the doubt to -- candidates of both genders who are attractive.

Again, I leave the debate over whether that is right or wrong to a philosopher or an ethicist. But, it's a fact in the world of politics.


Iowa: Oh, yes, get the Beatles Rock Band. I have it for my Wii and my kids love it. They don't play, but they love listening to the songs. Great way to introduce the Beatles to Little Fix.

Chris Cillizza: The benefit of a Wii is Mrs. Fix might like the fitness stuff....


Catchy new tune: "I and Love and You" by the Avett Brothers. Fabulous!

Oh, and aren't there any Peet's out there? Way better than Starbucks!

Chris Cillizza: No peets that I know of though I have been there before.

And, I keep hearing great things about Avett Brothers, which, oddly, is for sale at the Fix neighborhood Starbucks.


Nowheresville, Neverland: Do you think that Beau Biden has ANY future in electoral politics if he chickens out of the Senate race and essentially gives it to Mike Castle? I suppose that Democrats will be livid, especially after all the charade of appointing a placeholder just to keep the seat warm for him.

Chris Cillizza: Not sure if I can take this question... is "nowheresville, Neverland" inside the Beltway?

I think Beau Biden would get lots of guff from Democrats both nationally and in Delaware if he backed out of the race now that Rep. Mike Castle (R) is running.

In my conversations with Democratic strategists in the wake of Castle's announcement, they insisted that Biden was still very gung-ho on the race. As always in politics though, until the candidate announces, he's not in.

Biden's other option would -- theoretically -- be to run for the House seat Castle is vacating. But, former Lt. Gov. John Carney (D) has been running for that seat for months and almost certainly wouldn't simply bow out in favor of Beau.


Colorado: As a female, I definitely think the Wii will be a better sell for Mrs. Fix.

Chris Cillizza: Intriguing...although my esteemed chat producer -- Andrea Caumont -- insists that Xbox is the way to go....


attractive candidates winning: Do you have any actual facts backing that up or is it just your feeling? I don't disagree with you but wonder if there are any examples out there where a candidate's appearance was directly related to his/her winning

Chris Cillizza: It's hard to say it is "directly" related to a person winning. After all, lots of factors go into why candidates win or lose.

That said, President Obama, former Gov. Mitt Romney, former Sen. John Edwards etc. weren't hurt -- and I would argue were helped -- by the fact that they are attractive.


Wii vs. XBox: I have both, and the Xbox is better for games (and the Netflix streaming is really good). But the Wii is a MUCH easier sell to the misses.

Chris Cillizza: Uh oh, Andrea. The Wii lobby grows strong.


What are the chances: Next Obama will be Knighted by the Queen, then take over as QB of the Redskins in his spare time - and win the SuperBowl. At this rate any thing is possible.

Chris Cillizza: The Skins do need a better QB.....


You have frequently referred to your Starbuck's drinks as "coffee" when they are clearly "lattes.": No, they are clearly "candy in a cup." Lattes, my foot. No wonder Europeans sneer at American ideas of what coffee is.

Chris Cillizza: I think there should be less sneering in general. But that's just me.


Princeton, NJ: "New Jersey being the highest taxed and most corrupt state in the nation?"

We have the highest property tax, but several states have higher overall taxes.

I am sure that the residents of most states believe their state is "most corrupt."

The reason Corzine has come back is because whathisname is an empty very large suit.

Chris Cillizza: "Very empty large suit"!!!!

Doesn't this make my earlier point about looks mattering in politics?


Silver Spring, Md.: Bill Clinton must not be in a good mood today. Obama's got a Nobel Prize. Carter's got a Nobel Prize. Even Gore's got a Nobel Prize!

Chris Cillizza: Ok, I couldn't resist one more Nobel-themed question....

When I heard about the Obama Nobel this morning, this was the FIRST thing I thought of!


Claverack, NY: Just wondering... do you think the Christie campaign is gritting its teeth a bit over that NYT article about how the Corzine campaign is subtly drawing attention to Christie's oleaginous girth? Because doing so -unsubtly- draws attention to said girth. I'm not sure it benefits that campaign to waste time talking about how they feel bad they were called fat.

Chris Cillizza: I am posting this because of the TERRIFIC use of the word "oleaginous".


Campaigns!: Any thoughts of Kelly Ayotte's (former AG who bowed out of her active term, Palin-style) chances in NH Senate race?

Chris Cillizza: Ayotte is the subject of MUCH disagreement in Washington.

Republicans see her as one of their rising stars and believe that she is the favorite to hold the seat being vacated by Sen. Judd Gregg (R).

Democrats see her as a paper tiger, pointing to the $600,000 she raised in the last three months and the likelihood of a primary challenge from businessman Ovide Lamontagne, Republican National Committeeman Sean Mahoney and others as evidence of her weakness.

Polling suggests Republicans are close to the truth today. Ayotte led Rep. Paul Hodes 47 percent to 40 percent in a University of New Hampshire poll released earlier this week.

That can change quickly if she has to fight a biter and expensive ideological primary. But, no one has formally announced against her -- yet.


President Obama, former Gov. Mitt Romney, former Sen. John Edwards etc. weren't hurt -- and I would argue were helped -- by the fact that they are attractive: Don't forget a certain former Miss Alaska runner-up, either!

Chris Cillizza: Correct


Quoi?: Wait, I'm confused--why would a Wii appeal more to females? I'm a female, considering getting Guitar Hero, but debating between Wii and Xbox. Would an Xbox somehow clash with my uterus?

Chris Cillizza: There were a bunch of article a year (or so) ago arguing that women have gotten much more into video games because of the Wii.

Also, Live Fix producer Andrea Caumont continues her negative campaign against the Wii..."We have a wii and haven't turned it on in months, maybe a year," she writes.

No. She. Didn't.


Arlington, VA: What's the big deal about Corzine's ads mentioning Christie's weight? He's just having a little fun at his opponent's expanse.

Chris Cillizza: EXPANSE.


Hilarity ensues.


Most corrupt state?: Top-of-the-head list, not necessarily in order: Illinois, Louisiana, New York, New Jersey, DC (not that it's a state, exactly, but for the sake of argument).

Chris Cillizza: Fair argument...and maybe the focus of a Fix Poll in the near future...stay tuned...


Arlington, VA: "Since time immemoriam, ..."?


I think maybe you meant "Since time immemorial,..."

The caffeine deficit is definitely making its effect known.

Chris Cillizza: Wow. Ok.

I may need to hire a freelance copy editor for the Live Fix chat to keep me honest.

I am sure the titans -- Weingarten and Hax -- have that sort of thing....


After the week I've had . . . : The Statler Brothers "Flowers on the Wall" is doing an endless loop through my head. Good stuff - perky yet disturbing!

Chris Cillizza: Excellent. Thanks.


Attractiveness of candidate.: Two words: Sarah Palin. Do you think McCain would have chosen her if she looked like an ordinary Alaskan housewife?

Chris Cillizza: And what does an "ordinary" Alaska housewife look like?


Minneapolis, Minn.: Just want to say THANK YOU for that Bob Schneider song recommendation. I've never heard this one before and just listened to it and now, thanks to iTunes, I own it. Beautiful song.

Chris Cillizza: It is a stunning song. if you do one thing after this chat, it should be to go buy "2002" from itunes.

Also, to send an email to my bosses telling them how much you love me and the Fix.


Chris Cillizza: And, scene!

With the Nobel drama behind us (or perhaps in front of us), I am turning my attention to the Fix's Friday Senate Line where we rank the top 10 seats most likely to switch parties in 2010.

Depending on how fast I write, it should be up on the Fix in the next few hours.

Have a great weekend and spread the word on the Live Fix chat. 11 am. Fridays. Be there or be a trapezoid.


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