Trump offered no real evidence that the five-person Nobel committee, which is appointed by the Norwegian parliament, is actually rigged — except that it awarded Obama, then the president, the prize in 2009.
“They gave one to Obama immediately after his ascent to the presidency, and he had no idea why he got it,” Trump said. “You know what, that was the only thing I agreed with him on.”
Trump’s fascination with the most prestigious foreign affairs award in the world fits a well-known theme of his presidency: his dogged pursuit of praise, validation and superlatives.
File it away with Trump’s insistence that he won the 2016 presidential race in a “landslide” (and the popular vote, too), his declaration that the crowd at his inauguration was “record-setting,” and his early Cabinet meetings, where secretaries-cum-supplicants took turns lavishing adulation upon him.
Obama won the Nobel after less than nine months as president, though even he conceded it was not a “recognition of my own accomplishments,” but rather a plaudit for his inspirational rhetoric. Even so, by 2018, Trump had been in office for a year and still no medal. His nomination was indeed discussed that February, but only when the Nobel committee secretary, Olav Njolstad, was delivering some disturbing news: Someone had forged an endorsement of Trump. Twice.
An Oslo police official said at the time that investigators had been in touch with the FBI, which, the New York Times reported, suggests the forgeries originated in the United States. But the committee offered few details beyond that, and the Nobel buzz subsided.
Then, in the months that followed, as the frightening — and sometimes puzzling — threats Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un exchanged gave way to handshakes, promises and a remarkable planned summit, the prospect of peace loomed. And with the long line of national and foreign leaders looking to win favor with the president, the Nobel was in the air again.
“We’re not there yet, but if this happens President Trump deserves the Nobel Peace Prize,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said in spring 2018. Former president Jimmy Carter, a frequent Trump critic and one of four U.S. leaders to win the prize, said Trump should be considered if he can successfully broker peace.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in chimed in to agree.
“President Trump should win the Nobel Peace Prize,” Moon said. “The only thing we need is peace.”
The South Korean leader had painstakingly flattered Trump for weeks, crediting him for creating the diplomatic environment that was making the rapprochement possible. But that comment really caught Trump’s attention.
“I just think that President Moon was very nice when he suggested it,” Trump said at a White House event shortly after Moon’s statement. “I want to get peace. It’s the main thing. … But I thought it was very generous of President Moon of South Korea to make that statement, and I appreciate it.”
Boris Johnson, then Britain’s foreign secretary, echoed Moon, saying, “If he can fix North Korea and if he can fix the Iran nuclear deal, then I don’t see why he’s any less of a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize than Barack Obama, who got it before he even did anything.”
The next day, a reporter asked Trump whether he thought he deserved the prize. Trump, arms crossed and smiling, said, “Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it.”
“You know what I want to do?” he added. “I want to get it finished. The prize I want is victory for the world.”
But even though he said he was uninterested in the accolade, he continued publicly prognosticating on his chances of winning it.
When addressing the Future Farmers of America in October 2018, Trump brought up the agronomist Norman Borlaug, whose farming innovations helped increase the world’s food supply. And who, Trump pointed out, was honored with the Nobel Peace Prize.
“Can you believe it? He won the Nobel Peace Prize,” Trump said. “They probably will never give it to me, even what I’m doing in Korea, and in Idlib Province and all of these places. They probably will never give it to me. You know why? Because they don’t want to.”
Later that year, Trump compared his own odds of winning the Nobel to when the Emmy Awards snubbed “The Apprentice.”
“Well, they’ll never give it to me,” Trump said in an interview with the New York Post. “We should have gotten the Emmy for ‘The Apprentice,’ you know? I had the No. 1 show.”
Just as Trump clung to his grievances when his reality show was denied a statuette, the fact he has yet to win a Nobel Prize clearly still sticks in his craw — even as an actual peace deal between North and South Korea remains elusive.
In February, at the end of remarks announcing a national emergency at the southern border, he spent nearly three minutes making his case for the prize.
He told the audience that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had nominated him and that “many other people feel that way, too.”
“I’ll probably never get it, but that’s okay,” he said, adding later that “This administration does a tremendous job, and we don’t get credit for it.”
But there’s at least one place where he always gets the credit he feels he deserves.
At a rally the day after Graham first suggested Trump could be a laureate-in-waiting, a raucous Michigan crowd broke into a chant.
“Nobel! Nobel!” they called.
Trump, a grin spreading across his face, let the chorus go on for 20 seconds.
“That’s very nice, thank you,” he said, as though finally — finally — accepting the award. “That’s very nice. Nobel.”
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