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Obama’s Nobel: What a Bummer!

October 12, 2009

Our beleaguered rookie president can’t seem to catch a break: endless snags in the healthcare debate… the hornets’ nest in Afghanistan… the aftershocks of last fall’s economic meltdown… a presidential to-do list that grows each day without any check-marks to ease the pain. And now this: a premature Nobel Peace Prize.

For most of us, a Nobel Peace Prize would take the sting out of a grueling day at work. “Sure, I had to sit through another endless PowerPoint presentation by the marketing VP, and my boss slashed our departmental budget by 12%, but at least I won the Nobel Peace Prize.” I’m sure you can relate.

No such consolation for Obama. Now the right can hoot about the wild wave of Obamamania — no, make it an Obamagasm — that has rippled across the heaving, fatuously smitten souls of white Euroliberals. (And the Nobel Peace Prize committee represents some of the world’s choicest examples of white Euroliberalism. Norway, after all, is just about the whitest liberal nation on earth, second perhaps only to its neighbor Sweden, which doles out the other Nobels.)

Meanwhile, Obama’s American compatriots on the left are begrudging him the Prize because 1) their man still hasn’t actually accomplished anything in the realm of world peace, and 2) they know that Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Co. can milk this cow until the next election. The Prize has essentially granted all wingnut conservatives the inalienable right to snicker at the spectacle of worldwide Obama-worship, reducing a complex and gifted statesman to the laughable status of “Magic Negro” — that weirdly indispensable prop in Hollywood films of the past twenty or thirty years. (You know… modest but supernaturally gifted black man uses his powers to save grateful white protagonist.)

Obama doesn’t need any more grief from the right or the left. I’m sure he’s already weary of playing Magic Negro to a fawning Europe. He doesn’t want to be dismissed as an affirmative action Nobel laureate, the coddled recipient of honors he hadn’t earned. (He undoubtedly suspected that he was capable of winning the prize on his own merits, given another two or three years in office.) He doesn’t want the award simply because he’s the UnBush, either.

But the Nobel is his, and it will stick to him like flypaper for the rest of his presidency. Taliban fighters agitating in Afghanistan? Al-Qaeda insurgents pouring into Pakistan? Nuclear clouds swirling around Iran or North Korea? Obama will be sitting in the Oval Office, gazing at the golden glow radiating from his medal, and fretting fitfully. Peace, peace, peace, the medal whispers to him. Get lost, he wants to answer. But can he? Will he? Should he?

Tough spot for a rookie. I don’t envy him.

19 Comments leave one →
  1. Perez Christina permalink
    October 12, 2009 10:57 pm

    haha wow…

  2. Priscilla permalink
    October 13, 2009 12:14 am

    Ah, Rick, you are far more sympathetic to our rookie -read “totally in over his head”- president over this than I ( I mean, seriously, why should we even have a “rookie” as PRESIDENT, for god’s sake!).

    He could turn it around in his favor, if he would follow Thomas Friedman’s advice, and accept the award on behalf of the American military.

    Not only would he be acknowledging our country’s sacrifices in the pursuit of peace and freedom, but he would appear to truly understand his role as Commander-in-Chief, a role in which he thus far seems very shaky…not to mention that he would display some humility – a quality that he displays far too infrequently IMHO.

    When someone like me agrees with a lefty like Friedman, something must be up!

    • Priscilla permalink
      October 13, 2009 7:47 am

      Correction: I shouldn’t have called Friedman a lefty; it was definitely immoderate of me 😉 He’s generally hawkish when it comes to national security, although he advocates open borders and global economy initiatives. Lets just say liberal…..

    • Taliesin Knol permalink
      January 9, 2010 4:40 am

      Nobel prize on military behalf, to a President fighting two wars. That’d go over well. (like Hindenburg)

  3. October 13, 2009 9:08 am

    I’m with Priscilla and Thomas Friedman, insofar as he should have accepted the award on behalf of the military. I do, however, think that all first term presidents are “rookies” by definition. The term means “new to the job.”

    It’s a tough spot. On the one hand, as Americans, we should feel proud that a fellow American was honored, but, on the other, it puts Obama in an extremely awkward position as he contemplates whether or not to escalate troop levels in Afghanistan. It’s all well and good to reward his efforts to renew diplomacy as an alternative means for implementing foreign policy rather than war, and I’m sure the Nobel folks hope the award boosts Obama’s credibility and makes his efforts more effective.

    But I’m sure there’s some Chinese dissident locked up in a jail somewhere who might deserve it a little more.

    Tough spot…

  4. October 13, 2009 7:59 pm

    I maintain that given quick good advice, he should have gracefully declined the award. Too late now. This story will drag on both pro and con for quite awhile and is a distraction, because believe or not I would like him to do well. Declining would have shortened the inevitable criticism from left and right.
    See this article on the subject:

  5. October 13, 2009 8:31 pm

    I wonder if there’s a precedent for declining a Nobel Peace Prize. Usually, declining a major award is intended as a rebuke to the award-givers, which isn’t what Obama would want to do here.

    I saw Thomas Friedman’s article when it appeared, and I thought it seemed like a noble but ultimately empty gesture. If Obama accepts the award on behalf of all those American “peacekeepers,” he’s actually praising our historical interventionist tendencies.

    If I were Obama, I’d thank the Nobel Peace Prize committee for recognizing my good intentions… and I’d finish by noting that most of the work remains unfinished. Still noble, still grateful, but mindful of the gap between dreams and achievement.

    Christina: Nice pic! If only I were about, oh, three years younger…

  6. Priscilla permalink
    October 13, 2009 10:06 pm

    And of course, there is the constitutional argument for declining the award. Article I states pretty specifically “The United States shall not grant any title of nobility. No person holding any office of profit or trust under the United States, shall without the consent of the Legislature accept of any present, emolument, office, or title of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign State.” Apparently Teddy Roosevelt refused to accept his Nobel until his term was finished because of this so-called “emolument clause” and directed Congress to determine how the money would be used. Declining or accepting the award on behalf of the military on this basis alone would be an acceptable way to let the Norwegians save face and to prove that he was would not be pressured or flattered into any political positions via a foreign honor.

    Anyway, ultimately I agree with dduck, and think the prez should have gratefully declined the award.

  7. October 14, 2009 9:33 am

    Obama is no Teddy. Remember, “it’s not a tax, its a mandate”. This to get around his no taxes under $250k promise. However the constitution does not allow for a mandate. It’s ok though, because the Baucus bill emasculated the mandate, going, I think from $3,800 for non-buyers of HCI, down to $750 in the seventh year. In effect ruining the bill because you can wait and buy insurance with no severe penalty. Of course, the insurance companies are painted as the bad guys.

  8. October 15, 2009 12:22 am

    One final thought on the Obama Peace Prize… Instead of being awarded the prize for what he did, he received it primarily for WHO HE IS (a charismatic, conciliatory statesman with the power to mend international rifts) and possibly for WHAT he is (a biracial statesman who embodies the post-European nonwhite majority of the future). I hope it was more for the WHO instead of the WHAT; I’m so damned weary of eternal race-consciousness.

    Priscilla: I didn’t realize TR deferred his Nobel Prize until the end of his presidency. The man knew his constitution (among about a million other things).

  9. October 15, 2009 12:54 pm

    Rick, I don’t totally agree with you on the racial part. I think this herring reefer smoking bunch from Oslo, would have awarded any platitude spouting DEMOCRAT that got elected President, since the main consideration was non-bush sentiment.

    • October 15, 2009 7:32 pm

      Good point, dduck. I have to wonder if Hillary would have won the prize so soon, but I think you’re right that the herring-reefer smokers were applauding Obama essentially for being their kind of U.S. president: the UnBush.

    • Taliesin Knol permalink
      January 9, 2010 4:42 am

      Nobel prize to the American people for getting a clue…

  10. Hallie permalink
    November 11, 2009 9:17 pm

    Haven’t been here is a while. Looking forward to reading the “utopias.” But first, I felt I should say that in all the partisan bickering going on in the country, I had never heard “Obamagasm”— funny.

    As far as the “peace prize”, why was everyone so suprised? And, no, there is no way Hillary would have gotten the prize. She’s an old school democrat (way to much baggage) that is, she still represents “Americanism.” Obama represents the dismantling of “Americanism” and the “hope” of a more just world. But as ma used to say, “hope in one hand and spit in the other, see which one gets filled up first.”

  11. November 12, 2009 1:30 pm

    Hallie: Yep, “Obamagasm” was my own brainchild, though I wouldn’t be surprised if other commentators have come up with it, too. (I should google it.) You’re right: Hillary, however liberal and effective she might have been, still would have been perceived by the world as “politics as usual.” Obama was such a clean break from Bush (clean and articulate, as Joe Biden noted) that Europe had its collective “Oh God! Yes!” moment.

    P.S. I like your mother.

  12. November 12, 2009 1:33 pm

    Good God! There were 5670 references to “Obamagasm” on Google, including an entry in The Urban Dictionary. So it looks like I wasn’t exactly the first. But I still came up with it on my own. (That’s sort of like being the 5000th person to invent the telephone.)

  13. November 12, 2009 1:42 pm

    He still has a chance to do a Teddy Roosevelt. I think if Hilary had had the chance, being a smarter politician (not a compliment), she would have delayed receiving the award.

  14. November 13, 2009 12:17 pm

    I wonder, dduck: is there a point at which the recipient formally accepts the award (before the actual acceptance speech in Oslo)? You’d think Obama would have said something by now if he were going to pull a Teddy Roosevelt.

    • November 13, 2009 12:26 pm

      I have no idea. But at this point, it might be too late. The rabid righties and the right-moderates (me) would blast him for first flip flopping and then for making a Machiavellian move.

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