Pariticpation Award

Obama received the Nobel peace prize this morning in a move that surprised even him. WHPS Gibbs had to wake him up just before 6 a.m. this morning to pass along the message. I woke up on my own this morning around 6 a.m., where's my Nobel?

I support the President, but I think my reaction was along the lines of what Gibbs had to be thinking: "Oh god. How are we going to live up to this one?" If W was master of anything it was keeping expectations low. Obama's chief fault may be the flip-side, and the Nobel, coming so early in his presidency and predicated presumably on his diplomatic world tour, doesn't help in that department.

Put bluntly, one could not be blamed for thinking that Obama didn't do much to earn this prize. The panel must have known that when they voted, which I think means two things. First, there was no other stand-out candidate. Indeed, thinking back over the year, I can't think of someone who fits the bill. Of course, that doesn't mean that the panel was without options. There are many, many unknown crusaders for justice and peace out there to choose from. Instead, it appears that the popularity-contest-cum-Nobel trend continues. Gore won it and some people pursed their lips. This year, the physics prize was explicitly aimed at those who had created technologies we use every day - Charles Kao, Willard Boyle and George Smith, creators of fiber optics and the CCD. If that is the prism through which one views the Nobel, Obama is a good choice.

Second, and perhaps more important, is the fact that there is no anti-Nobel prize. That is, even if Obama didn't do much yet, what he has done is a diplomatic 180 from the Bush administration. I don't know exactly how large that looms on the world stage, but I saw the shots of the Berlin rally and the for once favorable European press reviews of the current travels. The distinction is not in standing above the rest, but in so quickly returning from the void to stand with the rest that makes Obama special. If this was the reason for the prize, however, it is hardly about Obama at all. Instead, it is an abject lesson in just how bad W was as a leader, how painfully obvious that was to everyone else (like that girlfriend of yours they won't talk about), and how much damage that did to U.S. power and standing on the global stage.

1 comment:

David said...

This is a good example of how the Nobel Peace prize committee has become beholden to an ideology more than to outcomes. President Obama doesn't have any significant outcomes or accomplishments yet, and has continued the policies of President Bush in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the US regarding detentions and surveillance.

You're correct: this is about "the person who isn't Bush," so it gets a big "whatever" from me.