Their Nobel Savior – by Jacob Laksin


If wishes were prizes, they might add up to the once-prestigious award that was bestowed on President Barack Obama this morning. In what sounded initially like a send-up of his inflated celerity, Obama – on the job for all of nine months and with no accomplishments of note to his credit – was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for seemingly nothing more than the political aspirations of global unity and “hope” on which he has yet to deliver.

The official rationale for the prize, according to the Swedish Nobel Committee, was Obama’s work to strengthen international diplomacy and eliminate nuclear weapons. But given that Obama has to date done nothing at all to further these goals – and, indeed, may have hindered the latter by indulging Iran in its dogmatic pursuit of a nuclear weapon – this appeared to be little more than high-minded window dressing. Insofar as the Nobel committee cited any tangible accomplishment by the American president, it was to laud him for capturing “the world’s attention” and giving people “hope for a better for future.” In essence, Obama has been honored for his campaign rhetoric.

Obama is not the first sitting American president to be awarded the Nobel, but he is the least deserving. Theodore Roosevelt received the prize in 1906, and Woodrow Wilson won in 1919. Yet both these presidential predecessors had done something to warrant the distinction: Roosevelt was acknowledged for successfully negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese war; Wilson for founding the League of Nations and formulating the Treaty of Versailles. Whatever the long-term merit of these achievements – the League of Nations is now widely considered a failure – they could be considered real contributions to world peace at the time of their recognition. No such claim can be made on behalf of the Obama administration’s policies.

So conspicuously thin is Obama’s in-office résumé that even some on the Left professed shock at the committee’s selection. Writing at The Daily Beast, Peter Beinart pointed out that honoring Obama on the basis of a few speeches was a backhanded confirmation of the conservative critique of his presidency:

I like Barack Obama as much as the next liberal, but this is a farce. He’s done nothing to deserve the prize. Sure, he’s given some lovely speeches and launched some initiatives—on Iran, Israeli-Palestinian peace, climate change and nuclear disarmament—that might, if he’s really lucky and really good, make the world a more safe, more just, more peaceful world. But there’s absolutely no way to know if he’ll succeed, and by giving him the Nobel Prize as a kind of “atta boy,” the Nobel Committee is actually just highlighting the gap that conservatives have long highlighted: between Obamamania as global hype and Obama’s actual accomplishments.

Indeed, it seems Obama’s chief accomplishment, in the Nobel Committee’s eyes, is that he is not George W. Bush. Thus, without naming Bush directly, committee chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said, “Look at the level of confrontation we had just a few years ago. Now we get a man who is not only willing but probably able to open dialogue and strengthen international institutions.” Elsewhere, the committee praised Obama for creating a “new climate in international politics,” one in which “multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position.” The message was clear: Obama is not Bush.

Never mind that the Bush administration repeatedly sought multilateral solutions to foreign crises, whether in its fruitless attempt to secure UN cooperation against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq or in its commitment to working with European powers to contain Iran’s nuclear program. Never mind, too, that the Bush administration did more than its successor, at least so far, to cut nuclear weapons stockpiles. In the end, its party affiliation was uncongenial to the Nobel Committee, which has devolved into a rubber stamp for the correct (read: liberal) politics. It is no coincidence that, of the three prominent American politicians to win the Nobel in the past decade, all, including Obama, Al Gore and Jimmy Carter, have been Democrats.

Even worse than the blatant partisanship of the committee, the Nobel has become a missed opportunity to honor the truly deserving. There was no shortage of such choices among this year’s nominees, who included the likes Hu Jia, the Chinese dissident serving a three-and-a-half-year prison term on trumped-up charges of “incitement to subvert state power”; Morgan Tsvangirai, the longtime foe of Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe who has suffered relentless harassment from the regime’s thugs, and whose wife was killed this March in a suspicious car accident that occurred just days after he had become prime minister in a power sharing deal; and Sima Simar, the Afghan human-rights activist whose campaign to bring attention to the plight of Afghan women, as well as her outspoken opposition to Islamic practices requiring women to be kept in seclusion and to wear the burqa have made her a target for Taliban terrorists. All have done more than President Obama to advance the cause of human rights. All could have used the recognition and financial resources that come with the prize more than the articulate but unaccomplished leader of the world’s most powerful country.

It is, of course, not President Obama’s fault that he was chosen for the award, and he was appropriately humble in his acceptance. “To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who have been honored by this prize,” the president said, observing that he did not view it “as a recognition of my own accomplishments.” And it’s hard to credit the claim that this year’s choice has diminished the award – an award whose past recipients, after all, have included unrepentant terrorist Yasir Arafat. But even by these historically low standards, the 2009 award was unique: It provided a reason to dismiss the significance of the Nobel Peace Prize even for those who like its winner.

  • sprinklerman

    Mr. Franken,
    The US is not a Democracy.

    Checks and balances in our government is not meant to mean a two or multiple party system, but in the manner in which the different branches of our Federal Government has been defined in our Constitution.

    And as such an intellectual, you should know how to spell “since”.

  • Smarter_than_Al

    So Obama gets the prize for being black?

    And going over your previous drivel:

    1. If the prize should be awarded “to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”, then how does Gore get one for working on “global warming”

    2. There are always plans to attack potentially aggressive countries/factions. US policy is to be as prepared as possible for action, whether you agree with it or not. So, Obama is as prepared to attack Iran as Bush, Clinton, etc. Whether he knows what to do about it is another story. Guess we will just have to see as Iran's nuclear program continues.

    3. Nice to see you have joined in the 3rd grade name-calling. Couldn't resist, could ya?

    If BO actually does something worthwhile and EFFECTIVE towards establishing peace, then let them award him the prize. But if the only real reason is because he is not Bush, then doesn't Bush deserve it for not being Clinton? Bill Clinton, the president who ordered US military action in more countries since WWII?

    And the financial problems you go on about go back far beyond Bush. Every president, including your beloved Clinton, has contributed to this mess in their own way. Obama, with cap and trade and Obamacare will just be the latest crap on the dungheap. And by far the worst. Period.

    And while you will continue to embarrass yourself in here, you hypocrite, make a decision. Put away the f-bombs and vulgar name-calling, or stop berating others for using them against you. But then, you are just following current Demo-policy.

  • Smarter_than_Al

    Clinton's biggest contribution to the economy was to put our debt on short-term loans. He got a much better interest rate for doing so, as rates were so low then.

    Problem is, his lack of vision never made clear that interest rates just might go up for a change. So, instead of using long-term debt to make it more manageable, he took the glory of saving some interest payments, and passed on to future presidencies the problem of dealing with rising interest rates.

    Not saying that is the problem, just saying that Clinton does not deserve the credit.

  • Smarter_than_Al

    Holy crap.

    A framework for lasting peace? Just how naive are you?

    Do you have a machine that does your writing for you, just spewing out the latest party line along with spiteful invective? Clearly no thought goes into this, as all you can do it antagonize anyone who disagrees with you.

    There are some liberals I can respect. I won't always agree with them, but we can have the occasional healthy debate. But until you can come up with some rational arguments instead of the vomit your bring forth, your flaming here is no longer worth my attention.

  • xyz

    Franken and Bubba are not worth anyone's time, but it seems they dominate this web site. Count them up – to and from and about them. They are loving the attention. For some people it's not about what kind of attention they get, just so long as they are getting it. I've decided they aren't getting any more from me. It seems to act as a reward for them and encourages their base behavior. It would be nice if we could get a high level dialogue going here but it keeps dropping down to the level of those two.

  • AlFranken1

    First of all, I'm not a liberal. I have this screen name to incite and provoke dialog with stupid lazy republican parrots that think themselves. If carefully read everything I post, you would see that I'm not affiliated with any party — i'm a swing voter that votes issues that doesn't trust either party and despise all fanatics.

    About being cruel — yes it is a cruel world.

    One thing I learned about jerks who give themselves a screen name that holds themselves up on soapbox as some sort of hero are more often than not — not what they pretend to be.

    I personally know combat veterans and I'm not one of them

    They don't act the way these clowns do.

    Serving in the military doesn't give you a special place in the world of debate and i can treat them the same as anyone else and especially if they talk down to me as if they have some sort of authority.

    They don't — they are wanna be ass wipes.

    I know what cruel is — and my behavior towards people on this website is not cruel.

    Another thing, Is it Jesus that said that if you gloat what you have given you have received your award in full?

    What does that tell you about someone who gives them self this war hero screen name?

  • AlFranken1

    ha ha

    Smarter than Al?

    Let me guess. you are a young Republican studying Political Science at some Christian College that is volunteering your weekend evening monitoring this website while doing your homework while popping your pimples.

    I'm extremely honored that you picked such a rebellious name towards my cause — as if you are going to take me on in a Colosseum with tigers and lions with an array of weapons.

    I carefully read your responses and have came to the conclusion that you are either a dumb white trash or someone that lives by their principles and is eagerly ready to defend it.

    If it is the latter, I salute you.

    Your response to my reasoning to Obama getting the prize and you thinking i meant that he got it for being black makes me wonder what intellectual level you are right now.

    I'm a little confuse because of your ambition but you seem to have some innocence in your experience in life.

    It is too early to tell if you are just trailer trash so I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

    I'm usually here on this website Friday through Sunday and I pick one subject Friday morning and research it.

    Then I proceed bitch slapping anyone who parrots the Bullshit on this site.

    Sense I get easily bored I more than welcome a new challenge.

    Smarter than Al and Al Franken — This coming Weekend

    Ring side seats

    After i have my way with you, will Horowitz take me on in a debate via You tube?

    Na — too much of puss probably.

    He just likes to give sound bites of calling people anti semitic.


  • AL.

    You can say what you want, you can know who you want, sunshine. That changes nothing… One day or another….

  • Smarter_than_Al

    Sorry Al,

    No poli sci major here, no Christian College, not a Christian, period. Approaching middle age, so probably older than you, considering your writing style, violent tendencies, and general vulgarity. Straight teeth, full head of hair, decent physical shape, a real house, a real job that lets me pay the mortgage. A family that loves me. A job that has me traveling the world, experiencing different cultures and people, while still reminding me how well we have it here at home. Smart enough to have been a Conservative long before I went to college, and focussed enough to maintain my political affiliation through all the liberal indoctrination going to college implies.

    Lemme guess… you are about 30, wondering which hamburger it was you wrapped with your BA (sociology, perhaps?), and with nothing better to do with your weekends than find some safe place to yell at people. Big-city East Coast boy, perhaps? Lot of anger out that way.

    Problem with internet forums… too often they have people like you, angry at the world, yelling down anyone with a differing opinion, thinking that the sheer volume of your words make you more correct. Generally there are a small handful, on both side of the debate, who have something intelligent to add without swearing or berating their opponents. But you get to drown them out with your drivel, and turn away the people looking for respectful discourse.

    Obama may well do something to earn a Nobel Peace Prize. What people are trying to say, and what you don't seem to grasp, is that when he was nominated, he hadn't done a single thing. The junior Senator from Illinois didn't do much more than show up when he was in Congress, and in his 12 Presidential days before the nominations deadline, his time was spent deciding which fabric looks best for the new carpeting and trying to find a suitable dog.

    Even if he had brought peace to the Middle East in March 2009, he is not eligible to win in 2009. Maybe in the next 12 months, he will do something to earn it. I, for one, am not counting on it, since he has so many domestic issues to be concerned about, and rightly so.

    So put away all this junk about peace congresses and what is written in Nobel's will, since anything Obama that falls within those guidelines came after the 12 days.

    If, as you say above, it was awarded as an expression of gratitude from the Europeans, I agree with you 100%. Only problem with that is, it has nothing to do with Nobel's will, or peace, or anything else except politics. So, let's call it what it is:

    Barack Obama has just won the innaugural Nobel Liberal Prize.

    If he was not elected President, would he have won? Would he have been nominated? Not a chance.

    This is why the selection committee is a complete joke. You mention Americans electing their first black President. You mention the removal of the Bush administration. Where are those in Nobel's will?

    Where in Nobel's will does it say anything about the environment? Do you think, just a little, that Gore's award was also political, and again nothing to do with peace? You can take that to the bank.

    The Norwegians get their revenge on America! Perhaps the Marshall Plan wasn't enough for them.

    I see Obama plans to donate the prize money. Great news for abortion clinics and the various alternative-gender groups that helped him become what he is today. Or maybe the money will go to groups actively more deserving than Obama for promoting peace.

    So enjoy your weekend, Al, and have fun calling me chicken for not showing up, and bleating the same ol' garbage to anyone here who will read it. Will that be light beer or a white wine spritzer with your leftover pizza?

    I have a job to do, a home to work on, a family to care for, money to spend, and a couple sports events to enjoy.

    As for you having your way with me, sorry, my door doesn't swing that way.

    Hey, if all you get from this is the understanding that more people might want to talk to you, in real life let alone on the Internet, if you communicate civilly and have real discussions rather than threatening and yelling at someone's comments, the world will be a better place. Maybe I'll get nominated in 2010! Peace on the Internet! Millions of people free to talk in public forums. Woo hoo!