Friday, October 9, 2009

The only possible explanation why President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize

Ibrahim Assem, a man-on-the-street in Cairo interviewed by the New York Times, says:

"They are handing him the Nobel Peace Prize because he isn’t George Bush."
That's from the New York Times' roundup of reactions from around the world. See if you can tell which of those reactions are honest.

UPDATE: Mickey Kaus says Obama should turn down the prize. Kaus has the right idea, and so do people writing for The New Republic and the Telegraph and Gawker and Metafilter and DailyKos -- and plenty of other bloggers.

UPDATE: Obama reacts: he's "surprised and deeply humbled." "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformational figures who have been honored by this prize." "I will accept this award as a call to action." Though he stopped short of turning it down, the subtext -- that he hasn't yet accomplished enough to deserve this -- was clear. President Obama, you handled this awkward moment well.

35 comments:

Meade said...

Turning down the prize would not be very diplomatic.

John Althouse Cohen said...

True, but if he doesn't even have the courage to stand up to the Nobel Committee, how is going to be able get anything done in the world so that he eventually deserves the prize?

Meade said...

Hey, it's their prize. If the Nobel Committee says he deserves it, he deserves it. If they damage their own brand, isn't that their problem?

BTW, you know Hitler was nominated for prize in 1939. He didn't win it of course. But, in hindsight, maybe they should have given it to him. Maybe he would have better behaved himself.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Hey, it's their prize. If the Nobel Committee says he deserves it, he deserves it.

That might be strictly true in some narrow ontological sense, but it's not Obama's job to affirm the validity of Nobel prizes. He should do whatever's politically smart. Though you're right, of course, that turning it down would have a downside in, as Kaus said, dissing the Nobel Committee, it'd be worth it to show courage/humility and mitigate the current embarrassment.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Meade :Turning down the prize would not be very diplomatic.

This is the very thing that being diplomatic is all about.

"I am very honored. I hold the Nobel prize in the highest esteem and I am strengthened in my resolve to know I have the Committee's support; but there are so many more deserving people in this world than I, people who have a hard time being heard and people we should listen to; so I respectfully decline this prize."

Jason (the commenter) said...

Mr. President,

I am available if you would like to hire me.

Meade said...

If it isn't his job to affirm the validity of the prize, it isn't his job to deny the validity of the prize.

If he wants to demonstrate his courage/humility, he should find ways to stand up, on principle, to his own party. Or to his wife. Or to all the other people who've been telling him his whole life just how great he is when he's never really accomplished anything to deserve it.

Has he?

Joaquin said...

A prize that had been sliding into irrelevancy, has reached rock bottom.
God, Bill Clinton right now is smoking cigarettes and drinking Bourbon right out of the bottle!
Poor Bubba!

Oligonicella said...

Meade --

"Hey, it's their prize. If the Nobel Committee says he deserves it, he deserves it."

Yes, it's their prize. No, he doesn't deserve it. It's a peace prize and he's done nothing resulting in peace as yet.

If he accepts, he only makes a further mockery of himself. He'll accept.

Meade said...

"To be honest" nearly always prefaces a dishonesty.

Jason (the commenter) said...

jac: President Obama, you handled this awkward moment well.

He still has to go and give a speech, then do something with the money. There will be many more awkward situations to follow. And he has accepted them rather than deal with the slight awkwardness of turning down the prize.

John Althouse Cohen said...

He still has to go and give a speech,

Well, he'll probably handle that well too.

then do something with the money.

(1) Save up for his daughters' education. (2) Donate to a fitting charity.

Meade said...

(2) Donate to a fitting charity.

Cash for Clunkers.

tim maguire said...

He handled the moment fairly well, he certainly could have done worse (despite his typical misuse of the word "humbled"--he wasn't humbled), but he should have turned it down for the same reason Jimmy Carter should have turned it down.

Obama was given that award as a slap in the face to the United States government, it's political system, half its people and a former president.

He should turn it down not because he is the protector of the Nobel label, but because he is the leader of the country being insulted by the awards committee.

Anonymous said...

Cash for Clunkers.

Come on now, be nice to your son.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Well Jac, I suppose it is nice to know that there isn't anyone in the world trying to do good things that needs more exposure or more money than they already have.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Well Jac, I suppose it is nice to know that there isn't anyone in the world trying to do good things that needs more exposure or more money than they already have.

Did I say that?

Jason (the commenter) said...

jac: Did I say that?

That's what the Nobel Peace Price Committee said by giving Obama the award and what Obama said by not refusing it.

You said you thought it was handled well; and as you mentioned in your post, we are judging people here on the subtext.

John Althouse Cohen said...

I think he accepted it rather than disrespecting the Nobel Committee but still sending the message that it wasn't appropriate for him to receive it in the first place (which wasn't his choice). While turning it down would been a more forceful way to make this point, he still made the point.

Jason (the commenter) said...

And yet the damage still gets done and Obama does nothing to remedy it. How can he solve any of the problems we elected him to deal with if he can't even deal with the Nobel Peace Prize Committee?

People are dying somewhere and he's worrying about hurting the reputation of the Nobel. And Jac pats him on the back.

tim maguire said...

Jason, I think you're being a little hard on JAC. This is really small beer. Accepting the award doesn't take much of his time and doesn't (need to) interfere with his duties as president.

It's symbolic and while the best follow up symbol would have been to decline it, Obama did the next best thing by acknowledging the validity of the complaints while not further embarrassing the Swedes (however much they may have embarrassed themselves).

Two cheers instead of three.

Jason (the commenter) said...

tim maguire: I think you're being a little hard on JAC.

If JAC had won the Nobel Peace Prize and given a statement similar to Obama's I would have been fine with it. But Obama is President of the United States of America, he's supposed to be a political animal, not have the same responses as someone off the street.

If I'm a little hard with you guys it's because I think you should hold our politicians to higher standards. Especially ones who want to keep us from making our own decisions and make them for us themselves.

MathMom said...

He could give the money to any of these people who did not win the Nobel Peace Prize, though they were under consideration:

Chinese Human Rights Activist Hu Jia - imprisoned for campaigning for human rights in the PRC, not as worthy as Barack Hussein Obama.

Wei Jingsheng, who spent 17 years in Chinese prisons for urging reforms of China's communist system. -- not as worthy as Barack Hussein Obama. (Not to mention the symbolic value of awarding a Chinese dissident on the 20th Anniversary of the Tianenmen Square Massacre.)

Greg Mortenson, founder of the Central Asia Institute has built nearly 80 schools, especially for girls, in remote areas of northern Pakistan and Afghanistan over the past 15 years - not as worthy as Barack Hussein Obama.

Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad, a philosophy professor in Jordan who risks his life by advocating interfaith dialogue between Jews and Muslims, also not as worthy as Barack Hussein Obama.

Afghan human rights activist Sima Samar. She currently leads the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission and serves as the U.N. special envoy to Darfur and is apparently also not as worthy as Barack Hussein Obama.

Unfortunately, he'll give the money to some "charity" like ACORN. Mark my words.

Jason (the commenter) said...

MathMom, I don't think he can give the money to anyone, the US government is going to get it. And no matter what he does with his time, it wont garner the same attention for whoever he gives it to as if they had won the Nobel Peace Prize.

If Obama had rejected the Nobel it would have shown he was worthy to receive it. He missed the opportunity of a lifetime. Instead of being noble, he has shown himself to be ordinary.

John Althouse Cohen said...

He's said he'll give it all to charity.

Meade said...

If I were Obama, I'd donate the entire aftertax sum to the semper fi fund.

Jason (the commenter) said...

JAC, they're trying to figure out if Obama will be able to do even that over at The Volokh Conspiracy.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Interesting -- I'll look at that. Thanks for the link.

Johnny said...

Hey old friend, this is Johnny.

I wonder how many people have actually watched his speech after the announcement--

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbOWxc7Wwrg

Anyway, I disagree with this sentiment--

"They are handing him the Nobel Peace Prize because he isn’t George Bush."

I seriously doubt that John McCain would've been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize had he been elected; he never had the message.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Johny :I seriously doubt that John McCain would've been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize had he been elected; he never had the message.

Don't forget, McCain was portrayed as the same as Bush, so of course he wouldn't have gotten it under this theory.

Look at who else got the Nobel during Bush's time in office: Al Gore and Jimmy Carter. It does look like the committee was trying to send anti-Bush sentiments through its choices. Maybe Bush is responsible for all three of these people getting the award. It would be ironic if true.

Mary said...

Mr. President,

I am available if you would like to hire me.

Too late. Looks like he went with the beautiful "call to action" line instead. Heh.

Meade said...

President Not George Bush

Jason (the commenter) said...

And W can call himself President Not Not George Bush.

Jason (the commenter) said...

Update: Some people are claiming Obama is mentioning his prize every chance he gets.

John Althouse Cohen said...

Jason: Here are the only examples that piece cites:

(1) "The White House" sent an email referring to Obama in the third person, describing conversations Obama recently had with other world leaders, and mentioning that he thanked them for congratulating him on the prize.

(2) A similar email describing a phone call with another world leader, mentioning that he thanked the leader for the congratulations on the prize.

It's not clear who sent either of these emails, or to whom. (To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, I didn't know White Houses could send emails.)

(3) There's an email that the reporter jokingly refers to as being from Obama himself, sent to that reporter on the morning the prize was announced. I say jokingly because he puts "Barack Obama" in scare quotes and mentions that Obama's email address is "info@barackobama.com," which is obviously the email address of a website administrator, not the president. Though it's addressed to "Toby" (the reporter), it's obviously not a personal message, but a form email intended to give reporters a quotable response to the news that everyone was talking about that morning.

I hesitated to criticize the piece because it's so weak I almost thought it was a poorly executed joke ... but his tone seems pretty serious. I'm actually heartened: if people have to strain so much to come up with criticisms of Obama, he can't be that bad.