Should Obama have accepted the Nobel prize? — Michael Tomasky
OCT 10 — Did Barack Obama earn this Nobel peace prize? Obviously not. The world's stockpile of nuclear weapons (the main specific area of his "work" named in the citation) hasn't decreased by one that I'm aware of since he took office. He hasn't made a dent in the Middle East yet. Iran hasn't suddenly seen the light.
And, yes, there is the irony that he is in fact a war president, even now consulting with his top military people and — if I had to guess — preparing to send more troops, not fewer, to Afghanistan.
It must be said that it hasn't been a great year for peace any way you slice it — how many years are? Still, I'd have to say there were many better choices.
So you have to wonder whether the Nobel committee has its tongue part-way up its cheek here. Or that the prize needed some star power. Or that they just really hated George Bush and wanted to make a point. Or something. I see that the fellow in charge said that "it was because we would like to support what he is trying to achieve".
But there is one lovely, delicious, delectable thing about the whole business: it will drive the American right wing up the wall.
I normally can't stand to hear Rush Limbaugh's voice, but I just might listen today. I might flip on Fox for a bit. I'll make sure at some point this afternoon to Google "Orly Taitz and Obama Nobel" to imbibe the analysis on offer from the queen of the birthers. I'll definitely check in on the rightwing websites, and I urge you to do the same if you have the time. It's going to be an extremely entertaining day.
Beyond the fun, there are serious questions for the White House on how it should handle this. Let's face it. This is so out of nowhere that it could be almost embarrassing for the White House. If Obama and his people try to act like this was really deserved, he could damage himself politically.
The guy doesn't usually do humble very well, but he was humble enough in his Rose Garden remarks yesterday morning: "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honoured by this prize, men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace."
I think he probably contained whatever potential political damage might have set in. The right wing will still make hay of it. But they don't matter. What matters — how many times have I written this sentence? — is swing voters. They don't hate the guy and in fact on balance still like him more than not. So as long as he didn't stand up there and act like he had this coming to him and he's the second coming of Metternich, he ought to be okay.
If I were in the White House's boiler room, I would have begun by suggesting to the president that he demur altogether. That would be the best path. Second best would be to accept it but with strings and conditions. First and foremost, I'd recommend that he does not travel to Oslo for the award ceremony next month. No doubt the image of Obama in Oslo was on this committee's mind. But Obama shouldn't indulge them. For a prize that everyone knows was not earned, he should not show up and collect.
So he could pull a Brando and send his own variant of Sacheen Littlefeather. Some virtuous no-name from some obscure corner of the globe who works every day without recognition on the issue of nuclear proliferation. Have the person say Obama sent them because he feels he didn't quite deserve this award but will accept it only in order to highlight the importance of this issue, which is why he sent them instead. That sort of thing.
Finally, and this is a real no-brainer, he has to give the money to some worthy NGO-type group.
I'm mostly just interested, as you can see, in the domestic politics aspects of this, because I just don't take it seriously in substantive terms. But I do wonder: will being a Nobel peace prize winner limit his range of options as America's commander-in-chief in any way? Can a peace prize winner really then go forward and put 20,000 more US soldiers in Afghanistan? Did those sneaky Scandinavian pacifists have this thought up their Scandinavian sleeves?