They gave him what?

9 Oct 2009

I was among the shocked, mystefied and generally confused masses when I heard today that President Barack Obama had been awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

I’m still not convinced that this doesn’t do a great disservice to the previous winners and other candidates for this year’s award. I can’t completely wrap my head around exactly what was done that was deserving of the award. And it just feels like it was given as a “we know you’ll earn this in time” gesture.

Clusterflock has done a great job at gathering some of the notable comments and responses to the award. They range from the you may be right, always respectful, rarely on topic, completely absurd, poignant, slightly irrelevant, non-existent and fairly even-handed to the out of touch with reality, half-right, the I think you’re probably right and the I couldn’t have said it better myself. I’ll post a few from their collection below.

I don’t think Americans fully absorbed the depths to which this country’s reputation had sunk under the Cheney era. That’s understandable. And so they also haven’t fully absorbed the turn-around in the world’s view of America that Obama and the American people have accomplished. Of course, this has yet to bear real fruit. But you can begin to see how it could; and I hope more see both the peaceful intentions and the steely resolve of this man to persevere.

– Andrew Sullivan

Through no fault of his own, Obama presides over a massive war-making state that spends on its military close to what the rest of the world spends combined. The U.S. accounts for almost 70% of worldwide arms sales. We’re currently occupying and waging wars in two separate Muslim countries and making clear we reserve the “right” to attack a third. Someone who made meaningful changes to those realities would truly be a man of peace. It’s unreasonable to expect that Obama would magically transform all of this in nine months, and he certainly hasn’t. Instead, he presides over it and is continuing much of it. One can reasonably debate how much blame he merits for all of that, but there are simply no meaningful “peace” accomplishment in his record — at least not yet — and there’s plenty of the opposite. That’s what makes this Prize so painfully and self-evidently ludicrous.

– Glenn Greenwald

I congratulate President Obama on receiving this prestigious award. I join my fellow Americans in expressing pride in our President on this occasion…

I think part of their decision-making was expectations. And I’m sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to. But as Americans, we’re proud when our president receives an award of that prestigious category.

– John McCain

You’d expect it to come later in Obama’s presidency and tied to some particular event or accomplishment. But the unmistakable message of the award is one of the consequences of a period in which the most powerful country in the world, the ‘hyper-power’ as the French have it, became the focus of destabilization and in real if limited ways lawlessness. A harsh judgment, yes. But a dark period. And Obama has begun, if fitfully and very imperfectly to many of his supporters, to steer the ship of state in a different direction. If that seems like a meager accomplishment to many of the usual Washington types it’s a profound reflection of their own enablement of the Bush era and how compromised they are by it, how much they perpetuated the belief that it was ‘normal history’ rather than dark aberration.

– John Marshall

And lastly, one from the man himself.

“Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning.

After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, ‘Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo’s birthday.’

And then Sasha added, ‘Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up.’

So it’s — it’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective.”
– Barack Obama