It’s not Obama’s fault that the Nobel Committee decided to award him the 2009 Peace Prize. Really, it’s not. In fact, I almost feel bad for Obama – he probably doesn’t deserve the resentment that this announcement will inevitably provoke. Unless the Administration actively lobbied for recognition – something I find implausible, if only because it’s so politically tone-def – this is nothing more than a bad case of friendly fire.
But Obama should, as Kaus suggests, politely decline to accept the award. The Nobel Committee’s rationale is laughably thin, and there are hundreds of more deserving recipients out there who could actually use the recognition.
UPDATE: I see Freddie beat me to it. He’s right, of course. I really hope we spend the next week talking about health care or Denmark or The Office wedding or anything other than the pretensions of some five-member blue ribbon committee in Oslo.
UPDATE II: Mark your calendars, folks. On this day, John Bolton is making sense.
UPDATE III: Phew! I was worried that no one would inject race into this discussion, but fortunately, RedState comes through in the clutch.
UPDATE IV: Get some coffee in your system, Sullivan. And then get back to us with a revised opinion.
UPDATE V: In comments, Michael Drew suggests that turning down a Peace Prize would be a slap in the face to the Nobel Committee. Well, fair enough. After issuing such an absurd decision, they deserve a wake-up call. I also think that recipients always retain the option to decline an award.
Moreover, I don’t think politely declining would be a sign of contempt. Any statement from Obama could be couched in terms of his reverence for the prize – “While I aspire to accomplish something that might merit this award in the future, I feel that I have not yet completed the great tasks that lie before us” or something.
UPDATE VI: It occurs to me that Obama can better afford to offend the Norwegians than the people who actually vote for him
UPDATE VII: Here’s the closest I’ve come to finding a decent defense of the Committee’s selection. Needless to say, I remain unpersuaded.
UPDATE VIII: Spencer Ackerman elaborates on the “Don’t turn it down” argument:
But turning it down would be a slap in the face to an international community that is showing, in the most generous way possible, that it wants the U.S. back as a leading component of the global order. The issue is not Barack Obama. It’s what the president represents internationally: a symbol of an America that is willing, once again, to drive the international system forward, together, toward the humane positive-sum goals of peace and disarmament.
I’m struck by the vacuousness of this argument. Obama is a “symbol” of America’s “humane positive-sum goals?” This may all be true, but absent some tangible accomplishment, I don’t think it merits a Nobel freakin’ Peace Prize.
Also, let’s be clear about who Obama would be “insulting” if he politely declined. The “international community” didn’t decide to award Obama the Peace Prize; a few Norwegian committee members did. I think the world will understand if Obama declines the award after explaining that other nominees are more deserving of the Nobel Commmittee’s recognition than himself.
UPDATE IX: That said, I think Obama’s acceptance speech was about as classy and understated as you could expect under the circumstances (I’d like to extend my heartfelt sympathies to the White House speech-writer who got the call this morning). I think acknowledging his own deficiencies and framing the award as a call to action was a smart, powerful move. Here’s hoping he lives up to the Nobel Committee’s criteria.
UPDATE X: Wow – this award has provoked a bipartisan race to the bottom. Michael Ledeen wastes not time in suggesting that Obama “makes war more likely.” On the other side of the fence, esteemed co-blogger Mark passes along this gem from the DNC:
“The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists – the Taliban and Hamas this morning – in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize,” DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse said in a statement.
I’d like to take this opportunity to nominate Brad Woodhouse for the inaugural League of Ordinary Gentlemen ‘Douchebag of the Day’ award. Congrats, Brad – I’m told it’s an honor just to be nominated.
FINAL UPDATE: That’s all, folks. My take: the Nobel Committee should be panned and Obama should have declined, but given the circumstances, his acceptance speech was about as good as anyone could reasonably expect. As I said above, I sincerely hope we’re not talking about this all week.