Judging from my Facebook news feed, even my dyed-in-the-wool-Democrat friends think that awarding President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize is a bit…weird. For starters, the man oversees two wars and can be held responsible for launching civilian-killing missile attacks (er, counterterrorist strikes). So, just imagine what the Republicans—those tea-party attending, town-hall screaming, birth-certificate denying yahoos—are saying!
Well, actually, the right is mostly just rolling its eyes. Or laughing. They got over the Nobel Peace Prize a long time ago; if Al Gore gets one, you might as well give one to The Nazi-Marxist Antichrist, right?
The world has indeed gone topsy-turvy when Michael Steele, loony-headed chairman of the RNC (and Larry David lookalike), sounds more reasonable than his DNC counterparts. “The real question Americans are asking is, ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?’” he said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights.” (The Weekly Standard’s blog has compiled a short-list of people around the world who have fought for peace and justice—or, at least, served some prison time. A Facebook friend suggests the man who threw his shoe at Bush.)
The DNC’s response to such an accusation? “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,” its spokesman wrote in a statement. LOL? WTF? (The statement goes on to make one good point: that the prize is “an award [Obama] did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride.” Oh, right, we’re all Americans, I guess. Congrats, Mr. President.)
Commentators across the web have shared the RNC’s measured but skeptical response. At Townhall.com (groan!), a blogger writes, “Isn’t this, at least, a bit premature? I mean, shouldn’t you at least do something before winning such a prestigious award?” The Daily News suggests that Obama should say: “Thanks, but no thanks. I really didn’t earn this. It’s far too early to know whether my efforts will further the cause of peace. There are countless people more deserving in America alone.”
Same sentiment from George Packer at The New Yorker.
Even much of the Left seems to agree: “Whatever one might feel about Obama, he has not earned this singular award,” writes an Obama supporter at The Huffington Post. “It is enormously premature.”
The subtext several commentators have dug out is that the prize is meant as a celebration of the end of the Bush Era. “Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent,” writes Michael Binyon in the Times (UK). “The prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace… It is certainly true that [Obama’s] energy and aspirations have dazzled many of his supporters. Sadly, it seems they have so bedazzled the Norwegians that they can no longer separate hopes from achievement. The achievements of all previous winners have been diminished.” (Someone writes to the National Review in an e-mail: “Obama’s election alone is worthy of the prize.” Because it has certainly brought peace to this great land!)
But, folks, don’t let’s forget though that the Nobel Peace Prize has been an award of iffy distinction for decades. While previous winners include irreproachable (at least in the popular imagination) figures like Mother Theresa and Nelson Mandela, the list also includes HENRY FUCKING KISSINGER. (Michael Ledeen, a neoconservative think-tanker, told the Washington Independent: “The Nobel Committee is following its well-known proclivity of awarding the Peace Prize to people who make war more likely. Remember Jimmy Carter and Yasser Arafat?” And Kissinger, right? Carter builds homes for the poor!) The Daily News notes: “The Prize, which meant something once, is now officially a late-night joke.” Well, at least then Obama has finally become a uniter and not a divider: it’s a joke that’s making both the left and right crack-up.