Friday, October 09, 2009

Barack Obama: Nobel Peace Prize?

First off, let me say that I'm happy Obama got the prize, if for no other reason than that it will make the regular conservative blowhards have multiple aneurysms and will make them look so very petty (and dare I say un-American) to piss on something that is nothing but a good thing for this country. I mean, really, would they feel better if Obama got the Nobel Prize for torture? So, let conservatives splutter, let their veins pop out of their heads and necks, let them once again be exposed for the naysayer cynics that they are. So, yeah, I'm happy Obama got the award.

That said, I have to say I did find it quite surprising and strange. I do think Obama will earn this award, but it does seem a bit premature to me that he got it for something yet to come.

When I step back and try to understand how this could have happened, I am forced to confront the fact that Obama really has been a positively transformative figure to the rest of the world in ways that even his supporters here in the U.S. can't really even begin to grasp. I have been equally surprised by how much the rest of the world really thinks Obama deserves this award at this time. Such a thing tells me that the damage that George W. Bush did to the U.S.'s image and reputation in the world was enormous. I mean, I knew it was bad, but I had no clue it was so bad that Obama's simply not being Bush and taking steps to undo the worst of Bush's damage was enough to make the Nobel Peace Prize committee consider Obama to be a harbinger of peace.

I also was thinking earlier that the Nobel Peace Prize Committee put Obama in a very difficult position. Does he accept the award and thus give his domestic critics ammunition to harp on more about his perceived arrogance and narcissism? Or does Obama reject the award and so slap the face of the world, thus potentially risking much of the good will and political capital among the world that Obama has so painstakingly constructed over the years?

Whichever path Obama would have chosen (and we know now that he has chosen to accept the Prize), he would be stepping into a minefield.

But the testament to Obama's abilities is how skillfully he actually does manage to walk this line. Here is how he formally greeted the news in front of the U.S. people and the world:

In this speech, Obama shows humility and grace, all the while broadening this Prize Award's recognition to include the full range of people throughout the world who are trying to make this world a better and more peaceful place to live.

James Fallows of the Atlantic has a wonderful, must-read evaluation of the skillfulness and mastery with which Obama handled this surprising news.

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