November 28, 2009
Filed under Uncategorized
Last month president Barack Obama was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Based on the committee’s judgment, he was selected because of “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”
Predictably, the Democratic leader’s win bothered the Republicans, most of whom thought Obama didn’t do enough to earn the award. Politico, a conservative website, cited Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele’s affirmation that Obama’s Nobel peace prize win was based on apparent intentions rather than specific actions. Steele said, the real question Americans are asking is, “What has President Obama actually accomplished?”
It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real progress working toward peace and human rights. What was unexpected here is that many well-known representatives of the liberal media shared their conservative counterparts’ skepticism toward the Nobel Prize Committee, which had affirmed basing its decision on the president’s efforts towards nuclear disarmament as well as his reliance on diplomacy and dialogue with the world.
Obama’s supporting media reacted in a protective manner against the conservative media attacks, managing to deflect attention from Obama’s winning to his predecessor’s faults. For Michael Grunwald, Time magazine columnist and author of the recent article “Obama’s Nobel: Another Slap at George W. Bush,” the Obama decision was largely a product of the world community’s relief at the departure of the former president.
In his article, Grunwald even suggested the creation of a new Nobel Price category: NPFNBGWB, which stands for Nobel Peace Prize for Not Being George W. Bush. He wrote: “And while the Nobel crowd’s fury over Bush may be over the top, it’s a reminder that he was a uniquely unpopular leader who left the U.S. in a uniquely lousy situation.”
Not only news people expressed their opinions on the matter. In a Huffington Post piece titled “Congratulations President Obama on the Nobel Prize–Now Please Earn It!” filmmaker Michael Moore asserted that Obama’s decision to enter presidential politics in a time where there was so much mistrust of the U.S. government justified the win. Moore addressed Obama directly: “… The very fact that you’ve offered to walk into the minefield of hate and try to undo the irreparable damage the last president did is not only appreciated by me and millions of others, it is also an act of true bravery. That’s why you got the prize.”
In the Newsweek piece “In Defense of Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize,” bloggers Ben Adler and Daniel Stone called the Nobel Committee’s selection “political hackery.” They wrote: “… When you consider the fact that Obama was nominated before he had even done anything as president, you certainly could see it as an extension of Europe’s middle finger to his predecessor.
However, not all the media reacted predictably. Bill O’Reilly, conservative host of The O’Reilly Factor, perceived Obama’s Nobel in a more positive way, observing, “There are times when what’s good for America should trump partisan politics. … Deserved or not, the world is hearing ‘America’ and ‘peace’ in the same sentence. That’s good.” O’Reilly may have been trying to avoid confronting a liberal media counterattack that would have reminded his audience of our last conservative leader.
Members of the Nobel Prize Committee rejected allegations of having let politics guide their award decision. In the Politico story “Noble Committee Defends Award,” members of the committee expressed their opposition to the idea that President Obama had done nothing to earn the prize, adding that he had won because he did something meaningful in the eyes of the committee. Nevertheless, Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland noted that major factors behind the president’s selection included his decision to turn down to a Bush proposal for an anti-missile shield in Europe and his outreach to Muslim communities. But not even committee could deny that Bush’s departure was at least somewhat influential in their decision.
In his Time article, Grunwald asserted that the NPFNBGWB Prize was created in 2002 to award former president Jimmy Carter who, among other things, was “the most prominent American critic of then President Bush’s buildup to a war in Iraq.”
Then, Grunwald continued, in 2005, the prize was awarded to Mohamed ElBaradei of the International Atomic Energy Agency for his nonacceptance of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction pronouncement. And in 2007 it was awarded to Al Gore for promoting the idea of global warming, which directly countered Bush’s initial denial of the phenomenon.
For both conservative or liberal media, Obama’s Nobel Prize win represents the recognition of goodwill and intentions but not necessarily the fulfillment of the accomplishments normally required of such an honor. Rather than basing their defensive arguments on the Nobel Committee’s account, they aimed their invective at the last Conservative leader. It was all about not being George W. Bush.