Many of us assumed that the mainstream media outlets would cheer Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize award today, but as Byron York notices, they seem as stunned as everyone else — and also as skeptical. For instance, the Washington Post reminds readers that two other sitting American Presidents have won the Nobel, but only in their second terms, and only after they’d, er, actually achieved something:
Obama is the third sitting U.S. president–and the first in 90 years–to win the prestigious peace prize. His predecessors won during their second White House terms, however, and after significant achievements in their diplomacy. Woodrow Wilson was awarded the price in 1919, after helping to found the League of Nations and shaping the Treatise of Versailles; and Theodore Roosevelt was the recipient in 1906 for his work to negotiate an end to the Russo-Japanese war.
In contrast, Obama is struggling over whether to expand the war in Afghanistan, preparing to withdraw from Iraq, and searching for ways to build momentum to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks and assemble an international effort to stop Iran’s nuclear program.
On Twitter, a number of people are making reference to Jimmy Carter’s award in 2002 for nothing more than speaking out against the policies of George Bush. However, Carter had a legitimate shot at it in 1978 for his work on brokering a peace agreement between Israel and Egypt only a few years after their last war — and didn’t get a share in the Nobel awarded to Menachem Begin and Anwar Sadat for those efforts. Has Obama done anything remotely significant in foreign affairs, let alone as significant as that agreement, which still continues today?
The New York Times should also be cheering, but instead it also questions the thought process of Nobel voters:
Reporters at a news conference to announce the prize pressed the committee’s chairman, Thorbjorn Jagland, to explain the reasons Mr. Obama had prevailed over other candidates who included human rights activists in China and Afghanistan and political figures in Africa.
Specifically, reporters asked whether Mr. Obama might not become mired in a war in Afghanistan as Lyndon B. Johnson was in Vietnam.
But the committee said it wanted to enhance Mr. Obama’s diplomatic efforts so far rather than anticipate events in the future.
What diplomatic efforts “so far”? He gave a speech in Cairo and … and … and … gave a few in Europe, too. That was the point of those questions from reporters; Obama has done little so far. He has mostly followed the Bush policies in two wars that the Nobel committee appeared to detest over the last few years, as Allahpundit pointed out in his post this morning. Obama did make a big show of appeasing Iran during its election crisis. Perhaps they should change the award’s name to the Neville rather than the Nobel.
Finally, Matt Lauer apparently hit the nail on the head with his assessment, according to TMV’s Joe Windish:
LAUER: There are no major foreign policy achievements to date … In some ways he wins this for not being George W. Bush.
GREGORY: That’s an inescapable conclusion.
That’s actually the only reason. He won for getting elected. It’s no more significant than that, and even the normally fawning American media know better.
Update: Peter Beinart says this only reinforces the conservative argument that Obamamania is all about style over substance, calling the award a “farce”:
I had always thought the way these things worked was that you helped bring peace or democracy to some corner of the globe first, and then you won the Nobel Prize. But this year, the Nobel Committee has turned that logic around: It clearly likes what Obama is trying to do: on nuclear disarmament, climate change and Middle East peace—and so, in a “preemptive” strike, it’s giving him the award now, in hopes that doing so will boost his chances of success later. It’s an interesting idea. Perhaps next they’ll start giving Oscars not to the people who have made the best movies of last year, but to the people who have the best chance of making the best movies next year. After all, once you’ve already made the movie, you no longer need the encouragement.
I like Barack Obama as much as the next liberal, but this is a farce. He’s done nothing to deserve the prize. Sure, he’s given some lovely speeches and launched some initiatives—on Iran, Israeli-Palestinian peace, climate change and nuclear disarmament—that might, if he’s really lucky and really good, make the world a more safe, more just, more peaceful world. But there’s absolutely no way to know if he’ll succeed, and by giving him the Nobel Prize as a kind of “atta boy,” the Nobel Committee is actually just highlighting the gap that conservatives have long highlighted: between Obamamania as global hype and Obama’s actual accomplishments.
Personally, I prefer this “major award”. It’s just as tacky, but at least it does something: