Obama Wins Nobel — And a Bigger Bullseye

Posted on 09. Oct, 2009 by in Uncategorized

Nobel Peace Prize“I’m trying to figure out, Celeste, if I want to be Barack Obama this morning, or if he’s under so much pressure to deliver world peace… “
John Hockenberry, host of “The Takeaway,” to co-host  Celeste Headlee

I woke up this morning to the news that President Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his international diplomacy. First reaction? To quote Steve Carrell in The 40 Year Old Virgin: “This is gonna be bad.”

Why? It just feels premature. Yes, Obama has a level of international celebrity, but he has been in office for only nine months (and he wasn’t exactly a renowned global leader before his term began). That, to me, means the award is a symbolic one: Obama has lofty goals and the Nobel Committee appreciates those. The statement on their website seems to indicate as much:

The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama’s vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.” (emphasis added my be)

“Efforts” and “vision” eloquently imply Obama hasn’t accomplished anything firm yet, reinforcing the idea of the Nobel as symbolic. But then there’s this both-sides-of-the-coin quote by Thorbjorn Jagland, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee:

“We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year,” Mr. Jagland said. “We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”

This comes across as the Nobel Committee buying shares of Obama stock. He has displayed potential and they think he will produce dividends. But as we know, investing isn’t a sure thing.

So why is this bad? Let me be frank: I’m an Obama supporter, which is why I wish he hadn’t won this award. If I’m questioning the choice of the Committee Members then the right wingers are salivating. Obama’s already walking a political tightrope, now it has been greased. How do you live up to a Nobel in international diplomacy as the president of country full of loudly divisive opinions? My only answer is adverbs: carefully, thoughtfully, skillfully, flawlessly.

Last week, pundits took potshots at Obama for not delivering on Chicago’s attempt to win the 2016 Olympic, a campaign he had limited involvement in. Now he has won a Nobel for, basically, his presidency. And his presidency has him in the midst of a health care issue at home while simultaneously removing troops from Iraq and choosing a course of action in Afghanistan overseas. To put it lightly, the stakes have been raised.

Obama’s engaged in some huge, sensitive political battles. The odds of all of them breaking his way are slim, and the odds of all of them reaching fruition before his presidency ends slimmer. Each day that passes without a resolution to these issues is another day for his opponents to measure him against his accolades. They just added more inches onto their measuring sticks.

Deserving of the prize or not (lots good opinion on that issue here), the Nobel is another can of gasoline for naysayers to fuel their fires with. Perhaps the Nobel will prove helpful in international relations as Obama moves forward. Of that, I’m not sure. But I can say with fair certainty that his job here in the U.S. won’t be any easier because of it.

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