Feature

Why the Nobel judges love Obama

Is it really so surprising that the president won the Nobel Peace Prize?

What happened
Four of the Nobel jury's five judges on Tuesday publicly defended their decision to award President Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said Obama deserved the award because his efforts to heal the divide between the West and the Muslim world, along with other actions, had "contributed to, I wouldn't say a safer world, but a world with less tension." (AP in The Washington Post)

What the commentators said
"The Nobel Committee did President Obama no favors by prematurely awarding him its peace prize," said Thomas Friedman in The New York Times. Even Obama acknowledges "he has not done anything yet on the scale that would normally merit such an award." It's not Obama's fault "that the Europeans are so relieved at his style of leadership, in contrast to that of his predecessor, that they want to do all they can to validate and encourage it." Still, it's a shame to see such an important award devalued.

Giving Obama the Nobel didn't devalue it, said Bret Stephens in The Wall Street Journal. He's just the kind of person the judges love—"goodists" who think all conflict stems from avoidable misunderstandings. Ever heard of Bertha von Suttner, Henri La Fontaine, Ludwig Quidde, Norman Angell, Arthur Henderson, Eisaku Sato, Alva Myrdal and Joseph Rotblat? No? Like Obama, they're "goodists" who never accomplished much before winning the prize, and they all subsequently disappeared as "footnotes of history."

But Obama is president of the United States, said J.P. Freire in the Washington Examiner, so the Nobel judges want something from him. That's why it's so clear that giving Obama the Nobel Peace Prize is an unacceptable example of foreign meddling in American politics. "If Obama is going to be tempted to consider peace, let it be because it is in American interests, not because he wants to hold true to Nobel's ideals."

Conservatives are livid that Obama didn't decline the prize, said Garrison Keillor in the Chicago Tribune. But the Nobel is just a compliment—the polite thing to do is accept it gracefully, as Obama has, and sit down. "The wailing and gnashing of teeth that you hear among Republicans" is mostly envy, because the other side elected "an idealistic, articulate young president who is enormously popular everywhere in the world except in the states of the Confederacy." Maybe they wish Dick Cheney had won—but they don't give Nobels to a man who "has shot somebody in the face with a shotgun."

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