Will the Nobel Peace Prize be an albatross around Obama's neck?

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama has been met with derision across the political spectrum.  He is seen as "not worthy" in the immortal words of Wayne's World and indeed by the President himself, who must recognize he accepts the prize at his own peril.

This is, of course, true if one views the award as being given for a record of accomplishment -- since Barack Obama has done little to advance the cause of peace in the world. Israel/Palestine festers and peace seems father away then it has in years, partly because of Obama's policy missteps. Iran and North Korea develop nuclear weapons under the unwatchful eyes of Barack Obama. Iranians are massacred as Obama extends his unclenched hand towards the Iranian regime. The Russian bear is growling. Despite his large ears, he does not hear.

Clearly, the award is seen as a political act by the Norwegians. It smells of politics. Indeed, the committee that gave Obama the award was composed of Norwegian parliamentarians that, with one exception, leaned to the far-left.  The award has been tarnished for years by the overt politicization behind the award; it is seen as a reward for opposing the policies of George Bush.

But the award to Obama is now seen as being a tool to promote the agenda of the European elites as the expense of the views and interests of Americans. This was clear in the words that followed the award:
'Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

'Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

'For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman.

Americans have an instinctual response to this sort of bloviating by elites from Europe. We don't cotton to it. We do not want to lose our independence ever again. One-world-ism strikes the wrong chord over here. Fecklessness may be elevated to a virtue across the pond from the land that gave us Quisling but it does not play well in Peoria.

Americans have become increasingly concerned that Barack Obama seems to have the interests of Europeans in his heart, rather than those of our own. His endless apologies for America's past when on the stage overseas, his aversion to seeing America as an exceptional nation, his desire to see America become dispensable, his actions to tie up America as Gulliver was restrained by the Lilliputians: all these have begun to gnaw at Americans sense of Obama as being one of us. His philosophy may have been obscured by his speechwriters but the European elites seem to have the translation down pat: he is one of them.

The risks were inherent in the award since there were so many other people more deserving of the award: people passed over for the President. But they had no power to advance the European agenda and may not share the values of European elites. The values issues resonate with Americans:

"This decision does represent a European worldview," said Robin Niblett, director of Chatham House, a London-based think tank. "You've got the Nobel Committee reaching out across the Atlantic and saying, 'Look, here, finally a U.S. leader who also represents our same values.' "

A "European Seal of Approval" is not something most Americans value.

That will have political ramifications here at home. Independents have been moving away from Barack Obama for months. The precipitating factor may have been his push for health care reform, because most Americans do not see their interests being served. The same dynamic may be at work when it comes to foreign policy. The precipitating factor may have been his push for health care reform because most Americans do not see their interests being served in Obama's  obsession with pushing this topic. The same dynamic may be at work when it comes to foreign policy.  Obama's  international policies increasingly depart from the views that Americans  hold-even left of center editorial pages, such as those of the Washington Post, have registered angst about where his foreign policies are leading us.  

Americans also have an allergic reaction when it seems as if foreigners are meddling in our foreign policy. That is the conclusion that seems to be developing as conventional wisdom: this award was not based on achievement but was an aspirational one -- an award designed to encourage the policies that European elites want. The award can be seen as placing a straightjacket on his actions. We do not like when our leaders are bound-and we do not like the image of an American president being a marionette whose policies are beholden to his fans in the international community.

The Los Angeles Times chimes in:

The prize also poses political risks for a president routinely depicted by Republicans as more focused on seeking international approval than on defending the security interests of the United States.

That criticism could be compounded if Obama rejects the military's request for an additional 40,000 troops in Afghanistan. Obama has recently struggled over how to proceed in that conflict, and just hours after learning that he had won the award, he met with senior members of his war Cabinet.

A rushed photo op to show a commander in chief in action, I suppose. But the award to someone who has achieved nothing so far runs the risk of being easily parodied -- as was the Mission Accomplished banner unfurled when George Bush landed on an aircraft carrier in the early days of the Iraq War
The prospects for political fallout from the ill winds blowing in from Norway were instantly recognized by the Oval Office. Will he be too accommodating to our adversaries? The strategists rushed out a statement noting the criticism of the award being voiced by Hamas and Taliban (foolishly grouping Republican criticism with that of the Taliban -- the Obama team has a noticeable fetish for caricaturizing Republicans as a variety of demons: Nazis, Taliban. What's next, the heirs of Genghis Khan?). But there are other problems than being perceived as weak on national security.

The Democratic strategist Joe Trippi notes the problem:

...if the job market remained sour, he expected to see the Nobel medallion featured prominently in GOP attack ads with such lines as: "He got a Nobel Prize. What did you get? A pink slip."

"Either the economy is going, and this won't matter, or this will be another tool in the Republicans' arsenal to accuse the president of not doing enough," Trippi said.

"Maybe if he won the Nobel Prize for economic recovery and created hundreds of thousands of new jobs, this would be a good thing for him politically," Trippi said.

Will the Prize just highlight the vacuous nature of Barack Obama -- that he is essentially just a world celebrity more concerned with the adulation of overseas crowds and the approbation of European elites than the interests and concerns of the average American? Americans are already suspicious of his dedication to his nation -- a justifiable concern given his earlier refusal to wear a flag pin on his lapel, his dislike of the term "victory", his refusal to consider America to be an "exceptional" nation. Can he do more to confound the critics and minimize the political fallout? Are we no longer a proud "city upon a hill" but just a rampaging, clumsy beast that wreaks damage in our wake when we project our power overseas?

Peggy Noonan, Ronald Reagan's speechwriter, suggests a way to confound the critics and minimize the political fallout: reverse the rhetoric. When Obama has been on his overseas jaunts, he has had a fetish for denigrating America. Noonan counsels him to pull a fast one: declare himself proud to be an American and patriotically and stoutly defend America's interests on one of the biggest of the world's stages. Will this counter the potential political problems caused by an award that (as the Washington Post noted) demonstrates a "cluelessness" about America.

Will we buy that? Or will we perceive them, as Barack Obama himself might put it, as "just words"?

Graphic by Roy Meyer

Ed Lasky is news editor of American Thinker
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