THIS MORNING recalled that of August 29, 2008, the fateful, frenzied day that Sen. John McCain announced Sarah Palin would be his running mate in last year’s presidential election. Watching the country wake up to a completely unexpected twist in the political plot is amusing to the point of being a little frightful: reactions practically trip over one another, positions get revised on the hour as facts and perspective try to keep up with visceral emotion. At seven this morning, President Obama’s selection as the recipient of the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize had received a universal thumbs down. But as the uglier spins on this international incident have come out today, some have begun to revise their initial negative reactions. We think those with second thoughts are probably on the right track.
There is no doubt that the Nobel committee’s actions today were a partisan shot at the Bush administration, and, having been nominated after only 11 days in office, one could argue that President Obama won the award simply because he is not George W. Bush. There is also little doubt that, out of this year’s 250 applicants, there are other people who have done far more earn the prize. It is difficult to say that an American president, however noble his intentions, has after nine months in office done work that compares to crusading for human rights in Iran or standing down South Korea’s bomb-happy northern neighbors.
Obama certainly felt some embarrassment over the award, as evidenced by his administration’s clear shock at the announcement and the almost bashful remarks in which he said he does not feel he deserves to be put on the level of past winners. It was an appropriate response to a load of excessive, premature praise that no doubt overlooks more deserving candidates. But rather than turn down the prize, as some talking heads have proposed, Obama’s decision to accept the award can turn an awkward moment of honor into display of international grace. For the same reason he should not put up grandstanding excuses for avoiding negotiations with odious nations, he should not miss a moment of international accord with the United States by overjudging the motives in play.
We reject the notion, touted by some berserk personalities on the right, that the world’s worshipful posture toward Barack Obama is at its root anti-American. This insane argument would have it that the kooky pacifists on the Nobel committee have found in him an ally in their campaign to weaken America’s global hegemony. Instead, many other Western nations, along with President Obama, are rightly concerned with the United States’ infamous lack of concern for what happens beyond its borders unless there are dollars to be made. Americans should be thrilled that other nations so respect President Obama that many have been willing to put aside their grievances so readily. Rather than a cynical attempt to wheedle the president into bowing to its wishes, the Nobel Prize is an indicator that the world is becoming more pro-American.
Even if Obama were concerned about the motives of the prize’s presenters, there would simply be no choice but to accept it anyway. Politics, particularly on the international stage, is a game of symbolism, negotiation and manipulation. It is no place for bristling moral superiority, macho demands, or snide nationalism. In his remarks earlier today, the president took exactly the right first steps toward participating graciously and imbuing the moment with his own meaning: if you’re praising my work for peace, then I expect to see some of yours as well.
There is no reason we should not have our fun with this incident, and put our best efforts into the outpouring of jokes about it. But the American public should be pleased that the world loves their president, and proud of his willingness to keep pressing them on their responsibilities.
To read previous Patrol editorials, visit patrolmag.com/opinion.
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