Another Perspective

The Nobel Show Horse

An all-talk president deserves nothing less.

By 10.14.09

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If you thought the award of the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama was undeserved, you have been looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Consider this:

When the Committee of Five Obscure Norwegian Socialists awarded him the prize they did not realize they had done two great services: (1) made it official that Mr. Obama is a show horse, not a work horse; and (2) proved definitively that the Nobel Peace Prize reflects nothing more than the outlook of five Norwegian Socialists.

It is said that when Alfred Nobel created the foundation that bears his name and makes the various annual awards, included one for “peace” it was to atone for inventing dynamite, but dynamite wasn’t used in weapons. It’s more likely he was influenced by his peace activist friend, Bertha von Suttner, who won the prize in 1905 (nine years after his death) for leading a peace organization.

Through most of its history, the Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to people for doing something specific or representing some widely recognized and positive movement. Among the winners were President Theodore Roosevelt for a peace agreement to end the Russo-Japanese War; General George Marshall for the Marshall Plan that rebuilt Europe; Andrei Sakharov the human rights dissident in the Soviet Union; Bally Williams and Maired Corrigan, for organizing widespread peace marches in Northern Ireland of Protestant and Catholic women; Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin for the Camp David Accords; Nelson Mandela and Willem DeKlerk, for the South African transition to democracy.

Nowadays, however, it goes to people not for action, but for talk. Jimmy Carter, hardly a success at the presidency and now an international scold, won it in 2002. The five Norwegian Socialists fell for the global warming hoax and, in 2007, awarded the Peace Prize to its chief propagandist, Al Gore (they may have been worried that rising sea levels would swamp fishing villages on the fjords). Now it goes to President Obama, as the citation puts it, “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples.”

The Committee of Five Norwegian Socialists believes that lions will lie down with lambs. As there are no lions in Norway they can be excused for not knowing that when lions are hungry, a lamb makes a good lunch. Similarly, when President Obama offers to talk with despots and shake hands with thugs, the Committee thinks rays of comity and peace will emanate from the exchange.

The deadline for nominations for this year’s prize took place 11 days after Mr. Obama had sworn to uphold and defend the nation and its Constitution, so they must have had high hopes based on the rhetorical rhapsodies of his campaign. Even now, eight months after that deadline, the Norwegians are still banking on “hope” and “change.” If talk, talk and more talk is an achievement, the prize is well-deserved, for Mr. Obama is a master of talk -- at endless pep rally “town meetings,” at prime time news conferences and on Sunday shows.

By awarding the prize on the basis of hopes and not accomplishments the Norwegians helped Americans bring focus to an uncomfortable, widely held feeling that with Mr. Obama it’s all about him, all the time. 

At the recent International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen his pitch -- and his wife’s -- were filled with personal pronouns.

On the eighth anniversary of September 11, he spoke at the Pentagon memorial service. He looked glum and his words had a flat quality, as if he wished he were not there. After all, the event was not about him. The next day, however, it was once again all about him. He was back in roaring good form at a rally for his health care scheme before a union audience in Minneapolis. He was revved up just as if it was another election campaign rally. 

Mr. Obama may yet accomplish important things, but he hasn’t yet. Instead we have seen him in full campaign mode “24/7,” as the saying goes, making false promises about his health insurance scheme, waffling on his Afghanistan strategy, spending the nation into trillion dollar deficits as far as the eye can see. No wonder those Norwegians rested their decision on hope alone. 

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About the Author
Peter Hannaford was closely associated with the late President Reagan for a number of years. He is a member of the board of the Committee on the Present Danger. His latest book is “Presidential Retreats.”