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October 14, 2009

A case of premature adulation

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Friday was the birthday of the Obama family dog and something else. Oh, now I remember. It was the day that President Barack Obama was awarded the Noble Peace Prize.


The lead paragraph in The New York Times in the wee hours of the morning when the news was announced read: “The U.S. president Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples,’ the Nobel Foundation said in Sweden on Friday.”


I am not making this up.


Much of the world’s reaction, even from die-hard sycophant supporters of President Obama, was complete surprise, bordering on total disbelief.


Okay – let’s make one thing perfectly clear; it is quite an honor for an American president to win such a prestigious award and we should join in applauding our president for such an accomplishment.


However, no matter how I try; I could not say it better than Howard Zinn, who said in an opinion piece, “Nobel Prize for Promises,” for the online periodical, “TruthOut,” that has never – ever been mistaken for a center-right publication:


“I was dismayed when I heard Obama was given the Nobel Peace Prize. A shock, really, to think that a president carrying on wars in two countries and launching military action in a third country (Pakistan) would be given a peace prize.”


For some background, according to numerous historic references, “The first Nobel Prizes – awards established by Swedish industrialist Alfred Nobel (1833-1896) in his will – were (first) handed out in Sweden in 1901 in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, and peace. The Nobel Prize in economics was first awarded in 1969.”


President Teddy Roosevelt won the award in 1906 for brokering a peace treaty, the Treaty of Portsmouth, which was signed on September 5, 1905, to end the 1904–1905 Russo-Japanese War.


The Russo-Japanese War was an extraordinarily complex and disastrous war for which the world continues to this day to deal with the consequences. Brokering the peace treaty was quite an accomplishment for which President Roosevelt deserved credit.


“Yes, Wilson gets credit for the League of Nations – that ineffectual body which did nothing to prevent war,” miffed Mr. Zinn. He won the award in 1919. Despite Mr. Zinn’s criticism, President Wilson’s efforts towards achieving world peace by way of the League of Nations are to be admired and it is not without notice that the president’s health suffered greatly as a result of his tireless efforts.


Mr. (Henry) Kissinger won the award “because he signed the final agreement ending the war in Vietnam, of which he had been one of the architects…”


Then again, if you will recall, in 1973, the famed North Vietnamese General Le Duc Tho refused the Peace Prize he was awarded jointly with Mr. Kissinger “on the grounds that Vietnam was still at war…”




On October 11, 2002, President Jimmy Carter won the Nobel Peace Prize ‘for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development.”


One may quibble with the contemporary utterances of President Carter over his attitudes toward Israel, or whether or not anyone who dares utter dissent over President Obama’s approach to the discharging his duties in the Oval Office is a racist – or not; however, President Carter did work hard in 1978 towards finding peace in the Middle East.


Word is, according to, that the “Nobel Committee had wanted to give Carter (1924- ) the prize that year for his efforts, along with Anwar Sadat and Menachim Begin, but was prevented from doing so by a technicality – he had not been nominated by the official deadline.”


Speaking of deadlines, the nominations for the Peace Prize were due February 1. That was just days after Senator Obama was sworn-in as president.


Only history will decide if the award will serve this president well. It comes at a time when even Democrats are beginning to wonder when President Obama will stop talking and start performing.


Winning the award certainly increases the pressure on this president to justify the leap of faith bestowed upon him. It comes paradoxically at a time when President Obama finds himself floundering to do something about the current disastrous course of the war in Afghanistan and – by proxy, what to do with the seemingly never ending war in Iraq – which he had promised to end as soon as he took office.


It comes at a time when many have begun to wonder if he will be able to close Guantánamo Bay as he promised. Or find a solution to the Iran nuclear threat that he suggested during his election campaign he would solve by chatting with the Iranian leaders.


Indeed, the award comes on the heels of a skit, which criticized the president for not accomplishing much of anything he promised; from none other than the likes of Saturday Night Live, that has never been mistaken for being a conservative think tank – or a “thinking” anything for that matter.


In the end, many may find themselves agreeing with Senator John McCain: “…the Nobel committee, I can’t divine all of their intentions, but I think part of their decision making was expectations, and I’m sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to.”


Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, whom many are hoping will challenge President Obama in 2012, said:


“I think the appropriate response … is when anybody wins a Nobel Prize, you know that is a very noteworthy development and designation and award, and I think the proper response is to say congratulations.”


However, the preponderance of thought by those who need not mince their words is that the president is now the victim of premature adulation.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at


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