My first reaction--and that of my wife--on hearing of the Obama Nobel Prize was, "Why?" And we did not scream this in an angry wail of terror, but in genuine bafflement. We were, to use a term my teacher warned me never to use, flabbergasted. What earthly reasons could there be to award Mr Obama this prize? He has accomplished nothing so far in his young presidency. He has been long on promises and grand schemes but up till now he has little show for it.
Our second reaction, after it sunk in with us and Anderson Cooper of CNN that, no, this was not some weird delayed April Fools', was, "Oh, I get it. They're giving it to him simply because he is not George W. Bush." I still believe it is the most important reason the squishy Norwegian progressives in charge of this prize picked on Mr Obama as the ideal candidate for 2009. Never mind any of his actual policies, about which Europeans in general know nothing and care nothing anyway. His most important achievement has been simply being in office instead of the hated Bush. The prize is meant to convey the enlightened message that America is not to repeat outrages like electing backward mental looneys like that Texan cowboy George. To progressives in Europe (and the US, for that matter), the mere act of Bush's replacement by Obama is a tangible and actual benefit to the world and of such great importance as to warrant awarding the Nobel Peace Prize. George W. Bush in the White House was such a threat to the planet that peace has been promoted by his departure.
The truly discouraging part of this state of affairs is the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize does still have a reputation, even though it should not. And Barack Obama clearly cannot live up to that imaginary reputation. He has been an absent president in his own country's politics, prefering to speechify rather than to do any actual constructive work, and a non-entity in both policy realms for which the Norwegian Nobel committee is now awarding him this honor (nuclear non-proliferation and Mideast peace). This fig leaf couldn't conceal an amoebe's wedding tackle. The president actually had the temerity to accept this prize with the words:
Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments.You're darn tootin'!