A mixed blessing at best for the president

A number of readers have expressed to me their dismay over President Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I can’t say I’m pleased either. This isn’t a case of Obama’s popularity winning something positive for Americans, as might have been true if he had persuaded the IOC to bring the Olympics to Chicago. This is (1) a personal award and (2) an explicit award for a particular vision of what constitutes good foreign policy. I’m indifferent to Obama winning a personal award and opposed to his vision of foreign receiving an award.
Some might argue that the prestige that comes with this award will help Obama in his dealings with the rest of the world. I doubt it. First, these days the Nobel Peace Prize impresses those in the know to about the same degree as a positive column by Tom Friedman. Second, I suspect that some key leaders will be envious and perhaps less well-disposed to Obama as a result of his being awarded for who he is. I would have loved to witness Sarkozy’s private reaction.
If it’s any consolation to readers who have expressed dismay, I think this award will prove to be an embarrassment to Obama, and possibly a negative for his presidency, here at home. The award is so absurd that even leftists have taken note. Ezra Klein wrote: “Obama also awarded Nobel prize in chemistry. ‘He’s just got great chemistry,’ says Nobel Committee.” Ana Marie Cox wrote: “Apparently Nobel prizes now being awarded to anyone who is not George Bush.” The late-night comedians should have even more fun with this.
I think this award will seal Obama’s image as vastly overrated and perhaps as president of the foreigners (Obama flirted with these images once before to his detriment; in the summer of 2008, his poll numbers sagged following his pompous foreign speeches before he had been elected president). In fact, this may well become the prevailing narrative for Obama at least until the economy improves quite substantially.
Obama seems sufficiently egomaniacal to welcome this award. But I wonder whether the shrewdest of his advisers welcome it.

Responses