Monday, 12 October 2009

More Nobel Analysis

From James Taranto in The Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web e-mail -
What everyone, including this column, agrees on is that the prize was a rebuke to George W. Bush, now a private citizen in Dallas. That is why the claim that Obama has inspired a turnaround in the so-called world's attitude toward America is not only false but laughable. When George W. Bush was president, the Norwegian Nobel Committee delivered three similar rebukes: in 2002 (by naming Jimmy Carter), 2005 (Mohammad ElBaradei) and 2007 (Al Gore). The Obama award is a continuation of, not a break from, the committee's behavior of the past eight years.

Actually, it is an escalation. Whatever one may think of Carter, ElBaradei and Gore, each man at least had some sort of record on which the committee could plausibly claim to have based its decision. This Nobel Prize is a naked attack on the former president--and, by implication, on the country that elected him.

Obama's record of accomplishment consists of nothing more than a successful political campaign against, as he put it in his convention speech, "the failed policies of George W. Bush." At the time, we doubted whether running against a man who would not appear on the ballot made political sense. The outcome speaks for itself.

But whether out of political calculation or sheer carelessness, Obama has continued, in effect, campaigning against George W. Bush. He frequently laments the "mess" he "inherited"--as if he had been born into the presidency or won it in a lottery rather than seeking out the responsibility he now holds. In May he declared, "The problem of what to do with Guantanamo detainees was not caused by my decision to close the facility; the problem exists because of the decision to open Guantanamo in the first place." Actually, Guantanamo was a solution to the problem of what to do with the detainees; the current problem was caused by Obama's rejecting it without first coming up with an alternative plan. In August, as we noted, the president sounded downright thuggish in blaming his predecessors for the lousy economy: "I don't want the folks who created the mess to do a lot of talking. I want them to get out of the way so we can clean up the mess. I don't mind cleaning up after them, but don't do a lot of talking."

We don't remember any president in our lifetime attacking his predecessor in this manner, or at all. We haven't exhaustively researched the question, but our impression is that you'd have to go back to Franklin D. Roosevelt to find one who did--and his denunciations of Herbert Hoover were for domestic, not foreign, consumption.

Why did Obama win the Nobel Peace Prize? Because he pandered to the prejudices of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. Surely he didn't do it with the Peace Prize (or at least this year's Peace Prize) in mind. He did it because disparaging George W. Bush is a cheap way of winning approval among certain constituencies, both foreign and domestic.

Until last Friday, one might have argued that this was all quite harmless. But by seeking adulation that he did not deserve, the president of the United States helped make himself into a figure of ridicule. Barack Obama did not award himself the Nobel Peace Prize, but his reckless rhetoric encouraged those who did.

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