Reactions to Obama’s Peace Prize, on a Continuum of Dismissiveness

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These people are, we think, not being sarcastic. Photo: Getty Images

After the Norwegian Nobel Committee took the world by complete surprise this morning by awarding President Obama it's vaunted Peace Prize, America, especially, is trying to get its bearings. Almost universally, regardless of political ideology, people are, at the very least, skeptical and a little confused. And that's pretty much as favorable as it gets. The much more popular feeling seems to be that the award is, as Woody Allen memorably put it in Bananas, "a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham." Herewith, reactions from around the Internet, from the most forgiving to the most caustic.

• Steve Benen says it's "not unreasonable" to believe that award was "premature," but the decision is "nevertheless defensible." "The Nobel Peace Prize, as I understand it, is awarded to the person (or persons) who've shown great leadership in advancing the cause of international peace," he writes. "President Obama has invested consider[able] energy and political capital in doing just that." [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Michael Scherer points out that "the Peace Prize has often been given for aspirational reasons, for potential achievements in the future as much as actual achievements from the past. This is decidedly different from other Nobel prizes, like literature, economics or medicine." [Swampland/Time]

• Josh Marshall calls it an "an odd award" that he would expect "later in Obama's presidency and tied to some particular event or accomplishment." But the Bush years were "a dark period" and "Obama has begun, if fitfully and very imperfectly to many of his supporters, to steer the ship of state in a different direction." [TPM]

• David Ignatius understands the sentiment behind the award but still finds it a little "goofy": "Obama’s achievements are in the 'good intentions' category, but that doesn’t mean they are insignificant. America was too unpopular under Bush. The Nobel committee is expressing a collective sigh of relief that America has rejoined the global consensus. They’re right. It’s a good thing. It’s just a little weird that they gave him a prize for it." [PostPartisan/WP]

• Tim Fernholz searches for justification. "If you take the premise that the U.S. is the premiere foreign policy actor in the world, and that Obama is trying to fundamentally shift the U.S. approach to foreign policy, then I suppose, in the tradition Jagland cites, this makes some sense. But it still feels too early." [Tapped/American Prospect]

• John Dickerson thinks the language of the committee "sound[s] of words groaning for a rationale." While Alfred Nobel wanted the award to go to someone who had actually achieved something already, "Obama may fit the bill more than some other recipients. At least he hasn't actively been engaged in making warfare, as were previous recipients Henry Kissinger and Yasser Arafat." [Slate]

• Ta-Nehisi Coates wonders, "WTF??" and wishes he had cable so he "could watch Fox News flip the fuck out over this one." [Atlantic]

• Mickey Kaus suggests Obama give the prize back because "he hasn't had the time yet to accomplish what he wants to accomplish." It also would happen to be a smart political decision. [Kausfiles/Slate]

• Tevi Troy writes, "Handing Obama the prize this early strikes me as a cheapening of the award." [Corner/National Review]

• Michael Binyon contends that "[r]arely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent." The Nobel prize now "risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace." [Times UK]

• John Miller calls the award "simply the projection of wishful thinking." [Corner/National Review]

• Gideon Rachman believes that "while it is OK to give school children prizes for 'effort' — my kids get them all the time — I think international statesmen should probably be held to a higher standard." [Rachmanblog/FT]

• Glenn Greenwald contends that because the changes Obama could foster "are completely preliminary," with no "tangible results" as of yet, "the Nobel Committee has made a mockery out of their own award." Not to mention that "Obama has presided [over policies] that are the very opposite of peace." [Salon]

• Adam Serwer feels that "[O]bama should turn the nobel peace prize down until he's finished with his two wars." [AdamSerwer/Twitter]

• Andy McCarthy calls the award "a symbolic statement of opposition to American exceptionalism, American might, American capitalism, American self-determinism, and American pursuit of America's interests in the world," which is why Obama won it. [Corner/National Review]

• Yuval Levin wonders "if any commentator, anywhere on the political spectrum, will offer a genuine straight-faced defense or case for this prize. Whoever does will no-doubt win next year's Nobel Prize for literature." [Corner/National Review]

• Matt Welch says the selection "shows how people — almost touchingly — remain suckers for likeable politicians who replace guys they hated, investing in them a kind of faith mere mortals usually don't merit." [Hit & Run/Reason]

• Joe Klein admits that "this prize is premature to the point of ridiculousness. It continues a pattern that holds some peril for Obama: he is celebrated for who he is not, and for who he might potentially be, rather than for what he has actually done." [Swampland/Time]

• Jennifer Rubin quips, "Well, it’s not like he hasn’t done anything, right?" She also thinks there is "no better illustration of the debasement of the 'international community' and the fundamental unseriousness of what passes for international elite opinion" than the "Nobel Peace Prize Committee." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Michelle Malkin sneers, "The World Apology Tour yields dividends." [Michelle Malkin]

• Allahpundit says "they gave him a Nobel for … being Hopenchange-y." [Hot Air]

• David Frum mocks: "Waiting in the wings: the Vatican. Why wait until the guy has performed his posthumous three miracles to confer sainthood upon him? Think of all the amazing miracles he might perform in the future!" [New Majority]

• Richard Cohen mocks even more mockingly: "In a stunning announcement, Millard Fillmore Senior High School chose Shawn Rabinowitz, an incoming junior, as next year’s valedictorian. The award was made, the valedictorian committee announced from Norway of all places, on the basis of 'Mr. Rabinowitz’s intention to ace every course and graduate number one in class.'" There are a lot more like that, too. [PostPartisan/WP]