eyes on the prize

White House Asked Japan for Trump’s Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

Makes perfect sense. Photo: Pool/The Yomiuri Shimbun via AP Images

One of the many random boasts President Trump made during his unfocused national emergency declaration and press conference on Friday was that he had been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. Asked by a reporter about his administration’s ongoing negotiations with North Korea — which have thus far produced next to no substantive progress toward the country’s denuclearization — Trump heaped praise on himself. In fact, he emphasized at length, he had done such a good job making peace in East Asia that Japan’s prime minister, Shinzo Abe, had nominated him for one of the world’s highest honors:

I have a very good relationship with [North Korean dictator] Kim Jong-un. And I’ve done a job. In fact, I think I can say this: Prime Minister Abe of Japan gave me the most beautiful copy of a letter that he sent to the people who give out a thing called the Nobel Prize. He said, “I have nominated you, or, respectfully, on behalf of Japan, I am asking them to give you the Nobel Peace Prize.” I said, “Thank you.”

Many other people feel that way, too. I’ll probably never get it. But that’s OK. They gave it to Obama. He didn’t even know what he got it for. He was there for about 15 seconds and he got the Nobel Prize. He said, “Oh, what did I get it for?” With me, I probably will never get it …

I mean, it was the most beautiful [five-page letter.] Nobel Prize. He sent it to them. You know why? Because he had rocket ships and he had missiles flying over Japan. And they had alarms going off – you know that. Now, all of a sudden, they feel good. They feel safe. I did that.

This claim was a bit of a surprise, since Abe and Trump have not seen eye-to-eye over the president’s approach to North Korea; most Japanese citizens don’t think Pyongyang will ever surrender its nukes; Trump reportedly said to Abe, “I remember Pearl Harbor,” during a conversation at the White House last June; and no one with an honest understanding of the North Korea crisis, nuclear nonproliferation, diplomacy, foreign policy, signed agreements, or the president’s ability to learn things could possibly believe Trump deserved a Nobel Peace Prize for his fake-deal photo-op with Kim Jong-un in Singapore last year. Some had even speculated — because Trump so regularly doesn’t know what he’s talking about — that he may have meant to name-drop South Korean president Moon Jae-in, who did once say, out of modesty, that Trump deserved the award more than he did.

Then on Sunday, the Asahi Shimbun confirmed that Abe had indeed submitted the nomination — only not of his own accord. The prime minister did the deed because the White House had “informally” asked Japan to do so — meaning President Trump’s nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize was apparently Trump or the White House’s idea, and one they successfully convinced a foreign government to go along with. Per the report:

Acceding to a request from Washington, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe nominated U.S. President Donald Trump for the Nobel Peace Prize around autumn for engaging with North Korea, Japanese government sources said Feb. 16. According to the sources, the U.S. government “informally” asked Tokyo to nominate Trump after he met with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore in June, the first-ever summit between the two countries.

When asked about this explanation, Japan’s foreign ministry later told Reuters that the government was aware of what Trump had claimed on Friday, but “would refrain from commenting on the interaction between the two leaders.”

In addition, Nobel Peace Prize nominations are supposed to remain anonymous for a period of 50 years, which is something Japan clearly knew because both Abe and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga cited that fact when refusing to comment about the report on Monday.

“The Nobel Committee doesn’t reveal the identity of those recommending or those recommended for the award for 50 years,” Suga responded. “And so based on this,” he continued, “I would like to refrain from making comments on this.”

Prime Minister Abe had replied with something similar, but added, “I’m not saying it’s not true.”

So when Abe agreed to nominate Trump at the White House’s request, he may have assumed that he, Trump, and a lot of other people would be long dead by the time anyone else found out. But if he hoped the nomination would remain a secret, it probably wasn’t a good idea to write the world’s biggest narcissist a “beautiful” five-page letter acknowledging it — unless he was expecting something in return.

The White House has yet to comment on the matter, so it’s not clear if Trump was aware of the White House’s request or if he effectively made it himself. It would hardly be the first — or even the thousandth — time Trump has sought to invent his own accolades over the past few decades. And the president was already promoting the idea of him winning a Nobel Peace Prize for his summit with Kim before it had even happened.

Going further back, the Washington Post reported in 2017 that at least five of President Trump’s clubs and resorts had hung up a fake Time cover celebrating Trump over his Apprentice success and announcing that “TRUMP IS HITTING ON ALL FRONTS … EVEN TV!”

The magazine even had a random 2009 date and realistic-looking barcode on the cover — albeit the same one used in a Peruvian graphic designer’s 2010 tutorial on how to make a realistic-looking Time cover, per the Post. (Trump also performs an annual ritual of complaining when he is not named the magazine’s “Man of the Year.”)

But while we already know Trump covets awards which celebrate him at least as much as he loves celebrating himself, what we don’t know is what a foreign head of state like the prime minister of Japan may have received or been offered in exchange for a Nobel Ego Boost like the one Trump reportedly got. And we also don’t know if any other world leaders received a similar “informal” request. Kim Jong-un is undoubtedly not the only one who understands that the biggest button Trump likes to push is the one that turns on his spotlight.

White House Asked Japan for Trump’s Peace Prize Nomination