Listening to NPR's truly awful coverage of the Norwegian Nobel Committee's truly awful decision to give President Obama the Peace Prize, I heard this segment, in which Morning Edition hosts Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep, along with NPR correspondents Don Gonyea and Rob Gifford, discuss the implications of the president's $1.4 million cash windfall. According to NPR's analysts, the choice was made because Obama is more like a European social democrat than our previous president. Or something. As far as I can tell, this strikes both hosts and guests as a perfectly reasonable use of Alfred Noble's cash.
Montagne expresses surprise at the pick, saying that "one might have thought with [Obama], if you saw his name on a list [of nominees], well 'let's get started on this one, he's got eight more years'" (she then tacks on the grudging caveat, "maybe four"). Maybe, Renee. Just maybe. Kind of odd to consider "getting to work" on Obama's Peace Prize when there is no guarantee that he will ever be a worthy candidate. It's almost as if NPR hosts and Norwegian intellectuals actually believe this "change" nonsense.
Gonyea argues that because he is receiving the award for not being George W. Bush, and for changing American foreign policy by continuing super peaceful Predator drone attacks on the Taliban and pouring more troops into Afghanistan, this might "remind swing voters" that "he has done a lot for the United States around the world." Well. Having Norwegian lefties reminding fence-sitting Americans that Obama makes Europeans swoon will probably be as effective as encouraging readers of The Guardian to write condescending letters to voters in Ohio, informing them that most people who pay a television license and subscribe to The New Statesman think George W. Bush is a mentally retarded Nazi.
Host Steve Inskeep says that Obama is "less popular in the Middle East, perhaps, than elsewhere." Perhaps? When President Bush was in office, his poll numbers in Arab countries could be recited from memory, but because NPR understands--and always reminds its listeners—that we are so well loved around the world these days, this curious little perhaps is necessary. To remind the cheerleaders at public radio, the United States' current favorability rating in the Palestinian territories is 15 percent, 14 percent in Turkey, and 25 percent in Egypt and Jordon.
I'm unsure why this morning's announcement surprised political observers in Europe, who have long known that decisions in Stockholm (literature) and Oslo (peace) are often more useful as a reflection of Scandinavian political sensibilities than as an objective measure of diplomatic or artistic achievement. Dario Fo? Rigoberto Menchu? Elfriede Jelinek? Yassar Arafat?
From NPR's Rob Gifford, we are told that there were "a lot of very positive responses" in Europe from leaders like Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy and "former Nobel winners." But, he says, "It hasn't been universally positive; the Taliban, as you might expect issued a statement, saying that President Obama has done nothing for peace." Whose side are you on, fascist? France and Germany's, or the Taliban's? (When Gifford mentions that 1983 Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa criticized the decision as premature, Montagne chuckles and says that this gentle criticism seemed "a little churlish.")
Remember, during the Bush years, when our friends on the left (rightfully) bemoaned those who "questioned the patriotism" of opponents of the war in Iraq? Those who harrumphed that to not support the president was to support the terrorists? Well, that was then. Here is the DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse, speaking to Politico's Ben Smith: "The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists - the Taliban and Hamas this morning - in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize."
A writer for the left-wing website Media Matter called criticism of Obama's Nobel "anti-American." Eric Boehlert wondered, "Why does the conservative media hate America?" On his website, filmmaker Michael Moore asked the same question: "Your opposition has spent the morning attacking you for bringing such good will to this country. Why do they hate America so much?"
And from the Cannes Palm d'Or winner to the new Nobel laureate, some advice on the way forward in Afghanistan: "That is a problem for the people of Afghanistan to resolve -- just as we did in 1776, the French did in 1789, the Cubans did in 1959, the Nicaraguans did in 1979 and the people of East Berlin did in 1989."
I shall refrain from comment, other than to say this: Yes, he did compare Fidel Castro (not to mention the disastrous authoritarianism of Daniel Ortega) to Thomas Jefferson. And recall that Moore previously compared the Founding Fathers to those delightful patriots who set off IEDs, bombed the Al-Askari Mosque in Samarrah, and use kids as bomb decoys.
So congratulations Mr. President. Perhaps we can dispense with the formalities and present you with Bancroft Prize for the terrific book you will probably write about your presidency—eight years from now.