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Obama faces the downside of winning Nobel Peace Prize

Obama3 Earth bombed the moon this morning, and the Norwegian Nobel Committee dropped its own bomb, awarding the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize to President Obama.

You would think everything is perfect after receiving such a surprising honor and that Obama could joyously take a victory lap. But in its own way, the peace prize makes a slew of domestic and international political problems worse for the president, who has been in office for less than nine months.

The award emphasizes the gulf Obama must bridge in his two sometimes conflicting roles: president of the United States, who must act out of national self-interest, and his role as the moral beacon for international affairs around the globe.

For example, Obama has been meeting with his national security team to decide what to do about Afghanistan. The military is seeking an additional 40,000 U.S. troops on top of the 68,000 already committed (and the 40,000 NATO has there). Being a peace prize winner who sends more troops to war is something he will have to explain if he decides in that direction. If he doesn’t send more troops, he will have to explain that action to an already hostile GOP and furious conservatives.

Talk show host Rush Limbaugh lost no time calling Obama’s victory a "greater embarrassment" than losing the Olympics.

“This fully exposes the illusion that is Barack Obama," Limbaugh told Politico in an e-mail published on its website. “And with this ‘award’ the elites of the world are urging Obama, THE MAN OF PEACE, to not do the surge in Afghanistan, not take action against Iran and its nuclear program and to basically continue his intentions to emasculate the United States."

For other Republicans like party Chairman Michael Steele, the win allowed them to return to a frequent GOP trope from the campaign: that Obama can play on his unmerited star power rather than meaningful accomplishments.

“The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?'” Steele said. “It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain: President Obama won’t be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.”

The Republican and conservative comments may sound like sour grapes, but it could harden an already unhappy group against a president who has argued for political bipartisanship.

The Nobel committee acknowledged it had moved quickly, but insisted speed was important.

“He got the prize because he has been able to change the international climate,” Norwegian Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland said. “Some people say, and I understand it, isn’t it premature? Too early? Well, I’d say then that it could be too late to respond three years from now. It is now that we have the opportunity to respond — all of us.”

It is that feeling of hope and change that the committee wanted to foster. It is, of course, also a slap at President Bush and his administration’s insistence on going it alone.

Obama has played on his experience as community organizer to call for greater cooperation in the international and domestic arenas. It will take that skill to deal with the fallout from the award.

-- Michael Muskal

Here is the text of Obama’s comments on the Nobel Peace Prize as provided by White House:

Good morning. Well, this is not how I expected to wake up this morning. After I received the news, Malia walked in and said, "Daddy, you won the Nobel Peace Prize, and it is Bo’s birthday!" And then Sasha added, "Plus, we have a three-day weekend coming up." So it’s good to have kids to keep things in perspective.

I am both surprised and deeply humbled by the decision of the Nobel Committee. Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.

To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who’ve been honored by this prize -- men and women who’ve inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace.

But I also know that this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build -- a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.
These challenges can’t be met by any one leader or any one nation. And that’s why my administration has worked to establish a new era of engagement in which all nations must take responsibility for the world we seek. We cannot tolerate a world in which nuclear weapons spread to more nations and in which the terror of a nuclear holocaust endangers more people. And that’s why we’ve begun to take concrete steps to pursue a world without nuclear weapons, because all nations have the right to pursue peaceful nuclear power, but all nations have the responsibility to demonstrate their peaceful intentions.

We cannot accept the growing threat posed by climate change, which could forever damage the world that we pass on to our children -- sowing conflict and famine; destroying coastlines and emptying cities. And that’s why all nations must now accept their share of responsibility for transforming the way that we use energy.

We can’t allow the differences between peoples to define the way that we see one another, and that’s why we must pursue a new beginning among people of different faiths and races and religions; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect.

And we must all do our part to resolve those conflicts that have caused so much pain and hardship over so many years, and that effort must include an unwavering commitment that finally realizes that the rights of all Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace and security in nations of their own.

We can’t accept a world in which more people are denied opportunity and dignity that all people yearn for -- the ability to get an education and make a decent living; the security that you won’t have to live in fear of disease or violence without hope for the future.

And even as we strive to seek a world in which conflicts are resolved peacefully and prosperity is widely shared, we have to confront the world as we know it today. I am the Commander-in-Chief of a country that’s responsible for ending a war and working in another theater to confront a ruthless adversary that directly threatens the American people and our allies. I’m also aware that we are dealing with the impact of a global economic crisis that has left millions of Americans looking for work. These are concerns that I confront every day on behalf of the American people. 

Some of the work confronting us will not be completed during my presidency. Some, like the elimination of nuclear weapons, may not be completed in my lifetime. But I know these challenges can be met so long as it’s recognized that they will not be met by one person or one nation alone. This award is not simply about the efforts of my administration -- it’s about the courageous efforts of people around the world.

And that’s why this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity -- for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom and sometime their lives for the cause of peace.

That has always been the cause of America. That’s why the world has always looked to America. And that’s why I believe America will continue to lead.

Thank you very much.

President Barack Obama walks from the Oval Office to deliver remarks after being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, D.C., USA, 09 October 2009. The surprise choice of President Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize was praised by much of the world. EPA/SHAWN THEW

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interesting - I think it's too early to give him the Nobel Peace Prize . . .

A truly humble Obama would have refused the Prize and said, "I am not worthy of the honor."

I was unaware ACORN is active in Norway.

No doubt Obama was surprised to have a Nobel Prize fall out of his Cracker Jack box.

Okpulot Taha
Choctaw Nation
Puma Politics

Awarding the Nobel peace prize to obama should erase any doubts that it is purely an award based on politics, not accomplishment.

Just did some checking and what's even more insulting is that the 2009 nominations were due on the 1st of February! Obama was in offices less than 10 days when he was nominated. Seems the fix was in from the start. We probably better go rent "The Omen" trilogy and look for clues as a friend says.


Americans can never understand why Nobel prize awarded to their current president. Because they are the ones who elected 8 years of real stupid leader previously.

No wonder chicken brainers at USA are shocked!!!

Leave it to the Nobel committee to get the Taliban and the Republican zealots to agree on something. But then again, there are a lot of similarities between the two.

Another sad and disappointing announcement. Apparently the folks who give out the "prize” are clearly out of touch with reality. Facts are quite clear. Obama did NOTHING but attend a parade during his first 12 days of office. In fact... here is Obama's current stance:

“As your president, I may have a number of plan's that the American people might agree or disagree on, but let this be known; my plans for change are clear. I have been elected by the American people and the American people have spoken. That is to say that they want change. We will look to the future and there will be a change from the previous administration. There will be a thing called bipartisanship. Now to utilize the term bipartisanship appropriately, I would need to demonstrate a certain level of agreement between persons of involvement. From this position of agreement, a fairly clear plan of action and/or agenda would be discussed, constructed and implemented. Fortunately or unfortunately, I actually have no clear plan of action and no immediate agenda. About this point we do not agree. Please understand that this is not an agenda of no-agenda; a plan of no-plan. It is just that as your president for change, I have no idea. About this point we neither agree nor disagree.”

He was awarded the prize not for what he did, but instead for what he represents - a dramatic departure from the global views of the previous president, whom the world (and especially the Nobel commitee) deeply despised. He should thank Bush and split the money with him.

What a Joke.

This is a complete travesty. The man has done nothing.

I'm a Democrat... and not a bitter Republican.

But why does anyone give much attention to the Nobel Peace Prize anyway? It's silly really...

(The Nobel prizes in the sciences are reflections on past milestones from at least five to ten year before.)

...and Obama's smart enough to know this. Conservatives will make hay about the Prize, but his decision-making will be unaffect... What are they going to do? Take the award back?

What a sad and cynical time for America. Only today would we hear some Americans, mostly Republicans, complaining about the fact that the President of the United States won the Nobel Peace prize. One wonders if the conservative blogs will go after the Nobel committee and accuse them of being part of the Chicago "machine", or if they gave Obama the award because they hate white people. The President's Cairo speech alone warrants this recognition. The fact that, in ten short months, he has completely turned around international opinion about the United States after 8 years of Bush/Cheney borders on the miraculous.

He deserves the award. And Americans should be proud.

The fact that the nomination deadline was February 1, only 11 days after Obama became president, tells one how political & bogus this award really is. That must have been a very productive 11 days that no one seems to no about.

so far the taliban, hamas and the republican party have condemned president obama's reciept of the nobel prize.

He became president on January 21. The Nobel candidates must be submitted "before 3 February." Just what, exactly did this guy do in 13 days to justify nomination, must less the award?

Vegas odds have Obama winning the Heisman Trophy too.

As I understand it, the deadline to select the Nobel Peace Prize Winner was somewhere in Feburary. Like or hate Obama, what has he really accomplished in the WEEKS between then and his inauguration to deserve that honor?

I find it comical that Fox News (the Fair and Balance Network) covered the Nobel Prize story for all of two or three minutes. Then they cut to a car chase in Texas for more than a half hour. How much more politically bias can you get???

What an honor for our President!

This is well deserved for his efforts to spread democratic ideals and peace throughout the world.

He would have looked better to turn down the award.

Dear Sirs,

As a Norwegian, I feel a bit embarrased about this prize. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the main issue for the Nobel Peace Prize Comittee and it,s leader, Mr. Torbjorn Jagland, is to get Mr. Obama to Norway so that our Prime Minister, Mr Jens Stoltenberg ( a party friend of Mr. Jagland) finally can be invited to the White House.

What has the president actually accomplished toward this prize other than make a few speeches, anger some of our allies and appease dictators? Has that stopped Iran's nuclear ambitions, eased tensions between Israel and Hamas, or China and Tibet? Is the Nobel prize now being awarded for rhetoric?

This guy can't do anything right, not even by winning the Nobel Peace Prize! This is outrageous! The contempt & backlash shown to this man who has done nothing but try and inprove the world AND improve you & me is outdated consciousness. Please stop trying to drag the majority of the WORLD into your miserable world! You can't stop the peace loving majority. All of you haters will experience nothing but hate in your lives. He will fullfill the promise of truth inspite of you. A truly great day in the history of the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I don't understand why he won this prize.

The world, through the Nobel Peace Prize committee, had acknowledged how far one man has changed the course of world relations and how much further he has to go in the face of daunting challenges. The world recognizes what the cynics in his own nation decry. This prize which he acknowledges has humbling will serve to remind Obama that he has always been on track and not to doubt it. A prophet is frequently without honor in his own land. The right will imagine wounds from this and gnash their teeth, I see below it already is doing so. Let them. Their gnashing of teeth only dulls them and serves no one. Congratulations, Mr. President.

A call to action an appropriate comment by the president under the circumstances. World peace has always been a work in progress. The Nobel commitee in awarding the president the peace prize no doubt looked toward him as a unique transformational new figure on the world stage. As an American I am proud to see our American president selected for this hign honor. It is equally astonishing to see his critics heap ridicule and scorn toward the president and the announcement. As for his detractors who say what has he done to deserve it. Let's start by saying when have you heard the president speak ill-will toward his enemies. He has in a brief period of time already made overtures to former adversaries. He has begun to use the "Bully Pulpit" in order to stop the violence both here and abroad. He also at the same time to quote Teddy Roosevelt "speaks softly and carries a big stick". Let's rejoice and as Americans share in the honor.

The deadline for a nomination was Feb 1. Pres Obama was in office for TWO WEEKS. Gimmie a break! Then again, they also gave one to Jimmy Carter and Yassir Arafat.

Oh yes... Obama deserved it...

Let´s see...

Death Penalty
Illegal Gay marriage
Limited Social Security

oh yes... he deserved it...

Thanks Nobel Prize!!! You are so brilliant!

I can't belive that people are still prasing this guy, even though he hasn't and probably will never bring the CHANGE we wanted and expected.

The nomination for this prize occurred two weeks after Obama took office. Therefore, the conclusion must be that Obama was awarded with two goals.

First, the group must want Obama to act a certain way as a result of accepting the award. Obviously he has done nothing to deserve the award, but the act of accepting the award will confine the moves that Obama can make. With Iran's nuclear bomb ambitions and their stated goal of eliminating Israel, Obama is justified in putting the military option on the table. Accepting this award takes away that option.

Second, this award was a slap in the face to the ideology that Obama repeatedly vowed to destroy. That ideology - that the US can act in its own self interests regardless of what the rest of the world thinks - was the cornerstone of the last administration. Any opportunity to unilaterally defend American interests are not possible if Obama accepts this award.

The committee has an obvious political agenda and saw the awarding of Obama as a perfect opportunity to force a commitment from Obama to conform in all military matters to a Leftist agenda. Great work for the committee, a sad day for American interests.

Jeez. Our President receives a prestigious honor, and people carp about it. You can't be serious.

Throughout his campaign President Obama inspired hope around the world among people whose lives are torn by war and hatred. He promised a new era of cooperation with our historic allies. He immediately delivered, reaching out to the Muslim world from a position of strength and intelligence, and putting our country strongly in support of diplomatic solutions to international problems.

The Republicans are correct to read in this the world's happy rejoicing that Obama has replaced the failed Presidency of his predecessor. You'd think THEY might show a little humility (and maybe some patriotism) and find the grace to enjoy this wonderful moment, instead of trying to ruin it for the rest of us. What a bunch of punks.

It's the Noble Prize for "He Is Not Bush".

Sending troops to kill 3rd world peoples in Afghan and elsewhere can give a person kind of a peaceful feeling perhaps - but I didn't know they awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for that.

He has accomplished absolutely nothing so far...Nothing but lip service.

From Wikipedia: According to Nobel's will, the Peace Prize should be awarded "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

Frankly, during Obama's presidential campaign he was already promoting good will between nations. That he is getting the prize now is basically the committee's way of saying, "don't quit." It's like when Henry Kissinger got the prize during his negotiations with the North Vietnamese or Desmond Tutu for his work against apartheid in 1984, ten years before apartheid was abolished in South Africa. It's the effort that is being encouraged and rewarded.

In any case, someone called the prize "handcuffs." Can anyone imagine Obama declaring war against Iran now that he's a Nobel Peace Prize recipient?

I agree the award does seem premature, but what a great speech he gave!

Americans across the United States should be rejoicing! Our President has won a Nobel Peace Prize! Regardless of whether or not you think his actions have done enough, we should all be proud to be represented and led by a man whom the International Community respects and trusts.

It is shameful that so many people speak negativity and ill-will towards our President. Unpatriotic to the core, certain people and parties are only interested in furthering their own narrow goals, rather than further the good of the general population.

Congratulations to President Obama. May he face the world with the goodwill and faith he has shown thus far.

It would seem that the bar is a lot lower for this president, We have a best and fairest award in AFL football called the Brownlow medal, maybe he should be awarded that too, all this award to obama does is cheapen it.

Obama getting the Nobel Peace Prize is a joke--he held office only 12 days before the cutoff for the nominating process. Eight months later he has accomplished almost nothing so far and isn't even worthy of being nominated for a Nobel Prize. Look at the other 2009 recipients--their awards were based upon accomplishments, not "promises." This fiasco shows how little integrity exists in the process for awarding the Nobel Peace Prize. And I fully agree with Norman Ravitch's comments below--Obama should have declined the award based upon a lack of real accomplishments.

One just has to read the original charter for the establishment of the Nobel and the awarding...he does not "fit" the profile! It will now do more damage than good for someone who has not moved from the pulpit to the pews!

first the presidency, now the nobel prize. all with no resume. what a farce. what a tool of the elitists.

How could you negatively judge what you do not know??? This Man (President Obama) has been annointed by God as a Phrophet to serve mankind, way before his critics were even born. Blessings be to the trinity, and "God Bless America"

How can someone with rhetoric only and no substantive accomplishment be awarded such a prize? Even Obama himself recognizes the lack of accomplishments by calling for action. It is like a physicist winning a Nobel prize by proposing a theory with proof. Now it would be interesting to find out what the Nobel Prize Peace Committee would if Obama would finally accomplish something concrete. Would there be a second prize for Obama? Or should he fail, the prize be taken back by the Committee?

Obama's Nobel Peace Prize award was another step in the right direction. However, nothing is going to change until reasonable citizens in all cultures agressively and vocally reject radicals in their midst.

"The award emphasizes the gulf Obama must bridge in his two sometimes conflicting roles: president of the United States, who must act out of national self-interest, and his role as the moral beacon for international affairs around the globe."

Funny, I don't recall seeing anything in the Constitution or the writings of the Founders about an international responsibility in the office of President. If Obama feels conflicted, then he is the wrong man for the job. The President was elected by the American people to act in their best interest - PERIOD.

As for the Peace Prize, awarding it to Obama--who was nominated 11 days after taking office--is simply a Scandinavian slap in the face to George W. Bush. The Peace Prize was already a farce considering that it's been awarded to the likes of Yassir Arafat, but today it's more of a joke than it's ever been.

What is going on? What peace has Obama brought to the world? I thought Carter was the last idiot to receive this prize. Obama bad mouth america, turns his back on our allies, ignores the american majority, (healthcare), racism is cried when someone disagrees with him, what peace? Since Obama's election, americans are more divided by race. The world doesn't really like america more because he's president, they want to see this country fall, they see Obama as the weak leader that will help america fall. What good decisive decisions for america has he made? Wake up people.

Is this April 1st?

Um, aren't you suppose to accomplish something before being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize? So far, all Americans have received are unfulfilled promises and changed agendas. If that's the case, then I should receive the Nobel Peace Prize for all my recycling. Hey, I'm making the world better and am actually doing it and not just talking about it. Personally, I think this is a slap in the face to those who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. They actually have done something for the good of mankind.

Congratulations Mr. President. I am so proud to be a citizen of the US. Last November the citizens of the US spoke clearly. Today the world spoke clearly.
Let's roll up our sleeves get it done.
A new day has dawned in the US and the world is reflecting back the warmth of that new sunrise.

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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