The two words above were the first were heard in my household when my cellphone greeted me, seconds after awakening, with the words: “Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize.” Five words that jolted me awake faster that any cup of coffee could. Or maybe even ten cups.
If David Letterman’s writers dared, they could have a field day with this: ten numbers followed by blanks. (If you put the actual reasons for which the Norwegian Nobel Committee seems to have awarded this prize, like “he’s not Dubya,” they’d hardly be as funny. And some of them, like “he refused to put the missile interceptors in Poland and the Czech Republic,” are not that funny unless your address is the Kremlin.)
Rather than go on at length before I’ve had breakfast, I’ll just quote from a column by Michael Russnow that just appeared in the Huffington Post. Russnow is a screenwriter (and former WGA West board member) and former Senate aide, and he voted for President Obama last year. Just the person to give this prize a thumbs-up, right?
After explaining why the two previous sitting Presidents to win the Prize got their awards (Theodore Roosevelt for supervising the negotiations that ended the Russo-Japanese War; Woodrow Wilson for helping to found the League of Nations) and pointing out that, whatever his fellow liberals might think of Dr. Henry Kissinger, the latter did win the Nobel for his part in ending the Vietnam War, Russnow continues:
I believe it is enormously premature for Obama to be getting this great tribute, which to a certain extent cheapens the prior recipients and the work all of them performed over so many years.
It is traditional for Nobel honorees to be named a long time after their achievements in the sciences and literature. Indeed, the winners announced this week in other categories performed their amazing work and discoveries decades ago. Obama’s designation is akin to giving an Oscar to a young director for films we hope that he or she will produce or for a first-time published author getting a Pulitzer for a book he is destined to write some day.
The time has not yet arrived and circumstances have not yet evolved where Barack Obama is anywhere near the point where he has earned this prize. I don’t blame him for this capricious action; it was the Nobel Peace Committee which committed the offense, which no doubt has Alfred Nobel thumping his head against his casket.
Update: Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times remarks that the award is “premature,” and among the comments to his post, one “Randi” writes:
I am stunned. I would like to apologize on behalf of the Norwegian people. We live in such a small country, but every year we have an opportunity to shed a light and give a voice to people who are victims in forgotten conflicts. I have a hard time accepting the fact that the award instead was given to the world’s biggest celebrity.
See also this Guardian article.