Premature honor a potential liability
'AWESOMENESS' | Opens door for critics to mock president
WASHINGTON -- After an embarrassing rejection a week ago in Copenhagen with Chicago's Olympic bid loss, Oslo handed President Obama a medal Friday -- an award that was premature and potentially a liability for the president.
There was no celebration at the White House for the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama did not seek this out. He has a Grammy and the presidency, and that's enough for now.
The prize was a surprise and a massive distraction that opened the door for Obama's domestic critics to mock him -- as they did during the campaign -- for being an international superstar with no accomplishments.
"Nobel Peace Prize for Awesomeness" was the subject line of a mocking e-mail sent out by Michael Steele, the Republican National Committee chairman.
Ironies and reflections:
• The day Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize, he was meeting with his war Cabinet -- his national security team -- to wrestle with ongoing battles in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
• A few days ago, Obama dispatched Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Attorney General Eric Holder to Chicago in the wake of an epidemic of youth violence and murders of public school students. Obama can't stop the killing in his hometown -- I'm not saying it should be his job, but he did take an ownership stake -- yet he is hailed for his potential to bring peace to the globe.
• When Obama was a freshman U.S. senator, he joked at the end of his 2006 keynote to a Gridiron Club dinner, "When I actually do something, we'll let you know."
The Norwegian Nobel Peace Prize Committee didn't even pretend Obama accomplished anything to earn his prize. The deadline for submitting nominations for the 2009 Nobel was Feb. 1. Obama was sworn in to office Jan. 20.
Obama's incredible rise -- five years ago, he was still an Illinois state senator -- has been blessed by people projecting their expectations on him. He has been a magnet for true believers who pinned their aspirations, hopes and dreams on him; now you can include the Norwegian politicians on the Nobel panel in the Hope and Change Club.
The Nobel Peace Prize Committee justified the prize because the panel said in a statement it "attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons."
"Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play."
In other words, Obama is not George Bush.
• While a few guys in Norway were swooning over Obama, Americans gave the president respectable -- but not overwhelming -- support for his handling of foreign affairs.
A Quinnipiac University poll conducted Sept. 29 through Monday found 49 percent approved, 37 percent disapproved and 13 percent were undecided about Obama's handling of foreign policy.
Peter Brown, the assistant director of polling for Quinnipiac, told me Americans are not "wildly enthusiastic" about Obama's dealings on the international front.
The Nobel Peace Prize panel devalued their medal. Obama might well deserve it -- someday.
Said Obama, "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."
Obama has been thrust into an awkward spot not of his making. That medal might one day be justified, but for now might be a ball and chain around his neck.