I heard it on the radio coming into work this morning: Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was on the Stephanie Miller show, so I assumed it was a joke. I wish it had been.
Not since the selection of Henry Kissinger in 1973 has the Nobel committee so dishonored its mission. A quick look at the early reaction confirms that much of the punditry is aghast at this selection, for a variety of reasons. I'll add mine to the list.
It's not that I don't like Barack Obama. I heard him speak at the Kohl Center, and was inspired. I voted for him, more or less enthusiastically. I read his book, Dreams From My Father, and came away wowed by the strength of his character and his skill as a writer.
I believe, based on Obama's rhetoric, that he may one day be worthy of the Nobel Peace Prize. But not now, based on anything he's done so far.
The Nobel committee gave the award for Obama's "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples" and because he has "captured the world's attention." That may be true, but my question is: What has he done?
Obama is being honored, essentially, for talking a good game about the need for the United States to restore its standing among nations and serve as a model and instrument of positive change.
But talk is what politicians do, and Obama's selection ignores the essential historical divide inherent in our two-party system.
Republicans stand for rotten things, like promoting the welfare of the rich and focusing resentment on various scapegoats, like illegal immigrants. But they have the courage of their convictions, and when in power get things done.
Democrats say all the right things, to get elected. And then they betray the people who voted for them.
It's too soon to dismiss Obama's promise as a great president and world leader, but not too soon to wonder if the essence of his presidency may be betrayal.
Look at the "Don't ask, don't tell," the nation's ongoing jihad against gays in the military. Obama as a candidate promised he would end this dreadful policy. The vast majority of people in the United States, as well as the vast majority of people serving in the military, favor a change in this policy. And yet he's done nothing to bring it about.
The third sitting U.S. president to receive the Nobel Prize (the others being Woodrow Wilson in 1919 for founding the League of Nations and Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 for helping end the Russo-Japanese War both actual accomplishments), Obama has reneged on his promise to close Guantanamo Bay and may be poised to approve a major escalation of the war in Afghanistan.
On the domestic front, he has handed out billions to irresponsible financial institutions and industries and indicated a willingness to compromise away some of the most important components of health care reform.
As readers know, I'm an inveterate optimist. I think it's possible that Barack Obama, who I still consider a great man, will become a great president. But that certainly hasn't happened yet. And neither should this honor.