When I checked my BlackBerry this morning while stumbling to the kitchen to make coffee, I saw the headline "Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize." My first thought was, "This must be a hoax." When I saw the "News Alerts" from the Washington Post and the New York Times I knew that it wasn't.
As a biographer of Bill Clinton (Clinton in Exile: A President Out of the White House), my second thought was, "I feel his pain." Clinton has lusted after the Nobel Peace Prize for years -- starting seriously at the end of his second term when he thought he could win it if, in the waning days of his second term, he could only bring the Israelis and Arabs together.
Not even as towering an ego as Bill Clinton expected to win it while a sitting president, as Woodrow Wilson and Teddy Roosevelt had (but not even they came anywhere close to winning it before they had spent even a year in the White House).
For himself, Clinton saw the Nobel as a grand post-presidency honor. On leaving the White House in 2001, once he shed the stigma of his scandals, and particularly the Marc Rich pardon mess, Clinton looked to the post presidency of Jimmy Carter, a man he disliked intensely (see why in an earlier post, "Carter and Clinton: They Genuinely Dislike Each Other") and the international outreach that won Carter the Nobel in 2002.
And Clinton learned from his predecessor. He boldly and effectively has used his Clinton Foundation and his annual and highly successful Clinton Global Initiative to do genuinely important, ground-breaking work in some of the poorest countries in the world.
The main stories this morning in the Times and the Post included not a word about Bill Clinton. President Obama who humiliated Clinton and his wife in the primaries, now stands on the Nobel stage not only with Jimmy Carter , who saw Obama's promise early, but also with Al Gore, who won his Nobel in 2007 and whose relations with Clinton have been frosty since 1998 when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, and, especially, since Gore lost the 2000 election and blamed Clinton.
And now Bill's wife, Hillary, is Obama's Secretary of State, battling for position with Obama's various White House Czars charged with overseeing the most explosive parts of the world.
No novelist, not even a Nobel Laureate in Literature, could make this stuff up.