When Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973, the satirist Tom Lehrer remarked that he saw no further need to perform as the award had made satire obsolete. By offering the world's most prestigious political accolade to Barack Obama, a man who has held office for barely nine months, the Norwegian Nobel Committee is in danger of putting the entire comedy industry out of business.-- "Prize Fools," the Times, lead editorial, October 10, 2009
As an American traveling in Great Britain (a country I love) I was appalled to read the fusillade of defamatory comments aimed from Fleet Street at President Barack Obama on the occasion of the award of the Nobel Peace Prize. For openers, the Times compared Obama's prize to the widely-condemned-as-undeserved award to former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in 1973, after one half the American war dead in Vietnam had been sacrificed during the first term of President Nixon!
The Times does not get it in evaluating Mr. Obama. This has to be in part due to the widespread disdain for the Gordon Brown Labor government, which succeeded eight years of the thoroughly discredited prime ministership of Tony Blair. The Brits have had no new and exciting leader to cleanse their parliamentary system following George Bush's poodle. David Cameron just might prove to be it at the next election, by the way.
Themes of leadership can be far more potent than substance when facing large intractable issues. The restoration of hope is a vital achievement in the world's most powerful democracy. Obama has changed the face of government in the United States -- after eight years of a retrograde, autocratic, incompetent, imperial, contemptuous-of-the-law administration that drove the country to the brink of depression. Playing by the rules can be more important than substance in a democracy; that is, behaving like who we say we are.
More to the point of the Prize, Obama's living example has changed the face of America before the world -- from South Africa to Germany, from Japan to Brazil, from Russia to India and Indonesia, from China to Iran. A new course has been set when turning the ship of state around, and it takes a while when taking positions on multilateral diplomacy, climate change, arms control, and the over-tilt in favor of Israel in the Middle East. But all the Times could cynically summon up was: "a Nobel Prize for politics."
The cheapest shot of vitriol by her editors was the short list of previous controversial Nobel nominations published in the same issue: Adolf Hitler, Joe Stalin, Benito Mussolini. For shame! And very sad for what was once the world's premier newspaper.