THE BLOG
03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

Back and Forth on the Nobel Peace Prize

Two of my favorite people exchanged emails today on the President winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I thought it representative of what is going on all over the world as the subject is discussed. They both voted for President Obama and contributed to his campaign. One remains a fervent supporter, the other is evidently disillusioned. Jack has the advantage as he is responding to Joe's email.

Let's call them Joe and Jack:

Joe: My personal feeling is that no sitting elected official should win, but it's not my award to give out. Given that, here is my take on it.

Jack: I agree.

Joe: This president's critics are delighted that the U.S. lost its bid for the Olympics simply because the President played a part in his country's pursuit of the games.

Jack: This seems to me to be a gross partisan simplification of the variety of motives of those who thought it unseemly for a president (any president) to pitch an Olympic bid. The facts are that this president is a product of, first the Chicago Machine (Truman was a product of the Pendergast Machine in Missouri so one can rise above such things), and then the Illinois Combine (Rezko/Cellini et. al.) and has surrounded himself with hard eyed Daley loyalists who (or through their friends) were working the sleaze money angle. This put his decision to attend in a different light. Only a tiny minority of Americans thought he was representing the country and not Chicago. The 'country' did not pursue the games: Mayor Daley did.

Most Americans could have cared less. The president's critics, not all Republicans or even from the right, dumbfounded by his last minute decision to go, were delighted as when most people are delighted to see the arrogant humbled, or insiders get punked.

Joe: These critics, congratulating themselves on America's loss, thought it would put the president in his place. Limbaugh chortled that it was the president's ego landing.

Jack: I doubt many saw this as America's loss. That concept is political spin to deflect media attention from the president's inability to count noses while admiring himself in his own mirror.

Joe: Maybe, but last Friday, one week later, the critics joy turned to outrage as news broke that the president won something he never even pursued.

Jack: It's a stretch to connect the two. One was an exercise in money politics, the other in Euro-sophistry and Bush blowback. Substitute 'incredulity' for 'joy' and we would agree.

Joe: The primary defense mechanism for critics is the argument that it wasn't deserved and he had not done anything to warrant it. But, this is not uncommon in the history of the Peace Prize.

Jack: I don't see a 'defense mechanism' in play, just argument on the why and WTF of awarding the prize to someone who hasn't done anything (not that he has had much time to make a mark).

Joe: In 1984, Tutu won the award for his unsuccessful attempt to topple apartheid in South Africa. Apartheid did not end for another 10 years after the award was given to him. I suppose they could have waited and given it to him when his efforts panned out, but that's not the way it always works.

Jack: Tutu risked his life and liberty (he was jailed briefly) supporting a cause for over a decade. Compare and contrast with President Obama's life up to today.

Joe: In 1935 the prize went to a great war time journalist, Carl von Ossietzky, for his domestic opposition to the Nazi movement in Germany. The committee could have waited to see if he was successful, but that's not the way the process works.

Jack: Ossietzky was an incredibly brave man who campaigned vigorously against the Nazis' rise, again at great personal risk. He received his prize while in prison. He was not even allowed to attend the ceremony. A towering intellect and man of conscience, he may even have been tortured by the Gestapo. As you can see by the date of the award it came long before the war.

Joe: Jimmy Carter won for his pursuit of Mideast peace. Enough said. They could have waited until the issues were settled, but, again, that's not the way it always works.

Jack: Jimmy Carter and Al Gore, and now President Obama, got their awards for political reasons ... mostly a Scandinavian attempt to embarrass George Bush. The Carter/Gore awards are laughable.

Joe: My favorite, Aung San Suu Kyi, won in 1991 for her unsuccessful opposition of the junta in Burma.

Jack: Citing selected previous winners and comparing their awards with the President's to confuse the issue reminds one of a former President's tactics. President Clinton was willing to trash the reputations of any previous President to prove that his sexual predations were not unique. Aung has been in prison for many years for her beliefs. She, like Tutu and Ossietzky, risked all for her beliefs and has paid an enormous price for her conscience. The junta persists, as does her example of true courage.

Joe: Woodrow Wilson won for establishing the defunct League of Nations, and for working on the Treaty of Versailles which aimed to prevent another great war. He failed there too.

Jack: Your words betray your argument: Wilson was a two-term president who saved Europe in WWI. His Fourteen Points laid the theoretical framework for the League of Nations (which he helped create and was an actual organization not an 'idea'). The same points brought democracy to millions. Compare again with President Obama up to now.

Joe: So, my point is that the prize very often awards effort. It recognizes people who attempt to get the world on a more peaceful path. These efforts must take place in the year prior to that which the award is given.

Jack: White House talking points. Accurate but not analogous in my opinion.

Joe: Here's a list of qualifications:

1. Persuaded a majority of the people in the most powerful nation on earth to chose his vision of strength through diplomacy instead of the vision of his opponent who once sang "bomb bomb bomb Iran" to the tune of the Beach Boys.

Jack: A different view would be that he totally misrepresented his past and his policies and, with a complicit press, won election by promising a presidency that has not come to pass. He never mentioned during his run that he would apologize for America whenever given a forum overseas. He never said he would be neutral when students were killed in the streets of Iran trying to overthrow a tyrant. He never indicated that he would bow to a Saudi. He never disclosed his Fabianism.

Joe:2. He announced his desire to abolish nuclear weapons at a speech in Berlin, building on a bill he wrote in the Senate.

Jack: Announcing a 'desire to abolish nuclear weapons' goes back to Eisenhower as speech fodder.

Joe:3. He has spoken about reestablishing constructive working relationships with NGOs and IGOs

Jack: Come on...this is an accomplishment? Double speak at best, worse: diplo speak...'constructive working relationships?'

Joe:4. He announced plans to close secret CIA prisons, Guantanamo, and banned torture.

Jack: The operative words (as with most things Obama) being 'announced plans.' Nothing has been done. Guantanamo remains open. We never tortured. Red herrings waved proudly. Just the sort of stuff that is ambrosia for touchy feely Danes with a grudge.

Joe: Personally, I think the Nobel Committee sees great potential in the President's vision and ability to implement effective foreign policy.

Jack: We have no foreign policy. We have platitudes and confusion.

Joe: I think they also see the obstructionist conservative movement against him that has taken the momentum away from his policy objectives. What better way to reclaim the agenda and give the guy a boost in the name of peace than to award him their highest honor?

Jack: An 'obstructionist conservative movement' is better known as a two party democracy. Were the last four years of the Bush administration hamstrung by a 'obstructionist liberal movement?' And, do you really support the use of the Nobel Prize to dabble in American politics?

Joe: It is their award and they can give it to whomever they wish, but I wonder if Rush, Beck, O'Reilley, Noonan, etc. are the ones who actually won it for him.

Jack:They have and in giving it to President Obama, they have diminished the Nobel Peace Prize forever. It's like any brand: once lost, it will be hard to regain its stature again. And, if you really believe that the committee listens to anything other than continuously looped Obama speeches (it's far better just to listen to them...seeing the left right teleprompting reading would be off putting even to these guys) but tune in to Rush et al, you have a terminal case of John Kass's Hopium.

Joe: Let's have a beer and argue about Team America.

Jack: See you at The Kerryman, I'm buying.