Readers who have followed this writer’s commentaries on the political machinations of the 44th president are by now well aware that I never quite bought into the whole Barack Obama thing. He has been and is a fascinating politician to cover. I’ve enjoyed the interviews I’ve done with him. I respect Obama’s intellect and discipline. I think he has remarkable political skills. I am more skeptical, however, with regard to his governing skills. And I am downright disappointed with his failure to recognize the purpose and the potential of the mandate he was given by the American electorate a year ago.
Obama has not moved quickly enough to end the occupation of Iraq and he has bought into the absurd lie that the occupation of Afghanistan is some kind of “good war” – or, at the least, a necessary one.
Obama has compromised on civil liberties and constitutional questions when this former constitutional law professor should have reintroduced America to the absolute principles of our founding – especially the wisdom of a system of checks and balances that constrains the imperial ambitions of our presidents.
Obama has put the wrong people in charge of the economy and pulled his punches when it comes to reregulating the banks. He supported an auto-industry “bailout” that has the federal government paying multinational corporations to close factories in the United States and open them overseas. And don’t get me started on the mangling of health-care reform.
So why not join the chorus of critics on the right and the left who object to the Nobel committee’s decision to award a freshman president what remains the most important international recognition of individual accomplishment?
Because, much as I might like to pen a piece with a snappy headline like Guardian writer Michael White’s “I Hope Nobel Members Feel Pleased With Themselves, The Smug Idiots,” I can’t.
It is not that I disagree with the point White makes about giving the award to a president in the 37th week of his tenure: “It is hard to imagine a more effective way to undermine him both at home and abroad.”
But, frankly, if accepting a peace prize makes it harder for Obama to wage unnecessary wars, maintain irresponsible occupations or support bloated Pentagon budgets, so be it.
I should add that I certainly do not buy into all this talk about the Nobel Prize being some kind of “aspirational award.” By this absurd logic, the prize should go to the crudest dictators – tough call this year, although the thugs in Myanmar are certainly competitive — on the theory that international accolades might shame them into behaving themselves.