Obama's Nobel Peace Prize: Why Put the Call Before the Action?

Of course that doesn't stop the relentless politicos.


By Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street blog

Three things struck me about the reactions to President Obama's surprise Nobel Prize victory.

First, the take-away line from Obama's speech—that he views the prize as a "call to action"—sums up the problem most everyone sees with the award. As I tweeted, shouldn't the Nobel Prize come as a result of action rather than as a call to it? Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan and supporter of the president, but it just seems like the Nobel committee put the call before the action here.

And that's a fairly common, fairly bipartisan reaction.

As USA Today reports, there was a great deal of surprise at the announcement. Speaking personally I can say that even my staunch Obama supporter friends on Facebook thought it was a bit, umm, odd. One friend wrote that while "I adore Obama and think he can do no wrong," she was a bit taken aback. "Call me old-fashioned, but I think that award needs to be reserved for the Gandhi-types." The committee, she thought, got a bit political.

And she's probably right. As best as I can tell, this award was as much about Obama's not being George W. Bush as about his commitment to peace (perhaps not unrelated things). There's plenty of room here for penetrating analysis and commentary about what this says about ... the Nobel committee, the world's view of the United States, and so forth. It's fertile ground for commentary.

But then you get the partisan commentariat, which seems congenitally incapable of reasoned analysis. The official GOP reaction to Obama's Nobel win? That it's "unfortunate." It reminds me of the old LBJ line about the press: He remarked that if he went down to the Potomac and walked on water the headlines the next day would read: "President Can't Swim." Sure the GOP's job is to oppose, but you can do so with class and/or grace. (The Democrats' official response was, if anything, as remarkable, comparing the GOP with the Taliban and Hamas.)

But of course extreme reactions—even when virtually everyone else is coming together in befuddled bemusement—are what get attention. But they also illustrate how detached the knee-jerk partisans are from the reality in which most of us live. It's Partisan Libs—first write the press release, fill in the blanks later.

  • Check out our political cartoons.
  • Become a political insider: Subscribe to U.S. News Weekly, our digital magazine.
  • Follow Robert Schlesinger on Twitter.