Sunday, October 11, 2009

Obama's Nobel Prize

I've thought a lot about what I think about Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize and I wasn't sure exactly what to think. I do think, though, that Ezra Klein probably best sums up how I feel.

I had a good time making fun of Barack Obama's Nobel prize this morning. It is undeserved. It is a bit ridiculous. But it's a laugh in the way that finding a $900 antique chair in the attic is a laugh, or getting paid $120,000 to be a celebrity dog walker is a laugh. It's an absurdity worth celebrating. It's an absurdity that can help you.

During the campaign, one of the arguments for Obama's candidacy was that his election would give us a costless shot of international goodwill. That the symbolism of his election would aid America's international standing without forcing any substantive policy concessions. At the time, that was a very big deal: Leaders were winning elections in other countries in no small part by tying incumbents to George W. Bush. That made it a lot harder for our allies to loudly support our initiatives. Fixing that was not going to be easy. Candidates and countries pay a lot of money to better their public image. Obama, some said, could do some of it on the cheap.
This prize, which came as Obama contemplates a troop build-up in Afghanistan and hectors the international community on financial regulation and global warming, suggests that there is some reservoir of relief and amazement for America's young president. The international gushing may seem absurd to us, as the schoolyard lionization of an older brother often seems funny to a sibling, but it can be used to our advantage. Leaders in allied countries no longer run against America, and now the Nobel Committee is attempting to welcome America back as the leader of the free world. And it didn't cost us anything. Would that life told more jokes like that one.

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