John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Premature Nobel Prize

Posted on October 10, 2009
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Usually, when a president wins the Nobel Peace Prize, it is uniformly seen as a positive development for America and for the world.

Both opponents and allies tend to celebrate the fact that an American president actually got recognized by a bunch of Norwegians for something he achieved.

But with Barack Obama, who surprisingly picked up his first Nobel Prize on Friday, the reaction was not altogether positive from either the left or the right.

You would expect that conservatives would raise questions about the president's award. Conservatives raise questions about everything the president does.

But liberals also joined in. Mickey Kaus of Slate said that the president should say thanks, but no thanks. "Turn it down! Politely decline. Say he's honored but he hasn't had the time yet to accomplish what he wants to accomplish." Liberal columnist Richard Cohen wrote a mocking column, comparing Obama's award to a fictional award given to Sarah Palin for promising to "read a book someday."

We are all glad that Norway loves Obama, but come on. Let's get serious.

I am reminded of when Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf decided to retire the jersey of longtime White Sox player Harold Baines. It was a little premature for Baines to get his uniform retired when he himself was playing for another team. (Baines played a couple more years, surely the only instance where a player's uniform was retired before the player was.)

Awarding Obama the Nobel Peace Prize is similarly premature. In fact, the White House seemed as surprised as anybody about the gesture. I imagine that when Obama first picked up the line, he thought it was a crank call.

"I won what?" he must have exclaimed.

But it is no joke. It seems that President Obama won his first Nobel Peace Prize, for, well, being President Obama.

Just the very idea of a President Obama is enough to make the Nobel Selection Committee swoon.

The president said he was humbled by this award. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, he has much to be humble about.

When it comes to peace, it is hard to see what notable accomplishments have been achieved thus far in the Obama presidency. That is not a slap at him. Peace takes time.

It took John Hume and David Trimble about 30 years of really hard and dangerous work in Northern Ireland before they got a Nobel Peace Prize. And despite all of that hard work, peace and reconciliation is still elusive in that region.

Mr. Obama hasn't even been able to get a peace deal between Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid, who continue to snipe at each other over the health care public option and Afghanistan.

Peace hasn't exactly broken out in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, or Iran either.

Nobel Prizes usually go for some fairly notable accomplishments.

Nelson Mandela spent much of his life protesting apartheid and serving a prison sentence. He is a man who deserved a peace prize.

Mikhail Gorbachev allowed the Soviet Union to collapse without much of a whimper. That was an accomplishment that deserved a peace prize.

But what exactly has President Obama done to deserve such an award? And if he actually does something in the future, does that mean he gets another one?

Apparently, the voting on the peace prize started shortly after the president was sworn in. Perhaps he is getting the peace prize because of his inaugural address. Yep, a lot of people came to that speech, and peace mostly reigned on that day (except for those people with tickets to the Inauguration who got stuck in the "purple tunnel" in Washington). But I don't think he deserves a peace prize for that.

I guess he got the prize because he was elected president and he wasn't George Bush. Well, if that is the case, maybe all of those millions of Americans who voted for him should share the prize, because they actually did most of the work. They voted.

As an American, I am proud that our president was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize.

Now, I, like many others on the right and the left, would like to see him do something to earn it.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of John Feehery.