- The Washington Times - Friday, October 9, 2009


The announcement Friday that President Obama was awarded the Nobel Prize has resulted in mixed reactions from across Washington and around the world.

“The real question Americans are asking is: ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?’ ” said Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele. “It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working toward peace and human rights. One thing is certain — President Obama won’t be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action.”

Mr. Obama received the award after winning the presidential election just nine months earlier and taking office only weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline.

“The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists — the Taliban and Hamas this morning — in criticizing the president for receiving the Nobel Peace prize,” said Democratic National Committee director Brad Woodhouse, according to the Web site Politico. “Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the president of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize. … The 2009 version of the Republican Party has no boundaries, has no shame and has proved that they will put politics above patriotism at every turn. It’s no wonder only 20 percent of Americans admit to being Republicans anymore — it’s an embarrassing label to claim.”

The response from U.S. allies was overwhelmingly positive.

“This is great news for President Obama, for the people of the United States and for the United Nations,” said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. “We are entering an era of renewed multi-literalism, a new era where the challenges facing humankind demand global common cause and uncommon global effort.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who has made no secret of his admiration for Mr. Obama, called the decision the embodiment of the “return of America into the hearts of the people of the world.”

Other former Nobel winners weighed in, too.

Former Polish President Lech Walesa, a 1983 Nobel Peace laureate, questioned whether Mr. Obama deserved it now.

“So soon, Too early?” he asked. “He has no contribution so far. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act. This is probably an encouragement for him to act. Let’s see if he perseveres. Let’s give him time to act.”

Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who won the prize in 1984, said Mr. Obama’s award shows great things are expected from him in coming years.

“It’s an award coming near the beginning of the first term of office of a relatively young president that anticipates an even greater contribution towards making our world a safer place for all,” he said. “It is an award that speaks to the promise of President Obama’s message of hope.”

“I cannot think of anyone today more deserving of this honor,” said former Peace Prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, now director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. “In less than a year in office, he has transformed the way we look at ourselves and the world we live in and rekindled hope for a world at peace with itself.”

In the U.S., there were more comments, ranging from senators to online writers.

“I cannot divine all of their intentions, but I think part of their decision-making was expectations,” Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, told CNN. “And I’m sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to.”

Still, Mr. McCain, who ran against Mr. Obama in last year’s presidential election, said he was pleased with the decision.

“I think all of us were surprised at the decision, but I think Americans are always pleased when their president is recognized by something on this order,” he said.

Sen. Benjamin L. Cardin, Maryland Democrat, responded from Athens, Greece, where he is attending meetings on international energy security and climate change.

“Such a high honor represents international support for a world leader to pursue human rights concerns and advocate for peace around the globe,” he said. “This award is a testament to the power of diplomacy, and it serves as a reminder that the light of cooperation can be rekindled through open dialogue and a willingness to concentrate on the values shared by different peoples rather than our differences.”

Sen. Roland Burris, Illinois Democrat, applauded the committee’s decision and said Mr. Obama has already “struck a new tone of cooperation with the international community and has improved America’s role throughout the world.”

John Dickerson, writing on “The Wizard of Oslo” on the Slate Web site Friday morning, points out that “in his 1895 will, Alfred Nobel stipulated that the peace prize should go ‘to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses.’

” ‘Shall have done,’ seems a tricky piece of language to write around. This makes the committee’s statement sound more like a wish list. It’s not that Obama has done nothing. It’s that so much about his presidency is preliminary. (I’m not counting the beer summit.).”

In the daily White House press briefing, spokesman Robert Gibbs admonished the pundit culture for trying to turn the 2009 award in a partisan feud and declined a reporter’s request to speculate about the committee’s possible liberal bias, including no award to President Ronald Reagan, a Republican, for helping to end the Cold War.

Mr. Gibbs said that question was for the committee and that political pundits do a disservice to public discourse by offering “instant analysis” to complex issues.

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