Monday, October 12, 2009

Letter From the Editor: Nobel Prize to Obama Is Really a Slap in Bush's Face

Even the President -- Caught Completely By Surprise -- Admits That He Doesn't Feel That He Deserves to Receive the Peace Prize After Less Than Ten Months in Office, But Nobel Committee's Decision Shows How Deeply the World Holds Obama's Predecessor in Contempt

President Obama passes by a battered United Nations flag on his way to addressing the General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York on September 23. The flag had flown over the UN's bombed-out Iraq headquarters in Baghdad. On Friday, the nation, the world -- and even the president himself -- were stunned by the news that he won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, even though Obama has been in office for barely ten months. The five-member Nobel Peace Prize Committee in Oslo, Norway cited Obama for "giving the world hope for a better future" with his work for peace and calls to reduce the global stockpile of nuclear weapons. (Photo: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

(Posted 5:00 a.m. EDT Monday, October 12, 2009)


"What do we do now?"

That was the question that Bill McKay, the Democratic nominee for a U.S. Senate seat in California, asked his campaign manager on election night in the closing scene of the 1972 motion picture "The Candidate."

The Bobby Kennedy-like McKay (played by Robert Redford) had just been projected the winner of a hard-fought campaign against an entrenched, Barry Goldwater-like Republican incumbent Senator Crocker Jarmon (Played by Don Porter), a campaign that McKay had not expected to win. His victory thus caught him by surprise.

I thought a lot about that final scene from the film, and particularly Redford's closing line, as the news had sunk in on Friday that President Obama had won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize. Like most of the world -- and even the president himself -- my immediate reaction was one of disbelief.


How could the Oslo, Norway-based Nobel Peace Prize Committee award the world's most prestigious honor to a man who had been in office as president of the United States for just under ten months -- and facing a rapidly deteriorating military situation in Afghanistan?

It is difficult to imagine Obama not experiencing his own "What do we do now?" moment upon receiving the news. He, after all, is facing the most difficult foreign-policy decision that any president can face -- one that, indeed, could make or break his presidency. On top of that, Obama is also confronted with seemingly endless Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At a time when the Obama administration is conducting a review of U.s. strategy in the eight-year-old conflict against al-Qaida and its Taliban allies -- and coming under under pressure from military leaders -- as well as from his Republican critics -- to send as many as 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan -- winning the peace prize now certainly appears awkward.

What impact will it have on Obama's ability to deal with Iraq and Afghanistan and the Mideast? We don't know. Only time holds the answer to that question. But why now?


Even the president himself, caught off-guard by the news, was initially in disbelief. As he told reporters at a hastily-called news briefing at the White House Rose Garden on Friday, Obama acknowledged that "this is not how I expected to wake up this morning."

Admitting that he was "surprised" that he had been chosen to receive the prize, the president said that "To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize -- men and women who've inspired me and inspired the entire world through their courageous pursuit of peace."

But Obama also acknowledged "this prize reflects the kind of world that those men and women, and all Americans, want to build -- a world that gives life to the promise of our founding documents. And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes."

To that end, the president said that he would accept the award in Oslo on December 10 "as a call to action -- a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century." He said later that he will donate to charity the $1.4 million that accompanies the prize.


Anyone who has read The 'Skeeter Bites Report over the past 18 months knows that its editor and publisher is a staunch supporter of Obama. I endorsed him for the Democratic nomination over Hillary Clinton in February of last year. I voted for him in November.

I have relentlessly gone after the more outrageous of his critics, most notably the whacked-out "birthers," whose relentless, yet futile campaign to remove Obama from office with false, unprovable claims that he is a foreigner constitutionally ineligible to be president was -- and is -- clearly motivated by racist and misplaced Islamophobic animus against him.

But for once, I find myself in agreement with the president's critics on this one. I do believe that the Nobel Prize Committee was premature to award the Peace Prize to Obama now, in the face of what is very likely to be an escalation of the war in Afghanistan.

Not that I oppose the conflict against al-Qaida and the Taliban; quite the contrary, Obana was right all along when he said on the campaign trail that the war in Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein was a massive distraction by the Bush administration away from the real war on terror in Afghanistan. George W. Bush squandered a one-in-a-lifetime opportunity to truly unite the nation and the world against the threat of global terrorism waged by al-Qaida.

Indeed, it has to be said that by awarding the Peace Prize to Obama, the Nobel Committee has, for the fourth time since 2002, heaped a pile of cow manure on Bush. Its decision was only the latest expression of the world's deep-seated contempt for the former president.


And who can blame them? Bush turned up his nose at the world by deciding to go to war against Saddam Hussein based on flimsy claims that Iraq was building up a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has said that he will probably never live down the day he presented to the UN Security Council what turned out to be phony evidence of Iraqi WMDs.

Result: the Nobel Committee awarded the 2002 peace prize to former President Jimmy Carter, a sharp critic of Bush's propaganda campaign leading to the Iraq War, and the 2005 Peace Prize to the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, headed by Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei, that rejected Bush's claims that Iraq possessed a WMD stockpile.

Two years later, the Nobel Committee stuck it to Bush again when it awarded the 2007 Peace Prize to former Vice President Al Gore and the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change for spreading the word about global warming. Bush defied the world on the growing threat of climate change when he refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions -- making the U.S. the lone holdout against the agreement.

Now comes the 2009 Peace Prize to Obama. I'm a strong supporter of this president, but I'm not so naive to believe that the Nobel Committee wasn't motivated by a desire to snap the cat-o'-nine-tails across Bush's backside one last time; it's hardly a secret that Obama's number-one foreign policy priority in the nine months he's been in office has been to repair much of the damage to America's relations with the rest of the world that Bush wreaked during his eight years in the White House.

Nevertheless, Afghanistan has a very real potential to destroy Obama's presidency just as Vietnam destroyed Lyndon Johnson's. So far, the president has acted very deliberately, determined not to repeat the mistakes of past presidents.

Congratulations, Mr. President, and Good Luck -- You're going to really need it.

Skeeter Sanders
Editor& Publisher
The 'Skeeter Bites Report

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Volume IV, Number 77
Copyright 2009, Skeeter Sanders. All rights reserved.


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