Oh, Norway, sweet, majestic, oddly-temperate-for-your-latitude Norway: Don’t take this the wrong way, but when it comes to American politics, you are utterly tone deaf.
Yes, we’re all glad George W. Bush is gone, too, and we all know he never should have been elected. Hell, we’re pretty sure he actually wasn’t elected—at least the first time. And we’re as relieved as you that we now have a president who doesn’t disparage “Old Europe,” launch needless wars, and talk about the importance of “good relations with the Grecians.”
But, see, the thing is, this Nobel stuff doesn’t help Obama at all. And actually, it makes things a lot worse for him here in America.
The problem is that the caricature Obama’s opponents on the right have been pushing for more than a year—that he’s a rhetorically gifted charmer who inspires worshipful adoration from college kids and the French but who doesn’t actually know how to accomplish things—is starting to bleed over into the mainstream.
He’s been president for almost nine months, nearly 20 percent of his first term, and the unemployment rate is about to crash 10 percent, health care reform has been reduced to a confusing mess, the war in Afghanistan he promised to turn around is spinning out of control, and that aggressive first-term Middle East push is yielding pretty much nothing. Also, he lost the Olympics!
We know, we know: This isn’t really fair. He did pass a stimulus plan, and it would have done a lot more if a single Republican had cooperated. And as ugly as the health care debate has been, no president has ever pushed reform this far through the Congressional process. And who knows? Maybe he’ll get Afghanistan and the Middle East right when all is said and done.
But fair isn’t what matters when it comes to domestic politics. When Americans elect a new leader, they don’t want end zone celebrations until they see some touchdowns. And when they look at Obama’s record right now, they don’t even see a field goal. (Hopefully these American football references aren’t confusing you!)
So when they see that Obama is going to receive the Nobel Peace Prize even though he may soon send tens of thousands of fresh troops to a war that’s probably unwinnable, well, it makes it a lot easier for them to buy into what the right’s been saying—that gullible Americans and socialist Europeans have been seduced by a fantasy.
The early reaction to your Nobel decision here in America is revealing: Even Obama’s own supporters don’t feel too good about this. One of them, a rather liberal friend of ours, just wrote on her Facebook page: “I now have every hope of winning the Nobel Peace Prize. I'm a great speech writer and I'm full of good intentions.”
This is exactly what the right has been trying to get Americans to say and think for a year. You mean well, Norway, we know. But in one fell swoop, you’ve just advanced their cause immeasurably. Some are even wondering: Can Obama get away with turning this down?
You waited 21 years after Carter left office to honor him. Couldn’t you wait until Obama did something besides preside over a Security Council meeting?