A trophy for trying


When the news broke on my phone this morning that President Obama had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, my first thought was that the satirists at The Onion must have hacked into ATT just to make mischief.

My second thought was, "He won the whaaaaat?"

My third thought was that Glenn Beck must be spontaneously combusting.

My fourth and arguably most coherent thought was that this peace prize seems a tad premature, roughly akin to the Oscars crowd giving Dakota Fanning a lifetime achievement award.

Actually, the Nobel committee seems to have adopted the philosophy of Little League Baseball, where every kid on the team gets a trophy, regardless of whether he or she hits .500 or zip. The trophy is awarded not for actual achievement, but for the mere act of trying.

Obama is clearly aspiring to usher in an era of peace, but he hasn't achieved anything yet; it's fair to say that no president at the nine-month mark ever will. It's way too early to know whether his initial outreach efforts will bring peace (or, more realistically, a modicum of peace) to the Middle East, Iran, or Afghanistan. Indeed, Obama has yet to indicate how he even wants to proceed in Afghanistan. It's way too early to know whether he can bond the West and the Muslim world, or reduce the nuclear arsenals of major powers. Heck, he ordered the closure of Guantanamo, and the place is still open.

The Nobel rules stipulate 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." The language appears to require that a recipient do something concrete ("shall have done the most or the best work"), but clearly the Norwegians have opted to honor Obama for his silver tongue and conciliatory tone - as if words are synonymous with achievement.

I assume that the Fox News talking heads will be exploding all weekend (Norway has a public option for health care!). And perhaps conservatives will demand that all Americans boycott Norwegian furniture; who knows, maybe they'll even demand that the Beatles' song title "Norwegian Wood" be changed to "Freedom Wood."

The rest of us can simply shake our heads and wonder, what's next? Dan Brown winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction?