Friday, October 9, 2009
Now. . .let the critism flow.... But . . .Lord let him live on!
Nobel observers were shocked by the unexpected choice so early in the Obama presidency, which began less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline.
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama woke up to the news a little before 6 a.m. EDT. The White House had no immediate comment on the announcement, which took the administration by surprise.
The Nobel Committee lauded the change in global mood wrought by Obama's calls for peace and cooperation but recognized initiatives that have yet to bear fruit: reducing the world stock of nuclear arms, easing American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthening the U.S. role in combating climate change.
"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," Jagland said.
Obama's election and foreign policy moves caused a dramatic improvement in the image of the U.S. around the world. A 25-nation poll of 27,000 people released in July by the Pew Global Attitudes Project found double-digit boosts to the percentage of people viewing the U.S. favorably in countries around the world. That indicator had plunged across the world under President George W. Bush.
Still, the U.S. remains at war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. Congress has yet to pass a law reducing carbon emissions and there has been little significant reduction in global nuclear stockpiles since Obama took office.
"So soon? Too early. He has no contribution so far. He is still at an early stage. He is only beginning to act," said former Polish President Lech Walesa, a 1983 Nobel Peace laureate.
"This is probably an encouragement for him to act. Let's see if he perseveres. Let's give him time to act," Walesa said.
Slap at Bush?
The award appeared to be a slap at Bush from a committee that harshly criticized Obama's predecessor for his largely unilateral military action in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks. The Nobel committee praised Obama's creation of "a new climate in international politics" and said he had returned multilateral diplomacy and institutions like the U.N. to the center of the world stage.
"You have to remember that the world has been in a pretty dangerous phase," Jagland said. "And anybody who can contribute to getting the world out of this situation deserves a Nobel Peace Prize."
Unlike the other Nobel Prizes, which are awarded by Swedish institutions, the peace prize is given out by a five-member committee elected by the Norwegian Parliament. Like the Parliament, the committee has a leftist slant, with three members elected by left-of-center parties. Jagland said the decision to honor Obama was unanimous.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, who won the prize in 1984, said Obama's award shows great things are expected from him in coming years.
"It is an award that speaks to the promise of President Obama's message of hope," Tutu said.
Meanwhile, Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, told NBC News that the president had not sought the award. "Presidents work hard to bring some issues to the fore internationally and point the world in the direction of solving some very big problems," he said. "I think this is a recognition of that."
Until seconds before the award, speculation had focused on a wide variety of candidates besides Obama: Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a Colombian senator, a Chinese dissident and an Afghan woman's rights activist, among others. The Nobel committee received a record 205 nominations for this year's prize, though it was not immediately apparent who nominated Obama.
"The exciting and important thing about this prize is that it's given to someone ... who has the power to contribute to peace," Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said.