The First Draft: What was the Nobel committee thinking?
Even before sunrise in Washington, tongues were wagging over the Norwegian Nobel Committee’s choice of President Barack Obama to receive this year’s Nobel Peace Prize. And the big question — aside from whether a first-term president in his ninth month in office has done enough to deserve the award — was, what was the committee thinking?
We know what they say they were thinking. Geir Lundestad, director of the Norwegian Nobel Institute, told ABC’s “Good Morning America”: “When we have a person whose ideals are so close to the ideals of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, we wanted to give whatever support we could to continued action in these fields.”
But if you read the official announcement, it sure sounds like it translates to: Obama isn’t George W. Bush.
There could be other considerations, of course. Perhaps the committee was still irked on Obama’s behalf about the public snub from Arizona State University, which invited the president to speak at commencement but didn’t give him an honorary degree because “his body of work is yet to come.” Obama joked about it when he gave the speech and the university eventually named a scholarship after him.
Or maybe they wanted to steal the thunder from NASA’s moon bomb project, which was ballyhooed by U.S. TV networks and shown live on the morning talk shows. If that’s the case, they needn’t have bothered. The NASA event was a bit of a damp squib, at least visually. If they find water at some point, that would be a different matter and the Nobel folks may have to consider the rocket scientists for a physics prize.
Possibly another factor was in play. If Obama goes to Oslo to collect his prize in December, it would be only a quick hop to Denmark, where international climate change talks are scheduled. The committee mentioned climate change in its citation. Were they hinting that he ought to go and put his stamp on these negotiations?
CORRECTS: Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is in Oslo not Stockholm.
No way to know at this point. But we can definitely ask: what do you think?
Photo credits: REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque (Obama at Arizona State University commencement, May 13, 2009)
REUTERS/Bob Strong (Nobel award ceremony in Stockholm, December 10, 2008)