Tales from the Trail

The First Draft: What was the Nobel committee thinking?

OBAMA/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.

Obama urges graduates not to follow Madoff’s path

91TEMPE, Arizona – President Barack Obama warned graduating students on Wednesday not to follow in the footsteps of swindler Bernard Madoff as they enter the workforce and look for jobs.
The U.S. president, delivering a commencement address at Arizona State University, told a crowd of tens of thousands that big money and fancy titles should not be a priority while the country faced recession and two wars.
“The leaders we revere, the businesses and institutions that last — they are not generally the result of a narrow pursuit of popularity or personal advancement, but of devotion to some bigger purpose,” Obama said.
“The trappings of success may be a by-product of this larger mission, but it can’t be the central thing. Just ask Bernie Madoff.”
Madoff, 71, pleaded guilty in March to operating a huge Ponzi scheme in which early investors are paid with money from new clients. He is likely to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Kevin LaMarque (Obama speaks during Arizona State University commencement ceremony, May 13, 2009)