I Don’t Get It

I don’t get it.  Not in the way I don’t get art or in the way I didn’t get Modern Algebra.  I can’t even comprehend what it is that I need to comprehend.  I am so confused, for the first time in my life, I am at a loss for words.

Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize.

The only thing more shocking than this news would have been had  George W. Bush won it.

Barely a week after Saturday Night Live observed the obvious–that Obama’s presidency has accomplished less in its first 10 months than George W. Bush’s–Obama receives one of the most renowned, (formerly) prestigious award in the world.

Someone, please, explain to me, in a coherent manner, without using the word vague, indefinite term “hope,” why this man is worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize.

As a hard core Republican, I understand that conservatives don’t have a chance of winning the Prize.  “Peace” doesn’t get associated with the idea that some people are so wacko the best way to make them understand is guns and bombs, even if common sense should tell you it’s true.  I always knew that the prerequisite for receiving an award like the Prize is naiveté of believing the reason why we have violence in this world is not because people are crazy but because we haven’t talked enough.  I get it.  I’ll never win the Peace Prize even though I think I believe in peace just as strongly as the irrelevant hippie wearing a peace sign in the NYC subway system.  And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is giving the award to a person who is so obviously deficient in merit the value of the Prize loses all meaning.

To say that this award is politically driven is like observing that fire is hot.  Pat Buchannan (whom I am not a fan of) more thoughtfully observed that the last three major American political figures to win the Nobel Peace Prize–Obama, Gore and Carter–all had one thing in common:  they were the anti-Bush.  It took nearly 70 years for America to produce two Novel Peace Prize winning political figure; there’s now three in the last decade.  The Bush connection is undeniable.

Obama’s choice is not only stunning, it’s actually offensive.  For all the political disagreements I’m likely to have with any Nobel Peace Prize winner (or, for that matter, any of the Nobel prizes), I ‘m mature enough to praise good work when I see one.  People and organizations dedicated to removing dangerous land mines (winners, 1997) deserve our respect and rightful recognition.  And there are plenty like them.  There are those working in legal aid defending those who have been ejected from their homes.  There are doctors dedicated to bringing medical care to Africa.  There are NGO workers risking their lives to build schools in Iraq.  Carter had his Habitat for Humanity.  Even Gore made a flick.  Obama was… I suppose,  a community organizer.

The Nobel committee gave the award for, in their own words, a “vision of a world without nuclear weapons” and fostering a “new climate in international politics.”  They gave Obama the award, not because of what he’s accomplished and not even because of what he might accomplish.  They gave the award because he makes the world feel good about itself, because he makes us feel good about ourselves.

Because he gave us hope.

Because he wasn’t a Republican named George W. Bush.


13 Responses to “I Don’t Get It”

  1. 1 Ben Hoffman October 15, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    These two statements seem to go together well:

    “I can’t even comprehend what it is that I need to comprehend.”

    “As a hard core Republican,…”

    And therein lies the problem.

    • 2 joesas October 16, 2009 at 12:05 am


      I have a feeling if I knew the details of any of your ideas, I’d also feel that you have your share of problems.

      Be that as that may, you think Obama was worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize?

      • 3 Ben Hoffman October 16, 2009 at 5:41 pm

        While it does seem a bit premature, the outrage by right-wingers seems unfitting for people who supposedly “love” our country. Right-wingers love their party far more than they love our country.

        • 4 joesas October 16, 2009 at 7:41 pm


          I think it’s possible to love your country without loving or liking the president, is it not? Wasn’t that the whole argument, I think correctly, made by the liberals when they were accused of being unpatriotic during the Bush presidency?

          Incidentally, I love the party for the sake of the country. I do hope, and believe, that’s true on hard core believers on both sides of the aisle.

          As another side-point, I didn’t vote for Obama and won’t vote for him again, but I don’t particularly dislike him the way I’ve disliked previous Democratic presidents.

  2. 5 Joseph Lee October 16, 2009 at 12:12 am

    Ah yes, the great Nobel Peace Prize mystery. I like Obama and all, but I was confused. I’m glad my high school can now boast a President AND a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but I was still confused. The only satisfactory answer I have recieved so far is from one of my friends who darkly noted that Obama probably won because the Nobel Peace Prize cannot be won posthumously. Very sad and slightly disturbing, but it made sense.

    • 6 joesas October 16, 2009 at 7:52 pm


      Of course I can count on you to be the pessimist.

      Let’s talk about something that’s more happy, like me. Have you been keeping up with my blog?

      Incidentally, I noticed you’re only the 6th JosephLee in the g-mail account. When did you get that address? Early, or does it just mean there aren’t a lot of Joseph Lees?

  3. 7 Chris Schroeck October 16, 2009 at 10:42 am

    I am actually a fan of Obama and believe that he has accomplished quite a bit in his first 10 months, but I don’t really understand why he deserves the Nobel Peace prize. Then again, who really does? I honestly am not sure what the qualifications are for the prize. Removal of land mines is a laudable goal, but does it contribute to peace? Not really. The wars in which those land mines were placed are long over. Habitat for humanity and Gore’s…stuff…also don’t really seem to do much for peace, as it were.

    So, I doubt that Obama deserves it, but it seems to me that the large majority of peace prizes are given out essentially because the committee agrees with some goal of the recipient. It’s their prize, so I don’t begrudge them that.

    • 8 joesas October 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm


      Of course you’re a fan of what Obama has done in the first 10 months because you are increasingly being brainwashed by the clueless people in our profession. My mom thinks I’ve gone native and I find that accusation truly offensive. Call me a J*p if you want and see if I care, but call me a Communist and now you’re getting personal…

      I actually disagree with you that removing land mines don’t contribute to peace. If people can live more happily because they don’t have to worry about their legs being blown off by some mines left from an arcane war, I think that’s making great contribution to a more peaceful, better world. By your high standard of achieving peace, the only way to achieve peace is to bomb the shit out of anyone who are strapping bombs to themselves. Not that I’m against that, but then I have to ask, where’s my Nobel Peace Prize?

      I feel like the Nobel Prize should be for accomplishing something good and substantive. Would America feel as good about itself as it does now in three years? After all, nothing makes politicians more unpopular than being in power. Land mines will be gone forever; happiness is fleeting.

  4. 9 rattoch October 16, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    I have some friends who voted for Obama and they admit he was not worthy ot if. This entire show is crazy.

    Apparentely anyone saying hope and change can become president and win the noble peace prize.

    I thinnk now that I am looking for a job in interviews I will just say hope and change and I should acquire the position. They will think I am the next Barack Obama and just hand over the position to me. LOL.

    • 10 joesas October 16, 2009 at 9:36 pm


      The problem with Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize is that the award which I used to think was so prestigious has lost all meaning in my eyes. There are so many worthy people even amongst those I personally know. We can do better than a president ten months into his presidency.

      I think Obama is special. If I screamed Hope, no one would follow me. He has a that thing called charisma.

  5. 11 Tristan October 19, 2009 at 10:52 am

    I voted for Obama and I can’t say he deserved it. That said there are others who have deserved it less (Kissinger, Le Duc Tho, Arafat, and so on). One also can’t argue that he needed the moral cover provided by the prize. The world already loves him and the prize won’t do anything for his domestic standing. One need only look at what happened to Woodrow Wilson after he was given the award to see that.

    Giving the prize to Barack Obama seems to have less to do with his merit and more to do with the difficulty of giving out the prize at all after the second world war. The cold truth is that the atom bomb has been a better peacemaker than any Nobel laureate. With a few notable exceptions, the only states that one can make war against are those that don’t have nukes, so the better part of the world has been off-limits to warfare for the past several decades.

    So the pool of potential candidates is somewhat limited already. Given it’s actually kind of rare to find a real peacemaker in the midst of war, the prize committee has been stuck giving out the prize to warmongers who found peace to be in their temporary interest (see examples above), or to people who take up humanitarian causes other than peace, giving it to the UN and associated organizations, or simply not giving out the prize at all (guess how often this happens).

    I’d much rather the prize be saved for the Nelson Mandelas of the world and not given out when no suitable candidate can be found. But one must acknowledge the human needs of the people who select the winners–the prize is awarded by a committee of Norwegian parliamentarians, and when have you ever seen a politician forgo an opportunity for recognition?

    • 12 joesas October 24, 2009 at 2:16 pm

      You voted for Obama and you’re not sure whether he deserved your vote? LOL. That’s the lawyer picking on your lack of clarity with the word “it.”

      I see your point about less deserving people, but certainly we can do better than, “At least it wasn’t them.” I place Woodrow Wilson in a whole different league. That guy’s presidency was an unmitigated disaster. Phd and governance do not mix.

      I think you bring up a good point about how relatively peaceful the world has been after WWII, but I think there are tons of people who should be recognized. I don’t disagree with abstaining from giving out the prizes when no suitable candidate is found, but I find humanitarian efforts to be perfectly aligned with the concept of “peace.” Chris made a similar comment as you. I would respond as I did to Chris that removing land mines is an act of peace. Just because you’re not corrupt enough to be a dictator or elected to the highest office shouldn’t disqualify you from being recognized for commitment to peace. You know, just like how a commitment to bombing the shit out of all the terrorists shouldn’t bar me from being recognized as a peaceful person.

  1. 1 Why I Don’t (Try) to Talk Politics « The World According to Joe Trackback on October 24, 2009 at 2:39 pm

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