Friday, October 9, 2009

Backhanded compliment

I remember a concert where the Clancy Brothers were greeted with applause until Tommy Makem stepped up to the microphone and said, "Why don't you wait until we do something before you clap?" There is a parallel to the Nobel Peace Prize awarded President Obama, one that should transcend politics.

Much of the response has been predictably political -- Obama fans rejoiced and opponents blasted away -- but for all Americans there is reason to worry.

Don't just take my word for it -- let's look at the New York Times: "Whatever it meant on the world stage, in the United States the award to Mr. Obama was a decidedly mixed blessing. It was a reminder of the gap between the ambitious promise of his words and his accomplishments. It drew attention to the fact that while much of the world was celebrating him as the anti-Bush, he had not broken as fully as he had once implied he would from the previous administration’s national security policies. And it set off another round of mocking criticism from opponents who have chafed at what they see as the charmed and entitled rise of Mr. Obama."

The Times' editorial pointed out the reason for concern: "Certainly, the prize is a (barely) implicit condemnation of Mr. Bush’s presidency. But countering the ill will Mr. Bush created around the world is one of Mr. Obama’s great achievements in less than nine months in office." The editorial writer concedes that Obama has much to do to actually earn the award.

This is true. When Jimmy Carter was recognized it was more than 20 years after leaving office when the efficacy of his mideast initiatives produced tangible results. By prematurely awarding Obama, does it not signal some interference in American foreign policy?

Prematurely awarding the prize to President Obama has all the makings of a backhanded slap, not just toward the previous occupant of the West Wing, but toward its present occupant and all Americans.