OK, I know, it’s just some conservatives who’ve been exhibiting what they, in a different context, surely would describe as “Hanoi Jane” behavior. Others who haven’t taken leave of their political senses—and are familiar with the concept of manners—responded to President Barack Obama’s unexpected award with equanimity and even grace. Sen. John McCain, for example, offered his good-natured congratulations.
Some of Obama’s most strident critics, however, just can’t give it a rest. They use words like farce and travesty, as if there were always universal agreement on the worthiness of the Nobel peace laureate. Does anyone remember the controversy over Henry Kissinger or Yasser Arafat or F.W. de Klerk?
The problem for the addlebrained Obama-rejectionists is that the president, as far as they are concerned, couldn’t possibly do anything right, and thus is unworthy of any conceivable recognition. If Obama ended all hunger in the world, they’d accuse him of promoting obesity. If he solved global warming, they’d complain it was getting chilly. If he got Mahmoud Abbas and Benjamin Netanyahu to join him around the campfire in a chorus of “Kumbaya,” the rejectionists would claim that his singing was out of tune.
Let the rejectionists fulminate and sputter until they wear themselves out. Politically, they’re only bashing themselves. As Republican leaders—except RNC Chairman Michael Steele—are beginning to realize, “I’m With the Taliban Against America” is not likely to be a winning slogan.
What I really don’t understand is the view that somehow there’s a tremendous downside for Obama in the award. It raises expectations, these commentators say—as if expectations of any American president, and especially this one, were not already sky-high. Obama has taken on the rescue of the U.S. financial system and the long-term restructuring of the economy. He has launched historic initiatives to revolutionize health care, energy policy and the way we educate our children. He said flatly during the campaign that he wants to be remembered as a transformational president.
The only reasonable response is McCain’s: Congratulations. Nothing, not even the Nobel Peace Prize, can set the bar any higher for President Obama than he’s already set it for himself.