You are currently browsing the monthly archive for October 2009.

So, out of the blue Norway goes and gives Obama the Nobel Peace Prize. I’ll cut to the chase and say that this constitutes a mixed blessing: he certainly hasn’t achieved anything real or lasting yet, but at the same time I don’t think the fact of his getting the award should be rejected out of hand. And now to play a game of point-counterpoint with myself.

On the one hand let’s all be honest with ourselves: as much as those of us on the left love to wrap ourselves in the warm blanket of hope and change he hasn’t actually DONE anything yet. Yes he’s reached out and made it ok to talk again but he’s lacking anything so much as resembling concrete results. The Iranians will continue playing patty cake for the forseeable future, North Korea’s going to keep up with the “break up to make up” pattern until the blessed day that the dear leader finally dies, and Israel will continue to furiously avoid consummating the peace process so long as Bibi is running the show. As everyone keeps saying, as they would to a bright child, there’s plenty of potential for greatness here, but so far nothing to show for it. And as Joe Klein points out, coming from Europe this award has a bitter undertone of condescension, as if he’s being awarded simply for not being george bush. It’s a pat on the head to America for not electing another rowdy republican president, and while I’m happy they’re happy this is taking things a tad far. Finally, this continues the game of eternally rising expectations that’s been played to Obama’s detriment since the campaign. Basically unless he actually achieves a breakthrough worthy of the award by 2012 it’s going to become a millstone around his neck as the GOP, now with some actual ammo, would play the “failed messiah” card. Whether this prevents him from tearing Sarah Palin or Mike Huckabee in half if they’re nominated is doubtful. Romney would be tricker, but I digress.

On the other hand though, the man does deserve SOME credit. In the current global environment promoting the ideal of peace and diplomacy is in many ways just as important as actual achievements. Obama not only was expected to achieve great diplomatic breakthroughs but had the added task of having to lay the groundwork by almost completely rebuilding America’s foreign policy from the smoldering wreckage left by the bush administration. The extent to which he’s done so so far as created a much more hospitable environment in which the diplomatic initiatives he’s pursuing now actually have a chance in hell of succeeding. And god knows a tonal reset was necessary; I don’t think most of this country realizes the extent to which we had become reviled.¬† I also think it’s plausible that this is less an endorsement of Obama than of the world view he espouses, the debate has simply become warped due to the man.

In the end though, this does illustrate a problem: the tendency to try and call Obama’s presidency either a success or failure when he’s not even been on the job for a whole year. Without evidence it simply becomes an exercise in illustrating how emphatically you love/hate the guy. I still like Obama, and many of his policy objectives, but I’m not about to try grading his performance yet based on campaign promises and 9 months of his presidency. This is the equivalent of trying to grade someone as they’re taking a test and yelling out that they’re getting A’s and F’s as they’re writing in their name at the top. I’d like for everyone to take a deep breath and wait at least another year before we begin the process of either declaring success or failure.

-We’re all in this Together