THE SPINE OCTOBER 11, 2009
Which is Latin and means "I do not want to be bishop." That is how every Anglican designee for that office demurs ... but most then take on the miter anyway and with it the bishopric itself. President Obama could have said "I am not worthy," a true response that would also have kept him from the ridicule this Nobel Peace Prize designation has brought upon him. But it is not in his character. For the sin of pride is the most deceitful. The very sin prevents man from recognizing it in himself.
The list of Nobel peace laureates is not an especially august one. I've never heard of most of the people on it, and I'd bet you haven't either. So I have no comment on them. Then there are the perfectly ridiculous ones, the paradigmatic figure being the Guatemalan peasant, Rigobertu Menchú Tum, who literally invented her life, for which fabrication the custodians of the prize bestowed it on her.
Yasir Arafat--well, yes, Yasir Arafat--spent his life as a murderer, and he got a Nobel, too.
Kofi Annan received the Nobel as well. Perhaps for Bosnia, where he delayed an intervention by the West, and for Rwanda, where he literally prevented both the United Nations and the United States from intervening. I don't know what the Bosnian death toll attributable to him is. But we all know how many Tutsis were murdered in the Rwanda enormity. One million. The jackpot.
Frank B. Kellogg and Aristide Briand each became a Nobel Peace Laureate for designing an international treaty outlawing war. It was approved by all of the salient governments. Within a decade, however, the world had gone to war … to World War II.
Among all of the demeaning reactions to the bestowal of the prize on Obama, the most curious and hostile come from Arabs. You would have thought that they'd be indebted to him for at least altering the propaganda balance against Israel in the world. Not at all. Ingrates.
Robert Fisk, the most faithful of the English-language flacks for Arab states and Palestinian fantasies, has put Obama down in a litany of ridicule in The Independent.
Almost everyone has commented on what they expected to be Bill Clinton's churlish response to Obama's Nobel. And Maureen Dowd has written an imaginary dialogue between Bill and George W. Bush about the good fortune of the now-president. Of course, Clinton is particularly covetous about the cash that goes along with the honor. George is not. But he's a happy-go-lucky type, content cutting his brush at his Crawford ranch.
My colleague Noam Scheiber attributed some jealousy to Al Gore as a result of the president's honor. Why, for God's sake? My guess is that nothing could be further from the truth. First of all, Al already has his universally acclaimed Nobel. No one can doubt that he deserves it. But the timing of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies in Oslo on December 10 will quite literally oblige President Obama to participate in the worldwide Framework Convention on Climate Change, scheduled for December 7-18 in Copenhagen (about a half-hour flight on Air Force One).
I don't mean that Obama would not go otherwise. But the fates have conspired to give him no alternative. And his presence will persuade him to say something decisive. This is kudos for Al, too.