Saturday, October 17, 2009

Nobel Committee Blunders

Now, I’m the first guy who likes to see Americans get the Nobel Peace Prize, but don’t you actually have to do something to earn it? So, what exactly did Obama do during the ten days between the time he was sworn in a President and the cut off date for nominations for the Nobel Award? I don’t know about you, but given the size of the White House, my greatest accomplishment in ten days would be to find the kitchen and all the restrooms! Heck, during the first few weeks after his inauguration, Obama was still picking staff and unpacking. So then, perhaps the best place to start is by looking at what Obama did prior to becoming America’s first bi-racial President. Maybe that would give us a clue as to why he was nominated by the Nobel Committee.

As far as I can tell in reading his bio, he was a junior US Senator from Illinois who really didn’t accomplish anything particularly important. He sponsored no world altering legislation. He wasn’t part of any investigative committee examining current financial practices or overseeing military intelligence reports, or even our healthcare system. Ok, how about as Illinois State Senator? Nope, I found nothing there either. He was kinda popular, but didn’t really ever take the lead on much legislation; certainly nothing of a national or international nature. Well then, what does the Nobel Committee look at in making their selections and what about past American Presidents (I’ll give you a hint—there were three)?

The Nobel Peace Prize was established by Alfred Nobel upon his death in 1896 and the first Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in 1901. Nobel requested that the Norwegian Government, through its Parliament, appoint a committee of five individuals to select individuals for their work in peace related work using the following criteria:

“…during the preceding year [...] shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”

All nominations have to be submitted by February 1, and based therefore, on the nominee’s work for the previous year. The Committee generally has a list of approximately 200 nominees which is then whittled down to a much shorter (and workable) list. This list is then reviewed by the permanent advisers to the Nobel Institute, consisting of the Institute's Director and the Research Director and a small number of Norwegian academics with expertise in subject areas relating to the prize. The advisers will usually have a few months to complete their reviews, which are then considered by the Committee to select the winner. The Committee seeks to achieve a unanimous decision, which is not always possible.

The current Nobel Committee members are:

Thorbjørn Jagland (the Committee chairman and former Member of Parliament. He is the former Prime Minister for the Labour Party and current Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
Kaci Kullmann Five (a deputy chairman and former Member of Parliament and cabinet minister for the Conservative Party.
Sissel Rønbeck (a deputy director and former Member of Parliament and Cabinet Minister for the Labour Party
Inger-Marie Ytterhorn (a former member of Parliament for the Progress Party.
Ågot Valle (a former member of parliament for the Socialist Left Party

So, who were the three US Presidents and what did they do to earn their nomination?

The first was Theodore “Teedy” Roosevelt (my personal favorite). “TR” as he was often called, received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his successful mediation to end the war between Russia and Japan, thus saving tens of thousands of lives. The next American President to receive the Nobel Peace Prize was Woodrow Wilson in 1919. President Wilson received the honor for his work in brokering an end to World War I and for his efforts in establishing the League of Nations, which was the precursor to the United Nations. The central idea behind the League of Nations was to create a forum whereby nations could resolve their disputes peacefully and to foster international cooperation. The third American President was Jimmy Carter, who was given the award in 2002 for his work, while President, in brokering peace between Egypt and Israel (also known as the Camp David Accords) during the 1970’s.

So, where does that leave us? Pretty much right where we started. The Nobel Committee defended their decision to award Obama the Nobel Peace Prize (and its $1.5 million dollar award) based on his speeches and call for international cooperation and peace (since the rules state that the nomination has to be for work one year previous, we have to assume the award was therefore given for his campaign speeches, and we all know about campaign promises). Thus the award would have been based on Obama’s “promises” of change while running for office. If that was the case, every candidate who ever ran for office should have received the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama accepted the award “on behalf of the American People”, which I assuming means that we will get a piece of that $1.5 million dollars (or at the very least, his speech writers should get some of the action).

All and all, the Nobel Committee blundered badly in eyes of the world and greatly diminished the value of this great award. It said to the global community that promises mattered more than deeds. The Nobel Foundation and Institute are going to have to work hard to regain the integrity it has lost. Until then, there is no reason not to expect a Noble Peace Prize at the bottom of every box of Cracker Jacks. I promise.

Poll Results

In our last poll, we asked if you would support “ObamaCare” if it dropped the so-called “public option” for illegal immigrants. 30% of you said you would. 10% of you said might support it, while an overwhelming 60% said no way. I have to agree. America’s healthcare system is in shambles. We can and should do better but socializing our healthcare system isn’t the answer, and especially if that includes providing healthcare coverage at taxpayer expense to individuals who have come to this country illegally. If they want healthcare coverage, then either take steps to be here legally or feel free to return home.

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