(O'Rourke) - The View From the Couch: The Prize 

To paraphrase an old anti-war slogan, What if they gave a prize and no one accepted? The pre-emptive strike by the Norwegians, giving President Obama the Nobel Peace prize, may, or may not, have been the consolation prize for Chicago getting stiffed in the Olympics sweepstakes. But, it did seem to have more to do with marketing the prize internationally. Instead of giving it to some unknown for decades of, usually, futile peace work in a worn-torn, or despotic, region, they gave it to The One, for changing the tone heard round the world, hitting the tuning fork to a new, hopeful, note, even though Iraq and Afghanistan are following, more or less, the George W. Bush play book. The right-wing want Obama to give the prize back. The Nobel peace prize has always been ironic, since it honors yet another destructive robber baron on the world scene, the "inventor" of gun powder. Nobel left his money for the peace prize, wanting it to go to "the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the promotion of peace congresses." Well, this time, the Norwegians were leaning heavily on "fraternity among nations."

The Nobel prizes are famous for being famous, thereby fitting right in with our reigning celebrity culture. Like all prizes in our culture, they usually do the recipient some good. In Obama's case, that aspect may not be fulfilled. Since the sports world has so many prizes, the intellectual world only has a few, so why not single out deserving academics and artists, even though it inspires envy and bad feelings in so many of their colleagues. Speaking of sports, every time Obama makes a basket, the right wing has to stifle racist remarks, since anything he does well they want to disparage. On Fox News Sunday, Liz Cheney, of all people, was complaining that Obama has done nothing to deserve the award. Liz Cheney! What has she done to earn her seat as a pundit on a national news show? Except be the daughter of pre-emptive war Veep. Like Bill Kristol, her fellow Fox pundit, the self-assured Liz Cheney is a card-carrying member of the beltway nepotism corps. Here's the honey pot calling the kettle black.

Lest we not forget, the Arizona State University, unlike the Nobel folk, wouldn't give their commencement speaker, President Obama, an honorary degree last May. When Notre Dame did, Obama, at the commencement speech, said he was now one for two in that sweepstakes, since Notre Dame did give him the honorary degree. He was complimenting Father Hesburgh's 100 plus honorary degrees, saying he now realized how hard they were to get. "It's our practice to recognize an individual for his body of work, somebody who's been in their position for a long time," an ASU spokesperson told the AP back then. But Notre Dame certainly gained more attention for giving Obama the degree, because that honor came coupled with all the controversy over the abortion issue. ASU's niggardliness came and went. Now, when asked a year from now who won the Nobel peace prize for 2009, most people paying even the least amount of attention will remember. Does anyone remember who won it the year before? Look it up. I did. OK, here it is: Martti Ahtisarri. Who? See why they gave it to Obama this year?

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William O'Rourke

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