Ross Douthat lays into President Obama for having the temerity and overpowering ego to accept the Nobel Prize.
Here was an opportunity to cut himself free, in a stroke, from the baggage that’s weighed his presidency down — the implausible expectations, the utopian dreams, the messianic hoo-ha.
Here was a place to draw a clean line between himself and all the overzealous Obamaphiles, at home and abroad, who poured their post-Christian, post-Marxist yearnings into the vessel of his 2008 campaign.
Here was a chance to establish himself, definitively, as an American president — too self-confident to accept an unearned accolade, and too instinctively democratic to go along with European humbug.
He didn’t take it. Instead, he took the Nobel Peace Prize.
Wow. That’s a lot of anger packed into a few short paragraphs. So the president should have turned down the prize because of other peoples’ expectations? Because he’s not worthy of “European humbug”? What would he have him do, open a vein in the Rose Garden?
Mr. Douthat’s impotent rage rises off the page like the stink of a freshly-laid turd. In a following paragraph he dismisses the Nobel committee as “five obscure Norwegians,” then goes on and makes the case for the people he thinks were far more worthy of winning this prestigious prize. So in the space of two paragraphs he’s telling the president to turn down this elitist nothing-burger because he’s not on a par with the likes of “Morgan Tsvangirai, Zimbabwe’s heroic opposition leader; or Thich Quang Do, the Buddhist monk and critic of Vietnam’s authoritarian regime; or Rebiya Kadeer, exiled from China for her labors on behalf of the oppressed Uighur minority; or anyone who has courted death this year protesting for democracy in the Islamic Republic of Iran.” If the prize is worthless, why is Mr. Douthat making the case for the losers?
Then, in the next twisty-turn of logic, he thunders on that there is no way President Obama can live up to the giddy expectations that come with receiving the prize and that no one — certainly not the Afghans or the Iranians or the Russians — will think any more of the president or his policies because of it. And now he has the “terrible burden” of succeeding because he’s the Nobel laureate who probably won’t get the Israelis and Palestinians to work things out or the Iranians to stop playing with their DIY nuclear warheads. And it makes Mr. Douthat root for his failure:
But by accepting the prize, he’s made failure, if and when it comes, that much more embarrassing and difficult to bear. What’s more, he’s etched in stone the phrase with which critics will dismiss his presidency.
Slick Willie. Tricky Dick. Jimmy “Malaise” Carter. Dubya the Incompetent.
And now Barack Obama, Nobel laureate.
He’s not as crude or bombastic as Rush Limbaugh who still crows, “I hope he fails,” but he might as well be. Success for the Obama administration in anything would, in his mind, be a terrible thing.
It’s not hard to see what’s really going on here, and you don’t need to be a Shakespearean dramaturg to figure it out: jealousy rears its shiny head. No conservative thinks the Nobel Peace Prize is worth anything because it always goes to do-gooders and bleeding hearts, but when it gets awarded, they’re secretly — and sometimes not so secretly — pissed off because their guy didn’t get it. (You see this in other awards, too — there are still those who don’t believe Marisa Tomei earned her Oscar; it had to be a mistake.) And I suspect there’s a little bit of internalizing going on here, too; it probably had to rankle that Mr. Douthat hasn’t yet won a Pulitzer for his commentary, going instead to that flaming liberal Eugene Robinson at the Washington Post. Mr. Robinson suggests that instead of going off on an Iago-trip of inexplicable rage, the right wing should show a little maturity and send a simple note of congratulations. After all, if the prize doesn’t mean all that much, what’s the big deal, and why is Ross Douthat making so much of it? Dr. Freud, call your service.