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Jewish World Review
Oct. 13, 2009
/ 25 Tishrei 5770
Obama's ignoble prize
Pity Barack Obama. The last thing he needs is another comparison to Jimmy Carter. He could survive the endorsements of his Nobel Prize by Fidel Castro ("a positive measure"), from Dmitry Medvedev, the president of Russia ("evidence of a realistic vision"), or even from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, aspiring Jew-killer and president of Iran ("bringing justice to the world order").
He's got enough with Jimmy Carter already. Mr. Jimmy called the president's prize "a positive development." But celebrating weakness in the face of a challenge and bowing to bullies in an abject hope that the bully will go easy will always turn a real man's stomach. It's the celebration of weakness that's so infuriating. The anger is not about Mr. Obama. Not yet. He hasn't done anything.
The Nobel panelists make it abundantly clear they expect value for money. The prize is worth $1.4 million this year, and it's scary that the president thinks he has to give the money to charity. We can hope that he doesn't tithe the prize to the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., or share it with William Ayers. So far there's no word from the White House about who gets the loot, but Mr. Obama channeled money to Mr. Ayers in the past, and it has been a while since he has seen the Wright collection plate.
There's no uncertainty in Oslo about what's expected next. "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as [Mr.] Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the Nobel jury said. When incredulity dissolved in anger bordering on outrage, the chairman of the Nobel committee felt obliged to explain that the award was not only for great deeds the president hadn't done, but for great deeds that might one day come.
The Nobel panel's great expectations are not unrealistic, and the panelists, who made their selection shortly after Mr. Obama was inaugurated president of the United States (not president of the world, as the Europeans suppose), have no reason to be disappointed. His apology tour to the Middle East, his bow to the king of Saudi Arabia, his dithering with Kim Jong-il and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and his blowing off Poland and the Czech Republic over missile bases to appease the Russians have already redeemed the bet the Norwegians put down on the American president.
The Alfred E. Neuman ("What? Me Worry?") strategy for dealing with despots, which is always the default strategy of the Europeans, inevitably leads to rape, regrets and ruin. The Nobel jury wouldn't have to look far for a caution. Norway tried to appease the Nazis, twice declaring itself neutral shortly before the outbreak of World War II. The Nazis invaded anyway, sending the royal family fleeing to London. Many Norwegians fought bravely in the resistance, but the most memorable Norwegian figure of the war was the infamous Vidkun Quisling, the head of a puppet government whose name became a synonym for traitor.
Nevertheless, appeasement is admired by the Nobel juries. FDR never got a Nobel Peace Prize. Neither did Harry Truman or Winston Churchill. Ditto Ronald Reagan. But Yasser Arafat won in 1994. And of course Mr. Jimmy in 2002. Few Americans, beyond those hopelessly in thrall of the politically correct, are any longer surprised by the silliness of the Nobel Peace Prize juries.
The Nobel Peace Prize was once thought to be the ultimate reward for selfless idealism, and if you're still in high school, maybe it is today. A decade ago four high-school girls in Kansas heard the story of Irena Sendler, a Polish social worker who saved 2,500 Jewish babies from the Nazis. They wrote a play about her and sent letters to world figures, and this led to her nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Miss Sendler, who died last year at age 98, smuggled the babies out of the Warsaw Ghetto in an ambulance over several months early in the war, hiding them in crates, burlap sacks and several times in coffins. She kept a barking dog to drown the cries of the frightened babies. The Nazis arrested her and tortured her severely, breaking her legs in a vise. She bribed a guard to escape a firing squad, and after the war retrieved the names of the babies from jars she buried in her garden, and reunited hundreds of them with relatives.
The Nobel jury was not impressed. They gave the prize that year to Al Gore for his slide show about global warming.
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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times. Comment by clicking here.
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