Sunday, December 13, 2009

Obama Channels Clinton in Oslo

Maybe you heard that our president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few months ago. It made all the papers. The decision was quite shocking at the time and a bit difficult to understand. The late night talk shows had a field day with the news. Conan O'Brien had one of the best bits. Seems no one could figure out what the president had done to deserve such an "honor". I use the word "honor" while biting my tongue in light of the fact that scumbags like Yasser Arafat and crooks like UN Secretary General Kofi Annan have been similarly "honored". Snake oil salesman Al Gore got a Nobel Prize too. So did the worst American president in recent history (until now) Jimmy Carter. Mikhail Gorbachev got his for helping to end the Cold War. Ronald Reagan was somehow overlooked by the Nobel Committee. In the end, the consensus was that Obama won the award for making really awesome speeches and not being George W. Bush.

Well, this week the president went to Norway to collect his award and grace the committee with a characteristically awesome speech. Unfortunately, the president disappointed the crowd in Oslo. But conservative politicians and journalists back home had mostly nice things to say about the speech. What's up with that? The president apparently was seen to have dissed the Norwegians in general and the Nobel Committee in particular. There is this from Britain's The Guardian:

The White House has cancelled many of the events peace prize laureates traditionally submit to, including a dinner with the Norwegian Nobel committee, a press conference, a television interview, appearances at a children's event promoting peace and a music concert, as well as a visit to an exhibition in his honour at the Nobel peace centre. He has also turned down a lunch invitation from the King of Norway.

The Norwegians felt snubbed by Mr. Obama. And as far as the speech itself was concerned, I guess you could say it fell short of the Nobel clan's expectations. I haven't listened to the speech myself. I can't stand to hear Mr. Obama pontificate. I find myself shouting at the TV ala Joe Wilson. So I read the transcript. You can read a transcript of the speech here. I read about 3/4 of it before I gave up, but it seemed pretty good to me. I had no problem picturing George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan delivering the same speech. Maybe that is why so many conservatives praised the president. People like Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, Bill Kristol, and Charles Krauthammer gave the president high marks with perhaps a few small caveats. And I can see how they could be favorably impressed. Here a few short excerpts that you may have seen or heard:

For make no mistake: evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism - it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

Yet the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions - not just treaties and declarations - that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.

I - like any head of state - reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend my nation.

I understand why war is not popular. But I also know this: the belief that peace is desirable is rarely enough to achieve it.

Great stuff. Fantastic speech. In your face Nobel Committee! I'd even believe he meant it if it was anyone besides Barack Obama. But this is just too out of character for the president I have come to know. I don't like this guy. I don't trust this guy. I wouldn't waste my spit on this guy if he was on fire. To paraphrase the old lawyer joke, I can tell he's lying because his lips are moving. Now that I've established my credentials as a less than objective observer, let me tell you what I really think.

First of all, calm down all you liberals out there. A lot of liberals have been getting very upset lately. They've been wringing their hands about the president's Afghanistan decision, and now he's off in a foreign country praising America instead of apologizing for us. There, there. Don't worry. He doesn't really mean it. This is political theater in my opinion. He's taken a page out of President Clinton's playbook. This was Barack Obama's Sister Souljah Moment.

Sister Souljah was a black hip hop MC and activist who had made several racist remarks against white people. Speaking at a meeting of Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition at which Sister Souljah was also scheduled to speak, Bill Clinton repudiated her remarks and compared her language to that of white supremacist and former klansman David Duke. The incident was seen by some as a courageous and principled act by Mr. Clinton, but by others as a transparent and shameless attempt to gain favor with moderate voters by distancing himself from Jesse Jackson and Souljah.

Mr. Obama has a problem with mainstream Americans. Conservatives have never liked him. Moderates and independents helped get him elected, but are falling away in droves according to recent polling. I believe this Nobel speech was a bit of political gimmickry to court moderate voters. He gave a speech that sounded like it was written for Ronald Reagan. Never mind that he doesn't mean it. It's just a speech. It's not as if he's making any commitments to any real policy. And while he's at it, he kicked a little sand in the face of the Norwegians. No harm done there. It's not as if he needs anything from them. He can afford to insult them. It costs him very little, but some of the folks back home love it. The Norwegians are a nice enough lot, but to some Americans, they're just another ultra liberal Scandinavian social democracy thriving under the umbrella of protection that our defense spending provides, all the while lecturing us on how to become properly civilized. The Danes have Hans Christian Anderson, the Swedes have Abba and a reputation for sexual freedom. All the Norwegians have is the Nobel Committee with its penchant for awarding Peace Prizes to crooks, tyrants and conmen. In that regard, they're a little more arrogant than they've got any right to be. Many Americans don't mind seeing them get their comeuppance.

So three cheers for Barack Obama. He showed them I guess. He delivers a characteristically great speech. It was written to please a conservative, patriotic audience. But it's just a speech. We know he's good at that. That's essentially why he was getting the Nobel in the first place. Then to compound the effect, he slights his hosts to the delight of the same conservative crowd. He gains the kudos from conservatives at home, sacrifices a little good will from the Norwegians (who cares), and he does one more thing. Remember all the ridicule he endured for having been awarded the Nobel without any accomplishment? He successfully deflects the criticism that would naturally have ensued had he not upstaged himself with an uncharacteristically pro American speech. So congratulations Mr. President. It was a win-win-win performance. But I believe a performance was all it was.