Like Dave says, this Ross Douthat column should be immediately recognizable by liberal bloggers as concern trolling. And when you get concern trolled, you know whatever you’re doing is threatening, and is probably effective, and you should keep doing it. I’m not going to weigh in on the “did or didn’t he deserve it?” debate—I don’t care, and history tells us that the prize is often given as encouragement and not just as a reward, and I may not like that, but I’m not about to get into it—but it’s pure awesomeness to see Douthat sputter around like an idiot. Well, except that he’s being paid top dollar by the NY Times to sputter like an idiot. He’s not even very good at concealing that this in an attempt to bully the President into never doing a decent thing for the world or the American people.
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.
Translation: Obama could have taken this moment to tell liberals to quit pressuring him to do the right thing, and start the process of being owned wholesale by Republican interests.
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.
Please someone tell Douthat that all those scary foreign European nations he’s bashing are democracies, too. It’s shameful that he’s got this position, but it’s even more shameful that he’s using it to either trick people into thinking European countries aren’t democracies, or that he legitimately doesn’t know.
He didn’t take it. Instead, he took the Nobel Peace Prize.
Hey, I heard a few liberals suggest that Obama should turn it down, mainly because of the two wars he’s still foolishly fighting, but I don’t know what Douthat’s argument would be. Reading other conservative blogs, it seems the expectation is that Obama should have waved the Confederate flag and stepped down while saying, “Psych! I’m not going to make Real Americans live under my leadership, and we’ve found a suitable ancient white Republican dude to replace me.” Douthat declines to say why he thinks Obama has a moral obligation to turn it down. He says it will make him more open to “ridicule”, as if conservatives wouldn’t double down their attacks if he turned the Nobel Prize down. He also suggests that it will make Obama’s foreign policy decisions more difficult, which is wingnut for the fear that someone will lose enthusiasm for killing. I dare say that was the point in giving him the award, to pressure him to fucking make peace already.
But Douthat can’t really explain himself too well, since he’s too busy arguing that the Nobel Peace Prize should have the same international regard as the best dressed award at Podunk High School.
Would the world have been offended? Well, to start with, the prize isn’t given out by an imaginary “world community.” It’s voted on and handed out by a committee of five obscure Norwegians. So turning it down would have been a slap in the face, yes, to Thorbjorn Jagland, Kaci Kullmann Five, Sissel Marie Ronbeck, Inger-Marie Ytterhorn and Agot Valle. But it wouldn’t have been a slap in the face to the Europeans or the Africans, to Moscow or Beijing, or to any other population or great power that an American president should fret about offending.
In fact, Douthat hadn’t even heard of it until just last Friday! Did he mention that the judges are Europeans? They’re not even people, are they? Did you know that give it out in a faraway place called Oslo? Douthat isn’t even sure that’s a real place. What next? Accepting awards issued by moon people?
Of course, his two points—that the award is irrelevant and that Obama should make a big show out of turning it down—are contradictory. If the award is irrelevant, and this obscure Norwegian committee that no one has ever heard before shouldn’t even matter, then there would be no reason to devote a column to it, or give a shit either way. If I got together with five friends and gave Obama an award for being able to complete entire sentences, unlike the President before, it wouldn’t rate a Douthat column to denounce us as irrelevant. And we’d be bona fide Americans, which makes us closer to real people, even though we’d be liberals. By deigning to pay attention to this, he disproves his argument about how the Prize is irrelevant. By suggesting that it’s such a big deal that Obama should turn it down, he’s admitting that he’s just tossing mud against the wall with this obscure/irrelevant gambit, to see what sticks. It’s a contradictory argument.
The reason wingnuts are going with the “irrelevant” gambit is because they can’t actually make the “doesn’t deserve it” argument that liberals are engaged in. The “doesn’t deserve it” argument goes like this: Obama has continued the illegal, pointless wars that Bush started, and has continued the human rights abuses in Gitmo he said he would stop. He’s promised to stop these evil Bush policies, but at best, he’s merely reduced the worst abuses. Until he actually makes peace by putting a stop to Bush’s policies, he doesn’t deserve the award.
Conservatives can’t make that argument, because doing so is admitting that Bush policies were wrong. So instead they’re stabbing in the air, making claims that the award is irrelevant, and pretending that Obama is some dude that just wandered off the street a week ago. But they’re very angry about this irrelevant award given to a complete nobody. And that makes no sense at all.