Opportunity Lost

Not many people have a chance, a clear-cut chance, to be magnanimous. Obama had one today, and he blew it. By his own admission he doesn’t deserve the Nobel prize, yet he accepted it, leading to countless howls from the right and some raised eyebrows on the left.

He should have declined to accept it. There’s precedent: Lê Ðức Thọ was awarded the Peace Prize (along with Kissinger) in 1973, but he did not accept it, explaining that there was still no peace in his country. He’s the only person to decline it, and it shows a certain honesty that is rare.

Obama should have said, “I am humbled by the honor bestowed upon me. However, I feel I do not deserve it; therefore, I respectfully decline to accept the award.”

What could anyone, on the right or the left, have said about that? Amid the inevitable cries of “political posturing,” a reasonable person could only, however begrudgingly, admit that it was a magnanimous decision.

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5 thoughts on “Opportunity Lost

  1. NANA says:

    Mr. Obama will receive, I believe it was reported, $1.4M for this award. He says it will be given to charity. It costs over $1.M to fly Air Force One to Norway for him to accept this award. Wonder who will pick up the cost for the trip?

  2. Papa says:

    I was surprised at the number of liberal pundits today expressing disbelief and disappointment – like Dr. Mark Lamont (a black, Fox News Contributor and fairly liberal politically). I think I agree with Bill O’Reilly that regardless of how it came – whether you agree or disagree – it still brings prestiege to the USA – because Obama is an AMERICAN President. The USA he said is perceived in the world as a war monger and evil and just maybe this helps – a little at least.

    There was a large amount of “yapping” on both sides of the aisle all day today and YES, I agree that he would have taken the wind out of the sails of both partisan “yappers” if he had declined. Also, it would have boosted his approval numbers at a time when he’s losing ground.

  3. nina says:

    Truly I think declining to accept it would be perceived as an insult to those attempting to honor him, and he knew it.

    There have been many who have received it in the past who would not have been my first choice, yet I would not have suggested that they ought to reject the honor.

    Unlike the other Nobel prizes, this one speaks as much to a path taken as to the goals achieved. You could well argue that the path taken by Obama is bold, risky, often unpopular, yet steadfastly in support of peace and dialogue.

    But even if you did not believe that he should be the one so honored, can’t you accept that someone else, i.e. the prize giver thought differently? And, really, much as the world would like to call the Nobel Prize its own, it’s not. It belongs to the committee and taking away their right to bestow it to the person they most admire seems unkind and awfully self-important: as if we, you and I, should be the ones telling them how to treat their prize. That’s just wrong, don’t you think?

  4. gls says:

    I’m not sure how it could have been seen as an insult to decline the award. I put myself in the Nobel committee’s position and imagine I give an award that is refused on the grounds that it is not deserved, that the individual feels he/she has not done enough to merit the recognition. I can’t give internationally prestigious awards, but I could give academic awards (and am invited to do so every year). I don’t know that I would feel snubbed or upset about it. The award itself is only recognition; simply by announcing the committee’s decision that recognition has been given.

    An insult would have been to scoff at the decision or otherwise decline it disrespectfully.

    As to who the committee wants to recognize, that’s their concern and theirs only. I can’t complain about who is honored and who should be honored, and I don’t think I was doing that in this post.

    I do think it’s difficult to see this as anything more than a political statement, though. “Whew — Europe is so glad Bush is gone,” is what it says to me.

  5. nina says:

    We disagree on this one. I don’t think this is what the committee was saying and I don’t think Obama should have refused the award. I’m with the NYT editors: well-deserved!

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