“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” said Thorbjoern Jaglan, chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee when he announced that Barack Obama was to be this year’s Peace Prize winner.
To their credit, most Americans, even Democrats, were astonished. Americans are not quite so hypnotized as they once were by one of the greatest hot-air salesmen of our time. In his own country, Mr. Obama is beginning to look more and more like a one-termer, but the Europeans appear still to be bewitched.
This award makes sense only when–with an enormous effort–we recall just how giddy nearly the entire world was back in January at the time of the inauguration. “He’s like Gandhi or something,” gushed actor Alan Cumming. “He’s got that powerful, soulful thing in him.” Actress Susan Sarandon was just as thrilled: “He is a community organizer like Jesus was. And now, we’re a community and he can organize us.” CNN hawked inauguration T-shirts it called “some of the most historic shirts money can buy.” One read: “Obama raises hand, lifts a nation.”
Blacks were beside themselves. PBS commentator John Ridley explained that “Obama is the more perfect union. He is a house united. . . . [J]ust by virtue of his being, Obama is America, and the first true American to lead our nation.” Maya Angelou told us: “We needed him. And out of that great need Barack Obama came.” Even before Mr. Obama had served a single day in office, New York Congressman Jose Serrano introduced a bill to repeal the Twenty-Second Amendment to the Constitution, which limits the president to two terms.
Most Americans forget that, if anything, foreigners lost their bearings even more than Americans. “We have great hopes that we are standing at the dawn of a new era,” wrote the Norwegian daily Aftenposten. “One Giant Step for Mankind” read the front page of England’s Sun newspaper. A headline on the London Telegraph website declared: “Barack Obama Victory Allows Britain to Love US Again.” The Times of London headlined its election story, “The New World.” Le Monde in Paris noted that “from Left to Right, [French] politicians have been competing for superlatives with which to praise the election of Barack Obama.” Milan’s Corriere della Sera wrote that Mr. Obama was “the man who can save America from utter breakdown.” The Nobel Committee no doubt believes that through his election, America has transcended its “racist” past, and this gives hope to the world.
The difference seems to be that Americans now look back a little sheepishly at all that idolatry. The Norwegians, apparently, have not yet sobered up from their inauguration party.
If Mr. Obama had sensible advisors they would tell him it is unseemly for a man who has done nothing to accept the Nobel Peace Prize, but even if he had sensible advisors, Mr. Obama would accept anyway. All his life, glory and adulation have been handed to him without much effort. Why not the Nobel Peace Prize? He would accept if he had won it for literature on account of his ghost-written autobiographies (after all, he did accept Grammy awards for the audio recordings of each one), and probably half expects the College of Cardinals to ask him to take over when Pope Benedict dies.
Surely, there has never been a time when it was so glorious to be black, and there will be much sport in seeing who actually believes or pretends to believe that The Empty Suit deserved the prize. The next few days will see an edifying winnowing of the fawners, dreamers, and incorrigible race men from those who still have some grasp of reality.