Leader Blues

Friday, October 09, 2009

EDITORIAL >> Obama wins Nobel Prize

If the storm woke you up early Friday morning, you may have seen an email alert that President Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. In that case, you heard the big news about an hour before the president.

Press Secretary Robert Gibbs woke him up at 6 a.m. to tell him the news, which the president later said was completely unexpected. Fox News for a while didnít know how to play the story: It tried to ignore it as much as it could, making it the fifth story at the top of the hour, well after a story about the moon, the economy, unemployment in Kentucky and the tax troubles of Rep. Charles Rangel, the embattled chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, once chaired by Rep. Wilbur Mills of Kensett. How the mighty have fallen.

Obama is only the third sitting U.S. president to get the Nobel Peace Prize ó Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson are the two others. Jimmy Carter won the prize long after he left office.

Obamaís surprise Nobel Prize, valued at $1.4 million (which will go to charity), could help him in the polls, at least for a while, although it doesnít guarantee progress in the fight against terrorism. The Taliban has already dismissed the presidentís policies as nothing new. Itís doubtful the prize will move the Palestinians and the Israelis closer to the negotiating table.

But the Nobel Prize does raise the presidentís prestige among Europeans and others who hope he succeeds in reaching some of his goals, such as reducing carbon emissions, controlling the spread of nuclear weapons, or bringing people together who canít seem to stop fighting each other.

Thereís no guarantee Obama will succeed on any of those fronts, but who can blame him for trying? At least as daunting are his choices in Afghanistan ó whether he should listen to his military advisers to increase the number of U.S. troops on the ground and crush the Taliban once and for all. That would require a longterm commitment to stay in Afghanistan, even if the Nobel Prize committee may be pushing him in the opposite direction.

More than anything, the Nobel Prize might impress fellow Democrats who are wavering on health-care reform. It will be harder for Sen. Blanche Lincoln and Rep. Mike Ross to say no as he rounds up votes for the bill whose fate could be decided in Congress this month. Imagine our senators and congressmen rubbing shoulders with a Nobel laureate who desperately needs their votes for the legislation to succeed. How do you say no?

This could be Obamaís moment. His health-care bill could include a modest public option allowing states to opt in or out of the program. Who could argue with that?