These are the questions that pretty much everyone has been asking — in tones ranging from the pleased but perplexed to the pissed-off to the rude and hostile to the outright contemptuous — since early yesterday morning, when the Norwegian Nobel Committee announced to the world that the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is Pres. Barack Obama.
Josh Marshall thinks at least part of the answer might lie in a deeper truth lurking behind a flippantly tossed-off joke line:
It’s not the accustomed stance of a writer or blogger. But this one does have me at something of a loss for words. I notice the condemnation of the Taliban, the edged snark of the superciliati. But I also see Ana Marie Cox’s first-off Twitter: “Apparently Nobel prizes now being awarded to anyone who is not George Bush.” And while less than generous, I think she’s on to the root of the matter. But perhaps not precisely in the way she thinks.
This is an odd award. You’d expect it to come later in Obama’s presidency and tied to some particular event or accomplishment. But the unmistakable message of the award is one of the consequences of a period in which the most powerful country in the world, the ‘hyper-power’ as the French have it, became the focus of destabilization and in real if limited ways lawlessness. A harsh judgment, yes. But a dark period. And Obama has begun, if fitfully and very imperfectly to many of his supporters, to steer the ship of state in a different direction. If that seems like a meager accomplishment to many of the usual Washington types it’s a profound reflection of their own enablement of the Bush era and how compromised they are by it, how much they perpetuated the belief that it was ‘normal history’ rather than dark aberration.
I think that’s a pretty decent explanation.