OFF THE GRID

Peace Prize: President Says Piss Off   

Dec 11, 09 | 10:51 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The president accepted his Peace Prize by arguing for war.

It had really seemed like he would need to thread a needle in Oslo, having to graciously to accept an award for bringing peace to the world while he primes a battlefield. He had to mollify or triangulate his right-wing critics who might see any inclinations toward peace, poetic or policy-wise, ritualistic or real, as evidence of his lack of purpose, will, and fiber. At the same time, he had to deal, although perhaps less so, with his left-wing critics who could soon start to see him, in his military pursuits, as a quisling-like president.

In fact, it appeared, when he got the award, that the Nobel committee was purposefully trying to jam him up. By giving him the Peace Prize he would have to make peace, or seem like a terrible hypocrite. His true self, his certain better nature, was, it seemed, being forcibly supported.

Well, he told them: Here’s mud in your eye.

Instead of being humbled by the prize, and endorsing the virtues of peace, he stood his ground: War is necessary.

In a way, it’s a brilliant riposte, coming out against peace. The counterintuitive is always more arresting than the obvious. Saying the unsayable makes you looking doubly strong.

Also, he makes the further point: He’s nobody’s fool. Certainly not the fool of a bunch of Europeans. As a further insult, he let it be known that he had written what many statesmen might consider to be the speech of a lifetime, on the plane coming over.

I’ll bet, in fact, it’s one of the most worked over speeches of his career, specifically narrowcast to the tetchy sensibilities of the American independent voter.

Certainly, declaring yourself a hard heart has never lost a Democrat an independent’s vote.

We understand Obama better and better. He had this historical opportunity to make the case which so many people have believed he stood for, that war is a futile proposition, that it never gets you where you want to be, that he is a new sort of politician, with the background and experience, to see the world’s conflicts in a cleverer and more nuanced way, and he passed.

So, possibly, he is thinking long-term, thinking that the personal ego-enhancing move would be to blast the old order, but the more pragmatic move, even if it deprives him of a great moment, is to hold his cards close, bring his critics along, give himself more room to maneuver—certainly not let himself get boxed in by a meaningless award.

Or, possibly, and, this is what I find myself more and more thinking, it just turns out he’s a prick.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NewserColumns.

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