Thursday, October 15, 2009

Those Crafty Europeans

The surprising gift of the Nobel Peace Prize to Barack Obama last week raises certain concerns about what our friends across the pond are up to. Since, as he modestly acknowledged in his response to the announcement, the Big O has done nothing yet to deserve the award, three possibilities come to mind to explain just what those Norsemen are up to.

First, there is the possibility that the award is meant as a slap at the previous administration. Personally, I think somebody should've slapped W in the face while he was in office, along about 2002, and woken him up to the vile and festering corruption of all the principles he purports to hold dear: freedom, equality, the rule of law, and so on. His administration, which began in an atmosphere of promise, of a refreshed sense of responsibility and decency, went, in eight years, from tragedy to embarrassment to disaster: political, diplomatic, fiscal, moral, and finally economic. Maybe his daddy should've taken him to one side and delivered a Gibbs-slap to the back of the head. Well, too late now. Thank God and George Washington.

The sort of inimical creeping corruption of the Bush years seems always to result whenever licentious greed or overweening pride dresses in Vestal robes. The doors to the temple are shut, for public consumption, while the corruptors enter through the privy, and foul deeds are done in the name of whatever Noble Principle seems most at risk at the time. In Bush's time, it was Security. The 9/11 attack was one of the few vile acts of that era for which W cannot be blamed; but his administration's excessive response to that attack distracted, and continues to distract, the American public from miners digging under the foundations of our liberties. When a scratching in the earth is heard, Public Safety is trotted out, shown round the village, and taken back to the castle.

The Europeans, I have to admit, were less hornswoggled during the W era than we Americans, myself included. Less threatened by the attack on the Twin Towers, they, rightly it turns out, were not as taken in by his administration's pose as Defenders of Liberty. And so now that he is gone, the gift of the prize to his successor, for no reason other than that he is not W, may be intended as a slap at Bush and his late, unlamented regime.


Second, it may be nothing more than a grand gesture intended to encourage the sort of traditional diplomacy Mr Obama seems to have initiated. Barely nine months after his inauguration, the diplomatic climate around the world seems to be recovering nicely from the frothiness generated by W's my-way-or-the-highway approach. Peace has not come, to be sure, but we seem now to be approaching a time when progress might be made by consensus. A Nobel Peace Prize seems a somewhat extravagant attaboy, but given the turmoil Bush caused among Europe's chattering class, one can see how it might be viewed as the least they can do.


The third possibility, and the one I put the most credence in, is that the Nobel committee just wants to book Obama to speak. Can't blame 'em for that; he's the best orator we've had in our rent-house on Pennsylvania Avenue since Jack and Jackie. Considering the calibre of people we've gone for in the dozen intervening elections, that's damning with faint praise, but you've got to admit: it's nice having a guy who can speak with an elegant cadence while using three-syllable words, and convey the impression that he actually knows what they mean.