FRED WOLFERMAN: Nobel Prize and $5 Buys Cup of Coffee
By 10 o'clock last Friday morning, four people had asked me what I was going to write about President Obama's victory in the Nobel Peace Prize race. I guess it would be irresponsible to do anything else. I wouldn't want to disappoint so large a percentage of my readers.
Actually, last Friday carried news of a couple of the more exciting events of recent months: President Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, otherwise known as the Not-George-Bush Award, on the same day that NASA bombed the moon.
I'm sure there was no irony intended (the prize committee is, after all, a bunch of Norwegians), but surely it is an encouraging prelude to world peace that we have decided to take out our national aggressions on a giant space rock rather than hostile earthlings.
The committee's perspicacity in naming Mr. Obama is evidenced by the fact that the deadline for nominations was last Feb. 1, less than two weeks after the president took office. Who knew? Obviously, those oracular Norwegians.
Thorbjeorn Jagland (yes, I checked), head of the selection committee, said, "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent of Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future." The syntax may have been a bit garbled in translation, but that's still quite an insight after just a few days in office.
It's a fine thing that our president is bringing hope for the future to the world. Really, no sarcasm intended. I just think it would be nice if he would bring some to the United States, too.
It is very difficult to be hopeful about a future in which, this year alone, every one of us has accrued about $5,000 of additional debt, with similar numbers inevitable in the years ahead. If you've managed to pay off your credit cards or pay down your mortgage, don't worry, your government has you covered.
It is difficult to be hopeful, when, in a total vacuum of presidential leadership, Congress is going to pass some mess of a health-care reform bill which, whatever it does, will not address the real issues of health-care delivery, wellness, and liability, but merely, somehow, subsidize costs at taxpayer expense and increase government control.
It is difficult to be hopeful when we spend billions of dollars to bomb the moon in the name of spending more billions to colonize it. Perhaps that is the great hope: that we can move to the moon and leave all this behind; or, perhaps the moon is to be the final destination of the Guantanamo detainees, sent in a fleet of prison rockets, all to make some Europeans happy.
The Nobel Peace Prize and $5 will get you a nice half-caf latte at Starbuck's. It might be a good idea for the president to use it just that way -- leave Rahm Emanuel and the Secret Service guys at the door, head for a Starbuck's in -- oh -- Omaha, and listen first hand to what actual people think ails America.
He might be surprised to find that Norway and the moon command about the same level of interest in the hinterlands. Considerably higher on the scale would be the economy, anger at Washington in general, and disappointment in the president, who made a lot of grand speeches during the campaign and since, but has failed utterly to convert talk into any coherent policy.
He might also find surprising agreement with the reliably liberal Thomas Friedman, who wrote in last Sunday's "New York Times" that the president's Nobel acceptance speech should credit the generations of American military who are responsible for keeping the peace so enjoyed by Norwegian prize committees.
The president's greatest claim to a peace prize arises from his Neville Chamberlain-like relationship with Congress. Rather than confront the beyond-irrational leadership of his own party, he has chosen to settle for peace at any price with Co-President Pelosi and Mr. Reid. The problem is that we are paying the price while the president picks up the prize.
Oh, well. At least next time he goes to Europe he will come back with something.
Fred Wolferman lives in Southern Pines. Contact him by e-mail at email@example.com.
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