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December 10, 2009

Your Turn: I am at the Beginning, and Not the End, of My Labors on the World Stage

Obama Nobel wall.jpg

(Photo: Doug Mills/The New York Times: caption: Mr. Obama looked at photographs of past Nobel Peace Prize winners. “Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize – Schweitzer and King, Marshall and Mandela – my accomplishments are slight,” he said during his speech. Speech video/transcript.)

  • Withnail

    I wonder what it says about this picture, the Nobel Prize, or our feelings on Obama in General, that no one responded to this post.

  • Rewind

    What does it say? It says that this is pretty depressing.
    He’s probaby guessing it’s more likely that his picture ends up on the top row with Kissinger rather than on the same level with the Dalai Lama and Aung San Suu Kii. Come on man! For a man who showed such promise, he’s doing a great job maintaining the status quo. Or is it like this? You dump the movement you built for your campaign when you get got the top job?

  • Rewind

    **sound of ball being dropped**

  • hilitus

    Ooyah, front&center ist.

  • LarryInNoVA

    So not worthy.
    An unaccomplished, undeserving, newly elected president is given—not having earned–what had been regarded as the world’s most prestigious prize for not being Bush, and yet he delivers a proverbial F-U, anti-peace speech that only Bush could’ve given. Chris Hedges is right; liberals who voted for obama are worthless.

  • Stella

    Yet another photo of his back. Sharing the president’s line-of sight doesn’t tell me anything.
    I liked the speech, and will give him some time.

  • Gasho

    I finally listened to the speech. Pretty tough stuff to hear. Obama is probably out looking at the snapshots in the hallway here because he’s not getting any friendly smiles in the cocktail lounge following *that* speech.
    HIs vision for the rule of law and strong international institutions and nuclear nonproliferation and accountability for illegal aggression were very principled points. I just think it’s too bad that he didn’t take any of it seriously enough to hold the former administration accountable for their transgressions. Bush’s Administration lied to start an illegal war, tortured people in violation of national law and international treaty, used chemical weapons on civilians in Fallujah, among many many other KNOWN crimes. How could Obama say these things in his speech, yet ignore the enormous transgressions that occurred in recent times right before everyone’s eyes? I kept expecting the next sentence to be, ” … so this is why I have NO CHOICE but to investigate and prosecute the wrongdoings my countrymen have recently committed.”
    On this world stage, at this hour, his words are SO HYPOCRITICAL if he can turn a blind eye to such recent history.
    He says: “Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength” .. but then he only speaks in terms of the future, not correcting the atrocities of the past. Where force is necessary?? How about where it’s totally UNJUSTIFIABLE? What happens then? How about when we DON’T adhere to these “rules of conduct” and we torture people and use chemical weapons?? Nothing. Toothless. Sad.

  • pragmatic realist

    The Nobel Peace prize has been given to some morally “ambiguous” persons: Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Jimmy Carter (the founding father of the Afghan War) and to Henry Kissinger, an outright war criminal.
    Le Duc To, the North Vietnamese negotiator was offered to share the prize with Kissinger, but refused it because there was not yet peace in his country. President Obama would have done well to follow in the footsteps of our Communist insurgent war criminal enemy.

  • mcmama

    In this photo I see a powerful man demonstrating humility – a most unusual and welcome sight.
    I found President Obama’s speech very intelligent and very moving, and the award fitting as it went to the person most capable of creating fundamental change in our troubled world today.
    If every recipient were to refuse the prize because peace did not yet reign, NO ONE WOULD HAVE EVER ACCEPTED IT. Martin Luther King, Jr, if he were alive today, would still be fighting for racial equality. Mother Teresa would still be tending the poor. Anwar Sadat would still be working towards understanding between Arabs and Israelis. The prize is awarded not for accomplishing peace, but for the willingness to wade in and work towards that great and lofty goal. Barack Obama has certainly demonstrated this in his first months in office. He has given courageous speeches all over the world, opened diplomatic doors which were slammed shut by President Bush and his cowboy cabinet, and offered to dialogue with even our most implacable enemies in an effort to bring stability to an unstable world. The gnashing of teeth on this comment thread is as short-sighted as it is mean-spirited.

  • Michael Shaw (The BAG)

    I also think showing Obama from the back is very noteworthy. It makes him seem anonymous, more a “nobody” as compared to these mostly iconic faces, but at the same time, it creates a forced comparison therefore emphasizing questions such as “Did he earn it?” and “Was he too young to receive it?” Given the recent TIME West Point cover, I’m also wondering if this is becoming a typical way to show Obama now, inviting people to actively speculate/question where he’s coming from and to project onto him.

  • Gasho

    I like Obama and I listened carefully to what he had to say. I know he’s in a tough spot in an unstable world and even though I’m not a huge fan of the military conflict in Afghanistan, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’s doing what needs to be done and thinking it through as much as possible. The only gnashing of teeth on my part has to do with his allowing Bush to get away with the flagrant offenses he’d committed against mankind. Giving a free pass to a criminal of that magnitude just because he held a high office is inexcusable. Maybe you are right and I’m just being short sighted and justice will come about in the long run, but I’m not seeing much indication of it so far. Obama studied Constitutional Law. He’s got to know the damage caused by Bush. That’s my main gripe.

  • discouraged and disillusioned

    “I am at the Beginning, and Not the End, of My Labors on the World Stage”
    And a most inauspicious beginning it is too. Winding down one failed war, that’s the best one can say. Escalating the next failed war. How stupid. Completely failing to do anything about the Israel-Palestine problem, when a resolute change of direction from a policy that has achieved nothing would at least be a start. Has “success” be redefined?
    The significance of showing this guy from behind, preventing any possibility of reading his face for any hints to reveal his take of that gallery or where he intends to go from here, is a warning to the world that the man’s intentions (deliberately?) cannot be read. His rhetorical eloquence has not proven to be predictive of much of anything, and has certainly misled many who supported him.

  • mcmama

    While I agree with you that every member of the corrupt Bush administration should be investigated, charged, and prosecuted for crimes too numerous to list here, I suspect Obama’s failure to do so has more to do with his sense that he gets to do one or the other: govern, including reforming health care, reinstating banking regulation, and addressing climate change; or prosecute Bush and his loathsome cabinet. Directing the country’s attention to the high crimes of the Bush era will short circuit any hope for the reforms we desperately need, by dividing the country even more deeply (if that’s possible) than it is divided now. The intransigent right would become ever more deeply entrenched in their victimhood and a successful prosecution would strengthen their determination to wreak havoc on future Democratic administrations. (I will always view the Clinton impeachment as pay-back for the Nixon impeachment.) I suspect Obama believes that Democratic legislative success will defeat the paranoid right more completely than contentious criminal prosecutions. As Roosevelt’s reforms kicked off a golden age for the country and for Democrats, so Obama hopes to create a new golden age by filling in the gaping holes left by the last three decades of malignant Republican rule.

  • Gasho

    I’ve heard the “one or the other” argument and I actually don’t buy it. Obama is the President. He doesn’t have to conduct the Bush War Crimes Trial from the bench. He just has to give the OK to the investigations. Appoint a special council to look into what the hell happened and let the institutions of law take care of the process. I’m sure the public would be overwhelmed if there was more than one storyline going on at once, but the problems are many and our nation is going to have to multi-task to solve them. Recognizing war crimes and bringing those responsible to justice is one of many things that need to be done. If it’s not done, in my opinion, we’ve walked away from being governed by the Constitution. It cannot be optional or put aside out of inconvenience or the law is meaningless. The Constitution is the backbone of our country. It starts with “We the People..” and it’s been seriously damaged. If it’s not repaired at the first possible opportunity, then we’re saying it’s ok to have it weakened. It’s ok for the supreme law of the land to be ignored or bent or reinterpreted by secret memos. That’s not in the spirit of “We the People..”. NOT AT ALL.
    McMama – I don’t think we disagree all that much. I think we’d both say this is important. Wouldn’t we all say it?? I’m just venting because I’m scared; because I’m tired of political expediency and the limits of our for-profit media keeping this gaping wound untended. History, as you point out, does have ‘echoes’ from decade to decade. When Bush’s Karmic sickness returns in another cycle, I fear it will not have a set of rules and laws and morals to bother with. It will be free to unleash it’s full force on the world. Universal Healthcare won’t seem like much protection then.
    As I said earlier, I still have a glimmer of hope that Obama knows this and is playing a longer game. He has to know. It’s too obvious to miss.

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