But Should He Turn It Down?

At Slate, John Dickerson writes that the Nobel committee shouldn't have awarded the prize to Obama, and Mickey Kaus urges Obama to turn it down. Kaus's reasoning is politics: Obama's narcissism problem -- Kaus's bolds -- will be exacerbated. 

This tracks with one argument I'm hearing and reading from Democrats and others who are skeptical of the prize: it will turn the volume and enthusiasm level all the way to the extreme end of the dial for conservatives -- overmodulating at 110%; the resulting hyperpolarization will hurt Obama's agenda. (Representative of this opinion: "I think it will feed not just conservative dislike but the growing concern of independents and elites, that he is a man of rhetoric, a work of imagination, but as of now an unaccomplished statesman. The smartest thing he could do is turn it down. It will backfire on him.'")

Another objection -- one that I'm hearing from smart folks from all ideological corners -- is less about politics and more about the prize: there are hundreds of human rights activists -- thousands -- who are more deserving the prize. It isn't just the prize of Arafat and Carter. Its the prize of Sakharov and Walesa, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ang San Suu Kyi and Shirin Ebadi -- people who risked their very lives for the sake of human dignity. A third objection -- mostly from some liberals -- is that Obama, on executive power, on transparency, on state secrets, is just like President Bush, and so an award that rewards him, or the country, for sin expiation is premature, at best, and moronic, at worst.

On the other hand, turning it down, even meant as gesture of humility, will not be interpreted as humility. Obama will probably say that he hopes that America lives up to the promise of the word.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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