In this new column for the Financial Times I say why winning the Nobel prize was bad news for the president. This is where it winds up:

Mr Obama was always going to struggle to gratify the hopes that got him elected. He knows this better than anybody. In office, a key task was to temper expectations, face uncomfortable facts and bring the country to a more sober understanding of its choices. This is not going well and the Nobel committee's declaration of love has made it all a little harder.

In fact, the president's wisest course, as the commentator Mickey Kaus observed, was to have turned the prize down, saying he had not had time to accomplish the things he wanted to. Accepting the world's praise for having done nothing looks vain and is not without risk. The president could have turned the embarrassment to his advantage but has let the opportunity pass. He said he would accept the award as "a call to action" and was deeply humbled by the panel's choice. Yes, thinks much of America, he still has plenty to be humble about.


We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to letters@theatlantic.com.