Friday, 9 October 2009

Obama's Clean Sweep

Some uncharitable people are wondering just what it is that Barack Obama has done to deserve this year's Nobel Peace Prize. Critics claim that, aside from windy rhetoric about international harmony and an ability to charm much of the world into liking America again, Obama has done little so far to contribute to world peace. Even the Democrat-supporting Joe Klein thinks it "premature to the point of ridiculousness". But I have a different question: not why the president won this particular Nobel Prize but why he didn't win all the others.

There are five Nobel prizes that Obama didn't get, after all, despite being at least as qualified as he was for the Peace prize. Consider:

ECONOMICS: Just a year ago, the world was facing financial meltdown, but under Obama's leadership there have been no more bank collapses and growth has returned. True, Gordon Brown had his part to play in this signal accomplishment; but while Brown officially hosted the pivotal G20 meeting in London (and then claimed all the credit) in reality all eyes were on Obama. As Bismarck might have put it, Der junge Schwarze, das ist der Mann.

PHYSICS: For successfully overcoming the laws of political gravity.

MEDICINE: There's the healthcare reform, of course. True, Obama hasn't yet managed to iron out all the difficulties on Capitol Hill; but then he hasn't brought peace to the Middle East, created a stable democracy in Afghanistan or reduced the world's stockpile of nuclear weapons, and this didn't put off the Peace jury. Nor should we overlook the prompt action the world took, under Obama's leadership, against the threat of swine flu; and just the other day the first really promising HIV virus was announced. Could that have happened without Obama?

LITERATURE: The Guardian's review of the president's autobiography Dreams From My Father asserted that it was "in a literary tradition of political prose that goes back to another master of the American language, Abraham Lincoln" and commented on "the exceptional grace of Obama's prose, its honesty and freshness". One might also mention that other great literary statesman, Sir Winston Churchill, who himself won the literature prize in 1953.

And, last but not least,

CHEMISTRY: Obama might not have entered a laboratory since high school, but he's got more personal chemistry than most other world leaders put together.