Saturday, October 10, 2009

Discipline in the White House

Goodness, has it really been that long since I've written an entry?


The news of President Obama's winning of the Nobel Prize was a surprise. It took a good minute for me yesterday to prove to myself it wasn't a joke or piece from The Onion. I'm trying not to let my pessimism about the President's agenda cloud my response. It's an honor, though certainly a hollow one coming so early in his presidency. Had he earned it in year 5 or 6 or 7, we could consider it differently.

It calls most into question the Nobel committee. It looks like a reach for attention or an attempt to manipulate the big players in international diplomacy. It seemed like something of a lazy pick. Or, perhaps it was desperate. Either way about it, it's not a pick that will help the President much at all, either at home or abroad.

I also must question the honesty of the award. President Obama is the president and commander-in-chief of a nation engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan and with significant troops still in Iraq. Regardless of one's position on the wars in either of those nations, it's involvement I can't characterize as "peaceful."

I'm sure there was ambivalence when the news hit the White House. One bit of commentary I saw today called it a "knuckleball" and I'm sure it was received as such.

If the administration is at all at fault, it's for not killing this nomination when it was originally made. This is something of a gift, after all, to Republicans and other critics who can mock how the president who all of a sudden can't seem to close a deal wins this. I imagine that the great players of international diplomacy will only scoff at the administration and its envoys. Therefore, the president's aides, advisors, and advocates should have had the good sense to tell the Nobel Prize committee thanks, but no thanks before Friday's awarding.

There is a disturbing lack of discipline within this administration: serious debate about the role of American forces in Afghanistan should have been kept private but is now very public, dismissing the sacrifice of America's troops over there. Hemming and hawing over the "Public Option." Nine months in and this administration still seems juvenile in how it handles public relations and appearance. We're either 20% or 10% of the way through this administration: the time of inadvertantly tipping your hand to opponents should be over.

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