Leaving aside the so-frequent-they’re-barely-newsworthy conservative meltdown over President Obama’s receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, I think the president’s remarks today represent something of a missed opportunity.
It’s pretty clear that the Nobel committee intended the award both as a slap at the Bush administration — well deserved, to be sure — and as a bit of high-profile lobbying of President Obama: “We like what we’ve seen so far, keep it up.” But rather than simply humbly accepting the award, and the challenge implicit in its being given, it would have been great if the president had used his speech to turn that challenge on the international community: “Thanks for the prize. You like what I’m doing? Great. I’m trying to close Gitmo — you can help me by accepting detainees. I’m trying to turn around a failing international effort in Afghanistan — you can step up with more support. Also, an international treaty on climate change, nuclear non-proliferation, Arab-Israeli peace — these are areas where you can help me fulfill the potential that you’ve acknowledged with this award.”
In other words, we could’ve used a bit more of what the President had in his speech to the United Nations General Assembly:
This cannot be solely America’s endeavor. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone. We have sought – in word and deed – a new era of engagement with the world. Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.
Only now he can say this while tapping a big shiny medal on the podium.