The Nobel Committee said Obama was given the prize because he "created a new climate in international politics" (insert your cap-and-trade joke here), but a range of media outlets and commentators spent the early hours trying to deduce why exactly a nine-month-old presidency merited the honor. The New York Times calls the award "a stunning surprise" given that "likely candidates had been seen [in Oslo] as including human rights activists in China and Afghanistan and political figures in Africa." The chairman of the Nobel committee singled out Obama's efforts on nuclear disarmament, particularly at the most recent UN Security Council meeting, as deserving of recognition. "Obama wins Nobel Peace Prize to mixed reviews," reads the Reuters headline, over a story noting the announcement was praised in some quarters but "was also attacked, especially in parts of the Arab and Muslim world, as hasty and undeserved." Iain Martin blogs for the Wall Street Journal: "This is completely bizarre. President Barack Obama has just won the nobel peace prize. It is unclear why. ... Think about it, it’s so post-modern: a leader can now win the peace prize for saying that he hopes to bring about peace at some point in the future. He doesn’t actually have to do it, he just has to have aspirations. Brilliant."
Is the White House really that pleased by this? Remember that one of the first real attacks Republicans launched against Obama was that he was "the biggest celebrity in the world," but perhaps unprepared to lead. The GOP continued that drumbeat after Obama took office, mocking his speeches and trips abroad as evidence that he cared more about international adulation than domestic issues. Last week, when Obama went to Copenhagen and lobbied unsuccessfully for the 2016 Olympics, conservative critics claimed he was becoming distracted from more important work on Afghanistan and health care. Even as the White House and Obama's allies dismissed such talk, the Nobel win may well revive it at a time when the president is trying to keep his eye on the ball. Video of crowds cheering for Obama in Oslo will do little to get health care passed in the Senate.
On that front, the Senate Finance panel is preparing to vote Tuesday on its reform bill, but "the prospects for speedy enactment of landmark reform grew murkier" Thursday, the Washington Post writes, as health-insurance companies, doctors and hospitals complained about perceived flaws in the measure. But maybe the complaining is all relative, as Politico writes almost the exact opposite story -- "business groups are riding the wave of reform" and "no one’s yelling double cross, as least just yet." House Democrats, meanwhile, "are close to completing a draft" of their bill, Bloomberg reports, after they "scaled back a proposed surtax on the wealthiest Americans" Thursday. In David Espo's analysis, "Numerous controversies are ahead for Democrats struggling to pass legislation over intense and possibly unanimous Republican opposition. ... But Democrats have made significant strides since Labor Day, when they returned to the Capitol in near disarray after an August spent absorbing attacks from noisy conservative critics at home."
For Afghanistan, ABC News reports on the three options the Pentagon presented to Obama: Add no troops, add 40,000 troops or add "far more" than 40,000, with Stanley McChrystal endorsing the middle option. The Wall Street Journal writes that the last option calls for the addition of more than 60,000 troops -- a higher number than has been reported previously -- though there is no indication that recommendation will be followed. The Journal adds that a recent think tank study "suggested it would be difficult to move enough troops from other posts to deploy anywhere close to 40,000 troops before next summer at the earliest." McChrystal had been scheduled to come to Washington as early as Friday, but that visit has been delayed. The Los Angeles Times reports: "Key Democrats on Capitol Hill warned Thursday that a decision by President Obama to send more troops to Afghanistan could trigger an uprising within the party, possibly including an attempt to cut off funds for the buildup."
The campaign world, meanwhile, is being dominated by two governor's races headed in very different directions. A new Washington Post poll finds Robert McDonnell has opened up a 9-point lead over Creigh Deeds in Virginia, as McDonnell has made important strides with independent voters and in Northern Virginia. In New Jersey, the latest survey from Democracy Corps shows Jon Corzine with a 41-38 lead over Chris Christie for that state's governorship. A Survey USA poll shows the same three-point spread, but with Christie in the lead. Most importantly, PolitickerNJ reports: "Christie leads among Jets fans, Giants fans and Eagles fans. Corzine leads among Bruce Springsteen fans, even though Christie has been to 120 Springsteen concerts."
October 9, 2009; 8:00 AM ET
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