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Obama shows maturity in Nobel speech

After a series of disappointing appearances on the rhetorical stage, President Obama’s Nobel Prize Lecture was complex and impressive. It is the only Obama speech I can recall when expectations were low, and he exceeded them dramatically.

In a tone that might best be called manly, Obama confronted the tensions of the moment right up front. His achievements, he recognized, were “slight” compared to other winners – a disarming modesty. And he offered no hint of apology, while accepting an award dedicated to “the abolition or reduction of standing armies,” for his escalation of the war in Afghanistan. To the contrary, he made an extended case that use of force can be necessary and just, that “evil does exist,” and that the United States military has been, and remains, a force for good in the world.

In this way, it was a very American speech. Obama did not present himself, as he has done before, as a “citizen of the world.” He spoke as an American president, with vast responsibilities, requiring difficult choices of war and peace. “The United States of America,” he said, “has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms.” This was a useful reminder to Europeans that they live in a bubble of security they did not create and do little to maintain.

In fact, Obama made a number of veiled jabs at American allies and partners who talk a good diplomatic game but do little to apply the pressure that makes diplomacy work. “We must develop alternatives to violence that are tough enough to change behavior – for if we want a lasting peace, then the words of the international community must mean something.”

Obama also made his strongest statement that human rights are the basis for a stable peace. He maintained that those rights are universal, rather than culturally relative. And he praised dissidents and activists in Iran, Burma and Zimbabwe (though this praise stands in tension with administration policies that have done little to provide practical help). Obama contended that the traditional divide between foreign policy realism and idealism is false, because American and world interests are not “served by the denial of human aspirations.”

If these themes are familiar, it may be because they can be found in President George W. Bush’s Second Inaugural Address. This is not a criticism. Obama was recognizing that the great commitments and themes of American foreign policy are durably bipartisan, because they are rooted in the democratic universalism of the founding.

Unfortunately, Obama could not resist a few shots at his predecessor, which marred the tone of a fine speech – a criticism of “arbitrary” action, Guantanamo, etc. While Obama managed to praise Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan, Bush is obviously still a bridge too far. And Obama’s Nobel Lecture was, at times, too much of a lecture, with the “dizzying pace of globalization” and “the cultural leveling of modernity.” As usual, a little editing would have been helpful.

But the intellectual approach of the speech was sophisticated, rich and memorable. Obama described a Niebuhrian tension between a fallen world that demands force to restrain evil and a realm of ideals that draws us beyond those compromises. And he embodied this argument in a kind of dialogue with Martin Luther King, Jr., recognizing the power of nonviolence, but pointing out its limits. It was a bold and powerful historical statement. Obama – the result and heir of a nonviolent movement that was dedicated to the law of love – is now a president who must use force to keep the peace. It was the speech of a maturing leader, who fully occupied a large stage.

By Michael Gerson  | December 10, 2009; 10:47 AM ET
Categories:  Gerson  | Tags:  Michael Gerson  
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Comments

As someone who believed in Mr. Obama's "change", and who voted for him to end Iraq and Afghanistan, I am completely disappointed and embarrassed about my vote.

A friend captured how I feel when he said, "Martin Luther King must be rolling in his grave." So much for Mr. Obama's appropriation of the history of civil rights, which represented the best aspirations of this country. Now that we have a Black president, the narrative arc of that story is complete, and in its fulfillment we have found not change, but continuity of business as usual.

If Bush's legacy is war and torture, Mr. Obama's will be a cynicism that will take generations to overcome. Here's a man who promised to end them and who is now accepting a the Nobel Peace Prize for finding a rationale for war. "Peace is War. Love is Hate. " His acceptance Nobel represents the complete triumph of doublethink in this country. If Obama had one ounce of the "manliness" that Gerson refers to, he would have renounced the prize. If he had one ounce of decency.

But he's just like all the rest: blind with power. How sad I am for America.

Posted by: Americana1 | December 10, 2009 12:43 PM | Report abuse

It seems like many of my liberal colleagues forget the reason why we started a war in Afghanistan in the first place: September 11. We cannot let the slaughter of Americans go unpunished. Our war in Afghanistan is just, with a causus belli that is apparent to the entire world on September 12. We invaded Afghanistan to destroy the people who have harbored safe haven Al Queda terrorists, the men who committed an atrocity against our nation, and we should not stop until every last one of these men surrender or die to their cause.

There are some people whom we cannot reason or negotiate, whom we cannot trust or shake hands with. Al Queda is full of these people. Al Queda has adopted a mantle of radical islam, intolerant to other religion, to secular freedom, to the sanctity of human life. They have no ideals to uphold other than the strictest interpretation of the Sharia, and they will stop at nothing until they can intimidate the world to adopt their views. As such, we as a secular superpower must make sure such radicalism that dares strike at our nation be driven from this world.

Iraq was a war we never should have entered, there was no causus belli, and the end result of the invasion did not improve our nation's security. Afghanistan is a war we must sustain to not only drive out our enemies, but to send a message: Americans shall not be harmed by any terrorist organization or else the consequences of doing so will mean the end of your organization.

My liberal colleagues, war is never to be desired, and we should all commit to peace. Peace, however, is never purchased without blood and sacrifice. To have our nation attacked so savagely and instead of us striking fear and wreaking havoc on the very people who have done this, we negotiate, what negotiating powers do we have left on the world stage? We cannot hope for peace if the very people that attacked us still have powers that hold our nation hostage.

We must make sure that Afghanistan does not spiral into another failed state, another safe haven for terrorists to brood and plan and instigate profligate attacks on innocent civilians. The streets of Baghdad, Beirut, Turkey, Islamabad, Kabul, etc are strewn with the blood of innocents, dying to terrorists, all in the hands of Al Queda. Let us not confuse Al Queda with other nationalistic movements such as the IRA, the PLA, or even Hamas. Al Queda is not interested in the independence of a nation, not is it interested in the well being of any nation's citizens. It is a cancer, a cancer that dares strike against the US. We should drive this cancer into the very bowels of hell, to make sure no one else will suffer this malignancy.

Posted by: logicaldoubtofhumansanity | December 10, 2009 12:49 PM | Report abuse

This is one of Michael Gerson's most generous essays. I didn't think he had it in him. It's always wonderful to be surprised by a touch of unexpected integrity.

Posted by: kdhcherry | December 10, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Dear LogicalDoubt,

I appreciate what you are saying, but our nation hardly feels like a superpower at the moment. Juan Cole has pointed out in his excellent blog that the Afghanistan strategy--if we can call it that--is really turning it into a war like Iraq. See "Top Ten Ways the US is Turning Afghanistan into Iraq" http://www.juancole.com/2009/04/top-ten-ways-us-is-turning-afghanistan.html

I am ready to defend the Constitution tooth and nail. But
in light of a diminished threat, exhausted treasury, and crumbling domestic scene, I think it's time we think of other options. Doing more of the same of the last 9 years has not worked. It did not work for W. It won't work because Obama says it will.


Posted by: Americana1 | December 10, 2009 1:10 PM | Report abuse

Gerson you are a jerk.

Excuse me what does "...a tone that can be called manly..." mean? He was man who lectured those who only want to war.

"...O'Bama's Nobel Lecture...too much of a lecture". That makes no sense. Just because he said things (torture is always wrong) about your old boss it was still a great lecture. A lecture is a lecture is a lecture - sometimes the truth hurts.

Posted by: rlj1 | December 10, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

logicaldoubt,

I wholeheartedly agree with you, and I am one of your liberal friends that you mention.

I cried the day we invaded Iraq. I 100% did not approve of that war, at all. However, my thinking is this. We went in there and screwed up, and undid a nation. We cannot leave it now completely destroyed, because we're tired of the fight. We made that mess, it's our responsibility to help clean it up. I vehemently opposed leaving Iraq for this sole reason, even though I supported Obama's presidential bid. His solution, to withdraw from Iraq and focus our full efforts on Afghanistan, rather than divide our forces, was the only one I could agree wtih in any way. If we must withdraw from Iraq, at least we are still focusing our military attention where it is needed, and the same principle still holds. We went in there and dismantled the regime in power. WE cannot just up and leave now, leaving the new AFghan goverment alone and without support, in a country where the Taliban is still present and just waiting for a chance resurge.

So some of your "liberal friends" as you say, can find common ground with you. I think many ways I am too liberal for this country, but this issue has been one where I actually disagreed with many who would just up and leave Iraq or Afghanistan.

Posted by: Pezozui | December 10, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

Americana,

if you thought President Obama was telling you that he was going to end the war in Afghanistan when he was campaigning for office, you might have just wanted to listen a little better....

I'm getting tired of hearing from all of you "well, I was for Obama but now he's disappointed me" folks, anyway.

Look at what he's accomplished in one short year. Take a look at exactly what politics is (broad hint: the art of compromise) Look at the political environment in this country, which is poisonous, and you contribute to, by being rigidly partisan in your viewpoints.

You wanted a fantasy candidate - didn't get that, did you?

I wanted someone who had a good sense of what the majority of this country would find acceptable, and who got things down to that goal. I got that, and I'm happy.

Posted by: JohnDinHouston | December 10, 2009 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Regarding the selection of Obama as a recipient of the prize, I wonder if someone who wasn't a minority, say a kerry, would have received it as well.

Posted by: bpawk | December 10, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Death, was the pseudonym in XIX c. press of Mr. Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and chemical explosives that made him extremely wealthy in the prussian and I World War. His only rival was Mr. Krupp, who made grease with nazi prisoners for his cannons. But Nobel was smarter. He set companies in all countries to sell weapons to each contender. Uncle Fred also said about the Nobel Peace he instituted not to loose his very young activist lover: 'my factories will make peace earlier than all those congresses by inventing weapons that annihilate entire nations in a second'. Right now all the wannabe Nobels assembled at CERN have switched a quark cannon that will shoot black holes to this planet, a Damocles Machine that menaces our very own survival, called in the peaceful newspeak of the new era, an instrument of research. You live in an Orwellian era in which all words are the anti-truth of what they really mean. i suggest the next for CERN if we are still here LOL Rhetoric can cheat every human on Earth. What we CANNOT CHEAT are the laws of the Universe.
If Obama really wants to stop nuclear proliferation I suggest he stops the future of those bombs, the creation of mass bombs (M=E/c2) and the 'peaceful evolution' of black holes, here on Earth. That would be a 'change we believe in' ... see why earth is at danger at www.lhcdefence.org

Posted by: luisancho | December 10, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Aren't people sick of your idiocy by now Mr. Gerson?

Posted by: kevin1231 | December 10, 2009 2:08 PM | Report abuse


Gerson, nasty little punk, does it again.

"expetations were low, and he succeeded them." A reminder of the dismal children who ruined GWB years.

Posted by: whistling | December 10, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Oh gee, thanks for calling our President "manly", Mr. Gerson, as if you would know what it is to be a man. You and your creepo right-wing freaks like that coward Cheney hide in caves, behind the flag, or most of all now, behind a crucifix. This President has both the brains and courage to act like an adult, not just speak like one, both attributes which were sorely lacking in your hero "W" who got us into the awful mess we are in now. He's trying his damndest to make this a better world because he belives it is possible. So do I and millions like me. If you have nothing positive to contribute, get out of the way. And back off with the condescending nonsensical commentary. It just petty, angry, and ultimately, worthless.

Posted by: pookiecat | December 10, 2009 2:22 PM | Report abuse

"A bridge too far"? The world breathed a collective sigh of relief when your boss left the world stage. And with good reason: he had taken a "just" war - if you accept that term - and let it fester in order to pursue an unrelated war that ended in the death of tens or hundreds of thousands and the suffering of millions. He tortured people in our name and tried to hide and then defend the indefensible. And that's where you came in.

You can try to equate these two presidents all you want, but the reason Obama received the Nobel in the first place was his rejection of Bush's world view as morally bankrupt. And because he convinced America that our future does not lie down that path. The bridge is not too far. There is no bridge.

Posted by: tfspa | December 10, 2009 2:40 PM | Report abuse

@JohnDinHouston wrote:
I'm getting tired of hearing from all of you "well, I was for Obama but now he's disappointed me" folks, anyway."
.
You're seeing the difference between GOP and Dem's. We Dem's don't blindly follow our leaders, we actually criticize them when they don't do what we expected. I really don't remember the GOP criticizing Bush over much of anything.

Posted by: rpixley220 | December 10, 2009 2:49 PM | Report abuse

Just as soon as the right decides to stop distorting easily verifiable facts, I'll start listening with less contempt to their views. The right must surely know, somewhere in their heart of hearts, that lying and distorting is a sure sign of a weak or non-existent position.

Gerson says, "...it was a very American speech. Obama did not present himself, as he has done before, as a “citizen of the world.”

What Obama actually said, as a Senator speaking at the Berlin wall in 2008 was:

"Thank you to the citizens of Berlin and to the people of Germany. Let me thank Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Steinmeier for welcoming me earlier today. Thank you Mayor Wowereit, the Berlin Senate, the police, and most of all thank you for this welcome.

I come to Berlin as so many of my countrymen have come before. Tonight, I speak to you not as a candidate for President, but as a citizen – a proud citizen of the United States, and a fellow citizen of the world."

Gerson, in exactly what way do you think you help your cause when you seek to diminish the President by leaving out the most important facts of his actual statement?

Can you at long last not recognize that you do yourself, your cause and your nation an enormous disservice when you lie so disgustingly?

Gerson, you are despicable.

Posted by: abqcleve | December 10, 2009 2:55 PM | Report abuse

That is two republican speeches in just over a week. That silly, we have to invade afghanstan cuz o' 9/11

now, the omg .. the horror of war,
(like barack even played with army men
as a child)

but it is needed, so we can sleep tight
knowing them Nazi's is all defeated...

Posted by: simonsays1 | December 10, 2009 3:05 PM | Report abuse

A 49 year old lib finally showing maturity! LMAO!! I guess that does deserve an article!!!

Posted by: cschotta1 | December 10, 2009 3:08 PM | Report abuse

Thank you Gerson for crossing the line and offering some praise to our President. I know it must have been hard for you, but WaPo readers appreciate your effort. And to all of the liberals and progressives who are complaining that Obama has broken promises by escalating in Afghanistan...folks, you obviously weren't listening during the campaign. The President is doing exactly what he said he would do.

Posted by: gposner | December 10, 2009 3:16 PM | Report abuse

Well, I'm so glad this speech has your approval. Now I can sleep at night.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 10, 2009 3:18 PM | Report abuse

"As someone who believed in Mr. Obama's "change", and who voted for him to end Iraq and Afghanistan, I am completely disappointed and embarrassed about my vote."


But all during the campaign Obama spoke about Afghanistan as a war of necessity. Were you simply not listening to him?

It's funny how many people are down on a president for actually doing what he said he was going to do...

Posted by: lightgrw | December 10, 2009 3:27 PM | Report abuse

Obama, on receiving the Nobel "Peace" Prize, gave a defense of war and himself. It was a little depressing. There is nothing "idle" about people who actively work for peace. Working for peace, to see yourself in another, to regard their humanity as you do your own, is the bravest most courageous thing to do. And before and after war, the commitment to and consciousness of "peace" is what holds us all together.

Posted by: kmbd | December 10, 2009 3:33 PM | Report abuse

Michael Gerson, the mouth-piece for George W. Bush, the accidental boy president, presuming to judge the "maturity" of another president? Give us a break. Not to mention Michael Gerson addressing anyone's "manliness" (except maybe Karl Rove's, snicker.)

Posted by: orray | December 10, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Gerson doesn't like little digs at Bush (as he hears them) in Obama's rhetoric. Obama should either pretend those shaming eight years just didn't happen, or should refer to them tactfully and warmly, but (therefore) falsely. Okay, that's one man's opinion, although I don't agree with it.

By that rather low standard, Gerson's write-up fails in the same way. Instead of simply praising a good speech in a sporting way (and returning to slamming Obama by tomorrow, I assume), this time it was Mr. Gerson who couldn't resist those little passive-aggressive digs that he claims to deplore. I would quote them here, but there are so many sniping comments that it would make far too long a note.

Read through and note every backhanded slam, insinuation, and patronizing comment about Mr. Obama, from top to bottom. It's unbelievable a man could write this way and then, with a straight face, claim that it's Obama who indulges in unworthy, passive-aggressive sniping about someone else (in his case, per Gerson, President Bush). No, Mr. Gerson, look in the mirror if you want to figure out who can't man up and make a statement without slipping in patronizing, would-be diminishing cracks. It's not Obama.

Posted by: fairfaxvoter | December 10, 2009 3:44 PM | Report abuse

he reads good!!

Posted by: jrzshor | December 10, 2009 3:46 PM | Report abuse

I find it ironic that Gerson finds the Obama speech to be "manly", given the record of most of the right wing as draft dodgers or who never served in the military. These "chicken hawks" have no creditability when it cames to knowing what manly truly is.

It is outrageous for Gerson who was at the center of the worst admoinsitration in American history to have any forum to spout his nonsense. The tone of the praise by Gerson is cynical. His seemingly graciousness is based on his defense of the Bush wars.

I will never forgive Gerson or any other Bush apologists and facilitators for the disasters they purpetrated. They have no standing to past either positive or negative judgment on anyone including Obama.

These horrible people need to make attonement and ask for forgiveness or just dissapear... forever.

Posted by: scr02882 | December 10, 2009 4:05 PM | Report abuse

Gerson, a former Bush speechwriter, is at his most patronizing of a sitting president. His views do the Post no credit any more than today's sloppily written "medicare sausage," editorial. The editorial board and some of its op-ed writers are driving this paper into the ditch, to hell with the very good news pages.

After Palin yesterday (her second ghost written column), who's next? Dick Cheney? John Bolton for a fourth bite at the op-ed apple? Paul Wolfowitz (again)?

These people don't give up and Fred Hiatt makes it enticing for them not to do so.

Posted by: harper-d | December 10, 2009 4:07 PM | Report abuse

Yes, Bush voiced grandiose sentiments - and undid the possibility of bringing them to into force by a policy too often feckless, too long led by Cheney's dark and yes, evil vision of power.

And he always married the noble to the ignoble pursuit of personal glory. He knew he wanted to be a war president well before he was elected, because he thought playing the commander-in-chief role would build his political capital, help him push through his domestic agenda, and then go down in history as a great president.

Gerson was one of the authors of Bush's noble-sounding sentiments, so of course he wants them to be noticed. Too bad Gerson did not notice the great flaws in the president for whom he worked.

Posted by: j2hess | December 10, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

"Obama was recognizing that the great commitments and themes of American foreign policy are durably bipartisan, because they are rooted in the democratic universalism of the founding."

those words will get Gerson targeted by teabaggers and cause him to be purged from the GOP...Michael can you please be sure your old boss Dick Cheney gets to read what you've written here...

look for Palin's next ghost written (by Dick Cheney) 2012 Presidential Campaign ad/lecture paid for by WPost's opinion editor to feature how the President receiving the Nobel Prize makes US a target for terrorists...

Posted by: teoc2 | December 10, 2009 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Gerson's resort to the word "manly" betrays more than he imagines. He misconstrues smart American policy as the possession and display of male genitals.
Predictably, Gerson again invokes his hero, the manly W. Bush (who finagled his way out of combat during the Vietnam War with the "pull" of his influential father, our first President Bush). That one, George H.W. Bush, is indeed manly -- if combat were the sole measure of masculinity. It is absurd and hopless for humanity -- manly, feminine and childish --to contend that it is.

Posted by: jimsteinberg1 | December 10, 2009 4:24 PM | Report abuse

Maturity would have been to decline politely, until such time as there was merit. Honor without merit = hubris.

Posted by: clankie | December 10, 2009 4:26 PM | Report abuse

Gerson's column is the classic "left handed compliment." Or, more frankly stated, "I applaude you with my middle finger is extended." He criticizes Obama for excessive lecturing in using the phrases, "dizzying pace of globalization" and "culture leveling of modernity." But in the next paragraph, complete with a link to a prior column, he slides off into a totally incomprehensible riff on Nieburh. (I'd like Palin's take on Nieburhian Tension) Finally, what is this "manly" reference? Is he saying the Pres. has been to "femine?" I appreciated his overall positive tone. I'll also bet my house that tommorow Dr. Krauthammer will NOT agree.

Posted by: BBear1 | December 10, 2009 4:37 PM | Report abuse

"While accepting the peace prize, he offered one of the best defenses of war ever delivered by a modern political leader."

Defending war while accepting a peace prize? Some people, apparently like Mr. Diehl, never get the eternal joke. War does not need defending. It goes along pretty well on its own. How many people not born on December 25th are known in history for standing up for peace? Don't count Obama among them.

Posted by: jmcgranns | December 10, 2009 4:54 PM | Report abuse

I agree with JohnDinHouston's response to Americana1 (comment #1). Obama ran as a left-leaning centrist, and now he's acting like one, in many arenas of domestic and foreign policy. He didn't run as an out-and-out liberal. On any number of issues, from Afghanistan to gay marriage, he staked out very centrist positions. Now he's fulfilling the promises he made to America in the only way that a president can--incrementally. By the end of his first term, let's see where we stand--I think we'll be a country with fairer economic laws, better relationships with foreign powers, saner energy and climate policies, a more humane health-care system, and so on. It can't happen all at once, so have some patience.

Posted by: iowanic | December 10, 2009 5:09 PM | Report abuse

We did not "undo a nation" when going into Iraq. It had not been a national for more than 40 years. It was a country of prisoners all sitting under the thumb of dictator Hassam Hussein. The insurgents are like idiots with chinese handcuffs. The more they pull against the infrastructure that has not been put up with the installation of an elected government, the tighter the tie of the foreign allies has to become to keep them from creating more anarchy. If they would lay down their weapons and bombs and become a part of the solution, that would ease the hold.

Obama being humble must have been a sight!

Posted by: Georgetowner1 | December 10, 2009 5:10 PM | Report abuse

This is an interesting approach by the NeoCon Hacks who post their drivel on these pages.

The question! How can you deny that President Obama's speech before the Nobel Prize Committee was eloquent, to the point, and unwavering? You can't!

Well, what the NeoCon Political Hacks are attempting to accomplish is to allow George W. to ride on the back of the decisions of President Obama and all the accolades that accompany those decisions.

That assumption is entirely false!

Because President Obama is following through on the promises to stamp out the al Qaeda terrorists who attacked U.S soil. (In a more eloquent manner of course.)

The world should never forget that George W. Bush abused the undying support from the rest of the world after 9/11 when he turned his back on the initial promise and decided instead to promote an invasion on the sovereign Iraqi nation who's military abilities were inconsequential and were not a threat to the middle east.

Because of this gross error in judgement, naïveté, arrogance, ignorance, or whatever you'd like to call it, the rest of the world is, and will be paying for it for decades to come.


Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | December 10, 2009 5:16 PM | Report abuse

The US is not at war with the people of Afghanistan, we are going after a terror group. While I do not like the fact that we are there I do not believe that Obama had much of a choice. To simply pull out would have been the wrong move, he is giving it until 2011. That to me is fair. As for the speech we as Americans should be proud of the speech and the way he represented us. Stop all the freakin whining!

Posted by: jhop1104 | December 10, 2009 5:33 PM | Report abuse

American1, you're speaking with your heart instead of your brain.

I dare you to find one quote where, then Senator Obama, ever said he was going to pull the troops out of Afghanistan until the job was completed.

I'm confident, because he never did say it!


Posted by: helloisanyoneoutthere | December 10, 2009 5:37 PM | Report abuse

A gracious essay about a gracious Nobel lecture. I agree with Mr. Gerson about the "Niebuhrian tension." I was particularly struck by the President's pointing out that those great leaders, Gandhi and M. L. King, whom he so admires, were not heads of state. Obama's duties are different from theirs. It is an everyday Niebuhrian struggle for him to discern what the correct decisions and actions are in complex and challenging world. In this respect he is much like the rest of us 'fallen angels,' the big difference being that his decisions and actions are consequential for the rest of the world while the rest of ours affect a much more limited sphere. It's too bad that for his efforts, Obama is called a Marxist, a socialist, a fascist, a Manchurian Candidate, and so on. David Ignatius' essay today refers to Obama being 'painfully aware' of how his public approval numbers have tanked. I'm sure he knows why. It's a nasty world he operates in where no good deed goes unpunished and good intentions, for a great many people, mean nothing. Reinhold Niebuhr taught us about this state of affairs years ago and Barack Obama is on of his best students.

Posted by: PBosleySlogthrop | December 10, 2009 6:07 PM | Report abuse

"Image is everything, when that's all you have"-Barack Hussein Obama.

Posted by: cschotta1 | December 10, 2009 6:23 PM | Report abuse

"In a tone that might best be called manly"
**************************************
My lord, Gerson, lets hope God cured you of the sin of homosexuality.

As a general rule, being manly requires having a penis. Thats it.

I thought conservatives were all "content of character"....

Nope. Gerson shows his hand, apparently no woman is capable of the good things a man can do...
These qualities are...manly

Posted by: kreator6996 | December 10, 2009 6:54 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe you said his modesty was "disarming" in a context like this. Disarming. What a concept. Nice in theory, but, yeah, no, never happen. Impractical. Shields up, Mr. Sulu.

Non-violence would not have stopped Hitler, it's true. That's what the battle of Stalingrad was about. But you wouldn't give Stalin the Peace Prize, either. Even though, from his point of view, his war was just -- hey yeah, it really was. Sort of, in a way. And things did quiet down afterward. But then again no.

Stalin's words definitely did mean something, though. Helped if you spoke Russian and understood that inside out alphabet of theirs. 93ac3 1n 0ur t1m3 ... f0r a 9r1c3 ...

Hitler. Sheesh. Really. I imagine you had to be there. Life is funny, though ... like a bay called Pearl Harbor that is wall to wall battleships. Incongruous. just sittin there ... "wait for it... wait for it..."

Where am I going with this, I wonder.

You know what's cool about Solzhenitsyn, though? His name is great for haiku poetry.

"Solzhenitsyn
Didn't get a lot of sleep
Some of those cold nights"

And teh beats goes on, badda doop, badda doop ...

I think I'm around the fence on this one.

Posted by: pressF1 | December 10, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Thank You Mr. President. When called to speak on one of the world's greatest stages, you delivered with a speech that was one of your best ever.

Posted by: JoeNTx | December 10, 2009 6:59 PM | Report abuse

Americana1, to believe that America is facing a "diminished threat" in Afghanistan and Pakistan when the whole Pakistani military establishment is supporting and encouraging the terrorist organizations they themselves set up and who were, themselves, behind the Mumbai attacks last year, for example, is to discount, devalue, and overlook the true danger our own nation faces here.
It is a "diminished threat" to realize that the whole Pakistani military establishment is behind, with, financing, supporting, and directing the some 180 terrorist organizations they established and supported as proxies in their war against India and the West?
In that sense, the terrorists ALREADY control Pakistan's nuclear weapons. The mindset of the Pakistani military is NOT different from the terrorists they have allowed and permitted and encouraged and supported to come into existence.
To believe that America should just walk away and dream a little dream of "oh we were just there because of corporate interests in oil" and we are really in no danger whatsoever if we would just leave the field of battle, all would be peaceful and the jihadists would give up their goal of destroying us after getting their, more radical, hands on those nuclear weapons, to believe that is to remain parochially naive and willfully ignorant.
Don't mean to insult, but, for heaven's sakes, think about something besides AMERICAN political parochialism.

Posted by: cms1 | December 10, 2009 7:13 PM | Report abuse

I am a Reagan Conservative. Take it from me...this speech was great and Obama looked like the REAL leader the world does not want but exceedingly needs. He accepted the prize but told the Europeans in so many ways that he was not going to accept being played with....no matter how many prizes they dangled in front of him. That was the message of refusing to meet the King of Norway.
I Loved Obama yesterday. He ought to be congratulated. Maybe Obama has something there for us conservatives....Maybe it is the recognition that you have to govern for the real world. No matter how many fuzzy feelings you got inside of you.

Posted by: huntyrella | December 10, 2009 7:22 PM | Report abuse

There is no such thing as a 'just war'. Nor is there any such thing as pure evil. Evil is entirely dependent on perspective. From Al Qaeda's point of view, America is evil, from America's point of view, Al Qaeda is evil. In my view, poverty and injustice is evil and you don't fight that with war, you overcome that with humanitarianism.

I am so disappointed in Obama. He sounds more and more like Bush every day.

Posted by: francinelast | December 10, 2009 7:34 PM | Report abuse

Well...well... well..... At last, by Norwegian proclamation, and proffering his bona fides before the minions of Wynken, Blynken and Nod, Obama must now think he has a clear path to rush through his agenda, under the guise of hope, while appealing to the messianic expectations of the time.

While camouflaged by a veil of gratitude and humilty, Obama trageted through transferred intent the chauvanism of past administrations, and with malice aforethought purposfully labeled his prediscessor morally substandard. That being said, the pieste resistance went undetected by most of the MSM.. How is it they failed to notice Obama saying, "Compared to the giants of history, who have won this award, my accomplishments are slight"..... Say what...did the dude just say SLIGHT???? The man ain't done a damn thing but talk and talk and talk and talk...Oh and did I say talk ??? ...so Mr & Mrs America, can you please tell me how you've totally disregarded Obama's shady suggestion his name be linked with the likes of King, Mandella, Roosevelt, Rev.Mother Theresa etc etc etc ...

Sad to say what started out with a bang, could/should have been one of the greatest speeches delivered on foreign soil by an American President, slowly began to implode after the first 3rd of the speech. As Obama continued it became evident he was not about to disappoint as he ramped up the usual esoteric accesses and self flagellation we've grown accustomed to.("audacity" you betchya .... this guy's are made of brass and should be hanging from the rear of the presidential limo.).........

The End.

Posted by: Spartann | December 10, 2009 7:41 PM | Report abuse

It's hard to say for sure, but my guess is that Bruce Banner was blasted by gamma rays while looking at the faces of the cadets at the United States Military Academy, and he's turned into the Incredible Hulk. Where did all this American blut und eisen come from? This can't be just polling and focus groups, though the doughnuts tossed to his old friends are easy to spot. There is a gravity at work here that probably isn't finished yet. A marvelous speech. And Michael Gerson is a columnist with a conscience.

Posted by: raskolnik | December 10, 2009 7:48 PM | Report abuse


The universal accolade is not a good symptom. It will no doubt be used to launch a "just war" against Iran. Neo-cons and their fellow travellers are clearly drooling over this.

Posted by: RudeIsraeli | December 10, 2009 8:14 PM | Report abuse

Francinelast,
Congratulations, you have just advocated relativism. You may want to reflect more on your argument that war is not just (although it is quaint and reminds me of the 60s - quite quaint.) Was it just to destroy the Nazi regime and its ambitions for the Jewish people? The Nazis surely believed their cause was just. But hey, maybe they would have stopped all that concentration camp stuff if we sat down and talked about it. Why didn't someone suggest that to Churchill and Roosevelt (wait a min, I think I remember something from junior high about a fellow named Chamberlin who tried that whole negotiation with the Nazis thing.) Was the Civil War, a war which led to the abolition of slavery, a just war? I am sure the southern plantation owners would argue it was not. But hey, maybe they would have tired of free labor and the abuse of an entire race of people. There always have been and always will be just wars, and I should revise my earlier statement. You are not a relativist, you are naive.

Posted by: timgalg | December 10, 2009 8:21 PM | Report abuse


The victors or those who wish to start a war will. of course. declare their war just. How else could you convince the poor draftees to fight?

Posted by: RudeIsraeli | December 10, 2009 8:25 PM | Report abuse

Not many draftees in the wars mentioned above. Just patriots and those wishing to serve their country.

Posted by: timgalg | December 10, 2009 8:29 PM | Report abuse

There have been several times when I have been ashamed of our country: one, when 70% of Americans decided that Iraq was really behind Al Queda's attack on America when ALL the evidence pointed in another direction but Americans just decided that the guy who had been selected to be President by the Supreme Court in the 2000 elections just KNEW we should attack a country who had nothing, whatever to do, with the attack on us.
Shame. Shame. Shame on all our elected officials who went along with this from both parties.And shame on the 70% of Americans who were so ignorant that they went along with it.
All they are responsible for is all the deaths and injuries to our troops and the innocent Iraqi's that they caused by going along with the political powers and winds in Washington at the time.
Shame. Shame. Shame.
But, not to worry. NOT ONE of them will EVER suffer from their decisions. And, I mean this in terms of BOTH our political parties.
And here America is now. Pretending that they know a single relevant, true, realistic FACT about Afghanistan, Pakistan, the terrorists or any other players in this very dangerous game.
All I can do is PLEAD with Americans to read something besides the newspaper and television headlines and INFORM yourselves about the history of these countries and this part of the world where our young people are being killed in the name of our national defense.
AND, inform yourselves about the NECESSITY of protecting ourselves from the evil in this world.
This is not just a television program folks, we are in serious trouble here. Serious, in the sense that YOU might be murdered.
Oh, how I miss the generation of World War II who knew everything about what was going on and had the wit to comprehend something beyond their own local, parochial, interests.
This country is in trouble because we think we are so smart, as individuals, and know NOTHING whatever about what is going on in the world around us.

Posted by: cms1 | December 10, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

huntyrella, thank you for your comment. Those of us who are "liberals" and those of us who are "conservatives" in the true sense of both those designations can find common ground and agreement with what this particular President of the United
States said today in Oslo,
We should ALL be proud of our young President who has so captured the imagination of the world.

Posted by: cms1 | December 10, 2009 8:50 PM | Report abuse

Tiger Woods hired pricey prostitutes from madam

Ho, Tiger!
Married golf great Tiger Woods hired high-priced prostitutes several times from a well-known Hollywood madam, that woman has told The Post.
Michelle Braun said she sent at least four escorts on pay-for-sex dates with the randy Woods a total of “six times” from late 2006 and 2007, charging him a total of $60,000.
“The most was for a girl in Manhattan” — whose name is Loredana, Braun said. “He paid $15,000 for her.”
JACK NICKLAUS STAYING OUT OF TIGER DRAMA
TIGER'S MOM HEADS TO FLORIDA
GRUBBS: I THOUGHT I WAS THE ONLY MISTRESS
NEW! THE POST'S TIGER WOODS BLOG

Some of those trysts involved Woods hiring two prostitutes for one encounter, according to Braun, who said Woods would call her on the phone to order up the female company.
“He liked girl-on-girl,” Braun said. “He had sex with them together.”
One of those women identified by Braun as an escort she dispatched to the links legend — porn star Holly Sampson — has already copped to having sex with Woods, although she claims their affair occurred before his 2004 marriage to Elin Nordegren.
PHOTOS: TIGER'S MISTRESSES | RACHEL UCHITEL | JOSLYN JAMES | JAIMEE GRUBBS | JAMIE JUNGERS | ELIN NORDGREN | CORI RIST
Sampson’s lawyer last night said he had no knowledge of Sampson working for Braun, and said he has not had the opportunity to discuss that claim with Sampson.
Braun said another woman who has spilled the beans about being Woods’ mistress — Jamie Jungers — worked for her as an escort, but that Braun never sent her on paid dates with Woods.
However, Braun said that “when I met Jamie ins 2005 she had already been seeing him for” a while.
Braun also said that Jungers told her that “he was giving her money to hang out with him, and have sex.”
Braun said that her escorts whom she sent to have sex with Tiger reported “that he was just wild and a lot of fun.”
“And that he was tough to keep up with — days a time, with just being a booze and sex bender,” Braun said.
Braun for years had a stable of lovely ladies that she supplied to sports starts, tycoons and other horny, rich men who could cough up a $10,000 minimum payment for a “date.
Last month, she was sentenced to three years’ probation and six months of house detention after pleading guilty to money laundering and transporting a woman across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.
The madam said she was “not at all” surprised to hear about the extent of Woods’ catting around, which has been revealed to include affairs with 10 women or more.
“ All of my client saw far more girls than have been talked about with Tiger,” she said.


Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/national/tiger_hired_worth_of_prostitutes_RiILkPLMI4e1IEA9ODtbpI#ixzz0ZLEqGbEn

Posted by: mawt | December 10, 2009 9:02 PM | Report abuse

It takes more than rhetorical flourishes and high sounding rationalizations to sell a bad war to the Europeans. The last "just war" we were involved in was the Korean War and it only lasted 37 months.

In contrast, we have been in Afghanistan for 99 months. This is not a war - it is an occupation - a long, costly occupation with no end in sight. He is now suggesting we are there to protect human rights - the new code for a "just war."

You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Obama is coming to town.

He's making a list
And checking it twice;
Gonna find out who's naughty and nice.

He sees you when you're sleeping
He knows when you're awake.
He knows if you've been bad or good
So be good for goodness sake!

Posted by: alance | December 10, 2009 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Most of the world is disappointed by Obama's lengthy defense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obama said that wars "do have a role to play in preserving peace" after having just ordered over 30,000 more troops to war in Afghanistan. This is the same Obama who promised during his campaign not to send any troops into harm's way or have them come home to their mothers in boxes. Obviously, Obama is a transparent liar.

Posted by: mock1ngb1rd | December 10, 2009 10:55 PM | Report abuse


How disappointing, from the perspective of person who voted for hiom, Obama in less than a year ranks with Bush II, Nixon and Lyndon Johnson in his excess hubris. Like the second Bush, in every speech and press conference, Obama comes across as if he has a monopoly on wisdom and belittles other options.

Obama is right, there are just wars. The first year of the Afghan year was arguably a "just" war as the bad guys were defeated, almost entirely scattered out of the country. However, Obama is merely militarily intervening in another nation's civil war, which is seldom if ever a "just" war. By his strange "logic" Great Britain and France might have been justified in intervening in the American civil war, out of "humanitarian grounds," as well as their self-interest.

The only "just" wars this country has been involved have been the American civil war and World War II. The wars against the native Americans, Mexico, Spain, Germany in the first world war, Korea, Vietnam and Iraq were wars of aggression, to promote economic interests or intervention in other nation's civil wars.

Obama's war in Afghanistan is diametrically the opposite of the teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. He may seem intelligent and articulate, but, if his speeches reflect his "understanding," knows little about United States history.

Posted by: Aprogressiveindependent | December 10, 2009 11:26 PM | Report abuse

Actually, I thought the speech was okay, but seeing that the bastard Whistling objects to the author, I will take another look at it.

Posted by: Farnaz1Mansouri1 | December 10, 2009 11:33 PM | Report abuse

I would have preferred a more straight-forward, "What would Martin have done?" speech, to see if Obama could defend his decision to increase the violence in Afghanistan against a path MLK might have chosen.

Or perhaps Obama could have noted that MLK and other past Nobel Peace Prize winners had different roles. Obama is not a community organizer anymore, after all. He could have made that point.

Which then raises the question, "Can presidents and prime ministers be Nobel Peace Prize winners?" Perhaps their roles as defenders of nations prohibits them from turning the other cheek.

It seems to me, though, that Obama has turned the other cheek on several occassions, including in Honduras, where a duly-elected official was run out of the country. Later, the Obama administration brushed him aside in favor of the new boss.

If this is the way a man of peace acts in one case, why does he pick up the sword in another?

Posted by: drossi2 | December 10, 2009 11:34 PM | Report abuse

"In a tone that might best be called manly"

I'm afraid you've not really made an impression on me as the right person to make that sort of judgement.

Latching onto a foolish little man who wants to have a war to make himself look bigger, and then doing his dirty propaganda work for him, has very little to do with "manliness".

Posted by: sembtex | December 10, 2009 11:38 PM | Report abuse

1. The speech could have been chopped by @ 1000 words.

2. The speech was one of Obama's best..considering the audience he gave it to. He flipped-the-script on an audience who wanted to be soothed with lines like "we are the ones..we've been waiting for..."..Instead Obama delivered lines like "Some will kill. Some will be killed"..The speech left the Euro-elite looking stunned.

3. No one.. NO ONE!..remembers Bush' "Second Inaugural Speech"...Oh well...so much for "editing".

Posted by: TruthHurts2 | December 11, 2009 3:07 AM | Report abuse

I despise Obama, but when I read a transcript of the speech, I was impressed with the depth and maturity of it. But then I listened to him deliver it, and again was disappointed by his pedantic delivery, complete with canned pauses and whistling "s's".

So someone wrote a good speech for him, which he faithfully delivered via teleprompter. Big whoop. Now he's going to jet back to Scandanavia at huge taxpayer expense and carbon costs to participate in a sham called "global warming" (no, libs -- I won't call it "climate change" since that's what you called it for years, and the threat, you say, is due to warming). None of this changes the fact that we have unemployment at or above 10%, a nearly $2 trillion debt and over $100 trillion in unfunded liabilities, all while he is pushing healthcare "reform" that will provide less healthcare to more people and at greater cost and inefficiency. When he starts paying attention to the economy and working on free-market solutions, rather than growing government, golfing, and hosting parties, I'll start taking him seriously.

Posted by: RedderThanEver | December 11, 2009 7:44 AM | Report abuse

At this point, I am reading through WAPO's PostPartison for comedic value as arguments made on behalf of Obama are so harebrained. How intellectually dishonest do you feel writing this trash? I've noticed repeated references to Obama's manliness, how quickly you hack democrats start sounding like Republicans. War gives you morons a hard on does it? They need to bring back the draft just for people like yourselves, so you can witness your folly firsthand.

Posted by: novealphtang | December 11, 2009 9:18 AM | Report abuse

I believe our young President is "growing."

Posted by: pgould1 | December 11, 2009 11:50 AM | Report abuse

How very condescending! Who do you think YOU are? Get over yourself!

Posted by: comments13 | December 11, 2009 12:06 PM | Report abuse

Those who characterized my response to Obama's speech as emotional, deluded, or misinformed: Please see Juan Cole's piece today on "Obama, Peace, and War." Prof. Cole makes the point that "Obama implied that peaceful conflict resolution is preferable, but that challenges do arise that require a military resolution. But he has unwittingly stacked the deck in favor if the military-industrial complex by adopting Bushian rhetoric at key junctures--speaking of enemies as 'evil,' militarizing the response to terrorism, and asserting false equivalences that help make war seem inevitable.

Obama has yet to decide whether he is a visionary or a technocrat. The prize committee hoped for the former. In this speech they got the latter."

I second AProgressiveIndependent, who also states "How disappointing, from the perspective of person who voted for hiom, Obama in less than a year ranks with Bush II, Nixon and Lyndon Johnson in his excess hubris" and is as critical about Obama's embrace of "Just War" ideology.

Power can justify anything when it is in its interest.

Posted by: Americana1 | December 11, 2009 1:03 PM | Report abuse

Gerson seems to think anyone cares what he thinks about the president's speech. Arm chair criticism is an art Gerson has taken to a high level. And his constant defense of GWB is very tiresome. President Obama as brought us back from the brink, and every day things get a little bit better. nuf said!

Posted by: formerrepublician | December 12, 2009 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Wow! For a person who wrote Dubya's speeches, you have some nerve to judge & compliment Obama's speech. We used to laugh at the way Dubya looked like "deer in the high-beam" squint to read from the tele-prompter, stammer & create his own non-existing words. Guess who wrote those speeches!

Posted by: sarvenk63 | December 12, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

Not to change the subject or anything . But Obama is limiting the pay for wall street to 500,000. dollars. How about limiting the campaign contributions to 500,000.dollars as well. Why is it the one who has the most dollars wins? And NO more of Acorns voter fraud. No more Acorn involved at all in the elections. This is the U.S.OF A not a third world country. We need our morals back. NO VOTER FRAUD.

Posted by: annieandpauldonovan | December 12, 2009 5:53 PM | Report abuse

Who voted for Obama? And hows that working for ya NOW. Would you vote for him now that you have seen his evil ways? We need a Reagan back ,to bring America back to its glory.Lets put aside our Left and Right and vote for freedom not Socialism. (Sarah Palin for President). She is what we need. " In politics if you want anything said, ask a man . If you want anything done , ask a woman. (Margaret Thatcher)

Posted by: annieandpauldonovan | December 12, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Those of you faulting Obama for using a teleprompter (which all privous Presidents have since the invention), at least he can read.

Posted by: jckdoors | December 14, 2009 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Reagan? Who's he?

Posted by: jckdoors | December 14, 2009 2:24 PM | Report abuse

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