Video: Obama 'surprised and humbled' by Nobel

msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 10/9/2009 10:19:31 PM ET 2009-10-10T02:19:31

Gee, you'd think a U.S. president who won the Nobel Peace Prize might get rave reviews from his party's activists and polite congrats from top Republicans.

But news of Barack Obama's award Friday drew a rebuke from the Republican Party chairman, ridicule from conservative bloggers, and even gripes from some liberals who think he hasn't done enough to wind down the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Top Democrats congratulated Obama, of course, but critics abounded on the left and right.

"What has President Obama actually accomplished?" said Michael Steele, chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Steele, who took over the reins of the party earlier this year, said he thought it was "unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights."

He said he doesn't think Obama will be "receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action."

Praise from Dems
There was praise from two Democrats who also have won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Former President Jimmy Carter, who won in 2002, called Obama's selection a "bold statement of international support for his vision and commitment."

And former Vice President Al Gore, who won two years ago, said Obama's prize was "extremely well deserved."

"I think that much of what he has accomplished already is going to be far more appreciated in the eyes of history, as it has been by the Nobel committee," Gore said.

And some Republicans had kind words, too.

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Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., Obama's presidential rival last year, told CNN he could not divine the Nobel committee's intentions, "but I think part of their decision-making was expectations. And I'm sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to. But as Americans, we're proud when our president receives an award of that prestigious category."

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said, "under any circumstances I thought an appropriate response is congratulations."

But GOP Rep. Gresham Barrett, who is running for governor of South Carolina, mocked Obama's prize.

"I'm not sure what the international community loved best; his waffling on Afghanistan, pulling defense missiles out of Eastern Europe, turning his back on freedom fighters in Honduras, coddling Castro, siding with Palestinians against Israel, or almost getting tough on Iran," Barrett said.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, was more diplomatic, saying on Fox News that he was "pleased" that a U.S. president had won, and that he hoped the award would be "an incentive" for Obama to work hard on global issues, especially humanitarian ones.

Congress' top Republican leaders — Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and Rep. John Boehner of Ohio — were silent on Obama's award Friday.

Video: What has Obama accomplished? Several commentators challenged the value of the Peace Prize, noting that Palestinian President Yasser Arafat shared it in 1994.

"What's Obama done?" asked Rick Moran in his blog on American Thinker, a strong advocate of Israel. "What peace has he negotiated? ... I suppose an organization that thought Yasser Arafat worthy of the same prize can't be taken seriously anyway. But they are."

Erick Erickson, writing on the conservative RedState.com, suggested Obama won in part because he is black.

"I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota for it, but that is the only thing I can think of for this news," Erickson wrote. "There is no way Barack Obama earned it in the nominations period."

On foxnews.com, conservative columnist Tommy De Seno chronicled the 12 days that Obama had been in office before the deadline for the Nobel Peace Prize nominations.

"So there you have it," he wrote after listing a brief summary of Obama's workflow over those days. "The short path to the Nobel Peace Prize: Party, go to meetings, skip church, release federal funding to pay for abortions in foreign countries, party some more."

Liberal bias?
Fox News host Chris Wallace noted on television that the Nobel committee represents a "left-wing" parliament in Norway.

Video: Obama dichotomy: Peace prize, Afghan action Hatch echoed that view, saying that "we never expect a conservative Republican" to receive the peace prize.

Obama himself said he felt humbled and undeserving, declaring in a Rose Garden statement: "I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments."

The reaction was only slightly warmer on some liberal Web sites, where some writers said Obama should end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan before being awarded such a prize.

Jim White, writing for firedoglake.com, said the president "has stated a desire to end the war in Iraq and to close Guantanamo. So far, however, Obama only has delivered charming rhetoric on these important fronts. His actions, sadly, have tended to reinforce the worst of the Bush policies after giving them a nice rhetorical dusting off."

To be sure, some groups and politicians gave Obama full-throated congratulations.

Global Zero, comprising political and military leaders from around the world, applauded Obama's award, which was "in part based on his leadership to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons."

Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who chairs the Democratic National Committee, called the award "an affirmation of the fact that the United States has returned to its long-standing role as a world leader."

Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chastised the GOP's Steele for his remarks, and noted that conservative activists had cheered when Obama failed last week to bring the 2016 Olympic Games to Chicago.

"I find it very very disappointing for the chairman of the Republican Party — after the cheers that went out when America lost the Olympics — to now be attacking our president, everyone's president in our country, at a time when he is being recognized on the world stage," Stabenow said.

The award appeared to be at least partly a slap at former President George W. Bush from a committee that harshly criticized Obama's predecessor for his largely unilateral military action in the wake of the Sept. 11 terror attacks.

"People can read into it whatever they want," said former Bush spokesman Tony Fratto. "But when you're awarded a Nobel Peace Prize and the first question everyone asks is 'for what?' then you have to question what the motives of the Nobel committee are in making the award."

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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