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Outside voices: Prize comes prematurely

Miami Herald, Oct. 10: “Who, Obama? So fast? Too fast – he hasn’t had the time to do anything yet.”

Even some of the president’s admirers must have shared the puzzled reaction of Poland’s Lech Walesa, the 1983 Nobel Peace laureate, upon learning of President Barack Obama’s selection as this year’s recipient.

Europe loves Obama because he’s not George W. Bush, whose war-on-terror policies are reviled, but is that really a prizeworthy distinction? It shouldn’t be.

His selection is an honor for this country, yet the word “premature” springs to mind. Obama has made some eloquent speeches, most recently reaffirming a commitment to diplomatic engagement before the U.N. General Assembly. And he has done some good things, too, like ordering the eventual closing of the prison at Guantanamo and outlawing waterboarding.

That’s a good start, but no more than that. The Nobel Peace Prize should represent more than a pat on the back for good intentions.

Charlotte Observer, Oct. 12: The nomination deadline was Feb. 1, 12 days after Obama was inaugurated. And while he has surely redefined the role of America in the world, Obama so far has few accomplishments he can point to in achieving actual peace.

The too-early accolade is no negative reflection on Obama. But it is a reflection that the Nobel committee put its aspirations and desire to send a message to the rest of the world ahead of achievement in assessing the 205 nominees.

The committee essentially rewarded Obama for not being George W. Bush. Its aim at Bush’s record on peace was richly deserved. But by contrasting Bush’s well-documented, and poor, record with one that is yet to be written, the committee did Obama no favors.

Kansas City Star, Oct. 10: Obama was chosen as a way to welcome the United States back into the global community after years of unilateral policy. This award is therefore not just to the man, but his nation. And it’s focused as much on what we can do, and what with Obama as president we seem to have the will to do, as on what he’s already accomplished in the short time he’s been in office.

He humbly acknowledged that in his acceptance announcement.

Already, his administration has reopened discussions with Iran, addressed nuclear disarmament and confronted the Western-Islamic divide, the source of so much that is wrong with the world today.

So maybe Obama, to date, hasn’t earned a Peace Prize for sealed deals. But he brings hope.

And, sometimes, hope is worth rewarding.

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