Friday, October 9, 2009

Obama Peace Prize win has Americans asking why?

Obama Peace Prize win has Americans asking why?

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The award of the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday to U.S. President Barack Obama had many puzzled Americans scratching their heads.

"It would be wonderful if I could think why he won," said Claire Sprague, 82, a retired English professor as she walked her dog in Manhattan's Greenwich Village. "They wanted to give him an honor I guess but I can't think what for."

Itya Silverio, 33, of Brooklyn, was also surprised. "My first opinion is that he got it because he's black," she said. "What did he do that was so great? He hasn't even finished office yet."

When told of Obama's win Robert Schultz, 62, a retired civil servant and Vietnam veteran, asked: "For doing what?

"The guy hasn't solved any conflict anywhere so how can he win the peace prize? But if we don't reelect him the next go around we will all look like idiots because the world has anointed him," said Schultz, who lives in a suburb of Dallas.

"It looks less like an objective award than it does a political endorsement," said William Jelani Cobb, a history professor at Spelman College in Atlanta and author of a forthcoming book on Obama.

"Guantanamo is not closed yet and it makes it difficult for him to increase the number of troops in Afghanistan," he said, referring to the U.S. prison in Cuba where some detainees have been held for years without trial.

"Largely left leaning U.S. leaders have been recent recipients of that award. It will clearly be viewed as political by the right," he said. "It illustrates that the U.S. is still the prevalent power in the world and that the world really is seeking engagement with the United States."

"Sometimes when things like this happen it forces people to view things more positively so hopefully other leaders around the world will take (the talks) a little more seriously and open up more."

Many seemed happy even if they weren't sure why Obama won.

"How wonderful, I think that's fantastic," said David Spierer, 48, from New York who works in medical sales. "I know what he's doing but what has he done? Change is coming but you don't win a Nobel Peace Prize for the future."

"Obama won? Really? Wow," said David Hassan, 43, of Pine Brook, New Jersey. "He deserves it I guess, he's the president. He's a smart guy and I guess he's into peace."

(Additional reporting by John Parry, Ed Stoddard in Dallas, Andrew Stern in Chicago, Matt Bigg in Atlanta and Randall Palmer in Ottawa, editing by Alan Elsner)


* VivekaJyoti *: Obama Wins Nobel for Peace

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    • Thorbjorn Jagland, the chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and a former prime minister of Norway, said the president had already contributed enough to world diplomacy and international understanding to earn the award.

      “We are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year,” Mr. Jagland said. “We would hope this will enhance what he is trying to do.”

      The prize comes as Mr. Obama faces considerable challenges at home. On the domestic front, he is trying to press Congress to pass major legislation overhauling the nation’s health care system. On the foreign policy front, he is wrestling with declining support in his own party for the war in Afghanistan. The White House is engaged in an internal debate over whether to send more troops there, as Mr. Obama’s commanding general has requested.

      Mr. Obama also suffered a rejection on the world stage when he traveled to Copenhagen only last Friday to press the United States’ unsuccessful bid to host the Olympics in Chicago. Mr. Emanuel, who heard the news at 5 a.m. when he was heading out for his morning swim, said he joked to his wife, “Oslo beats Copenhagen.”

    • But Mr. Obama’s foreign policy has been criticized bitterly among neoconservatives like former Vice President Dick Cheney, who have suggested his rhetoric is naïve and his inclination to talk to America’s enemies will leave the United States vulnerable to another terrorist attack.