In 2007, Al Gore shared the peace prize with climate scientists who brought forward the understanding of global climate change to the world. If I recall correctly, the right-wingers had a field day with it: having used Al Gore as a point of ad hominem attacks in the past, they now were able to use the "international conspiracy" angle to attack global warming as some giant left-wing conspiracy. (Of course, many people just continued to attack Al Gore directly.)
Now, in 2009, the Nobel committee has awarded Barack Obama with the peace prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." I wonder how quickly the right wing talk shows will have a conniption fit, and whether they will play the "he-hasn't-done-anything-yet" card or the "he-doesn't-cooperate-with-Republicans" card. (Or use another card, perhaps attacking the Nobel Peace Price recipients as being "too liberal" or questioning why the Nobel committee has the "right" to make these massive awards.) I admit that it is probably a little too early to say whether Obama's actions now merit the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize, since there is still time in his presidency to either do worse or better than the ideals of the prize imply. (Remember that Kissinger won the Peace Prize, too, even though he was influential in supporting Latin American dictators...)
Among the blogs to which I have subscriptions (mostly scientists' blogs and eco-conscious blogs), the awarding of Obama has been met mostly with non-committal interest, pointing out that he hasn't actually done anything concrete to merit the award. PZ Myers states that not being Bush and not blowing up anything for a year is likely to have made any American president look like Gandhi. Chad Orzel mirrors Myers' tone, also indicating that it likely a mea culpa for Kissinger.
An interesting slant on this is from the people at Climate Progress blog, who hypothesize that the Nobel Peace Prize - the most political of the prizes awarded by the Nobel committee - might have been additional political pressure on the Obama administration to live up to the ideals of multilateralism and international cooperation. Kind of like trying to create a self-fulfilling prophesy. Of course, the people at Climate Progress see it in the lens of "looks like he'll be going to [the climate conference in] Copenhagen after all."
Right now, I'm leaning toward the position that the people at Climate Progress are making:
While some may argue that this award is premature, I disagree. This is a clear statement by the Nobel Committee not merely of the importance of US multilateralism to genuine progress toward global peace, but also of their understanding that climate change has become a critical international issue.The prize is worth lots of kudos in the international arena, and if the United States is to play a major leadership role in the world, then bolstering the president is a good thing, even if the move was thinly veiled politics.
Looking at the list of Nobel Peace Laureates, only two presidents have received the award while in office: Teddy Roosevelt (ending the Russo-Japanese War) and Woodrow Wilson (setting up the League of Nations). Jimmy Carter won the prize in 2002, 22 years after the end of his presidency.
At the end of the day, though, at least Steven Chu will now not feel so alone as the only Nobel Laureate in the administration. :D