InternationalSnob, Obamarama

Um … no

One opinion that I forgot to mention in my previous post was that of those who think Obama should turn down the award (Mickey Klaus, Gawker … I’m speaking of you). Despite how you feel about him winning, that would make positively no sense and would only offend the same international community who was gracious enough to bestowe this award on the president. In other words, that’s just bone dumb.

InternationalSnob, Obamarama

Nobel Peace Prize Causes Fight

While some of us are still recovering from our pleasant, but confusing surprise of the president winning the Nobel Peace Prize, some battlelines were drawn Friday.

On one side you had your pundits, negative nellies and conservative opposition frothing at the mouth (as they’re known to do), screaming that this is a travesty and will cause the end times, on the other you have the president’s defenders, suddenly super knowledgeable in Nobel Peace Prize committee rulings, defending why someone who is in the midst of executing two wars and still hasn’t figured out how to close Guantamano deserves a Peace Prize.

In the middle are me and several other folks who are happy for the president, but think the award was a tad premature. Obviously he’s inspired the world and the committee has the right to give the award to whomever they see fit, but even the president didn’t think he deserved it and was humbled by the whole experience. But at the end of the day, it’s a good thing and always a good thing when an American receives such a huge accolade.

More after the jump.

Of course, there’s no room for a middle in American politics. Stand in the road and you will get run over. Hence when I looked to see what other writers, pundits and politicos were saying, things were heavily split and partisan with the exception of a few, like academic Melissa Harris-Lacewell, who seemed just as initially stunned as I.

From Politico:

I assume Kanye West will be at the ceremony, where he will grab the mic and express the sheer madness of this choice. This president is still prosecuting two wars and just bombed the moon. I support my President, but Desmond Tutu he is not.

Within the scheme of people the Nobel Peace Prize committee has awarded in the past — from Henry Kissinger to Yasser Arafat — President Obama seems more desirable than say, an actual Vietnam-era warmonger and the former head of the PLO. And many people have received the award based on what they are going to do or plan to do, versus what they’ve already done (see every award given based on peace in the Middle East). And conservatives have to be careful not to turn this into “Chicago Loses the Olympics” all over again. While some people may be befuddled, the president winning the Nobel Peace Prize is a good thing for America. This is not the time to go on some bizarre tear where you appear to be longing for the days when the international community disliked the United States. Americans like to win things and like to be liked, loved even, more than feared and despised. President Obama inspires many people worldwide. Obviously this accolade is rooted in that inspiration.

Still, you can’t talk about President Obama in the US without a fight breaking out so, I’m just going to get out of the middle of the road and let everyone else have at it.

InternationalSnob, Obamarama

President Obama Wins Nobel Prize (WTF!)

I almost spat out my coffee this morning when I heard the news. I wasn’t planning on updating the blog any further today and I’d slept in. And LOOK WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU SLEEP IN! Someone gives the dang president the dang Nobel Peace Prize for … um … what did he win it for? The man JUST got elected! He hasn’t even been in office a year. Isn’t this really the Nobel Peace Prize for “Dang, We Really, Really Hated Bush?” Either way, yeah for the prez. Yeah for us. But … um … what?

More after the jump.

From Politico:

Barely nine months into office, President Barack Obama has been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize – with the committee citing Obama’s “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy” and his support for nuclear arms reduction. 

“Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future,” said Thorbjoern Jagland, chairman of the Nobel Committee

But the prize shocked the White House and international observers – some of whom are already questioning what Obama has done in his short time as president to deserve the honor. 

The White House found out about the award at about 5 a.m., via a wire report out of the Situation Room, aides said. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs called the White House a little before 6 a.m. and woke Obama to tell him he had won. 

Gibbs said that Obama was “humbled” to get the honor and senior advisor David Axelrod expressed surprise that the award went to Obama. 

“It’s an honor. It’s nothing anyone expected. It’s certainly nothing the president sought. I think that he’s less interested in individual honors, and this certainly is one, than in advancing the causes that were cited by the Nobel committee,” Axelrod said on MSNBC. 

Anyone want to take a stab at what Obama won the prize for? I get that he’s intelligent and dynamic, but shouldn’t this be something you get towards the end of your presidency (or at least the end of the first term) when people can actually measure what you’ve done? I am fifteen kinds of bemused and bewildered by the news. Can you be happy and highly confused at the same time?

InternationalSnob, PostRacialist

Obamas Overseas, Part III (Ghana)

Words fail me because how do you describe something so unusual and lovely as the First Family visiting Ghana? The First Family being a black family, the president being half-Kenyan and his wife African-American? How do you explain the poetic beauty in such a homecoming of incredible magnitude nearly 500 years in the making? The descendents of slaves who were once shipped from Ghana to America to never see home again, the descendents of slaves who built the White House, now live in it. To see Michelle Obama, her mother and her two daughters experience the warmth of the people of Ghana was immeasurable.

More after the jump.

Black Americans and Africans often misunderstand each other, but we share a commonality that goes beyond borders and bloodlines. The fact that we could be divided by ocean and robbed of our names and culture, yet still keep the rhythm of Africa in our hearts is amazing. The fact that we, in music, recreated what is still evident on the continent in the form of baseline and drum. That essence that could not be taken away or driven out by devastation or assimilation. When I heard the drums beating for the Obamas in Ghana I thought how that drum beat represents the heart of all Africans and blacks. That the drum is what we share even when we don’t realize we share anything at all but skin color.

I once covered a college graduation where a young man from Senegal was finishing his degree and his family had flown in to celebrate with him. Friends and relatives, all Senegalese brought a giant drum to the graduation and much to the annoyance of the more staid and dull people around them, they began to chant and beat that drum throughout the graduation ceremony. While others bemoaned their rudeness, I was in rapture with their unbridled joy. Never had I see a group of people so happy and loving. When the ceremony ended, without a care in their heads, they formed a giant drum circle right in front of the assembly hall and continued to sing and beat the drum as the new graduate danced with his mother in the middle.

I remember grabbing the photographer I was with and telling him he should get a picture of them, but he was hesitant. He didn’t get it at first. He didn’t see the love there until he did take the pictures and look at them afterwards. The love on all their faces, the pride, a mother hugging her son as they danced to the beat of one glorious drum.

I have never been to Africa. My bloodline, like most black Americans, is filled other bloodlines. I am thoroughly American in my culture and upbringing, but in my heart is that same drum. I knew little about Senegal or its culture, but I knew the drum. It was buried deep in my subconscious, carried for centuries from relative to relative and passed on to me. So when I heard the drums in Ghana for the president, I felt it again. I wanted to cry. It sounded like a home. It sounded like a homecoming. It sounded like joy. I hope someday someone bangs the drum for me.

InternationalSnob, Obamarama

Trust Issues: The USA and Russia

President Obama meeting with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin (NYT)President Barack Obama went to Russia earlier this week and stated that the US wanted a “strong Russia.” I’m assuming he meant economically because historically the US has never wanted a “strong” Russian anything, except for maybe for them all to take a strong drink of vodka and politely fall into dissarray. Let’s face it … most America’s are still wary of the Russians due to the Cold War and most were happy that we came out on top of that deal. A lot of Americans like us as the sole remaining superpower and get antsy at any kind of “strong Russia” talk.

In a statement, Gallup said a review of its 2009 data shows that 53 per cent of Americans have an unfavorable view of Russia. At the same time 34 per cent of Russians negatively assess the performance of the leadership of the United States, it said.

More after the jump.

Here’s Obama’s full quote:

America wants a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia. This belief is rooted in our respect for the Russian people, and a shared history between our nations that goes beyond competition …

There is the twentieth-century view that the United States and Russia are destined to be antagonists, and that a strong Russia or a strong America can only assert themselves in opposition to one another. And there is a nineteenth-century view that we are destined to vie for spheres of influence, and that great powers must forge competing blocs to balance one another. These assumptions are wrong.

Now if by “respect” he means “fear” and “shared history” he means “tensioned-filled passive-aggression,” I’m totally in agreement there. We’ve got TONS of that. Because, let’s be honest, the US and Russia haven’t played on the same team since we beat the Nazis in World War II. We ended the war of wars only to enter a series of proxy wars with the then USSR over who would rule the world.

I do like that we’re not necessarily antagonizing the Russians anymore. I didn’t quite understand the Bush Administration’s Russian strategy — which involved a gut check that former President Vladimir Putin was a good guy (ahem … no), trying to plant missiles in Poland (they were for Iran, Bush swore!) and Condi Rice, Russian expert, managing to do a whole lot of nothing whenever Sir Pooty-Poot got all huffy and puffy and threatened to reignite our long, national pastime of Russian-hating. So anything is better than the mixed signals we gave off before, but chalk me up in the corner of folks who still don’t 100 percent trust Russia, mostly because they have pretty much every right to be kind of pissed at us.

All we did was stand by and fiddle when their economy collapsed under Perostrioka. We got a lot of good laughs off drunk ol’ Boris Yeltsin. All we ever cared about was who was minding their arms. Then there were the proxy wars — Oh, the proxy wars! Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan. I still don’t know why the Russians wanted Afghanistan, but we helped made sure it was as unpleasant an experience as possible (and laid the ground work for our own later troubles with the country).

We’re two countries who’ve been tring to one-up and once-over each other on the sly for decades, dancing on the edge of the nuclear knife. Even though the threat of us destroying the world is dunzo for now, the lingering distrust is still there. So if you missed Obama’s historic speech in Russia, I’d suggest you give it the once over. It was a great speech. But I can’t say it made me feel any better. Our improved American-Russian relations is something that has to be more show and less tell.

InternationalSnob, Obamarama

Sasha Is Agent 99: The Obamas in Russia

From Lynn Sweet’s column:

Remember the tv show “Get Smart” and how Barbara Feldon played Agent 99? In Moscow, President Obama does. First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Malia, 8 and Sasha, 11, mom Marian Robinson and godmother, Eleanor Kaye Wilson are along for the official visits to Russia, Italy and Ghana.

Asked by ABC’s Jake Tapper if Sasha and Malia were having fun in Moscow, Obama noted the trenchcoats worn by his girls and dubbed Sasha the new “Agent 99”-

“You know they’re great travelers. Sasha was walking down one of the halls of the Kremlin yesterday. She had her trench coat on, had her pockets in her trench coat. We called her Agent 99, she just looked like she knew where she was going. I thought she was going to pull out her shoe phone,” Obama said.

More pictures after the jump.

See more pictures at New York Magazine’s The Cut’s Michelle Obama Look Book.