All Talk/No Walk?

Nestor MataNEW YORK
Soon after getting the Nobel Peace Prize last week, President Barack Obama headed to a high-powered White House military strategy meeting on his war in Afghanistan.
How ironic for one who was just conferred the title of “Peacemaker of 2009″ by the Nobel Committee in Oslo. He remains a war president!
Well, as the new POTUS, Obama is, after all, the commander-in-chief of American forces at war in two fronts —- Iraq and Afghanistan.
And this is not to include his plan, at least rhetorically, to take military action against Iran’s nuclear program.
This must be the reason he said this year’s Peace Prize was for his aspiration rather than achievement. As, indeed, the prize givers in their statement noted his “extraordinary efforts” to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples, and for his “vision” of a world without nuclear weapons of mass destruction.
The Nobel Committee’s decision has already infuriated both liberal and conservative commentators in both print and broadcast media here in New York and elsewhere in the world.
So far, all that Obama has done, they practically chorused, is to propose the holding of talks about nuclear affairs with Iran. They recalled his remarks to Iran’s leaders about “extending a hand, if you unclench your fist.”
To North Korea, he has dangled prospects of bilateral talks and closer engagement. And to Russia, he has also overseen talks with Moscow’s leaders to reduce the nuclear arsenals of both Russia and America.
Other perceptive political observers said it was “premature” to give the title to America’s president who has been in office for only nine months.
Obama’s aspirations may be laudable, one pundit said, but he has several tough years ahead.
Perhaps, another noted, the Nobel Committee wanted to encourage him, but it might have been better to hold judgment until he had succeeded in fulfilling his promises.
Even in New York’s TV late night shows, Obama has become the victim of a proliferation of jokes by comedians about his award. Some even resuscitated last year’s campaign portrayal of him as an “All Talk/ No Walk showboat.”
“That’s pretty amazing,” one popular television comic sarcastically said. “His biggest accomplishment as president so far is winning the Nobel Peace Prize”!
“He does not want to be a Decider,” another bluntly quipped, “he wants to be a Transformer. He transformed, all right—- from Miss America to Miss Universe” and getting the gold is just a reminder of all he hasn’t done. He’s going to have to look over and see that big medallion hanging up there in the Oval Office, mocking him as an empty suit!”
Of course, there were serious comments by political pundits in the print media here. Like the one who wrote that the Nobel Committee prematurely awarded its peace prize to Obama, or another who was dismayed that the most important prize in the world has been devalued in this manner.
And another one, critical of the bestowal of the Nobel Peace Laureate on Obama, wrote: “President Obama could have said ”I am not worthy,” a true response that would have kept him from the ridicule this prize has brought him. But it’s not his character, for the sin of pride is the most deceitful. The very sin prevents a man from recognizing it in himself.”
On the other hand, an observant pundit kindly noted that the award is a useful affirmation to Obama’s faith in internationalism on issues not only on nuclear disarmament but also climate warming. And he added that it’s likely to re-energize his standing in Europe, where such honorifics carry the most weight.
Still and all, the POTUS was lauded for showing great grace in accepting the prize not for him but as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations.
President Obama will travel to Oslo, where he’ll receive the highest award to which any statesman can aspire, on December 10, 2009.
(Mr. Mata, a veteran journalist who writes for Malaya newspaper in Manila, is currently on a sabbatical in the United States. He is an avid observer of the American political scene.-ED)

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