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Topic: Nobel committee

Obama Congratulates China on Human Rights

Did Barack Obama flaunt the famous presidential ego again? Some are criticizing the opening of his written statement congratulating jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama begins by saying, “One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice.”

Let’s be fair. Within the context of the Obama oeuvre, this line is generosity itself. He even went on to write, “Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.” Offense expunged.

However, his true misstep comes later in the statement. “We respect China’s extraordinary accomplishment in lifting millions out of poverty,” Obama writes, “and believe that human rights include the dignity that comes with freedom from want.” He did go on to suggest Liu Xiaobo be released from prison (as if it were a one-off case having nothing to do with the larger question of human rights in China), but the damage was already done. There was no more conclusive way to erase the significance of the Nobel committee’s choice than for the American president to contort himself into praising the human-rights accomplishments of the regime that imprisoned the absentee winner. It’s bad enough that Obama is scared to lead the world in the promotion of human rights and liberty. It’s worse that he won’t even capitalize on decisions like the one made in Norway and take an unapologetically pro–human rights stand alongside international bodies that are willing to lead.

If he thinks playing nice with autocrats will give the U.S. leverage, he’s wrong. Perhaps he hasn’t read the leaked diplomatic cable noting that Beijing was “scared to death” that Nancy Pelosi would raise the issue of human rights during a 2009 visit to China. Therein lies the power of American ideals. Now go back and look at the twisted, content-free gibberish Obama offered as flattery for China today. Who sounds scared to death to you?

Did Barack Obama flaunt the famous presidential ego again? Some are criticizing the opening of his written statement congratulating jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo on winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Obama begins by saying, “One year ago, I was humbled to receive the Nobel Peace Prize — an award that speaks to our highest aspirations, and that has been claimed by giants of history and courageous advocates who have sacrificed for freedom and justice.”

Let’s be fair. Within the context of the Obama oeuvre, this line is generosity itself. He even went on to write, “Mr. Liu Xiaobo is far more deserving of this award than I was.” Offense expunged.

However, his true misstep comes later in the statement. “We respect China’s extraordinary accomplishment in lifting millions out of poverty,” Obama writes, “and believe that human rights include the dignity that comes with freedom from want.” He did go on to suggest Liu Xiaobo be released from prison (as if it were a one-off case having nothing to do with the larger question of human rights in China), but the damage was already done. There was no more conclusive way to erase the significance of the Nobel committee’s choice than for the American president to contort himself into praising the human-rights accomplishments of the regime that imprisoned the absentee winner. It’s bad enough that Obama is scared to lead the world in the promotion of human rights and liberty. It’s worse that he won’t even capitalize on decisions like the one made in Norway and take an unapologetically pro–human rights stand alongside international bodies that are willing to lead.

If he thinks playing nice with autocrats will give the U.S. leverage, he’s wrong. Perhaps he hasn’t read the leaked diplomatic cable noting that Beijing was “scared to death” that Nancy Pelosi would raise the issue of human rights during a 2009 visit to China. Therein lies the power of American ideals. Now go back and look at the twisted, content-free gibberish Obama offered as flattery for China today. Who sounds scared to death to you?

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Nobel Prize Winners — a Teachable Moment?

A trio won the Nobel Prize for economics — Peter Diamond, Dale Mortensen, and Christopher Pissarides. Diamond’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board has been held up by Republicans; whatever you think of the Nobel committee’s standards in economics, it will be a tad difficult to maintain the position that Diamond is not “qualified.” There may be other objections; if not, I suspect he’ll be confirmed.

But what is interesting is the substance of these economists’ work. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The research by the three economists concluded high unemployment can be the result of “friction,” which keeps employers and workers apart. That friction can be tough regulatory rules on firing, or the lack of appropriate skills among the unemployed, among other things.

The research has also focused on unemployment insurance, with one conclusion being that more generous benefits give rise to higher unemployment—because workers spend more time looking. This ultimately is a benefit to the economy, however, because it leads to workers landing jobs that better use their capabilities.

Hmm. Well that’s sort of interesting. So, for example, union rules that hinder termination of workers or a tort system that aids litigation by fired employees could worsen unemployment? Good to know. The most interesting, and politically significant, part concerns unemployment benefits.

Now, one of the winners was quick to add that “in today’s difficult economic climate, he doubted that unemployment insurance was much of a factor in high unemployment now. ‘I really don’t think this is a time to worry about that all that much,’ he said.” Umm. But didn’t he win a big prize for saying that this is a potential problem?

Here’s an idea: hold confirmation hearings for Diamond and ask him about his research and whether increasing the cost of labor (e.g., ObamaCare, minimum wage hikes), making the labor market less flexible (unionization), and extending unemployment benefits for years are helping or hindering our efforts to tame unemployment. If nothing else, it would be edifying.

A trio won the Nobel Prize for economics — Peter Diamond, Dale Mortensen, and Christopher Pissarides. Diamond’s nomination to the Federal Reserve Board has been held up by Republicans; whatever you think of the Nobel committee’s standards in economics, it will be a tad difficult to maintain the position that Diamond is not “qualified.” There may be other objections; if not, I suspect he’ll be confirmed.

But what is interesting is the substance of these economists’ work. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The research by the three economists concluded high unemployment can be the result of “friction,” which keeps employers and workers apart. That friction can be tough regulatory rules on firing, or the lack of appropriate skills among the unemployed, among other things.

The research has also focused on unemployment insurance, with one conclusion being that more generous benefits give rise to higher unemployment—because workers spend more time looking. This ultimately is a benefit to the economy, however, because it leads to workers landing jobs that better use their capabilities.

Hmm. Well that’s sort of interesting. So, for example, union rules that hinder termination of workers or a tort system that aids litigation by fired employees could worsen unemployment? Good to know. The most interesting, and politically significant, part concerns unemployment benefits.

Now, one of the winners was quick to add that “in today’s difficult economic climate, he doubted that unemployment insurance was much of a factor in high unemployment now. ‘I really don’t think this is a time to worry about that all that much,’ he said.” Umm. But didn’t he win a big prize for saying that this is a potential problem?

Here’s an idea: hold confirmation hearings for Diamond and ask him about his research and whether increasing the cost of labor (e.g., ObamaCare, minimum wage hikes), making the labor market less flexible (unionization), and extending unemployment benefits for years are helping or hindering our efforts to tame unemployment. If nothing else, it would be edifying.

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The Half-Hearted Commander in Chief

Charles Krauthammer sums up conservatives’ horrified reaction to Bob Woodward’s book:

What kind of commander in chief sends tens of thousands of troops to war announcing in advance a fixed date for beginning their withdrawal? One who doesn’t have his heart in it. One who doesn’t really want to win but is making some kind of political gesture. One who thinks he has to be seen as trying but is preparing the ground — meaning, the political cover — for failure.

Until now, the above was just inference from the president’s public rhetoric. No longer. Now we have the private quotes.

You would think the left, which wasn’t game on the war anyway, would be equally horrified. But they are in a state of shock as it is. I suspect as Obama’s position erodes, they’ll be heard from, as well.

As Krauthammer notes, the president is concerned primarily, maybe exclusively, with keeping his party together. Aside from the impropriety of elevating partisanship over matters of national security, it is exceptionally passive:

Is it not Obama’s job as president and party leader to bring the party with him? This is the man who made Berlin coo, America swoon and the Nobel committee lose its mind. Yet he cannot get his own party to follow him on what he insists is a matter of vital national interest?

Did he even try? Obama spent endless hours cajoling and persuading individual members of Congress to garner every last vote for health-care reform. Has he done a fraction of that for Afghanistan — argued, pleaded, horse-traded, twisted even a single arm?

And what about persuading the country at large? Every war is arduous and requires continual presidential explication, inspiration and encouragement.

But he would do so only if he were committed to victory and understood the ramifications of defeat. Plainly, he doesn’t — and that is the source of the problem and the real lesson to be learned Woodward’s book. Where we go from here — a more fulsome devotion to victory, or a stubborn adherence to his 2011 deadline? We don’t know. We can only hope that with a Republican House (and possibly Senate) that his domestic agenda will be thwarted — and he therefore will turn to matters on which he can maintain his relevance and rescue his legacy. To do that, of course, he’s going to have to make sure we win.

Charles Krauthammer sums up conservatives’ horrified reaction to Bob Woodward’s book:

What kind of commander in chief sends tens of thousands of troops to war announcing in advance a fixed date for beginning their withdrawal? One who doesn’t have his heart in it. One who doesn’t really want to win but is making some kind of political gesture. One who thinks he has to be seen as trying but is preparing the ground — meaning, the political cover — for failure.

Until now, the above was just inference from the president’s public rhetoric. No longer. Now we have the private quotes.

You would think the left, which wasn’t game on the war anyway, would be equally horrified. But they are in a state of shock as it is. I suspect as Obama’s position erodes, they’ll be heard from, as well.

As Krauthammer notes, the president is concerned primarily, maybe exclusively, with keeping his party together. Aside from the impropriety of elevating partisanship over matters of national security, it is exceptionally passive:

Is it not Obama’s job as president and party leader to bring the party with him? This is the man who made Berlin coo, America swoon and the Nobel committee lose its mind. Yet he cannot get his own party to follow him on what he insists is a matter of vital national interest?

Did he even try? Obama spent endless hours cajoling and persuading individual members of Congress to garner every last vote for health-care reform. Has he done a fraction of that for Afghanistan — argued, pleaded, horse-traded, twisted even a single arm?

And what about persuading the country at large? Every war is arduous and requires continual presidential explication, inspiration and encouragement.

But he would do so only if he were committed to victory and understood the ramifications of defeat. Plainly, he doesn’t — and that is the source of the problem and the real lesson to be learned Woodward’s book. Where we go from here — a more fulsome devotion to victory, or a stubborn adherence to his 2011 deadline? We don’t know. We can only hope that with a Republican House (and possibly Senate) that his domestic agenda will be thwarted — and he therefore will turn to matters on which he can maintain his relevance and rescue his legacy. To do that, of course, he’s going to have to make sure we win.

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Persuadable but Not Silly

The American people have a deep reservoir of common sense. It’s a good thing, given that common sense is often is short in supply among the chattering class. The latest Quinnipiac poll makes this clear.

On Afghanistan,we were told that the support was down for the war, it was going to drag the president under, and since the public was turning against the war it really couldn’t be fought. Well, that’s what many on the Left kept telling us. It turns out that when presented with a plan for victory and a president who seems interested in turning around a lagging effort, the public responds favorably:

Public support for the war in Afghanistan is up nine percentage points in the last three weeks, as American voters say 57 – 35 percent that fighting the war is the right thing to do. Approval of President Barack Obama’s handling of the war is up seven points in the same period, from a 38 – 49 percent negative November 18 to a 45 – 45 percent split, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Let’s be honest: the Left was rooting for the public to give up on the war and for that turn in public option to dissuade the administration from adopting a counterinsurgency strategy. It seems as though what the the public doesn’t like is a losing war or a president adrift.

Then the poll looks at the Nobel Peace Prize:

The jump in public support for Obama’s war policy comes as voters say 66 – 26 percent he does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize he will be awarded this week, and 41 percent say the Nobel committee’s choice of Obama for the award causes them to think less of it, while 6 percent say it makes them think better of the prize and 49 percent say it makes no difference. . . .

“It’s probably a good thing for President Obama that the time difference from Norway means the Nobel presentation will occur while most Americans are sleeping and might get less coverage in the United States,” [Peter] Brown added. “Two out of three Americans don’t think he deserves it compared to the quarter who do. Even among Democrats, only 49 percent think he deserves it, compared to 8 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of independent voters. As is the case with many questions related to the President there are wide gender and racial gaps.”

Among women, 31 percent think Obama deserves the award, compared to only 19 percent of men. Seventy-three percent of blacks, 29 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of whites think so.

Well, it’s nice to know that Americans are persuadable by facts, amenable to winning wars, and not blinded by what passes for elite wisdom in the salons of Europe. At least some of the time.

The American people have a deep reservoir of common sense. It’s a good thing, given that common sense is often is short in supply among the chattering class. The latest Quinnipiac poll makes this clear.

On Afghanistan,we were told that the support was down for the war, it was going to drag the president under, and since the public was turning against the war it really couldn’t be fought. Well, that’s what many on the Left kept telling us. It turns out that when presented with a plan for victory and a president who seems interested in turning around a lagging effort, the public responds favorably:

Public support for the war in Afghanistan is up nine percentage points in the last three weeks, as American voters say 57 – 35 percent that fighting the war is the right thing to do. Approval of President Barack Obama’s handling of the war is up seven points in the same period, from a 38 – 49 percent negative November 18 to a 45 – 45 percent split, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

Let’s be honest: the Left was rooting for the public to give up on the war and for that turn in public option to dissuade the administration from adopting a counterinsurgency strategy. It seems as though what the the public doesn’t like is a losing war or a president adrift.

Then the poll looks at the Nobel Peace Prize:

The jump in public support for Obama’s war policy comes as voters say 66 – 26 percent he does not deserve the Nobel Peace Prize he will be awarded this week, and 41 percent say the Nobel committee’s choice of Obama for the award causes them to think less of it, while 6 percent say it makes them think better of the prize and 49 percent say it makes no difference. . . .

“It’s probably a good thing for President Obama that the time difference from Norway means the Nobel presentation will occur while most Americans are sleeping and might get less coverage in the United States,” [Peter] Brown added. “Two out of three Americans don’t think he deserves it compared to the quarter who do. Even among Democrats, only 49 percent think he deserves it, compared to 8 percent of Republicans and 19 percent of independent voters. As is the case with many questions related to the President there are wide gender and racial gaps.”

Among women, 31 percent think Obama deserves the award, compared to only 19 percent of men. Seventy-three percent of blacks, 29 percent of Hispanics and 18 percent of whites think so.

Well, it’s nice to know that Americans are persuadable by facts, amenable to winning wars, and not blinded by what passes for elite wisdom in the salons of Europe. At least some of the time.

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Lessing Earns Her Nobel

The Nobel Prize has become little more than an award offered in recognition of outspoken anti-Western, anti-American, or anti-Israel bile. Whether the recipient is Yasser Arafat or Al Gore (for Peace) or Harold Pinter (for Literature), the ideological thread that links the winners is visible in varying degrees: America is either on the wrong track or apocalyptically on the wrong track, and Israel was never on the right one.

So, when Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel prize for literature, Christopher Hitchens, a Nobel detractor and a big Lessing fan, wrote: “It’s as though the long, dreary reign of the forgettable and the mediocre and the sinister had been just for once punctuated by a bright flash of talent.”

It turns out the Nobel Committee must have known something Hitchens didn’t, because since receiving the award, Ms. Lessing has seen to her “sinister” duties retroactively, as it were. In October of 2007, the BBC quoted Lessing on 9/11: “Many people died, two prominent buildings fell, but it was neither as terrible nor as extraordinary as they think.” Additionally, she described Americans as “very naïve people.” Today, the International Herald Tribune quotes Lessing predicting the assassination of a President Barack Obama: “He would probably not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would kill him.” One supposes this has to do with those American propensities for alarm and naïveté.

Do you think the Nobel Committee made an arrangement with Doris Lessing beforehand?

The Nobel Prize has become little more than an award offered in recognition of outspoken anti-Western, anti-American, or anti-Israel bile. Whether the recipient is Yasser Arafat or Al Gore (for Peace) or Harold Pinter (for Literature), the ideological thread that links the winners is visible in varying degrees: America is either on the wrong track or apocalyptically on the wrong track, and Israel was never on the right one.

So, when Doris Lessing won the 2007 Nobel prize for literature, Christopher Hitchens, a Nobel detractor and a big Lessing fan, wrote: “It’s as though the long, dreary reign of the forgettable and the mediocre and the sinister had been just for once punctuated by a bright flash of talent.”

It turns out the Nobel Committee must have known something Hitchens didn’t, because since receiving the award, Ms. Lessing has seen to her “sinister” duties retroactively, as it were. In October of 2007, the BBC quoted Lessing on 9/11: “Many people died, two prominent buildings fell, but it was neither as terrible nor as extraordinary as they think.” Additionally, she described Americans as “very naïve people.” Today, the International Herald Tribune quotes Lessing predicting the assassination of a President Barack Obama: “He would probably not last long, a black man in the position of president. They would kill him.” One supposes this has to do with those American propensities for alarm and naïveté.

Do you think the Nobel Committee made an arrangement with Doris Lessing beforehand?

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Candidate Gore?

It is hard to begrudge Al Gore his consolation prizes, first the Academy Award and now the Nobel for peace. None of it quite makes up for the bitter loss of the 2000 election, but his concern about the climate “emergency,” as he invariably calls it, is long-standing and plainly sincere. The issue has preoccupied him for decades and now, thanks in no small measure to his efforts, it preoccupies a great many people all around the world. Such influence is rare, even for Presidents.

But there is no prize like the Oval Office, and Gore knows it. His latest best-seller, The Assault on Reason, is a peculiar distillation of the hurts and grievances that still weigh on him from 2000 (see my review of the book in the September issue of COMMENTARY). Will he run again? Can the prophet return from the wilderness? Some Democrats hope so, as the “Draft Gore” campaign suggests, and Gore himself has not absolutely ruled out the possibility. But it won’t happen.

It is not just that Gore is fat and happy these days, basking in a kind of popular adulation that he never knew even at the height of his political success. Nor is it that he has now reached a plane above mere politics, which has become the conventional wisdom among Democrats eager to keep him from joining the race. “Why would he run for President when he can be a demigod?” Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman and Democratic strategist, told the Times with an apparently straight face. “He now towers over all of us because he’s pure.” This will be news to anyone who has dipped into Gore’s virulently partisan book or heard him speak lately in something other than his unctuous “save the planet” mode.

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It is hard to begrudge Al Gore his consolation prizes, first the Academy Award and now the Nobel for peace. None of it quite makes up for the bitter loss of the 2000 election, but his concern about the climate “emergency,” as he invariably calls it, is long-standing and plainly sincere. The issue has preoccupied him for decades and now, thanks in no small measure to his efforts, it preoccupies a great many people all around the world. Such influence is rare, even for Presidents.

But there is no prize like the Oval Office, and Gore knows it. His latest best-seller, The Assault on Reason, is a peculiar distillation of the hurts and grievances that still weigh on him from 2000 (see my review of the book in the September issue of COMMENTARY). Will he run again? Can the prophet return from the wilderness? Some Democrats hope so, as the “Draft Gore” campaign suggests, and Gore himself has not absolutely ruled out the possibility. But it won’t happen.

It is not just that Gore is fat and happy these days, basking in a kind of popular adulation that he never knew even at the height of his political success. Nor is it that he has now reached a plane above mere politics, which has become the conventional wisdom among Democrats eager to keep him from joining the race. “Why would he run for President when he can be a demigod?” Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois congressman and Democratic strategist, told the Times with an apparently straight face. “He now towers over all of us because he’s pure.” This will be news to anyone who has dipped into Gore’s virulently partisan book or heard him speak lately in something other than his unctuous “save the planet” mode.

No, the problem with another Gore candidacy is that it would be a huge embarrassment, not for all the old, familiar reasons but precisely because of the issue that has redeemed him. Gore’s alarmism about climate change, now widely recognized, has left Democrats in an awkward position. If they were to follow the lead of the Nobel committee, which commended Gore for recognizing “the measures that need to be adopted” to remedy the problem, they would commit instant political suicide.

Gore advocates drastic, immediate measures to end global warming. As he wrote in an op-ed on the eve of this past summer’s Live Earth concerts, if we do not act “within 10 years,” we are likely to reach a “tipping point” making it impossible “to avoid irretrievable damage to the planet’s habitability for human civilization.” In response to this dire situation, he would have the United States “join an international treaty within the next two years that cuts global-warming pollution by 90 percent in developed countries and by more than half worldwide.”

The pitter-patter you hear, behind the earnest applause for Gore’s Nobel Prize, is the sound of Democrats in flight, running from such ideas as fast as their feet can carry them. A radical shift to clean energy is on the agenda of no mainstream politician, least of all those now on the stump in Iowa and New Hampshire. For all the talk of a growing consensus about climate change, the only point that commands general assent is that the planet is growing warmer and that human activity is responsible in some measure. All agreement disappears when it comes to how seriously to take the problem and, especially, how to deal with it.

As I’ve pointed out elsewhere, the wiser heads thinking about climate change favor cost-benefit analysis over the “precautionary principle” that environmentalists have long embraced. That seems to be how the American people think about it too—which is why Democrats have temporized on the issue, endorsing half-measures like “cap and trade” emission programs, whose costs would be relatively small and largely invisible (and whose effect, under most schemes, would be marginal). Only the irascible, independent-minded Congressman John Dingell, for reasons of his own, has pressed for something like the full Gore.

Why is Al Gore not going to run for President? Because it would force him into a no-win situation: he could remain the “demigod” of planetary salvation and fail once again as a politician, or he could repudiate his own extreme views, descend into the trenches of practical politics, and lose the public adoration that he now has and has always sought.

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