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Lawyer of the (Day) (Week) (Century): Barack Obama

I woke up this morning feeling a bit Rip Van Winkle-ish. Had 20 years passed since I fell asleep? Last night, Barack Obama was just nine months into his first term as president. This morning, he is winner of the Nobel Peace Prize "for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples" and for creating a "new international climate."

Obama is the first incumbent U.S. president to win the prize since Woodrow Wilson in 1919. Only two other U.S. presidents have won the Peace Prize -- Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 and Jimmy Carter in 2002. Under the terms of Alfred Nobel's will, the peace prize is to be awarded to "the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses."

News reports say the prize was as much a surprise to the president as to the rest of the world. "There has been no discussion, nothing at all," Rahm Emanuel, the president's chief of staff, told the New York Times. Reportedly, the president was awakened with the news just before 6 a.m.

Given Obama's nascent presidency and relative lack of involvement on the international stage prior to taking office, some commentators are suggesting Obama's primary qualification for the award is that he is not George Bush. In the Times of London, Michael Binyon calls the award a mockery of the Peace Prize.

Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the election of America’s first black president and hope that Washington will honour its promise to re-engage with the world.

Reaction on Twitter and Facebook is sharply polarized, reports CNN. "Opinion was largely divided on Twitter between those who think Obama is a worthy recipient -- and those who question how he won the prize after just nine months in office."

Not much reaction yet from legal bloggers, but David Bernstein has started a funny list at The Volokh Conspiracy of Top Ten Reasons Obama Won the Nobel Peace Prize. They include, "Consolation prize for losing the Olympics," and my favorite, "For extraordinary diplomacy at the Gates-Crowley 'Beer Summit.'"

Your thoughts?

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 9, 2009 at 10:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)


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