Josh Marshall, at TPM, this morning addresses the argument that Obama was awarded the prize just for not being George Bush. And produces a quite unexpected take.
He seems to argue that, yes, Obama was awarded the prize precisely for not being Bush, but this is a fitting and deserving basis for the award.
This is an odd award. You’d expect it to come later in Obama’s presidency and tied to some particular event or accomplishment. But the unmistakable message of the award is one of the consequences of a period in which the most powerful country in the world, the ‘hyper-power’ as the French have it, became the focus of destabilization and in real if limited ways lawlessness. A harsh judgment, yes. But a dark period. And Obama has begun, if fitfully and very imperfectly to many of his supporters, to steer the ship of state in a different direction. If that seems like a meager accomplishment to many of the usual Washington types it’s a profound reflection of their own enablement of the Bush era and how compromised they are by it, how much they perpetuated the belief that it was ‘normal history’ rather than dark aberration.
It doesn’t seem to have dawned on dear Josh yet that the opinion that Obama’s achievements are more aspirational than operational appears to extend well beyond “the usual Washington types” who enabled Bush. Dismissing them really doesn’t suffice to dismiss the argument.
And, dear Josh, when you go “If that seems like a meager accomplishment…”, the whole point of the “Obama hasn’t actually deserved the award (yet)” argument is that beginning to steer the ship of state in a different direction is not exactly an achievement, is it, not actually an accomplishment at all.
So the question that still remains on the table is: If that seems like a meager accomplishment to many others — or not even an accomplishment at all — what then? What is that a profound reflection of?