The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Jumping the Shark

Barack Obama had been President of the United States for less than two weeks when nominations for this year’s Nobel Peace prize closed. It’s unclear who nominated him or what criteria they used to justify the nomination. At two weeks into his presidency, Obama, like all Presidents, had accomplished virtually nothing, had given only a few important speeches, and had established no diplomatic partnerships.

Ten months into his presidency, with hundreds of speeches behind him, but very few real accomplishments other than those aspirational speeches, the Nobel Prize committee awards our President the Nobel Peace Prize. Strange.

On the one hand, it’s quite an honor. After all, the Peace Prize has been awarded 89 times since 1901. With a few notable exceptions (terrorist thug, Yassir Arafat comes to mind), the Prize has been awarded to people of great accomplishment, people who are often unknown to the general public but deserve the honor because of their hard work and accomplishments. People like Muhammad Humas or Kim Dae-jung or Rigoberta Mechu Tum.

On the other hand, Obama’s Peace Prize is a laughable example of aspirations and celebrity trumping actual accomplishment. Ruth Marcus comments:
This is ridiculous -- embarrassing, even. I admire President Obama. I like President Obama. I voted for President Obama. But the peace prize? This is supposed to be for doing, not being -- and it’s no disrespect to the president to suggest he hasn’t done much yet. Certainly not enough to justify the peace prize.

"Extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples?” “[C]aptured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future?” Please. This turns the award into something like pee-wee soccer: everybody wins for trying.

… Obama gets the award for, what, a good nine months? Or maybe a good two weeks -- the nominations were due Feb. 1. The other two sitting presidents who won the prize --Woodrow Wilson in 1919 for founding the League of Nations, Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese War -- were in their second terms.

Most of the younger readers of this blog are familiar with the phrase, “jumping the shark.” From Wikipedia: Jumping the shark is a colloquialism coined by Jon Hein and used by TV critics and fans to denote the point in a television program's history where the plot veers off into absurd story lines or out-of-the-ordinary characterizations. This usually corresponds to the point where a show with falling ratings apparently becomes more desperate to draw in viewers. In the process of undergoing these changes, the TV or movie series loses its original appeal. Shows that have "jumped the shark" are typically deemed to have passed their peak.

It is possible that Obama worship has jumped the shark. That a U.S. President as a celebrity will begin to make even his supporters mildly uncomfortable.

I hope so, because our country needs a leader, not a celebrity. It needs fewer words and more action. It needs a media that will get over its crush on our President and work to help the citizens of our country understand the issues, not "fact check" (CNN did this) comedy skits to protect Obama from derision. That will only happen when The One is forced to understand that history will judge him not on his aspirations, but on his deeds. To date, those deeds are very sparse indeed.