Critiquing Obama’s Nobel Speech

I missed Obama’s Nobel Prize speech, but I had two thoughts about it:

#1) Did he bow to anyone before he accepted it?

#2) How many times would he make reference to himself in the speech?

So, I went to the transcript. What follows: is a handful of excerpts from the speech followed by my commentary after each excerpt:

I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility.

He delivered that line 20 words in. It’s a little early in the game to be lying there, don’t you think, Obama?

And yet I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the considerable controversy that your generous decision has generated. (Laughter.) In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who’ve received this prize — Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela — my accomplishments are slight. And then there are the men and women around the world who have been jailed and beaten in the pursuit of justice; those who toil in humanitarian organizations to relieve suffering; the unrecognized millions whose quiet acts of courage and compassion inspire even the most hardened cynics. I cannot argue with those who find these men and women — some known, some obscure to all but those they help — to be far more deserving of this honor than I.

True and if Obama were as humble as he claimed to be, he would have declined the prize and let someone more deserving accept it — although in all fairness, Obama is more deserving of the prize than Yasser Arafat and is at least as worthy as Al Gore.

I do not bring with me today a definitive solution to the problems of war.

But, I thought you were the messiah!

As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King’s life work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence.

He’s “living testimony to the moral force of non-violence.” Ehr…sounds like a heck of a reach, even for Obama.

I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

I raise this point, I begin with this point because in many countries there is a deep ambivalence about military action today, no matter what the cause. And at times, this is joined by a reflexive suspicion of America, the world’s sole military superpower.

But the world must remember that it was not simply international institutions — not just treaties and declarations — that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: The United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

I actually really liked this part. I wish I thought that Obama really meant it.

Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conduct. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions. We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend. (Applause.)

He has to get in his little dig at his own country. We haven’t tortured anybody and there’s nothing morally wrong with Gitmo, whatsoever. Moreover, we’re the only nation in the world that actually fights and makes any sort of meaningful effort to abide by the Geneva Conventions. That makes it a treaty that pertains to one nation.

It’s also why the world must come together to confront climate change. There is little scientific dispute that if we do nothing, we will face more drought, more famine, more mass displacement — all of which will fuel more conflict for decades. For this reason, it is not merely scientists and environmental activists who call for swift and forceful action — it’s military leaders in my own country and others who understand our common security hangs in the balance.

There’s actually a tremendous amount of scientific dispute.

Summary: All in all, it was a pretty dull, inconsequential speech that was filled with boilerplate. Given that Obama didn’t do anything to merit getting the prize in the first place, skipped so many events, and gave such a dull speech, I’m not sure he was such a great choice.

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