The unexpected news that President Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize early Friday morning has prompted a serious debate as to whether the award was deserved and what exactly Obama should do to commemorate the moment.
It's also created a remarkable bit of fury among the president's Republican opponents. One week after conservatives were exuberant with Obama's failure to secure the Olympics for his hometown of Chicago, they were left bitter and bemused that he was bestowed the world's most prestigious honor
"The real question Americans are asking is, 'What has President Obama actually accomplished?'" reads a statement from the Republican National Committee. " It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights. One thing is certain -- President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action."
The White House, itself, was surprised when it awoke to the news, with press secretary Robert Gibbs informing the president in the wee hours of the morning. And, from the moment it was announced, the prize presented as many political hurdles as they did moments of congratulations.
Even Obama's supporters raised questions about whether the reward was deserved, with progressives pointing to the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as a detention policy that still enrages civil libertarians as logical points of contention.
For Obama's critics, however, the Nobel Prize has touched a far more bitter nerve -- affirming their firmly-held beliefs that the president is more symbolism than substance and that he's accomplished little of note on the international stage except to serve as an emblem of U.S. repentance for the Bush years.
"This fully exposes the illusion that is Barack Obama," conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh told Politico via e-mail. "And with this 'award' the elites of the world are urging Obama, THE MAN OF PEACE, to not do the surge in Afghanistan, not take action against Iran and its nuclear program and to basically continue his intentions to emasculate the United States... They love a weakened, neutered U.S and this is their way of promoting that concept. I think God has a great sense of humor, too."
"I did not realize the Nobel Peace Prize had an affirmative action quota," wrote Erick Erickson, of the site RedState.com, "but that is the only thing I can think of for this news."
"Obama isn't the first American president to win the Nobel Peace Prize, but he's the first to win it without having accomplished anything," wrote John Miller, of the National Review. "Obama's award is simply the projection of wishful thinking."
"The prize seems not just premature but embarrassing," wrote Mark Krikorian, also on The National Review, "this just reinforces the Saturday Night Live meme that Obama has done nothing. This really might be his Carter whacking-the-bunny-rabbit moment."
Indeed, an online petition was started just hours after the announcement was made, objecting to the "absurd decision to award B. Obama Nobel Peace Prize."
And so, in the immediate aftermath, the meme had already been established -- seconded by the usual purveyors of conventional wisdom -- that the Nobel Prize was more burden than benefit for the White House. The conclusion: the president needed to turn the prize down.
"I predict right now that he will find a way to basically turn it down," Time Magazine's Mark Halperin told MSNBC's Morning Joe. "I think he is going to say, I share this with the world or whatever. I don't think he'll embrace this. Because there is no upside."
"The damage is done," added Mika Brzezinski shortly thereafter.
UPDATE: Either sensing an opening to cast the Republican Party as actively rooting against America, or just fed up with the stream of negative responses, the Democratic National Committee put out an unusually blunt statement Friday morning. The gist: that the GOP sides with the terrorists.
"The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists -- the Taliban and Hamas this morning -- in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize," wrote DNC Communications Director Brad Woodhouse. "Republicans cheered when America failed to land the Olympics and now they are criticizing the President of the United States for receiving the Nobel Peace prize -- an award he did not seek but that is nonetheless an honor in which every American can take great pride -- unless of course you are the Republican Party. The 2009 version of the Republican Party has no boundaries, has no shame and has proved that they will put politics above patriotism at every turn. It's no wonder only 20 percent of Americans admit to being Republicans anymore - it's an embarrassing label to claim."
FURTHER UPDATE: The progressive outlet Media Matters puts out a telling compilation of the conservative outrage...