Fourteen years ago tomorrow (December 10), liberals were ecstatic as President Barack Obama accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo. Obama had been president for a mere 11 days before the window for nominations closed on January 31, but his media fan club nonetheless celebrated the “towering honor” bestowed upon their hero.
“President Obama, nine months into his presidency, has won the Nobel Peace Prize. And it’s really, kind of, the Olympic gold of international diplomacy,” ABC’s Diane Sawyer exulted on October 9, 2009, the morning the Nobel committee announced their selection.
Over on CBS’s The Early Show, Bob Schieffer remarked: “It’s almost as if the committee today was giving Barack Obama a prize for not being George Bush.”
“In almost every country, there’s a much more favorable impression of the United States than there was two years ago,” CBS’s Jeff Greenfield rationalized on that night’s Evening News.
“He has been in office nine months,” ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson acknowledged. “The Nobel committee citation seemed to take note of that, saying, ‘Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world’s attention and given its people hope.’”
NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams beamed that Obama was receiving “one of the last remaining towering honors on Earth.”
Then in December, Obama made the trip to Norway to pick up his prize in person. On the December 10 American Morning (about an hour before Obama’s acceptance speech), CNN’s Christian Amanpour lashed out at those saying Obama didn’t deserve the prize: “Can I just say, I think it’s overdone, this pushing back against his award. He’s obviously done something very significant, and that is...the United States has now had a new relationship with the rest of the world.”
Obama delivered a ponderous speech about maintaining America’s ideals while fighting terrorism. “You know, not many parts of his speech invoked applause,” NBC’s Chuck Todd admitted on MSNBC’s Hardball that night.
Nevertheless, host Chris Matthews hoped the moment would be a fatal rebuke to the Bush administration’s approach to foreign policy, which he wildly caricatured as the epitome of evil: “Do you think the President gets enough moral authority with the rest of this speech to lead those neo-cons and Cheney types, Karl Rove and the rest of them, Michael Gerson, out of the valley of evil here? Can he take, can he, can he save them from their, at least short term, belief in torture and Gitmo and the rest of this?”
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Cynthia Tucker was satisfied: “This speech won’t make Dick Cheney happy. But I think many Americans ought to be very proud of the speech that President Obama gave this morning.”
“He delivered a mix of realism and idealism,” the New York Times’s Jeff Zeleny applauded, insisting that the notoriously ideological Obama “continued a pattern evident throughout his public career of favoring pragmatism over absolutes.”
Liberal celebrities joined in the praise. “The fact of the matter is, the world stood up in unison and gratitude and said, thank you, perhaps the beacon of light and hope that America has been for 200 years is once again lit. It was diminished criminally by the last administration,” the loopy Rosie O’Donnell told USA Today in a late October interview.
And actor Will Smith was absolutely giddy, as he appeared on CNN on December 10 as a co-host (along with his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith) of that year’s Nobel Peace Prize Concert.
“It’s a fantastic historical event, you know. Barack Obama as a person is a fantastic individual, but Barack Obama as an idea marks an evolutionary flash point for humanity, you know. So it’s something that we absolutely, positively had to be a part of,” Smith told CNN’s Dan Lothian in a pre-recorded interview aired on The Situation Room.
This year’s (2023) Nobel Peace Prize winner is Narges Mohammadi, who is being recognized “for her fight against the oppression of women in Iran and her fight to promote human rights and freedom for all.” Yet in the summer of 2009 — while the Nobel committee was weighing his own Peace Prize nomination — Barack Obama overruled his advisors and refused to support the “Green Revolution” against the radical theocracy oppressing the Iranian people. (Apparently, he was more interested in making a nuclear deal with Iran’s dictators than in supporting that country’s freedom movement.)
Later, Obama lamely argued that he chose not to support the Iranian demonstrators because didn’t want to undermine “their street cred.” Interviewed in 2022, he admitted that “in retrospect, I think that was a mistake.”
Yet in 2015, when Obama finally struck his long-coveted nuclear agreement with Iran’s despots, his loyal media chorus was full of praise. “We don’t know if the Iran deal is going to work. If it does, it will be the major foreign policy achievement, not only of this presidency, but of this American generation,” MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow enthused on July 14, 2015.
“At which point, people in the not-too-distant future will look back at this presidency, they’ll look back at this President and they’ll say, ‘Of course they gave him the Nobel Peace Prize. Of course they did.’”
For more examples from our flashback series, which we call the NewsBusters Time Machine, go here.