Being ‘bound’ by a Nobel prize

Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen occasional suggestions, usually from the left, that President Obama should give back his Nobel Peace Prize. The suggestions were generally tied to the 2009 escalation in Afghanistan and U.S. intervention in Libya earlier this year.

But Pete Hoekstra, the former ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee and currently a U.S. Senate candidate in Michigan, wants the president to return the Nobel Peace Prize because, well, I’m not quite sure what he’s trying to say, exactly.

What we need now is a move toward a bipartisan foreign policy and recognition that the U.S. standing in the international order knows no political divide — we are all Americans. […]

One way President Obama can provide a strong demonstration of this new approach is by giving back the Nobel Prize. The Nobel Prize should be awarded for achievement, not on vague notions of “change.” President Obama’s strongest foreign policy successes have come as a result of his continuation of programs started by President Bush — a true indication of those programs bipartisan nature and certainly not what the Nobel Committee had in mind with its premature award. The reality is, however, that every American president, on a bipartisan basis, has to do what is in the best interest of our nation. President Obama cannot and should not be bound by the unrealistic hope that his Nobel represents.

This is a very odd argument. If someone wants to argue that Obama was an unfortunate choice for the award, fine. The president himself has even questioned whether he truly deserved the honor.

But that’s not what Hoekstra is saying here. As the Republican sees it, Obama is “bound” by the Peace Prize — how, he did not say — and the president is just continuing Bush policies anyway.

I have no idea what this guy is talking about. If there’s any evidence of Obama allowing the honor to interfere with his foreign policy judgment, it’s hiding well. The president doesn’t seem “bound” by anything but his desire to act in the nation’s best interests.

As for the argument that Obama is just continuing Bush-era policies in international affairs, I wish Republicans would make up their minds. One the one hand, the right would have us believe the president is signaling weakness abroad. On the other hand, the right insists the president is just an echo of his Republican predecessor. We’re told Obama has no foreign policy successes and we’re told Obama has lots of foreign policy successes, for which Bush deserves credit.

For the record, the president is having success on the global stage precisely because he isn’t following the Bush/Cheney model. Obama isn’t torturing; he’s put a greater emphasis on counter-proliferation; he’s shifted towards a more responsible model of military intervention; he’s taken a healthier approach to international engagement, which has helped improve the nation’s standing abroad, etc.

And finally, Hoekstra believes we can “move toward a bipartisan foreign policy” just as soon as the president insults the Nobel committee and gives back their prize two years after the fact. Quick follow-up question: in what universe does this make sense?