Obama's Nobel: The prize is a reminder of the hard work ahead

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With a mere nine months on the job as leader of the free world, President Barack Obama can now add Nobel Peace Prize laureate to his short, but distinguished resume.

Mr. Obama's harshest critics -- a motley crew of conservative Republicans, right-wing bloggers, talk-show hosts and the Taliban -- are beside themselves with rage that their nemesis has received another "undeserved" honor.

Though pleasantly surprised, even Mr. Obama's admirers are baffled by the announcement out of Oslo that the 44th president of the United States will be the third sitting president to receive this honor.

No doubt, there is unintentional irony in the timing of the award. It comes at the end of a tough week in which much of official Washington and the chattering classes have debated the president's modest list of achievements in office. (You can read our own scorecard on this in tomorrow's lead editorial.)

Losing the 2016 Olympics to Brazil instigated a weeklong critique of the president, but winning the Nobel Peace Prize was the kind of unlikely development few could have predicted.

Mr. Obama acknowledged the incredulity at home and abroad during comments at the White House Rose Garden yesterday. "I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership," he said. "I will accept this award as a call to action."

Well said. If anything, the Norwegian committee's award of the Nobel to Mr. Obama is meant to encourage the United States' re-engagement with diplomacy after eight years of the Bush administration's unilateral foreign policy.

During his brief speech, Mr. Obama touched upon the themes that made him the choice of the Nobel committee: nuclear disarmament, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and global warming. He also acknowledged America's challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama should not be embarrassed by this tribute. Instead, he should be mindful of the burden of living up to lofty expectations and focused on the work needed to fulfill them. A cautious politician does not deserve a Nobel Peace Prize.


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