Awarding President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize a few months into his presidency helped establish a terrible and ironic precedent.
By de-coupling the award from the necessity of having actually achieved some genuine peace in the world, the Nobel prize committee opened the door to all sorts of future chicanery.
Enter Dennis "The Worm" Rodman. In late February, Mr. Rodman and that crack diplomatic team known as the Harlem Globetrotters visited North Korea at the invitation of totalitarian tot Kim Jong-un. Their trip was documented by a film crew from HBO's "Vice."
From the beginning, it was obvious that the reception was a propaganda freak show staged to convince the apolitical and geopolitically ignorant Mr. Rodman that the North Korean dictator was ready to "shoot hoops" with the Obama administration.
Several generations ago, Mr. Rodman would've been called a "useful idiot" for playing straight man in such a transparent diplomatic hustle -- but the truth is that he wasn't all that useful, though there was plenty of idiocy to go around. No one from the Obama administration met with him for a debriefing.
Looking back on his time in the hermit kingdom months later, Mr. Rodman sees his role as a dictator's stooge in a more self-aggrandizing light. He knows that Mr. Obama, a figure of some fascination for Kim Jong-un, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize a few years ago simply because he had the good sense not to be George W. Bush.
Mr. Rodman became convinced that all one had to do to get on the short list for a Nobel was be a fairly famous black person. A quick Google search brings up the names of several prominent blacks from around the world who were invited to Oslo once upon a time: Ralph Bunche, Martin Luther King Jr., Wole Soyinka, Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Toni Morrison and Kofi Annan.
If you're Dennis Rodman, you can very easily see yourself fitting into that crowd. After all, Mr. Rodman is one of the top power forwards in National Basketball Association history. He has five championship rings and a shelf full of rebounding titles. He was married to Carmen Electra. He stuffed WWE superstar Randy "Macho Man" Savage into a portable toilet during a 1999 pay-per view bout. He's a bad-ass with badness to spare.
How hard could it be to be short-listed for a Nobel given those accomplishments? In the latest issue of Sports Illustrated, Mr. Rodman laid out his bona fides as an international diplomat of serious renown who deserves a second, third and fourth look when they're adding up the pros and cons in Oslo for the next peace prize recipient.
"My mission is to break the ice between hostile countries," he said. "Why it's been left to me to smooth things over, I don't know. Dennis Rodman, of all people. Keeping us safe is really not my job; it's the black guy's [Obama's] job. But I'll tell you this: If I don't finish in the top three for the next Nobel Peace Prize, something's seriously wrong."
It is no secret that Mr. Rodman has always thought highly of himself. He is so enamored with his own accomplishments that he routinely refers to himself in the third person. We saw all sorts of hints something like this was coming earlier this year.
At the behest of Irish gambling interests, Mr. Rodman arrived at Vatican City in March, a few weeks after his North Korean adventure, just as the cardinals were convening to vote for a new pontiff.
To everyone's shock, Mr. Rodman restrained himself from making quips about his availability to take over the job shepherding the spiritual lives of a billion Catholics after Pope Benedict's resignation, but he did offer the next best thing -- his availability for an immediate sit-down with the new pope to discuss world affairs.
"I want to be anywhere in the world that I'm needed," Mr. Rodman said through a press agent. "I want to spread a message of peace and love throughout the world."
Alas, the Vatican never got back to Mr. Rodman about his generous offer. The former NBA star had to content himself with cashing another check cut by the gambling house's vast mammon factory.
Meanwhile, he's already cleared out a place on his mantel for his Nobel prize. After all, Mr. Obama stepped up his use of killer drones after winning his Nobel Peace Prize. Mr. Rodman has never done anything as absurd as that.
Tony Norman: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1631 or on Twitter @TonyNormanPG.