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The Significance of President Obama's Nobel

Interviewee: Walter Russell Mead, Henry A. Kissinger Senior Fellow for U.S. Foreign Policy, Council on Foreign Relations
Interviewer: Jayshree Bajoria, Staff Writer, CFR.org
October 9, 2009

CFR Senior Fellow Walter Russell Mead says the Nobel committee's awarding of the 2009 peace prize to U.S. President Barack Obama amounts to "tremendous recognition from the international community." But Mead also cautions the award could create a backlash and even political problems for Obama abroad due to exaggerated or unreal expectations about his policies.

The announcement elicited a mixed reaction internationally as well as in the United States. While many, like the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, welcomed the news, others called it premature for a president who has held office for less than a year. Mead says Obama's outreach to the Muslim world may not have stopped any wars, but it has "helped to create a new climate in relations between the U.S. and the Islamic world and we are seeing a much stronger voice of moderates in both communities." Nonetheless, Mead says the award may be arriving too early for the president.

Mead says the latest prize for Obama follows a string of very early political successes in his career but he warns that such a streak can lead to overconfidence. On whether the prize invests any real political capital in the winner, Mead says "there isn't a lot of evidence that having a Nobel Prize helps presidents get their agendas through."


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