Much has been made of President Obama’s being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The ground has been covered so many times by now that it looks like a CSI crime scene contaminated by too many eager cops. The various media are all agog, internet hits multiply by the hour, and the pundits keep weighing in as if there were no yesterday — as witness this very article. Yet, perhaps, there is still something to be said — and a little reiteration wouldn’t hurt either.
According to the left-leaning Oslo committee, Obama deserves the award for creating “a new climate in international politics.” Its chairman, Thorbjoern Jagland, is deeply impressed by the extent to which Obama has “captured the world’s attention and given its people hope for a better future.” But, as has been pointed out by many commentators, Barack Obama has accomplished precisely nothing of any positive importance and those of his credentials as have been made public — of which there are decidedly few — indicate very little of substance in his resumé.
What is perhaps of equal interest is the fact that the president was nominated just a week and a half before the deadline, since a proposal must be submitted by February 1 and Obama’s inauguration took place on January 20. This doesn’t leave much time for even a paragon reformer endowed with magical abilities to effectuate anything of merit or consequence, which means the prize was awarded either proleptically — that is, in anticipation of future acts — or retroactively from the selection date in October, during the period of triage itself. It all seems somewhat fishy.
Be that as it may, when I contrast a know-nothing do-harmer like Obama with the prime minister of my own country, a principled and reliable politician who has defended the democratic tradition to the best of his ability and steered the country through the recent economic meltdown with reasonable firmness, who is naturally averse to bedding the media and wary of ingratiating himself with the public, and who possesses verifiable talents, I have no doubt that were Canada’s Stephen Harper president of the United States, it would find itself in a far more resilient position than it does now.
There is a powerful irony at work here. President Obama is well on his way to ruining the American economy and reducing the nation’s defensive posture before an increasingly threatening world. The evidence for so unflattering an assessment is bluntly undeniable, at least for those who have managed to resist hypnosis. Yet he is staunchly defended by the MSM, receives accolades from a vast and robust constituency of devoted supporters, including the Oslo bunch, and is crowned by a nimbus of invincibility. Prime Minister Harper, on the other hand, finds himself constantly struggling to maintain a minority government, faces the prospect of no-confidence motions against his administration and ad hoc coalitions of the disgruntled, and is regarded by the teeming number of leftist nannies in this country as “scary” and of nurturing a “secret agenda” — an agenda, be it said, which is transparently conservative and responsible. If there is a scary and secret agenda to be feared, it is not here.
The difference between the two heads of state could not be more palpable, not only in their foreign and domestic policies, but also in the treatment they are accorded by the press. One is a media darling and an absolute disaster in every initiative he has undertaken; the other is often the target of smug ingratitude and denunciation for weathering a major economic crisis and for comporting himself with dignity and honor in the international arena. Harper is condemned as a “control freak” for trying to run a tight ship; Obama is worshipped as a “sort of god” for unleashing a perfect storm. Like any politician, the Canadian prime minister has not always made the most astute decisions and has plainly committed tactical errors from time to time. What else is new? But tactical errors are by no means equivalent to strategic blunders — another salient distinction between the two leaders.
The results of their respective approaches, methods, and actions are obvious. The American dollar is sinking fast but the Canadian currency continues strong. Canada, for all its inevitable troubles, remains a viable nation; the U.S. is structurally insolvent and appears to be coming apart at the seams. The U.S. is sagging toward a single-payer health care system that will deliver interminable wait times and insensible bureaucracies; Canada is gradually coming out of it with a two-tier alternative.
With respect to the Middle East flashpoint, which Obama has made the centerpiece of his foreign policy, Harper has clearly understood, as Obama has not, that the problem is not the natural growth of Israeli settlements but Palestinian violence, corruption, mendacity, and intransigence. Harper, we recall, was the first international leader to repudiate the infamous Durban II conference — as the U.S. dithered — and the first to instruct his delegation at the UN to boycott Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s podium. Generally speaking, in their dealings with the geopolitical world, Harper emerges smelling of roses, Obama of something else. Nevertheless, the irony of celebrity inversion persists. The most that Harper can hope for is respect, much of it grudging, while Obama is laurelled and lionized.
Harper will never win a Nobel Peace Prize, much to his credit, for when all is said and done it is the Peace Prize that passeth understanding. And he is certainly no glib and effortless charmer, but a genuine leader and a man of appreciable intellectual capacity of the sort America needs today. He does not write about himself and his putative achievements but, rather more modestly, about Canada’s national pastime, hockey — which, incidentally, gives him an edge over his Liberal Party competitor, Obama wannabe Michael Ignatieff. And he can tickle the ivories pretty good, too, as he did in his surprise appearance at the National Arts Gala in Ottawa on October 3, stunning his audience not with mere rhetoric but with a real, gutsy performance, accompanied by a rollicking Yo-Yo Ma. Though, it must be admitted, this wouldn’t have impressed the stuffy and unctuous Norwegians.
Harper sang and played the Beatles’ “With a Little Help from My Friends,” and he could certainly use it. Obama, on the other hand, is the beneficiary of a lot of help from his friends, which goes a long way to explaining his unwarranted popularity. The fact is Obama may be a charismatic figure among the Western masses and a star in Oslo, but he is a “nowhere man” on the world stage and a “day tripper” at home. Tone deaf to reality, eventually he will have to face the music, whereas Harper has revealed that he can actually make music.
No Peace Prize for Harper, then, but perhaps something far more significant, like a Grammy?