Don't get me wrong, I think Obama has bona fide Nobel stature--and it certainly doesn't take long to recall numerous Peace Prize winners who were less worthy (some of them far less so). Still, it's hard not to see the prize as at least partly, if not largely, a shot at George W. Bush. I mean, read the prize citation and tell me if it doesn't sound like the exact opposite of a very recent U.S. president (certainly in the eyes of most European elites):
Obama has as President created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts.
Which raises a question: What is Al Gore thinking this morning? At the time Gore won his prize in 2007, it seemed like a well-deserved recognition of his heroic environmental activism. But now that the prize committee has basically announced that anti-Bush symbolism is an important criterion, doesn't it take the sheen off his prize a bit? In fact, you could argue that three of the last eight Peace Prize winners (Carter in 2002 being the third) have won in large part because they were prominent U.S. politicians not named George Bush.
P.S. For what it's worth, there was already speculation about this back in 2007. See, for example, the Times piece announcing the news that year.
Update: Time's Mike Grunwald has a similar take, except that he also throws 2005 winner Mohamed ElBaradei into the mix.
Update II: Along the lines of Crowley's post, smart and gracious of Obama to end his remarks by making the prize about America, in a way that can be read to include Bush:
And that's why this award must be shared with everyone who strives for justice and dignity -- for the young woman who marches silently in the streets on behalf of her right to be heard even in the face of beatings and bullets; for the leader imprisoned in her own home because she refuses to abandon her commitment to democracy; for the soldier who sacrificed through tour after tour of duty on behalf of someone half a world away; and for all those men and women across the world who sacrifice their safety and their freedom and sometime their lives for the cause of peace.
That has always been the cause of America. That's why the world has always looked to America. And that's why I believe America will continue to lead.