President Obama should have passed on the Nobel Peace Prize. Among other reasons, such as not being especially deserving, accepting this accolade will now merge him even more forcefully in Americans' minds with Jimmy Carter, who was awarded the same honor in 2002. That is a fate that Obama should avoid at all costs.
Many of us remember Carter's presidency as a time of unimaginable embarrassment for the United States. The Iran hostage crisis, and Carter's ineffectual efforts to rescue our citizens who were detained for 444 days, will stand forever as testament to the consequences of trying to befriend Islamic militants. Obama should take note, as he proffers friendship and a "new beginning" to President Ahmadinejad.
The parallels between Obama and Carter are already frightening. Carter was elected not on the strength of his resume, which, like Obama's was slim-to-anorexic, but rather because Americans were fed up with Republicans. Carter presented himself as trustworthy, civil, and unwaveringly smiley. His code word "trust" -- distancing himself from Richard Nixon's dishonesty --passed for policy. His politics were initially vague, but soon emerged as startlingly left-wing. During his campaign, instead of fleshing out meaningful stances on the issues of the day, he repeatedly vowed never to lie to the American people. This pledge was broken on more than one occasion, for example, when he lied about the firing of U.S. Attorney David Marston, who had undertaken an investigation into corruption among Pennsylvania's Democrats.
Like Carter, Obama made promises --to reach across the aisle, to bar lobbyists from his administration, to create a new civility in government --which lie shattered on the floor of Congress. From the moment he hired Rahm Emmanuel to be his chief of staff, the bullying and political tone of his presidency was set in stone. On domestic policy, voters welcomed the centrist tone of his campaign, only to see him drift hard to the left.
It is, however, in the realm of foreign policy that Jimmy Carter portrayed the naivete that proved so damaging to the United States. He was "surprised" when the Russians killed Adolph Dubs, the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, mainly because he had no grasp of the essential conflict between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Like Obama, he considered the leadership of all nations to be people of goodwill.
I had a close friend who worked in the Carter White House. She was young and star-struck, but even she decried Carter's micro-management and endless need to explore every option, study every contingency. At the end, Carter could never make a decision and was no leader. Does this sound familiar? Carter accomplished little and was duly ousted after serving only one term. President Obama should take heed. I wish he had suggested that the Nobel Committee pass their award onto some more worthy recipient this year -- someone like, maybe, Hugo Chavez?
Liz Peek is a financial columnist and frequent contributor to the FOX Forum.