Trump: For Whom the Nobel Tolls?

Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland pre...
Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjorn Jagland presents President Barack Obama with the Nobel Prize medal and diploma during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Raadhuset Main Hall at Oslo City Hall in Oslo, Norway, Dec. 10, 2009. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sure things don’t exist in international relations, but  we seem to be witnessing an impending settlement of the nearly 70-year-old Korean War. Kim Jong Un recently became the first ruler of North Korea to officially visit the South, where he conferred with president Moon Jae-In. De-nuclearization and a peace treaty look like real possibilities. Kim is also working out plans for a summit with US president Donald Trump.

Who gets the credit? According to Moon and to 19 Republican members of the US House of Representatives, Trump is the man of the hour and deserves the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing the two Koreas to the negotiating table.

Well, maybe so.  There’s a lot to happen yet — the peace process is approaching, as Winston Churchill might say,  the end of the beginning rather than the beginning of the end — but the thaw undeniably came immediately after, and therefore can plausibly be attributed to, months of bellicose rhetoric from Trump. If things work out, he should indeed get a good deal of credit.

But frankly I’m not sure why he would want the Nobel Peace Prize, given that trophy’s tarnished history. Four past presidents have won the prize. It’s not obvious that any of them really deserved it.

Theodore Roosevelt was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for his mediation work in the Russo-Japanese war. But as late as four years prior to winning the prize, he had busied himself overseeing the butchery of somewhere between 250,000 and a million civilians (as well as 16,000   fighters) in the Philippine-American War.

Thirteen years later, after campaigning on his promise not to take the US into World War One and then promptly doing so at the cost of 116,000 American lives (and no telling how many additional and unnecessary deaths among the forces of other countries), Woodrow Wilson won the prize for his work in establishing the League of Nations.

Most people think of Jimmy Carter, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2002, as the peacenik of American presidents. It’s true that he avoided taking the US directly to war as president, but he oversaw and continued or escalated US support for regimes and actions (such as the Indonesian invasion of East Timor) that resulted in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of deaths.

And then, of course, there’s Barack Obama. He received the prize almost immediately after his election to the presidency and before he had time to do anything of substance. Having received it, instead of going out and earning it, he continued the wars started by his own predecessors and started new ones of his own.

The Nobel Peace Prize is, so far as I can tell, an annual tribute to political hypocrites who make war while talking peace. South Korea’s president is quoted by his office as saying “It’s really President Trump who should receive [the prize]; we can just take peace.” If the peace comes about, any credit accruing to Trump should buy him something more worthwhile than such a bloodstained trophy.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Roast Beef (or Wolfing Down the Faux Outrage)

Comedy and tragedy masks from the Princess Theatre, Decatur, AL image by Marjorie Kaufman

It’s tempting to refer to the fallout from Michelle Wolf’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner monologue as virtue signaling (“the conspicuous expression of moral values done primarily with the intent of enhancing standing within a social group”) but that gives it too much credit. There’s a lot more noise than signal involved. The only real signal here seems to be that some people either can’t take a joke or won’t pass up an opportunity to feign outrage.

Most of the post-dinner heartburn centers around Wolf’s pokes at White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. From some accounts, one might reasonably assume that Wolf simply took the stage, said a bunch of mean things about Sanders, and walked off to mixed moans and applause.

In fact, Wolf spent about a minute and a half, out of nearly 20, on Sanders. Oddly, I have yet to hear any conservatives complaining that Wolf (by way of putting recent misogyny scandals in perspective) called out the late  Senator Ted Kennedy as a murderer, or slammed the Democratic Party for perpetually stealing defeat from the jaws of victory.

I watched the monologue (twice — the first time I forgot to time Wolf’s remarks on Sanders) and found it incredibly tame by comparison to a Friar’s Club Celebrity Roast, or to any random five minutes from the oeuvres of Gilbert Gottfried, Sarah Silverman, or Doug Stanhope.

As one honest conservative commentator, Katherine Timpf, points out at National Review, there’s plenty of hypocrisy on both sides: Those who gave Donald Trump a pass on his ugly jabs at Rosie O’Donnell and others lack standing to whine about Wolf’s meanness, and vice versa. And at least Wolf has the excuse that she’s a working comedian, not a president or presidential candidate.

Was she funny? That’s in the eye of the beholder, but it’s the only worthwhile question to ask about a comedian and her routine. I thought Wolf landed a few fun punches, but I’d be disappointed if I had paid  a cover charge to watch this particular set at a comedy club. TV means I didn’t have to spring for a ticket or gag down the rubber chicken dinner, so I got my money’s worth. And I never turn down an opportunity to listen to put-downs of politicians and their flacks.

Perhaps the best  example to follow here is that of Sarah Huckabee Sanders herself. At The Daily Caller, Benny Johnson relates that after sitting through the scorching from Wolf, Sanders attended an MSNBC after-party (she’s obviously a glutton for punishment), all smiles, instead of crying in the beer that the dutiful daughter of a Baptist preacher probably doesn’t drink.

It’s good to see that SOMEONE can take a joke.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.