RNC Chairman Michael S. Steele addresses the committee Tuesday and Wednesday to deal with multiple concerns over his leadership since his January election. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)
The Republican National Committee says President Barack Obama doesn’t deserve his Nobel Prize.
And all this debate was over a “peace” prize.
Obama’s award touched off a bitter fight between the two national parties Friday morning – just the latest example of a rhetorical one-upmanship that seems to have overtaken Washington, on matters from health care to Obama’s birth certificate.
But the reactions to Obama’s Nobel seemed particularly pungent. Obama hadn’t even taken to the White House podium to accept the honor when Republican Chairman Michael Steele issued a statement questioning what Obama has done to deserve the honor.
“The real question Americans are asking is, ‘What has President Obama actually accomplished?’ It is unfortunate that the president’s star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights,” Steele said in his initial comments.
Even some Obama supporters had raised the question – more delicately to be sure – about whether a president who has been in office for nine months deserves a Nobel Prize. Obama himself said at the White House he didn’t deserve to be grouped with Nobel laureates who came before.
But no matter. The DNC quickly fired back in an email statement, comparing the Steele’s criticism to similar statements made by religious extremists.
“The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists – the Taliban and Hamas this morning – in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace Prize,” said the DNC.
Those two groups had also criticized the selection of Obama for the peace prize.
“We believe he has been rewarded or judged based on good intentions toward peace but not on his achievement,” said Ahmed Yousef, Deputy Foreign Defense Minister of Hamas.
“He has done nothing for peace in Afghanistan,” wrote Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. “…We condemn the institute’s awarding him the peace prize. We condemn this year’s peace prize as unjust.”
Republican committee spokeswoman Gail Gitcho called the Democrats’ attacks “demonizing.”
“First they call Americans concerned over health care ‘rabid extremists’ and ‘angry mobs.’ Now, when challenged to answer the question of what the president has accomplished, Democrats are lashing out calling Republicans terrorists. That type of political rhetoric is shameful,” Gitcho said.
Political experts say partisan knee-jerk reactions are becoming a regular part of the political landscape as partisan interest groups continue to become further polarized.
“Everything else about the administration has been polarized so we shouldn’t be surprised that a Nobel Peace Prize is polarizing,” said Darrell West, who runs the governance studies program at Brookings Institution. “It’s producing knee jerk reactions from all quarters and it’s getting worse over time.”
But the DNC wasn’t the only group examining the similarities. Fox News Correspondent Wendell Goler also made the link.
“If you want to look at it this way, the RNC and the Taliban are basically on the same page. It’s an unusual situation…,” he said.
When POLITICO asked if Steele saw the Taliban or Hamas statement before posting his own, Gitcho replied, “Are you kidding me with this question?”
DNC spokesman Hari Sevugan wouldn’t budge when asked if committee’s terrorist comparison was extreme.
“You’ll have to ask the RNC why they chose the same tack as the likes of Hamas and the Taliban. But there’s no doubt they did…” Sevugan said.
But not all Republicans are bashing Obama’s award.
Senator John McCain praised his former campaign opponent in a pre-taped episode of CNN’s “State of the Union” which will air Sunday.
“I can't divine all their intentions, but I think part of their decision-making was expectations. And I'm sure the president understands that he now has even more to live up to. But as Americans, we're proud when our president receives an award of that prestigious category.”
Democrats and Republicans were at odds earlier this week when Obama lost his bid to host the 2016 Olympic Games in Chicago. Some Republicans, including conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh even seemed gleeful.
"[Obama has been] running around the world for nine months telling everybody how much our country sucks. He's been running around the world apologizing for the United States of America. Why would anybody award the Olympics to such a crappy place as the United States of America?” Limbaugh said.
“We’ve reached a point where if Republicans say green, Democrats will say brown,” said West. “It’s juvenile behavior.”