Regardless of whether you support the Nobel committee's award to President Barack Obama, his selection represents a huge gamble. All they can do in Oslo is hope that the rest of Obama's term—and career after leaving office—rises to the standard they believe merited the prize. Obama's track record is only 263 days long! Besides, there are plenty of presidents in American history who looked golden in their first year only to flame out. Obama could wind up looking like any of these men:
1. John Adams. A Founding Father and reputedly a man of principle—famous for defending the soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre, despite massive public opposition—Adams entered office in 1797 as the nation's second president. In the second year of his presidency, however, his reputation was stained first by the XYZ Affair and then by the passage of the Alien and Sedition acts, an aggressive move to suppress political opponents that most scholars agree violated the Constitution and were largely designed to limit criticism of the Adams administration.
2. Herbert Hoover. When he entered office in 1929, Hoover was famous for being the wiz who'd engineered the reconstruction of Europe after World War I as head of the American Relief Administration. Then—about this time in his first year in office, no less—the stock market collapsed. By the time he left office, the postwar work was largely forgotten and he was best known for Hoover flags, Hoovervilles, and the Great Depression.
3. Lyndon Johnson. Although he entered office under unusual circumstances, following the assassination of John F. Kennedy, LBJ quickly shepherded through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, one of the most important laws in American history and a landmark of the civil -rights movement. He followed that with his Great Society program, a move to increase socioeconomic equality. But by the end of his term he was mired in opposition to Vietnam, and didn't even run for a second term.
4. Richard Nixon. Nixon's first term saw successes like the first moon landing, his visit to China, the SALT I treaty with the Soviet Union, and the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency. His truncated second term saw Watergate and a cancer on the presidency.
5. George W. Bush. It seems like a long time ago that Bush was a leader who had truly unified America and international opinion. In October 2001 there was widespread sympathy for the U.S. following 9/11 and Bush's approval ratings were high across the spectrum of American political beliefs. It took several years, and a second term, for him to become persona non grata both at home and abroad.
If Obama goes the way of these presidents, he'll be in the company of past winners Woodrow Wilson and Jimmy Carter, whose actions, we argued on Wednesday, eventually rendered their selection questionable. Unlike the Nobel committee, however, we're content to wait and see.