President Donald Trump may have pulled out of the North Korean nuclear summit. But several lawmakers still either want to award him the Nobel Peace Prize for his overtures to Kim Jong Un or believe that the recognition will come in time.
“Considering Barack Obama received the prize for simply having a pulse and then recklessly destabilizing the globe, it’s hard to imagine how anyone could keep a straight face while questioning if Trump deserves one,” Kelsey Knight, a spokesman for Rep. Jim Renacci, an Ohio Republican running for the Senate, said in a statement. “[Trump] has freed our hostages while North Korea destroyed their nuclear test site ahead of his visit. ISIS is collapsing and we’re closer to ending the Korean War than we’ve been since the 1950’s.”
Critics have insisted that the argument that Trump deserves a Nobel for his attempts to broker a nuclear deal with Kim always rested more on an appreciation for Trump than an appreciation for the prize. Renacci’s commitment awarding the president even without the high-profile summit, seems likely to give those critics additional fodder.
The idea that Trump deserves a Nobel first originated when the possibility of that summit seemed strong. In the letter sent on May 2 to the Nobel Committee (PDF), a group of House Republicans lauded the president for bringing North and South Korea together in an effort to end “the Korean War [and to] seek to reunify their countries[.]” Trump was also credited in starting “the process to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula” with “peace through strength policies” that brought North Korea “to the negotiating table.”
At the time, those lawmakers were mocked and criticized for the premature celebration of the summit’s success. And, sure enough, things soon began to fall apart. Two weeks after the letter was sent, the North canceled their talks with the South in reaction to joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. A few weeks later, the planned summit between North Korea and the U.S. was canceled with a letter from the president’s desk.
Some of the lawmakers who initially wanted Trump to get the Nobel have remained committed to the idea even as they acknowledge that the award may not come as quickly.
Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC), one of the signatories, said the president should be “commended” for getting more done than “any other of our former presidents,” but that the Nobel would have to come after the talks.
“One of the greatest attributes of President Trump is his willingness to walk away if the deal is bad for America. Just because it didn’t happen now, does not mean it will not happen in the future,” Rep. Norman said in a statement. “If and when it does happen, the President will deserve the Nobel Peace Prize and I’m proud of signing on to the recommendation and yes, it will remain.”
Another signer, Rep. Steve King, told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that the nomination was “paused... for a little while” in anticipation of what would happen with the talks.
“We always knew that would take some months to unfold and I’m disappointed by this action that has taken place, but I don’t think this action is incorrect on this,” he said. “But I do give President Trump a lot of credit for opening up these negotiations, for being willing to accept the invitation that was offered to him to negotiate with Kim Jong Un.”
Four presidents in U.S. history have been bestowed a Nobel Peace Prize. Theodore Roosevelt was awarded in 1906, when he “negotiated peace” and brought an end to the Russo-Japanese War. Woodrow Wilson won in 1919 for establishing the League of Nations, the precursor to the United Nations that the U.S. ended up not joining. Jimmy Carter was awarded his in 2002—after his presidency—for “decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts.”
Barack Obama got the award in 2009 for “efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation”—a much criticized recognition since he had been in office for so short a period of time.
The Daily Beast contacted all 18 lawmakers’ offices who signed the letter, along with four governors who backed Trump for the Nobel Prize. The vast majority of congressional offices did not respond to multiple requests for comment. A spokesman for Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX) said she had not “spoken to him about it” since the summit was canceled. She did not return subsequent requests for comment.
—with additional reporting by Sam Stein