President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday, a stunning decision that comes just eight months into his presidency.
The decision appeared to catch most observers by surprise. Ed Rollins, CNN political contributor and Republican strategist, says the question now is what does he do with it?
Rollins joined John Roberts and Kiran Chetry on CNN’s “American Morning” Friday. Below is an edited transcript of the interview.
John Roberts: The president has given three significant speeches talking about peace – in Germany, in Cairo, and at the United Nations. He's traveled the world very extensively in the first nine months of his presidency. Could that not be said – and considering too the change in tone – to be worthy of being recognized with the Nobel peace prize?
Ed Rollins: You usually get recognized at the end of some major accomplishment. I think three speeches are a start from his perspective. And I want to congratulate him. I'm always for Americans winning, whether it’s golf, tennis, or the international stage. And it's a lot better Friday than last Friday, when he woke up saying, “We came in fourth.”
I think at this point, the thing I'm curious about is, this is a storybook made-for-TV story. A young senator basically gets elected president after a very short period of time. Nine months into his administration, when the world is still at war – he’s sitting down at a war council today – he gets the Nobel Peace Prize. I mean, if you presented that as a made-for-TV, you probably would get the script rejected.
The key thing I think today is how does he think of himself now? … I'm now a Nobel Peace Prize winner. I've got to go out and make sure I create peace in the world. Not a bad objective. Except, are you as commander in chief basically going to abdicate some of your duties?
Roberts: You are saying that he's been given the award, now he's got to go win it?
Rollins: I think he has to go win it. I think clearly you don’t get the award for three speeches. There's a very strong anti-American sentiment around the world. I think he tapped into that by his apology tours and I think, to a certain extent, he was rewarded for that. I think now at this point in time – Nobel peace prize winner – what does he do with it?
Kiran Chetry: How much does a Nobel Peace Prize matter when you’re sitting in the White House with so many things on your plate domestically?
Rollins: It doesn't create any jobs. It’s not going to get any votes on the health care package. It certainly gives him a prestige on the world stage, but does it make Prime Minister Putin sit down and say, “Gee, this guy is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. I've got to be better to him”?
Chetry: Does it?
Rollins: No, I don't think so. And I think there may be a little jealousy – a little jealousy by some ex-presidents. We talked about Bill Clinton. What does Bill Clinton do at this point in time, who worked very hard to basically reduce nuclear…
Roberts: And came very close to peace in the Middle East.
Rollins: He did. And he worked very hard at it. So I think to a certain extent, once again I congratulate him for it. I'm happy for America. I think the key thing here is what does he do now to go earn it?
Roberts: Clearly, the Nobel committee appeared to award him this prize for the work that he has done so far and the potential for work in the future. And the Nobel committee loves to award people who continue their work. I mean, they gave the peace prize to Al Gore. He didn't say, “That's it, I'm done, thanks.” He continues to work on climate change.
Rollins: And they gave it to Jimmy Carter, a failed presidency, who was rejected overwhelmingly by the public, by Ronald Reagan, who did go out and do a lot for world peace.
Roberts: But Jimmy Carter did manage to broker those Camp David accords. That’s fairly notable.
Rollins: He did but that was not what he got his award for.
Chetry: You noted that no Republicans get the Nobel peace prize.
Rollins: I don't want to say it's anti-Republican or anti-Bush family, per se – except for Teddy Roosevelt, who we all loved. The other part that I think he has to be concerned about, people like Woodrow Wilson who won it, others – some of their presidencies failed.
Roberts: How much of this is just sour grapes on the part of people who complain about the president getting this? Obviously, the Nobel committee took a look at all 205 people who were nominated and said, this person is the most deserving. Why should anybody question what they did?
Rollins: Who was the Nobel committee? And what were the reasons for it? If it was the three speeches, then say that. Is it really that he's built peace in the world or just wants peace in the world? That's the critical question.