"We think that this gives us a sense of momentum when the United States has accolades tossed its way rather than shoes."
That's what State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said yesterday when he talked to reporters about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to President Barack Obama on Friday.
His line is a reference, of course, to the incident in Baghdad last December when an angry Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at then-president George W. Bush.
And Crowley's rather undiplomatic quip underscores what Frank noted yesterday afternoon -- that it certainly appears that Obama got the award in part because he's not Bush.
After a follow-up question, Crowley steered back to give a more diplomatic answer about the connection between the Nobel Prize and the previous administration:
Question: "I have two questions. First of all, on your very clever comment about accolades, not shoes, how much of this Nobel Peace Prize do you think is, you know, a kind of award to the president for not being George Bush? I mean, there was so much kind of animosity in the international community because of the last administration that it seems that just the fact that this administration has offered a new approach around the world is what the award was really about. I mean, I think the president himself recognized that there isn't a whole lot of actual accomplishment yet about the award, but it's more about expectations and the fact that this administration is devising a new course. So how much do you think that this is an indictment of the past administration and an award for not being George Bush?"
Crowley: "Well, I think I'll follow the sage advice of Robert Gibbs and say it's impossible for us to project what the Nobel committee had in mind. I think what is important to us is an affirmation of not only the strategy but also the important agenda. The committee particularly singled out the challenge of nonproliferation. Obviously, it's been a significant focus of the president, the secretary, and others in these first 10 months, starting with the Prague speech and continuing with the session at the U.N. a couple of weeks ago. Obviously, we're very mindful as the secretary heads to Russia -- we've got ongoing discussions with Russia on a follow-on to the START treaty. We obviously are aware that we have important dialogue with Iran and North Korea that's ongoing. We're looking ahead to the NPT review conference next year, finding ways to strengthen the Nonproliferation Treaty and the global regime. And we know that there's a very heavy lift here with the United States coming up in terms of the administration's desire to see ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. And there are other steps as well.
"So there is an opportunity here. The tone has changed, but obviously, we recognize that while the tone in the world has changed, the challenges remain. They're very significant. And I thought the president set the right tone today in terms of looking forward and understanding that there's a lot that needs to be done, but that as we go through this we'll need to see collaborative action. The United States can't solve this problem alone, but these problems will not be solved without the American leadership that we've shown in the first 10 months."