Good Morning America co-host Diane Sawyer on Friday used an odd expression to fawn over Barack Obama’s Nobel Prize win. She cooed that the award is "the Olympic gold of international diplomacy." (Was this Sawyer’s way of saying the prize makes up for the Chicago Olympic failure?)
In a follow-up segment, former top Democratic aide turned journalist George Stephanopoulos touted what an enormous impact the Nobel Prize would have: "But on a serious note, White House aides do believe this will strengthen the President's hand, both at home and abroad." He explained how these "White House aides" (Rahm Emanuel, perhaps?) told him that "this will really strengthen the President's hand as they try to force inspectors in to the Iranian nuclear sites."
Sawyer should be credited for at least asking the obvious question. Talking to Geir Lundeestad, the director of the Nobel Institute, she quizzed, "Here’s the first question: Nine months into a presidency. Isn’t that a little fast?" Reporter Yunji De Nies mildly observed, "But with critics arguing that Mr. Obama's accomplishments have yet to rival those of previous winners, the chairman of the committee found himself on the defensive."
However, she also touted the "gleaming praise" the committee offered and noted that they lauded his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy." (De Nies did point out that Obama had only been President for 11 days when the deadline for nominating him passed.)
A transcript of the first two segments, which aired at 7:01am EDT on October 9, follows:
DIANE SAWYER: And talk about breaking news. This morning, President Obama, nine months into his presidency, has won the Nobel Peace Prize. And it's really, kind of, the Olympic gold of international diplomacy.
ROBIN ROBERTS: It is. He is just the third sitting President to win the award. The Nobel Committee citing his work on nuclear weapons and efforts to strengthen international diplomacy.
SAWYER: And as we heard, even those in the room, when the announcement was made, sort of gasped in wonder and surprise. Let's go straight to Yunji de Nies. She's at the White House this morning.
YUNJI DE NIES: Good morning, Diane. Good morning, Robin. This morning, President- Press Secretary Robert Gibbs woke the President with the news at around 6:00. He said the President was humbled at the news. This all comes as a major surprise to the White House because the nomination deadline was just 11 days into Barack Obama's presidency. Lauding his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples, the five-member Norwegian committee's surprise decision, drew spontaneous gasps.
THORBJOERN JAGLAND (Chairman of the Nobel Committee): The Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts.
DE NIES: The committee commended President Obama for creating, quote, "a new climate in international politics."
BARACK OBAMA: I've come here to Cairo to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world. One based on mutual interest and mutual respect. Africa's future is up to Africans. The people of Africa are ready to claim that future.
DE NIES: Mr. Obama becomes just the fourth U.S. President to win the prize. In a statement, the committee offered gleaming praise. "Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future."
OBAMA: Together, we can build a world where people are protected, prosperity is enlarged and our power truly serves progress. And it's all in your hands.
DE NIES: But with critics arguing that Mr. Obama's accomplishments have yet to rival those of previous winners, the chairman of the committee found himself on the defensive.
JAGLAND: To President Obama, who is contributing to improve the international climate.
DE NIES: The nomination process is kept a secret for 50 years. So, it will be a very long time before we know who nominated President Obama. The prize itself is worth $1.4 million. It's given out in Oslo on December 10. Diane?
DIANE SAWYER: Let's bring in George Stephanopoulos right now, chief Washington correspondent, host of This Week.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Hey, Diane.
SAWYER: George, we heard the call. It came to the President a little before 6:00 a.m. Who made it? And what was his reaction?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It was made by Robert Gibbs, the White House Press Secretary. And a lot more fun to make that call than the one that came into Air Force One last week from Copenhagen to say the Olympics weren't going to Chicago. The President was surprised. But he was, as Yunji said, humbled by the honor. And I have to say, Diane- This really did catch them- blind side, the White House. I spoke to two key White House aides who got the word earlier this morning. Both thought they were being punked. In fact, one said, "It's not April 1st is it?" They’re working on a statement right now. Likely be a paper statement later this morning from the President, emphasizing how much work there is going forward. But on a serious note, White House aides do believe this will strengthen the President's hand, both at home and abroad.
SAWYER: And I want to ask about that. Because a lot of key decisions being made ahead. It was- specifically, what do you think the calculation? How does this factor in around the world, when you make a decision on the Middle East? On Afghanistan?
STEPHANOPOULOS: It's almost as if this was an act of encouragement by the Nobel Prize committee. And there will be a lot of criticism for the committee for that. The White House expects this will have the most tangible concrete effect on their efforts to isolate Iran and North Korea, that this will really strengthen the President's hand as they try to force inspectors in to the Iranian nuclear sites. Also, it will help isolate North Korea. As one said to me, "You can't wake up in Iran and see the world is moving in one direction on nuclear weapons, as you're trying to move in another." Now, will this have an affect on Russia? On China? Who really holds the key cards in whether or not there will be sanctions against Iran? That's still to be seen. Another big question, how will this impact the president's decision making on Afghanistan going forward? And I think that's a big question mark.
SAWYER: Well, again, that's one of the questions, by the way, I'm going to put in a minute, to the director of the committee. Back to that phone call, George. I'm imagining waking up the President and saying, "It's not what you think. It’s not what you think." How do you begin that- you maybe we'll learn what Robert Gibbs said.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We'll find out. That's not a hard phone call to make, Diane. That's one of the good ones.