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Obama a 'Figure of Hope' to World in Winning 'One of the Last Towering Honors on Earth'

ABC, CBS and NBC all led Friday night with the "surprise" pick of President Barack Obama for the Nobel Peace Prize after less than a year in office and acknowledged the choice was meant as a slap at former President George W. Bush, but that didn't prevent the network journalists from touting the honor of the selection and, in one case, worrying about how critics will use the award against him.

"He has been in office nine months," ABC anchor Charles Gibson observed as ABC plastered glowing praise on screen: "The Nobel committee citation seemed to take note of that, saying, 'only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope.'" Katie Couric exclaimed: "Talk about an October surprise!"

Despite the obvious politicization of the award, NBC's Brian Williams championed how it's "one of the last remaining towering honors on Earth." Williams also fretted over how Obama's advisers will deal with "knowing that critics of the White House will use this, oddly, as a tool against him." On CBS, Jeff Greenfield saw vindication for Obama after losing the Olympic bid:

Think back all the way to last week when the Olympic bid failed and the President's critics said "you see, for all the talk he doesn't have that kind of international clout." So if this is a prize for good intentions - which sounds right - it does suggest that at least some folks abroad think that Obama is a figure of hope. You couple that with a poll a couple months ago that showed that in almost every country there's a much more favorable impression of the United States than there was two years ago...it is a reaction to the last President - and that's some kind of capital. Let me put it this way, you know, like chicken soup, couldn't hurt.

Only the CBS Evening News, however, pointed out the past liberal tilt of the Nobel committee as Chip Reid noted: "Former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson says it's all about politics, how else to explain that Republican Ronald Reagan helped end the Cold War but never won the peace prize, while three leading Democrats have won in just the past seven years." Those three: Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and now Obama.

A flavor of the Friday night, October 9 coverage:

> ABC's World News:

Charles Gibson's tease:

Tonight, prize surprise. President Obama receives the Nobel Peace Prize. He accepts it as a call to action on a range of world issues.

Gibson led:

Good evening. It is hard to overstate the near universal surprise at today's award of the Nobel peace prize to President Obama. Even the audience gathered in Oslo for the announcement was stunned. He has been in office nine months. The Nobel committee citation seemed to take note of that, saying, "only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope." The President himself was surprised, he didn't know he'd even been nominated.


> CBS Evening News:

Katie Couric's tease:

The President wakes up to the surprising news that he's won the Nobel Peace Prize....But the choice is controversial. Some asking what has the President done to deserve it?

Couric began:

Good evening, everyone. When an aide feels he needs to wake a President with breaking news it's usually bad, but not today. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs phones President Obama at 6 AM with the good but very unexpected news that he was chosen to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. No one saw it coming. The announcement in Oslo in Norwegian drew gasps from the audience. Named for Alfred Nobel, the prize is awarded to the person who "shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations." The President was cited for quote, "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." The Nobel committee suggested it appreciated the change in tone in U.S. policy, but even the White House was hard pressed to explain the choice which comes as the President is managing two wars. Chip Reid is at the White House tonight and, Chip, talk about an October surprise!

....

Jeff Greenfield:

Think back all the way to last week when the Olympic bid failed and the President's critics said "you see, for all the talk he doesn't have that kind of international clout." So if this is a prize for good intentions - which sounds right - it does suggest that at least some folks abroad think that Obama is a figure of hope. You couple that with a poll a couple months ago that showed that in almost every country there's a much more favorable impression of the United States than there was two years ago - and I agree with Bob [Schieffer], it is a reaction to the last President- and that's some kind of capital. Let me put it this way, you know, like chicken soup, couldn't hurt.



> NBC Nightly News:

Tease from Brian Williams:

On the broadcast tonight: A surprise prize for the President. The Nobel Peace Prize. Out of nowhere and now the reaction.


Williams opened:

Good evening. The President was awakened at 6 AM and told he had just won the Nobel Peace Prize. It was a stunner. It came out of nowhere. It is not the kind of thing he had applied for, nor did he know he was nominated. One White House staffer said he had to make sure this wasn't April 1st. A writer for Time magazine calls it the last thing the President needs. It happened so fast and was so unexpected the White House had to figure out what to say. It's also one of the last remaining towering honors on Earth.

....

WILLIAMS: And David, what now about treading lightly for the Obama administration? Again, we can't say this enough. They woke up this morning and were handed this and now have to handle it, except he's going to give the money to charity. And knowing that critics of the White House will use this, oddly, as a tool against him.

DAVID GREGORY: Can he live up to the expectations? That's the question. And let's point out the irony. He gets the Nobel Peace Prize just as he's trying to decide how to win the war in Afghanistan. He is the commander in chief of two wars. Wars have a way of gobbling up presidencies, even if you're seen as a peace crusader.

- Brent Baker is Vice President for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center