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Republicans incredulous, critical over Obama's Peace Prize
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2009, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The surprise announcement that President Barack Obama has won the Nobel Peace Prize turned into an almost instant partisan brawl in the nation's capital, with Republicans claiming he's not yet worthy and Democrats calling such remarks anti-American.

"I just lost all respect for the award," said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah. "It used to be one of distinction, but it is hard to give it any credibility."

He called Friday's announcement "a political statement" based more on a change in power than on the president's accomplishments.

"I just think they were glad George Bush is out of office and that is where the committee seems to be rooted in politics," he said. "Certainly there are people in this world more deserving than President Obama."

National Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele also didn't congratulate the president for claiming the coveted prize.

"It is unfortunate that the president's star power has outshined tireless advocates who have made real achievements working towards peace and human rights," he said. "One thing is certain -- President Obama won't be receiving any awards from Americans for job creation, fiscal responsibility, or backing up rhetoric with concrete action."

Republicans, such as Chaffetz, ridiculed the fact that Obama was nominated for the award less than two weeks after his inauguration.

Democrats fought back, comparing Steele's comments to the reactions offered by Taliban and Hamas leaders.

Utah Democratic Rep. Jim Matheson said the honor says something about the United State's place in the world.

"This award is a statement from the international community on the value of America's involvement on the global stage in working towards increased democracy and human rights," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi responded by saying: "Diplomacy and cooperation are the cornerstones of a strong, effective foreign policy. President Obama has worked tirelessly to put these principles into practice."

While a number of Republicans reacted with skepticism, disbelief or even disgust, some commended the president.

Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch said he was "very pleased" that Obama received the Peace Prize.

"Whenever an American receives an important international honor it reflects positively not only on the achievements of that individual but also on our nation as a whole," he said.

In an interview on Fox News, Hatch said he expected the Nobel committee would have selected former President Bill Clinton for raising $1 billion for international humanitarian efforts, but he hopes Obama will take this as "an incentive to do an even greater job around the world."

In brief remarks at the White House, Obama seemed to see it much like Hatch does.

"And I know that throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it's also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes," Obama said. "And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action."

But Hatch also touched on what some see as the political leanings of the Nobel committee.

"We never expect a conservative Republican to be chosen," he said on Fox News. "For instance, Ronald Reagan helped bring about the end to the Cold War and he was ignored by the Nobel committee."

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs deflected a number of questions about the partisan impacts of the announcement Friday, including one where he was asked to respond to Reagan's perceived snub.

"I'm not a member of the Nobel Peace Prize Committee," he said, though he did point out that President Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican, has previously won the Peace Prize.

Gibbs described Obama's honor as a recognition of "renewed American leadership" internationally.

"It's a good thing, it's an important thing," he said." I don't think it's a partisan thing."

Democrats fire back » Nobel brings no peace to partisan brawling in U.S.
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