Corn has broken stories on presidents, politicians, and other Washington players. He's written for numerous publications and is a talk show regular. His best-selling books include Hubris: The Inside Story of Spin, Scandal, and the Selling of the Iraq War.
There was a fair bit of huffing when the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, less than eight months after Obama had moved into the Oval Office. Too soon, declared critics and skeptics, who had a point. The president had not earned the award through any particular action. And he recognized that in his initial remarks about winning the prize: "Let me be clear: I do not view it as a recognition of my own accomplishments, but rather as an affirmation of American leadership on behalf of aspirations held by people in all nations. To be honest, I do not feel that I deserve to be in the company of so many of the transformative figures who've been honored by this prize."
But Obama may well deserve a smidgen of credit for the Nobel Peace Prize that was handed out this week. The winner is the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the Hague-based body created to enforce the UN Chemical Weapons Convention that bans such arms. The OPCW is now busy overseeing the cataloging and destruction of Syria's chemical arsenal. Hence, the Obama connection.
It seems fair to argue that the OPCW is destroying chemical weapons equipment in Syria because Obama took a stand after the regime of Bashar al-Assad presumably attacked a suburb of Damascus with chemical weapons in August and killed about 1,400 people. After Obama threatened to launch a retaliatory attack on Syria with the aim of deterring Assad from again using these horrific weapons—a threat that resulted in a political kerfuffle in Washington—Russian leader Vladimir Putin brokered a deal under which Assad acknowledged he possessed chemical weapons and agreed to place them under international control. The subsequent negotiations are still under way, but, at least for the time being, Obama did achieve his aim—preventing the further use of chemical weapons in Syria. Moreover, he placed Putin on the hook for Assad's chemical weapons.
Partly as a result of Obama's actions, Assad's use of chemical weapons became a top-line priority of the global community, and the work of the OPCW received far more notice. As Thorbjoern Jagland the chairman of the award committee, noted, "Recent events in Syria, where chemical weapons have again been put to use, have underlined the need to enhance the efforts to do away with such weapons."
In trying to build support for a strike on Syria, Obama cited the importance of supporting the global ban on chemical weapons and echoed his previous calls for steps toward nuclear disarmament. Recognizing the OPCW award is a boost for international disarmament endeavors. After it was announced, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute made this point:
SIPRI warmly welcomes the award of the 2013 Nobel Peace Prize to the OPCW, an organization closely aligned with the aims and work of SIPRI. The world is a safer and more peaceful place as a result of the work of the OPCW.
Achieving disarmament is a long-term, incremental process and implementing the Chemical Weapons Convention has not always been a high-profile activity. Awarding the prize to the OPCW at this time is also a recognition of the hard work of chemical weapons inspectors now working in Syria under dangerous conditions.
The achievements of the OPCW show that, thanks to international cooperation, it is possible to rid the world of chemical weapons. Indeed, they demonstrate that a world free of weapons of mass destruction is politically and technically feasible.
This Nobel Peace Prize is hence a reminder that the reduction and abolition of nuclear weapons are possible, and that it must be tackled as well. And once states have completely abandoned all nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, they must work together to prevent their re‑emergence, whether in the hands of states or non-state actors. The work of the OPCW—and its dedication to peace and security to help to form a safer world for all—will thus remain important for many years to come.
Don't expect Obama to claim any credit for this award. But perhaps the leaders of OPCW can send him a thank-you card.
Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn spoke with MSNBC's Joy Reid this week about why President Obama won't paint House Speaker John Boehner as a government shutdown villain and what the chances are for a new supercommittee. Watch here:
How did the Republican Party become a kamikaze club guided by a small handful of hostage-taking radicals hell-bent on causing chaos to ruin the presidency of Barack Obama? It wasn't by the design of House Speaker John Boehner and the GOP congressional leadership. This came about because a small number of tea party back-benchers in the House and Senate, assisted by a well-financed network of right-wing organizations (some funded by the billionaire Koch brothers), pushed an issue that was red meat for the GOP's base—defunding Obamacare—and managed to hijack the party (even more than the tea party already had).
Let's look at how the Boehner-led GOPers began this latest round of political battle. After Obama won reelection and the Democrats picked up 11 seats in the House last November, Boehner appeared ready to accept political reality. He observed,
It's pretty clear that the president was re-elected. Obamacare is the law of the land. If we were to put Obamacare into the CR [the bill funding the government, known as a continuing resolution] and send it over to the Senate, we were risking shutting down the government. That is not our goal.
That is, Boehner had no desire to relitigate Obamacare through the budget process.
Mother Jones DC bureau chief David Corn spoke with MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell and Krystal Ball this week about why Republicans in Congress are more worried about the Tea Party than they are about John Boehner. Watch here:
At the start of this shutdown-struck week, I published a piece asking whether Barack Obama should "reveal his inner pissed-off president." The point was to wonder if it were time for the president, who usually keeps his cool, to call out the tea party Republican hostage takers as crazies hell-bent on imposing suffering on millions of Americans—by shuttering the federal government and/or forcing a US government default—due to their obsessive opposition to Obamcare. It's unclear whether there's anything the president could say that would change the perverse internal dynamic within the House Speaker John Boehner's GOP clown show, but perhaps—call it an outside possibility—a more forceful and direct rhetorical shot from the White House could have some impact on the national conversation.
On Tuesday, Obama appeared in the Rose Garden and did angrily denounce the extremist Republicans for causing the shutdown and threatening to turn the coming debt ceiling tussle into another crisis. "That's not how adults operate," he declared, ratcheting up the tough talk. But the question remains: Is Obama's language sufficiently descriptive for the situation at hand?
On Wednesday evening, Obama met with congressional leaders at the White House. The 90-minute confab was, as expected, unproductive. Afterward, Boehner told reporters, "All we are asking here is…fairness for the American people." Fairness? That's been the call of the Republican crusaders in recent days. They have been unwilling to fund the government at the reduced levels they demanded (via the debt ceiling negotiations of 2011 that yielded the automatic budget cuts known as sequestration) because they are trying to ensure "fairness" on Obamacare.