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GOPers pick wrong fights


In one week’s time, President Barack Obama failed to convince the International Olympic Committee to allow an American city to host the 2016 Olympics, then was awarded the Nobel Prize. The reaction from conservatives to both events was consistent — there was exulting over Brazil winning the Olympics, and a Nobel Peace Prize became a bad thing.

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Was it shocking that Obama would be awarded the prize after just nine months in office when he has thus far failed to fulfill his promise to close Guantánamo Bay, bring the Israelis and the Palestinians to the negotiating table and convince the Russians and Chinese to join in sanctions against Iran, and now as he questions his own strategy in Afghanistan? Of course. Should Ronald Reagan have won the award for ending the Cold War? Yes. Jokes about the prize were made in both parties, and in the West Wing as well.

But one week after rejoicing that America had lost the Olympics, and therefore the thousands of jobs it would have created here, there was Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele mocking the president for his “awesomeness” and the Nobel as “meaningless.” Hopping on the Rush Limbaugh bandwagon (Rush called Obama a “laughingstock”), Steele wrote in a fundraising letter that “Democrats and their international leftist allies want America made subservient to the agenda of global redistribution and control.”

Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney and a comer in the Republican Party, also went overboard. Though she offered a constructive idea about how Obama could send a mother of a fallen soldier to accept the award on behalf of the United States in his place, she called the selection of Obama “a farce.”

Thankfully, there are restrained Republicans left in the party. Sen. John McCain (Ariz.), Sen. Orrin Hatch (Utah) and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty offered dignified responses that acknowledged their surprise but offered their congratulations. House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said nothing. And former Govs. Mitt Romney (Mass.) and Sarah Palin (Alaska), along with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), chose to stay silent.

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Let’s hope the next time there is an opportunity to bash Obama on the world stage, more Republicans follow the lead of the aforementioned grown-ups in the party, because the current trend of argument for argument’s sake does nothing to rehabilitate the GOP. Now that Obama’s approval has weakened because of his own policy decisions, there is no need for reflexive rejection of the president.

The loyal opposition should take on the Democrats and the president over the following: a surge of forces recommended by the president’s general in Afghanistan, the consequences of an increased federal role in healthcare, the impact of burgeoning debt, woeful unemployment and even Rep. Charles Rangel’s (D-N.Y.) right to remain chairman of the powerful tax-writing committee when he hasn’t cared to pay his own share of taxes.

On matters of governing, the GOP should not let up. But Republicans should beware of criticisms of the president’s peace prize and discussions about his birth certificate, and they should reject the Steele posture and Limbaugh patriotism. Voters who decide elections are listening.

Stoddard is an associate editor of The Hill.