Yesterday (12.14.09) saw one Matthew Spaulding, a constitutional scholar with the Heritage Foundation, release a paper opining that Barack Obama may be in breach of the Constitution of the United States for accepting the Nobel Peace Prize. I have read Mr. Spaulding’s paper, and I find him to be full of fail.
There is a quick answer to this, but I’m going to take the long way around because it’s more amusing. If you want to skip over and drop straight to the real reason this yahoo is talking out his ass, jump to the Super Secret Extra Happy Point at the end.
So, because I think it’s funny, I present to you Kevin of HOLE, webcomic artist and purveyor of boobie jokes, vs. Matthew Spaulding of the Heritage Foundation, political consultant, Washington think-tanker, constitutional scholar and director of the B. Kenneth Simon Center for American Studies.
Point 1: Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution
“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office or Trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign state.”
The issue given here by Mr. Spaulding is whether or not the Nobel Peace Prize is an Emolument, and if Obama should have gotten Congress’ stamp of approval before accepting it. It’s a very good question that raises a lot of eyebrows… unless you own a friggin’ dictionary.
Merriam-Webster: Emolument – the returns arising from office or employment usually in the form of compensation or perquisites.
Allow me to point out the salient words here. Office, and employment. The Nobel Peace Prize is what? Let’s think… could we have a clue? Is it… a prize? If I go to my local gaming convention and win an award for Best D&D Based Webcomic Who’s Author is Actually Here, does that represent an office, a title of nobility, or did I just go to work for the mother and brother-in-law of the guy who is in charge of the con because that’s who he asked to choose the winner? The answer is no, because it’s a stupid prize, you dork. It’s not a title, it’s not an office, and it’s not employment. It’s a prize. (Hint: it’s in the name.) Point 1 goes to Kevin.
Point 2: “The award is the property of the United States and Obama has 60 days to turn it over to the authorities for proper disposal.”
Well… it depends. Originally in the U.S. it was illegal for presidents to accept gifts (or presents) of any kind. Very quickly however, they realized that this course of action would result in continuously insulting flocks of foreign leaders. (Which is apparently what Mr. Spauding is after.) The law was changed to allow presidents to keep anything they got if they received congressional approval. Later the law was changed again to allow automatic approval for items with a material value of less than $335. Now the Nobel Peace Prize consists of 3 parts, a 1.4 million dollar cash award, an honorary diploma, and a medal. Obama has announced his intention to give the money to charity, and the diploma with his name on it has no material value whatsoever. That leaves the medal, which might be gold… I’m not really sure. If it is, then Congress might send it to some kind of presidential museum or something, if they’re feeling like dicks.
Now all of this assumes that a prize is to be considered under the same rules as gifts, which it may or may not be. I tend to think it should be, since prizes could be used to the same effect as gifts if you thought you could sway someone’s opinion in that manner. Point 2 (probably) to Spaulding, event though he thinks it’s an emolument, and not a present — because he’s stupid.
Point 3: “The Commission, the group that gives out the Nobel Prize, is actually appointed by the Parliament of Norway, which is to say that it’s connected with a foreign state.”
Sort of. The Nobel Foundation hands out 6 awards each year, every one of them awarded by a different committee, and every one of those committees is chosen in a different fashion and by different people. (Should I be surprised that Spaulding doesn’t seem to know this?) The only one awarded by a committee chosen by any government agency is the Nobel Peace Prize, (there is no generic “Nobel Prize”) which is the one Obama won. I’d give this point to Spaulding except he uses it merely as a support for his previous contention, that the prize should be considered a gift and subject to congressional approval — which I already gave him. Point 3 is void. (If you’ve noticed that Spaulding has shifted gears here and is now contending that the prize is a gift and not an emolument… yeah, I saw it too.)
Point 4: Spaulding has stated that the Nobel Peace Prize committee chose a president who hadn’t yet accomplished anything of note as a way to influence him in the future when he does get around to doing something.
The easiest way to see if this is true is to look at why the committee said they gave it to him, and then look at whether or not Obama actually did any of the things they supposedly gave it to him for.
- “for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples…” While it would be easy to say that this is simply an award for not being George W. Bush, it goes a little deeper. Bush was a train wreck on the international stage, and his belligerent attitudes were responsible for the escalation of tensions, terrorist recruitments, and the condemnation of our country throughout the Middle East, as well as continually insulting, belittling, and acting disrespectfully towards our European allies. By announcing that we will meet and open diplomatic channels with everyone, (to the extent that it’s possible) the United States has set an entirely new stage for the nations of the world to come to the table and mend their rifts.
- Nuclear Arms Control: For years a fact of life in the world, arms control was abandoned by the Bush administration in their desire to field a tactical nuclear arsenal and to build a missile shield that would both block incoming missiles, and violate the terms of all of our previous treaties, thus giving other signatories free rein to violate them as well. Obama has returned nuclear arms control to the forefront of his administration, correctly seeing this as one of the most important safety considerations to this country, or any other.
- The accomplishment-less president: Obama has accomplished more than any other first year president in the past fifty years, and is on track to exceed even that. (Here is a partial listing of his successes so far.) Half of his accomplishments are fairly liberal, which liberals overlook because of the things he hasn’t done yet, and the other half are all fairly conservative, which conservatives ignore because they don’t want to be seen supporting a Democrat. But if you put it all together, it’s an impressive list.
Final point and match to Kevin, who is both smarter and much better looking than Mr. Spaulding. (While I’ve never met him, based on the fact that he delivers half-baked nonsense from a position whereby he ought to know better, I am pretty sure he’s a douche.)
Super Secret Extra Happy Point: The simplest argument here that Mr. Fancy-Pants constitutional scholar completely blows over is this — Spaulding says that Obama is in breach by accepting the award. Yet the purpose of the law is to allow presidents to accept ALL gifts so as not to offend anyone. If the gift is over $335 it is now the responsibility of Congress to decide if he should keep it. Obama has so far done exactly what he was supposed to have done, and our dear Mr. Spaulding should return his head to the bucket where it belongs.