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Thursday’s Headlines: Obama Accepts Nobel Peace Prize, Defends U.S. Wars

President Barack Obama and Nobel Committee Chairman Thorbjoern Jagland. Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.

–President Barack Obama holds his Nobel Peace Prize next to Chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, Thorbjoern Jagland, during a ceremony Thursday in Oslo. (Photo by Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images.)
President Barack Obama traveled to Oslo Thursday to accept his Nobel Peace Prize. Speaking to an audience of diplomats and prize recipients, the president acknowledged that receiving the award was more due to his aspirations for peace, than past accomplishments. Mr. Obama also addressed the incongruity of accepting a peace prize while serving as a war president, just nine days after ordering the deployment of 30,000 additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

“I receive this honor with deep gratitude and great humility,” President Obama said. “It is an award that speaks to our highest aspirations — that for all the cruelty and hardship of our world, we are not mere prisoners of fate.”

The president reminded the audience that the United States was coerced into the war in Afghanistan on 9/11, and that the United States must answer to those who attack the country. “There will be times when nations — acting individually or in concert — will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified,” he said.

“A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms,” President Obama said. “To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism, it is a recognition of history.”

But the president also reinforced his commitment to justice, stating that during his first year as president he banned torture, ordered the closing of Guantanamo Bay detention center and reaffirmed “America’s commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.”

“We lose ourselves when we compromise the very ideals that we fight to defend,” he said. “And we honor those ideals by holding them not just when it is easy, but when it is hard.”

You can read the full text of President Obama’s speech here.

NPR dissects the anatomy of the president’s speech, saying the Oslo speech is full of “land mines.” National security aide Ben Rhodes tells NPR that as Americans, “We do have a special burden. And it’s one that we don’t take lightly. And I think the president will have the opportunity to talk about that in Oslo.”

David Frum, George W. Bush speechwriter, also uses the metaphor of “land mines,” telling the Wall Street Journal: “This prize was no favor to him, and the speech is a field of land mines. It raises two questions: Do you care more about international public opinion than you do about American public opinion? And second, are you more eloquent when you talk about global peace than you are when you are calling young Americans into battle?”

As for U.S. public reaction to the president’s prize, the Los Angeles Times’ Top of the Ticket says that not quite one-in-five Americans believes Mr. Obama has accomplished enough to deserve it, compared to the nearly one-in-three who believed he was deserving about two months ago.

We’ll have more on President Obama’s acceptance of the Nobel Peach Prize on this evening’s program.

  *   Defense Secretary [Robert Gates made a surprise visit](http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/10/AR2009121000841.html) to Baghdad Thursday. He’s scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and will likely discuss the r[ecent bombings that killed more than 100 Iraqis](http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec09/iraq_12-08.html). A Pentagon spokesman said that Gates will offer condolences to the victims and assistance to the government.   *   Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner will testify Thursday before the Congressional Oversight Panel, which was created to oversee the Troubled Asset Relief Program. On Wednesday, Geithner indicated the Obama administration would extend TARP through 2010, including using an additional $50 billion in funds to help small businesses, [according to the Wall Street Journal](http://online.wsj.com/article/SB126036933360483463.html). The [House of Representatives will debate changes](http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1016526520091210) to financial regulation, including granting government powers over large banks and tightening regulation of capital markets. Legislation before the House would create an inter-agency council to monitor systemic risks and establish protocols for handling large financial firms to prevent the kind of economic meltdown that caused the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. We’ll have more on Geithner’s testimony and Congressional reaction later today.

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