October 15, 2007

Would You Rather?

… winning the Nobel Prize does not automatically qualify you to be commander in chief. I think George Bush has proved definitively that to be president, you don’t need to care about science, literature or peace.

That’s a quotation from Stephen Colbert, filling in at Maureen Dowd’s New York Times Op Ed column.

So, which will it be? Would you rather …

  • Be president of the United States of America
  • Win the Nobel Peace prize
Posted by James at October 15, 2007 8:52 AM
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Tracked on October 15, 2007 1:14 PM

Sign me up for a gig at the White house! If anyone wants me I'll be on the Truman balcony!

Posted by: Lefty at October 15, 2007 10:08 AM

I'd rather win the Peace Prize. It means I've already made an important contribution in the world. I doubt that I would be an effective PotUS; I have no qualifications. At best, I'd accomplish nothing of significance and do minimal damage, but it's far more likely that a lot of important things would fall through the cracks.

Posted by: Julie at October 15, 2007 10:13 AM

I'll take the Nobel. Can't imagine why anyone would want to be president.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at October 15, 2007 10:25 AM

This is the easiest damned WYR evah.
I wouldn't be president of the United States for anything. And, damn, would it be groovy to get a Nobel prize!

So, like, just as B.O.B. says, yes, indeedy.

Posted by: Barry Leiba at October 15, 2007 10:58 AM

Put me down for the Nobel Prize please... I'd much rather be recognized for my mind than for my ability to trick people into voting for me.

Posted by: Chuck S. at October 15, 2007 11:29 AM

Peace Prize While I wouldn't mind being the president I think it takes some skills that I currently lack.. Also working with congress would probably be too painful for me (unless we had a majority). I also worry that "power corrupts, absolute power...." I often wonder if I was in a position of power like that how would it change me. The peace prize seems more my speed.

Posted by: Jay at October 15, 2007 11:34 AM

This is a trick question, right?

Peace prize, please.

As my husband said, I can't imagine why anyone would want to be president. And to echo Julie, winning the peace prize would mean I've done something useful to benefit the world.

Posted by: Patti M. at October 15, 2007 1:00 PM

Peace Prize.

Posted by: Sara at October 15, 2007 3:06 PM

Yeah, this is pretty much a given: The Peace Prize.

First, being President is a stressful, tough and thankless job, even if you are good at it. And, no matter how good at it, there will be millions of people who will revile you for your performance of your job.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at October 15, 2007 3:52 PM

And, no matter how good at it, there will be millions of people who will revile you for your performance of your job.

Of course, over the last few days I've seen a Peace Prize winner or two used as a media pinata.

Posted by: James at October 15, 2007 4:02 PM

The media can make a pinata out of anyone. Even so, I still think political officials are easier targets than Nobel Prize winners. If Mother Theresa had been appointed (against her will) to political office, I'm certain that millions would have found a way to fault her for the job she did, regardless of her intentions. And, we all know that even the best-intentioned politician (YIKES! Is that even possible?) is no Mother Theresa on the 'intentions' scale.

Posted by: Kitten Herder at October 15, 2007 9:01 PM

Perhaps I am just a bit naive or ignorant, but I certainly can't name more than 5 Nobel Peace Prize winners! I don't even remember who won last year. Can anyone name 5 previous winners without searching through Google, Wikipedia, etc.?

Boo to the peace prize.I'd rather have command over the 82nd airborne.

Being President earns a place in the history books and Secret Service protection for life. Nobel Peace Prize winners receive an oversized penny. Make some room on Mt. Rushmore for me because I would be the most kick ass President ever!

..And there is just too much irony for having a peace prize named for the inventor of dynamite.

Posted by: at October 15, 2007 10:53 PM

I'm all about both. Did a president ever win? Carter did, didn't he? Anyone else?

I love the 82nd Airborne quote above. Alfred Nobel had dynamite. I want sidewinders, a line item veto and a first lady who didn't try to outlaw David Bowie's lyrics.

But I still think what Al has done (and I've blogged this) is commendable. The best choice in the Gore election was actually a 3rd Clinton term, but he (gasp) had oral sex and lied about it.

Once you do that, you're on your way to ignoring the constitution, declaring war on two countries that didn't attack you and ....
.... wait. Does GWB still say trading Sammy Sosa was his worst mistake?

Posted by: george at October 15, 2007 10:59 PM

KH: You're right, political officials are constant targets. And that's one of the reasons I'd probably not love being president. I just thought it was funny on this go-around to see the conservative media work up a lather about Gore. Again. I think part of the reason there is such froth there is because the criticism seems to roll off Gore's back. Well, that and that he keeps being successful (and vindicated.)

Anonymous: Thanks for your comment. Please use a name or nickname in the future, because I don't like having to call people "anonymous." Your comment left me wondering "can people name 5 commanders of the 82nd airborne without looking it up?" ;-)

I guess fame is one criteria for making a choice between the two options, but the great thing about "would you rather" is that even when people make the same decision, each person has a slightly different set of concerns and motivations. I'm willing to bet some people who answered "Nobel Prize" did so out of a desire to do something meaningful and actually avoid the kind of fame that comes from being president.

Fame or notoriety as the case may be.

Posted by: James at October 15, 2007 11:11 PM

George: Carter did. Arafat, along with Rabin and Peres. Kofi Anan. Doctors without borders. Mother Theresa.

I have to admit that those are the only ones I can recall without looking it up, and Doctors Without Borders I only heard about yesterday. But it gets me over 5.

Posted by: James at October 15, 2007 11:18 PM

Arafat, Pires, and Rabin all won in the same year, so I think to count them as 3 seperate winners unfair.

and when I referred to commanding the 82nd airborne, I meant as Commander-in-Chief. I certainly hope that people can name at least 5 Presidents.

It's not so much the fame of being President, it's more like the degree of power. Just consider these recent Nobel Peace winners (aka losers) ...

2006 Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus
2004 Wangari Maathai
2003 Shirin Ebadi

I don't know who they are, or what they did to earn the award. I presume they did a bit more than produce a movie.

Posted by: Anonymous at October 15, 2007 11:50 PM

I didn't realize this question was about being famous. If the choice is famous or not famous I'll take not. If my face ever shows up on Entertainment Tonight please shoot me.

The problem with the power of president is you actually have to do the job (or fail to do the job). Everybody, including your political allies will turn on you at somepoint. The reason you get secret service protection for life is that people want to kill you.

Oh and anonymous, the 82nd airborne is a bit busy at the moment so you might want to hold off on starting any more wars.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at October 16, 2007 7:15 AM

Regarding the 82nd Airborne, things just aren't the same since the military declared that everyone gets to wear berets. There was something especially menacing about a Ranger in a black beret.

Brr...I just got a nice chill...

Posted by: Patti M. at October 16, 2007 8:25 AM

Peace is great, Nobel is noble and Prizes are awesome.

But I think with my current work ethic and approach to problem solving (occasionally checking digg, eating Triscuits, and badmouthing neighbors) I would be an exceptional President (by comparison).

I'll take President (in 11 years).

Posted by: Derek at October 16, 2007 8:54 AM

Anon 11:50: If you don't recognize their names, they must be losers? Interesting logic.

I didn't recognize their names either, but I assumed that was because of my ignorance/indifference, or because the US media often gives preferential treatment to celebrity "news" rather than world events that don't affect oil prices. Not because of some deficiency on the parts of Maathai, Ebadi, et al.

It turns out that Wangari Maathai was the first woman in East AND Central Africa to earn a PhD. (Yes, I did have to look that up and no, that's not why she won the prize.) Anon 11:50, you must be quite accomplished to be able to call such a person a loser, whether she wins a Peace Prize or not.

Posted by: Julie at October 16, 2007 9:26 AM

Anonymous: It was a joke. I admit it was subtle, and not very good, but that's why I left a smiley as a clue. Go around and ask people for the commanders of the 82nd airborne and see if most people name 5 presidents.

Anyhow, being able to name 5 presidents can still fail to get you 5 commanders of the 82nd airborne. Washington. Adams. Jefferson. Madison. Adams.

Wait - both Adams probably don't count because they have the same last name, right? ;-)

I can't count Rabin, Arafat and Perez as separate winners? Wow, you're not very generous. In any case, you said "winners" not "years" in your challenge, so it's hardly fair to change the rules on me.

You apparently know a thing or two about Nobel prize winners. Perhaps they are not so obscure after all.

Posted by: James at October 16, 2007 9:28 AM

I went back and counted - I named 7 people, so even without counting Rabin and Perez (sorry dudes, you've been voted off the island!) I had 5. That makes me supreme ruler of the universe!!!!!

I agree that most people probably couldn't name 5. But most people think the trillion-dollar Iraq war was a mistake. So, clearly, most people are out of their minds and cannot be trusted.

Posted by: James at October 16, 2007 9:41 AM

In semi-related news, I thought Thomas Friedman's Op-Ed on what happened after one person gained the presidency and the other person lost it was right on the money.

“Gore, even without the presidency, used all the modern tools of communication, the Internet, video and globalization to reach out and galvanize a global movement,” Mr. Rothkopf said. “Bush took the greatest platform in the world and dug himself a policy grave.”

It's hard to imagine it wouldn't be a better world but for Republican flying monkeys being sent in to Florida to protest recounts and one subsequent Supreme Court decision.

Finger pointing may not be very productive, but in the country's current mess, at least people don't have to wonder much how we got here.

Posted by: James at October 16, 2007 10:25 AM

curiosity made me want to see how many I could get in addition to James'. I added Gorbachev, Mandela and King. I guessed wrong on Gahndi (how did he not get one?). I missed a couple I should have known.

Looking at the list I realized that they are often given to organizations which makes it somewhat harder to remember who got what when.

Posted by: B.O.B. (bob) at October 16, 2007 11:03 AM

Of the criticism that I have received by the "thought police" I am glad that no one refuted that I would be the most kick ass President, and that I deserve a premature spot on Mt. Rushmore.

I am not using fame as the only barometer. However, if someone has done something so significant in the betterment of the world, then I should know about it. My point is that of the Nobel Peace Prize winners that have no name recognition, clearly they did not work hard enough or did not accomplish anything worth awarding.

I passed MCAS with Needs Improvement, did any of those "winners" ever pass MCAS? Oh, and I didn't even get an oversized penny either.

I don't see Doctors without Borders on the list of winners. However there is this goofy named person Médecins Sans Frontières who won in 1999. That name looks French to me and we al know that the French are enemies of the US.

As for my other accomplishments, I won the 3rd grade speeling bee and also I was named Time Magazine's Person of the Year. I am also in the preliminary stages of planning to be the 1st person to land on the sun.

Posted by: Anonymous at October 16, 2007 11:05 AM

Of course name recognition is important, Anonymous.

Posted by: James at October 16, 2007 11:26 AM

Despite her healthy dose of yanking our chain, Anonymous' comments speak to what is an interesting the difference between the presidency and the Nobel Prize. I joked about it in a previous post:


The presidency is, in a large part a popularity/beauty contest. On the other hand, the Nobel Prize is awarded not on popularity, but in an effort to publicly recognize some contribution to society. Finding obscure people is part of that mission, although clearly they are not shy about awarding the Nobel to well-recognized world figures, either.

Médecins Sans Frontières is as French as french fries and should be treated similarly. With mayo.

I am generally not much of a fan of prizes, but the Nobel prize doesn't bother me much. It's better than an Oscar.

Posted by: James at October 16, 2007 11:53 AM

"Anonymous" has become tiresome.

Posted by: Patti M. at October 16, 2007 12:15 PM

Sorry, no term limits on the internets.

Posted by: President Anonymous at October 16, 2007 12:58 PM

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