Michael Moore's wife has convinced him that he was too harsh in his criticism of President Obama's Nobel Peace Prize. Moore has decided to share his born-again moment with other liberals by telling us to "Get off Obama's back." Well, here's my message to Moore: Absolutely not!
I remain highly skeptical of the Nobel Peace Prize committee's decision. My skepticism stems from Obama's continuation of policies that leftists -- including Moore -- criticized loudly, passionately, and relentlessly for the last 8 years. These policies include wars, troop surges, handouts to corporations, rendition, indefinite detention, denial of habeas corpus, military tribunals, state secrets, and a lack of positive action on GLBT rights. Moore's essay does not mention these things -- neither do the liberal defenses that have emerged which condemn progressives who question the prize committee's decision. If liberals truly hated these practices, then they should apply the same criticism to Obama. Otherwise, their criticism looks disingenuous and partisan.
Moore's essay also sets forth some very low standards for progressive politics. Why does Obama deserve the Nobel Peace Prize? He is "sane," "smart," wants world "peace," and was "elected." Add good looks to the list, and these traits could describe the winner of a Miss America pageant!
I believe that progressives can praise Obama when he is correct, criticize him when he is wrong, and act strategically at all times. The abolitionists did the same thing to Lincoln (whom Obama has symbolically emulated) and other moderate Republicans. The Civil Rights Movement criticized Kennedy. Today, progressives are told to be quiet and praise the establishment. History, however, means a lot more to me than sentimental political commentary.
For most of the last year, my liberal colleagues have told me (and others) to stop criticizing Obama. In a climate like this, I see no reason to heed their call. No progressive movement has accomplished its goals without criticism. Let the cheerleaders cheer and the cynics criticize. There is room for all voices -- and in this area, dissent is seriously underrepresented.
Update: Glenn Greenwald remains consistent on this issue as well, supplementing his prior commentary. See: Accusing Obama critics of "standing with the terrorists.