In the long, confounding history of inappropriate or unwarranted awards and prizes, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger being named the joint winner of the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize has to rank at the top of any such list.
Clearly, it ranks higher than Roberto Benigni beating out Ian McKellen for the Best Actor Oscar, in 1998, and way higher than the Chevrolet Vega being named Motor Trend magazine’s 1971 “Car of the Year.”
Kissinger’s fellow co-winner in 1973 was the Vietnamese revolutionary and politician Le Duc Tho. So the almost saintly Mahatma Gandhi gets nominated for the Peace Prize five times but never wins? And yet the Teutonic Supercock wins it on his very first try? Irony doesn’t come in any more bizarre a package.
The Nobel Committee, presumably to prove that, God forbid, they weren’t “taking sides,” chose to honor both men simultaneously. They honored the man who (along with his accomplice, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara) was responsible for deliberately bombing and killing countless civilians, and the man representing the country whose civilians were being bombed and killed.
Although it was never adequately explained, this particular Peace Prize had to be the product of some twisted international calculus—some preposterous tit for tat—where a powerful, highly mechanized country that was committing the murders, and the largely peasant country whose women and children were being murdered, were elevated to equal status.
To his credit, Le Duc Tho refused to accept the award. He rightly believed that until there was legitimate peace in Vietnam—which included, obviously, a cessation to the killing and foreign occupation—sharing the honor with Kissinger would be a sham. Meanwhile, Kissinger had no problem accepting his trophy and placing it on his mantle, doubtless regarding it as evidence of his humanitarianism.
All of this reminds us of one of Mort Sahl’s political quips. He said that if Richard Nixon saw a man drowning in a lake, fifteen feet from shore, he would throw him a ten-foot rope. And then Henry Kissinger would go on national TV and solemnly announce that “the president had met him more than halfway.”
Which brings us to the present day. Not that he’s a “war criminal,” but given the Nobel Committee’s obvious capacity for self-delusion and squirrellyness, would it be totally out of the question for them to give the Peace Prize to Donald Trump? Award it to him in recognition of his having reached out to the heretofore “unreachable” Kim Jong-Un of North Korea?
After all, even though nothing substantive or remarkable was achieved as a result of the meeting (other than Trump appearing even more Mussolini-like, and Kim Jung-Un appearing even weirder and more inscrutable), the Committee could view this as being the all-important “first step” in normalizing relations.
According to Gore Vidal, there is an astounding amount of shameless lobbying, arm-twisting, and self-promotion accompanying the Nobel Prizes. Chemists do it; physicists do it; novelists do it. Everybody wants to be considered for a Nobel Prize, and then, after making the short list, everybody wants to win.
Given Trump’s shallow narcissism and his insistence on being praised and made to look “presidential” at every turn, the thought of this man being awarded something as prestigious as the Nobel Prize is almost too gruesome to contemplate. We think his tweets are insufferably self-serving now, just wait until he becomes a Nobel Laureate. He could fly to the moon on the gas it would create.
And let’s not kid ourselves. Because the precedent has already been firmly established, Donald Trump winning the damn thing is not that farfetched. President Barack (“Have drone, will travel”) Obama won the Peace Prize in 2009. Anything is possible.