When Gore was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last week (along with the IPCC), I knew conservatives wouldn't be dancing in the street and sending fruit baskets to the Vice President. But I'll have to admit, I was a bit surprised by the level of vitriol. One of the most powerful tools in the Republican spin kit is character assassination, so I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. When they can't win an argument on its merits - and they usually can't - they go straight to attacking the messenger.
Turns out, as far as the Nobel Peace Prize goes, there's good precedent for attacking recipients and the prize itself when conservatives don't like the choice. When Martin Luther King won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, conservatives went nuts. Here's an excerpt from an "open letter" William F. Buckley - the father of modern conservatism - wrote to King [h/t to Rick Perlstein]:
We don't expect that, in return for the Establishment's favor, you will become an Uncle Tom. But we do expect that for so long as we agree that you will be the reliquary for the world's inter-racial conscience, you will say something relevant tnow and then about the persecution of people even if they aren't Negroes. Is it a deal, Reverend?
If so, maybe we can go a long way together to make a better world. If not, kindly remember that the Nobel Committee is not a court of canonization, that it is merely one of those riches of the world which in your sermons you have so rightly disdained as of ephemeral importance.
Man was he hot under the color. What a louse. It must have really burned him that a black man won the prize.
Of course, as James Fallows has pointed out, both Al Gore and Martin Luther King are in good company with their fellow Nobels. With perhaps the exceptions of Henry Kissinger and Yasar Arafat, the committee's choices have stood the test of time - witness the Dalai Lama, George Marshall, Lech Walesa. Gore will, too.