Blogs > Liberty and Power > Is President Obama constitutionally barred from accepting the Nobel Prize?

Oct 15, 2009 10:15 pm

Is President Obama constitutionally barred from accepting the Nobel Prize?

Arguably: this is interesting. Discuss in comments!

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Aeon J. Skoble - 10/16/2009

First of all, IANAL, so I actually don't have an opinion as to whether the argument in that article is sound or not; I just thought it was interesting enough to post. But, surely race isn't relevant here: either it's unconstitutional or it's not.

John Doe - 10/16/2009

First, there are two additional precedents besides Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The provision in the Constitution applies to all federal officeholders, not just the President. Therefore the following precedents apply as well:

1925 - Nobel Peace Prize goes to Charles Dawes, sitting Vice Preident for his pre-VP work on the Allied War Reparations Council trying to reduce Germany's WW1 reparations obligations.

1973- Henry Kissinger, who would remain Secretary of State until Jan. 1977 wins Nobel Peace Prize for Vietnam accords.

As far as I know both Dawes and Kissinger were able to collect their awards and decide what to do with the money, just as TR and Wilson did. (TR gave his money to charity, Wilson kept his. I don't know what Dawes and Kissinger did with it).

OK, so this situation has arisen 4 times and each time the affected person has been allowed to keep the award. If this was a tabula rasa I might agree that Obama shouldn't accept, but, since I am not aware of anything like the Nobel Prize existing in the Framers' time (they were thinking of titles of nobility and knighthoods) I would say that the Constitutional provision is ambigious enough to be interpreted either way and the fact that federal officeholders have accepted the prize 4 times in the past is enough of a precedent to say the matter has been settled.

Also, given the reality of race in America the fact that 4 white men have previously been allowed to accept the prize creates a political problem in making an argument against objecting to a black man in a similar situation accepting it the first time a black man is in this situation.