COMMENTS: Obama Doctrine Channels Reinhold Niebuhr

"My accomplishments are slight." All three networks used the same self-deprecating soundbite in their coverage of President Barack Obama's speech in Oslo to accept the Nobel Peace Prize. ABC led with an extended reporterless montage of excerpts from his speech, culminating in the non-pacifist conclusion: "Clear-eyed, we can understand that there will be war--and still strive for peace." NBC and CBS both covered the Story of the Day in a conventional format, assigning their White House correspondents to lead off their newscasts.

NBC's Chuck Todd called Obama's "full-throated support for so-called Just Wars" the "biggest surprise" in the address. CBS' Chip Reid noted that Obama's self-professed admiration for non-violence was followed by this: "To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism; it is a recognition of history." ABC had Jake Tapper and George Stephanopoulos comment on the speech after running its extended excerpts. Stephanopoulos, who is soon to switch jobs to be anchor of Good Morning America, displayed the theological training that is unlikely to be showcased while interviewing actresses and hosting cooking segments: "One of his intellectual heroes is the philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr."

ABC's Tapper combined Obama's endorsement of the Just War together with his insistence on obeying international law, his support for human rights, his opposition to economic injustice and his pledge to engage adversaries diplomatically--and concluded that the speech amounted to "The Obama Doctrine, if you will."


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