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Nobel Peace Prize an Unprecedented Honor for Obama

(AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Even the Prime Minister of Norway, the nation that bestows the Nobel Peace Prize, was surprised at the selection of President Obama as this year's recipient.

Everyone was.

Mr. Obama has only been in office for less than 9 months. And though his staff believes he hit the ground running, they don't lay claim on his behalf to any groundbreaking accomplishments in the advancement of peace. And they too, were among those caught short if not stunned by the news from Oslo at 5:00 a.m. here in Washington.

"Wow!" was the first response from White House spokesman Robert Gibbs to a reporter's e-mail seeking reaction to the president's selection to receive the Peace Prize.

It was Gibbs who informed the president of the honor coming his way, about an hour after the announcement was made.

The decision by the Nobel Prize selection committee can be seen as political, a chance for the panel to hail a change in American leadership and policy marked by the departure last January of President George W. Bush – who had been excoriated by some on the world stage for pursuing a "go-it-alone approach" and "cowboy diplomacy."

Taking a theme from Mr. Obama's campaign, the Nobel committee cites him for giving the world "hope for a better future." The panel further points to his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."

It's an unprecedented honor for a U.S. president less than 9 months in the job. Only two other American occupants of the White House won the Nobel Peace Prize while in office, but for specific accomplishments.

• Theodore Roosevelt won in 1906 for helping to broker a peace treaty between Russia and Japan.

• Woodrow Wilson was honored in 1919 for his efforts to establish the League of Nations.

Mr. Obama gets the award for the promise and possibility of accomplishments based on his approach to world affairs.

His prize is meant to honor an expression of aspirations for peace, rather than the actual achievement of it.

The selection was announced on the day Mr. Obama is meeting with his national security team to discuss sending up to 40,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan.

Mr. Obama took office less than ten days before the February 1st deadline for the submission of this year's Nobel Prizes.

More Coverage of the Nobel Peace Prize:

President Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize
Obama: Nobel Prize a "Call To Action"
Analysis: Nobel Prize Doesn't Help Obama
Mark Phillips: The Audacity of the Nobel Committee
Mark Knoller: Nobel Peace Prize an Unprecedented Honor for Obama
List of Past U.S. Winners
World Reaction to the Award
Read Excerpts from the Nobel Citation
Common Nobel Prize myths debunked
What's Your Opinion?
Watch video of Nobel award ceremony from AP Television
Watch a shocked Bob Schieffer's analysis
Watch Mark Phillips' report on the Prize

What's your opinion:

Mark Knoller is a CBS News White House correspondent. You can read more of his posts in Hotsheet here. You can also follow him on Twitter here:
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