That doesn't do justice to what I imagine to be the Nobel Peace Prize Committee's intent in awarding the prize to President Obama. The point, as I take it, is not that Obama isn't Bush. Many people are not George Bush. (Well, technically, every other person is not George Bush, but you get my point). It's hard to imagine the committee's awarding the prize this year to any of the other Democratic candidates who, had they been successful, would have replaced George Bush -- Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards (snicker), Bill Richardson, Chris Dodd, Dennis Kucinich, or Mike Gravel.
I see the committee's message a little differently from that Egyptian man on the street. I think they handed Obama the prize not just because he isn't George Bush (though that surely helped), but because he represents a reaffirmation of an idea about the United States and the role that idea can play in world politics and world peace. That idea is the possibility of cross-racial, cross-"tribal," cross-ethnic, cross-religious reconciliation. Race, tribe, ethnicity, religion -- nothing (except perhaps oil) undermines peace within and between countries quite as effectively or as often as these. Barack Obama's presidency reminds the world that there is a different way.
Obama symbolizes a major success of the American political experiment. He is one of the most significant one-man illustrations of the capacity to transcend tribe that the world has seen. It's easy for us here in the United States to get caught up in our domestic politics, our Bill-O'Reilly-versus-Keith-Olbermann dueling, and forget what the election of Barack Obama meant, and still means, to a great many people the world over.
The best analogy for this award might be the 1993 award to Mandela and de Klerk, or maybe the 1998 award to Hume and Trimble. But they're imperfect analogies because the committee could only make its message intelligible by simultaneously honoring two people, two races, two religious, two tribes. Here the committee was able to communicate its message of hope for a more peaceful world with an award to just one.
Yes, Barack Obama's frame is too small, and his presidency too new, to support the award comfortably. But if you think of it as an award not to one man but to all of us, the United States, the people who elected him and then peacefully transferred power to him, the frame seems a lot bigger and stronger.