President Obama "won" the prize last year merely as a measure of his perceived potential to do something truly great in the field of world peace. More about how that turned out in a minute.
But this year the winner is Liu Xiaobo -- an unquestionably powerful leader in what the Nobel Committee called the "long and nonviolent struggle for fundamental human rights in China."
Liu has fought the crimes and is doing the time. He's now serving out his fourth prison term, this time for "inciting subversion of state power" in China, whatever that's supposed to mean. What he actually did was cowrite and cosign the courageous Charter 08, a manifesto calling for democratic political reform in oppressive communist China.
Liu's Peace Prize, points out former Soviet political prisoner Natahn Sharansky, "is a reminder that in an authoritarian state the voice of the people is to be found not in the frenzied public claims of the regime, but among nervous taxi drivers and unnoticed dissidents."
Then there's last year's Peace Prize winner.
Remember Saturday Night Live's Seth Meyers' waggish take on Obama? "In other premature awards this week, high-school football player Billy Reynolds has been named this year's Heisman Trophy winner; fifth-grader Amber Collins has been named Miss America; and 9-year-old Dylan Holt has been named People's Sexiest Man Alive."
It echoed what virtually the rest of the world was thinking as they scratched their heads. Incredibly, Obama was nominated for the prize a scant two weeks after he was inaugurated as president. During that short span, evidently, Obama fine-tuned what the Nobel Committee called "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples."
Must have been a busy two weeks.
So what has Obama done lately to champion world peace?
There's still fighting in Afghanistan. Our commitment in Iraq is far from over. Obama has been no great shakes in keeping Mideast peace talks vibrant and alive. Air strikes by unmanned U.S. drones are killing people in Pakistan. Relations with rogue nations Iran and North Korea come in only one flavor -- sour.
Obama's prize already came tarnished, and hasn't gotten any shinier.
The exact opposite can be said of Liu Xiaobo. He is one of the bravest men on Earth, taking the fight for peace to the very heart of the human rights struggle in a tumultuous world.