Two years ago, Barack Obama was an obscure Illinois official who some people argued should not be considered a legitimate candidate for the presidency of the United States.
Now, he's the president who has escalated a war in Afghanistan who some people argue should not be considered a legitimate recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.
THE SAME PARTISAN criticism that came up a few months ago when the Nobel recipients were announced is going to recur Thursday, as this is the day that Obama is in Oslo to receive the gold medal and the prize worth about $1,400 in U.S. currency (he says he's giving the money to charity).
To people who don't like to have to think very much, Obama's circumstances make him an oddity to receive a peace prize -- even though Obama himself has justified his recently announced increase of troops by 30,000 in Afghanistan as part of an effort to end U.S. involvement in that conflict against extremists who claim to be motivated by Islam by the year 2011.
If Obama truly can pull off the idea of a brief increase followed up by a withdrawal of troops within two years, then perhaps we'd have to acknowledge that he really did bring an end to the war triggered by George W. Bush's desire to be a "wartime" president.
But as I have written before, I don't think this conflict is going to end so quick. I wouldn't be surprised if troops remain on Inauguration Day 2013,.
SO WHAT SHOULD we think of Obama as we listen to him give a speech acknowledging receipt of the medal with the image of Alfred Nobel engraved on it?
The Washington Post reported earlier this week that Obama fully intends to use his speech to address the so-called paradox of a man who escalates a war effort receiving a prize meant to reward world peace.
Obama's press secretary, Joe Gibbs, told the newspaper that he will address the issue head on, although he wouldn't say what would be said by Obama -- in large part because those words may very well be worked on and polished literally up to the moment Obama gives the speech in Oslo.
I'm wondering if Obama's address is going to amount to some sort of explanation that war and conflict are occasionally necessary in order to bring under control some force that threatens the peace of people at-large on Planet Earth.
IN SHORT, DEFEATING the Taliban, Al Qaida, or any force that believes the Koran justifies the violent means often employed by these groups to try to bring some sort of Islamic image to their society could be some sort of higher moral concept that should be supported.
I don't know how much I agree with that idea, although I will be the first to admit that if such forces ever did gain support or control within the United States, I'd probably be one of the first people to want to oppose them in large part because of the extent to which they try to control public thought (and rein in opposition).
But we have to keep in mind the fact that the people who voted to give Obama the Peace Prize did so in large part because they want to give him the moral high ground as he tries to impose his "vision" of a better society.
Could it be that that gives Republicans and Al Qaida something in common? Both have their qualms about what Obama would like to accomplish, and would gain politically if Obama were to fail.
A FUTURE OBAMA success would wind up making those Nobel people look like geniuses. And if he were to fail, it would set the stage for his opponents to get much of the blame for shooting down a vision that could have brought about a better society for all.
I will be waiting for word Thursday of what Obama has to say to justify his prize in part because it wouldn't be his only success of recent days.
Just this week, Democrats in the Senate made it known that they think they have reached a deal on a bill related to health care reform that they could vote on and approve in coming days.
That would then set the stage for the "conference committee," the process by which a House of Representatives' version of health care reform that was approved last month would be matched up with the Senate version, and the differences between the two would be ironed out.
THAT WOULD THEN result in a final version of health care reform being approved by Congress, and sent to Obama for his final approval.
In short, the partisan tactics of the Republicans would have failed to prevent Obama from getting something enacted into law that would try to significantly reduce the number of people living in our country without some form of health insurance.
When combined with the fact that he got a Supreme Court nominee of his choice approved by the Senate, and also received that Nobel Prize, it could turn out that the first year of an Obama presidency was somewhat successful.
So much for those whose ideological beliefs are such that they want us to believe that Obama has been a failure as a president.
IT MUST ALSO seem like quite a hectic year for Obama, considering that just two years ago he was the Illinois legislator who some people thought couldn't win a single primary -- considering that he was going up against names such as "Clinton," "Edwards" and "Richardson." Even I must confess to wondering in those days before the Iowa caucuses whether the Obama campaign was merely the 21st Century equivalent of Paul Simon's bid for the presidency in 1988 (taken seriously nowhere except Illinois).
It makes me wonder how chaotic the next three years will be -- and if things will be crazed enough to make this first year seem downright tame.