Wegger Strömmen. Photo: Norwegian Embassy
Norway's ambassador to the US received an angry "dressing down" from Barack Obama's chief of staff after the US President won his controversial Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, a senior Norwegian diplomat has claimed.
Morten Wetland, Norway's former ambassador to the United Nations, told The Local that Rahm Emanuel, nicknamed "Rahmbo" for his explosive disposition, has taken US ambassador Wegger Strömmen to task after the award was announced.
"What I know for a fact is that he gave the ambassador some words, 'a dressing down', with respect to this," Wetland said. "The word 'fawning' was used."
Wetland, now a partner with the Oslo lobbying firm First House, speculated that Obama's advisors must have seen the prize as an unwelcome embarrassment.
"My guess is that the president’s staff want to be in control and not to be forced into a position that they have not been seeking themselves," he said. "It could have been perceived that someone was consciously or subconsciously thinking about the prospect of having Obama visit Norway. Obama wouldn’t have visited Norway if it hadn’t have been for the Peace Prize."
Wetland first revealed the dressing down in an opinion piece he wrote for Norway's Dagens Næringsliv
"My most embarrassing day in the United Nations over the years I was the Norwegian ambassador there was the day the award to US President Barack Obama was announced," Wetland wrote. "My colleague in Washington received an overhaul from Obama's chief of staff."
Wetland wrote that the Nobel Prize award was widely seen as "weird" in Washington circles.
Emanuel, who began life as an aide to Bill Clinton and is now mayor of Chicago, is notorious for his combative style. Early on his career he reportedly sent a dead fish in a box to a pollster who was late delivering polling results.
The night after Bill Clinton won his election in 1992, Emanuel stood up at the celebratory dinner and ran through a list of Clinton enemies who he believed had "betrayed" the team during the campaign. As he uttered each name, he plunged a stake into the table, before yelling "Nat Landow! Dead! Cliff Jackson! Dead!" to the nervous laughter of his colleagues.
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded by the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which though independent of Norway's government consists of former MPs, often, as now, headed by a former Prime Minister. The committee's present chair Thorbjørn Jagland has presided over two controversial awards, in 2009 to Barack Obama and in 2012 to the European Union. He is likely to be replaced this year.
Wetlands said he believed that Emanuel understood that the committee's decisions were independent of the Norwegian government.
"I believe they knew perfectly well that the Committee is a totally independent body, but it’s in the business of ambassadors to be the target of positive and negative impressions of his country."