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Voices David Usborne

What was it about winning the Nobel  Peace Prize within minutes of taking  office that made President Barack Obama go so tepid on foreign policy?

The question became urgent when he backed away from striking the Syrian regime for using chemical weapons. Then when Isis stormed through northern Iraq, the White House responded by sending  advisers to Baghdad. Even relations with allies have been neglected.

Contrast Mr Obama’s clunky statements on the loss of MH17 to  Ronald Reagan’s address to the nation after the downing of Korean Airlines 007 by the Soviets in 1988. “And it looks like it may be a terrible tragedy,” Mr Obama said last  Thursday. Looks like it may?

Mr Reagan didn’t do clunky. “Make  no mistake about it, this attack was not just against ourselves or the Republic of Korea,” he said, staring  at the camera in the Oval Office. “This  was the Soviet Union against the world and the moral precepts which guide human relations among people  everywhere. It was an act of  barbarism, born of a society which  wantonly disregards individual rights and the value of human life.”

What we see now as limpness in the Oval Office may be judged by  history as wise restraint. Mr Obama  cares only about the right end results. No Drama Obama. And he has a deep sense of history. He hasn’t forgotten the USS Vincennes, when a US surface-to-air missile struck the Iran Air airbus, killing all 290 passengers.

All that said, in the past days Mr Obama has flunked the presidential  “optics” test. The day the plane went  down, he carried on with his schedule,  delivering a speech about repairing  roads then attending two fundraising  events. On Tuesday he left Washington for three days of fundraising.

In these tricky days, he needs to drop the cool act and give us some presidential theatrics – even if it goes against his better nature.

i@independent.co.uk

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