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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.
- 4 Alex Salmond: 'The rocks would melt with the sun before I'd ever set foot in the House of Lords'