Obama's Missed Opportunity

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My new column for the Financial Times argues that Obama's bungled statements on the New York mosque were a missed opportunity. Here was a chance for the president to do what we know he can, and what at least in part he was elected for: unify the country and raise its sights.

When race came to the fore in his presidential campaign, in the form of the Jeremiah Wright scandal, he responded brilliantly, with a fine unifying speech that challenged the country to be calm, sober and enlightened. The mosque debate was a moment for a speech of that kind.

Whether or not he made the case for the project to go ahead - as, on balance, I think he should - he could have reminded the country of its common purposes, he could have sought to unify, he could have insisted on tolerance and understanding on both sides. That was the Barack Obama the country elected. Where did he go?


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