President Hillary: What might have been

Mr Obama’s ponderous response was in stark contrast to the sure-footed approach of Hillary Clinton, his Secretary of State. Speaking earlier in the week at a Ramadan dinner for Muslim leaders, she denounced Mr Jones’s proposed stunt as “disrespectful and disgraceful”.

America’s First Amendment, which enshrines the right of every citizen to freedom of expression, means that the government is constitutionally constrained in how it goes about curbing such potentially inflammatory activities. In the Seventies, when the predominantly Jewish community in the Chicago suburb of Skokie asked the Supreme Court to ban a neo-Nazi rally there, the judges ruled that they were bound by the constitution not to intervene.

Even so, Mrs Clinton’s handling of this latest drama has made Mr Obama look out of touch, seemingly lacking in the instinctive leadership qualities that Americans expect.