The USA has once again emerged from its presidential electoral bout of soul searching. Candidates for the White House don't just have to have a plan for jobs and the economy, they have to have an inspiring vision and purpose for the nation. The grandiloquent rhetoric that candidates employ when they're setting out this message my sound strange on this side of the Atlantic, but it's no accident that presidents as poles apart as John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan describe their country as a "shining city upon a hill". It's taken from Matthew's Gospel and Jesus' Sermon on the Mount where He tells His listeners that they are "the light to the world." From the founding Pilgrim Fathers to presidents today there's always been a strong sense in American politics that it is different from other countries; that its founding Enlightenment principles of liberty, equality and individual freedom not only make America exceptional, but also embody the nation with a duty of moral leadership to the rest of the world. The USA is still the richest and most powerful country in the world, but what about its moral capital? There are those who'd argue that America, especially in its foreign policy, has forfeited any claims to moral superiority. Or is this an example of a strong streak of anti-Americanism in the West that's driven by jealousy, prejudice and moral relativism? Many countries around the world and throughout history, including Great Britain, have seen themselves as exceptional with a unique gift to give to the world. Are nations that believe they are "chosen" and their unique status is the moral justification of their actions always going to be a threat to others? Is America guilty of religious nationalism, or do we need the most powerful country in the world to stand up for Western values? Combative, provocative and engaging debate chaired by Michael Buerk with Melanie Phillips, Kenan Malik, Matthew Taylor and Claire Fox. Witnesses: Mehdi Hasan - political director Huffington Post and writer for New Statesman, Francis Beckett - Writer and historian, Charlie Wolf - Broadcaster, former Communications Director of Republicans Abroad UK, Daniel Hannon - Author "Anglosphere" and MEP for South East England.

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43 minutes

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Sat 10 Nov 2012 22:15

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