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'Less mean-spirited and more generous'

Last week, quite a few conservative detractors of President Obama thought they'd uncovered a major story: 22 years ago, Obama hugged a Harvard Law professor at a pro-affirmative action rally. Alas, the story was a dud, and the "controversy" quickly faded into obscurity.

But don't worry, some of these same critics of the president have a new outrage, intended to shock and appall decent people everywhere.

Apparently, in 1990, Obama told the Illinois Daily Herald, "Hopefully, more and more people will begin to feel their story is somehow part of this larger story of how we're going to reshape America in a way that is less mean-spirited and more generous."

Is that it? Yep, that's the whole story, such as it is. From this quote, one prominent right-wing site told readers about Obama, "Face it, he hates you."

Apparently, those who want a less mean-spirited and more generous country should be assumed to hate America.

My reaction upon reading the right's take on this was identical to that of No More Mister Nice Blog's Steve M., who also recalled a speech from two years prior, calling for a "greater tolerance" in America, and a "kinder, gentler nation."

The speaker was George H.W. Bush, and the venue was the 1988 Republican National Convention.

Steve M. added, "[N]ow that I think about it, 'a kinder and gentler nation' is pretty much the same thing as a nation that's 'less mean-spirited and more generous,' isn't it? "

Actually, yes, it is.

Frankly, the hug was more interesting. I can appreciate why conservatives are eager to undermine Obama in an election year, but this latest effort is woefully weak. That the right is still digging through old newspaper clippings, looking for damaging quotes from a college student more than two decades ago, is just kind of sad.