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Is the U.S. exceptional?

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NEW YORK - He didn't say it. That word: exceptional. Barack Obama described an exceptional nation in his State of the Union address, but he studiously avoided using the word conservatives long to hear.

It's a funny thing, this focus on a single word that isn't much heard from this president, but that tumbles so easily -- and adamantly -- from the lips of Republican contenders for his title.

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