Those Seven Words

I’m from Illinois. I have followed Barack Obama’s political career since he first made his run for the US Senate in 2004, rising from obscurity to win the Democratic primary before stomping Alan Keyes in the general. That campaign was similar in many ways to the one he is currently waging; in particular, he was adored by the young voters of Illinois, and his popularity in Illinois seemed more celebrity than anything else.

Even before he had officially won the election, there were rumblings about his future: many people, including myself, were absolutely certain that he meant to run for president one day. His keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention may have taken many people by surprise, but not those of us who had seen him campaign in Illinois.

I did not vote for Obama in 2004, but I liked him. I disagreed with him, but he seemed genuine, somebody that I could respect, despite the glaring differences in our politics. I maintained that sense throughout the greater part of the Democratic primary, although as he came closer and closer to winning the nomination, I grew frustrated with his canonization in the media. Nevertheless, I maintained respect for the feeling that he was trying to tap into — that national unity is a worthy goal.

Until tonight. Those seven little words that he spoke tonight cut away the cords of my respect for Obama:

We are a better country than this.

I was stunned. Did he really say that?

I checked CNN.com’s text of his speech. Yes, he did.

The condescension on display is nothing less than contemptible. It’s not simply an attack on George W. Bush — something which I would have disagreed with, but viewed as acceptable in light of the campaign — but it is an attack on the country itself. Obviously, Obama thinks that the country would be better if he were President; why else would he be running?

But instead of merely making a case that President Obama would be better than President Bush, he had the audacity to talk down to America, to chastise us for electing Bush. I can’t help but feel as if Obama is reprimanding a child. “We are a better country than this” — that is the language of a disappointed parent, not a future President. Tonight, Barack Obama lost my respect.