- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Seeking to steady a nervous nation, Obama” href=”/themes/?Theme=Barack+Obama” >President Obama on Tuesday used a sweeping address to Congress to assure Americans “we will rebuild, we will recover” and erased all doubt that he will try to make good on his campaign promises of comprehensive health-care reform, troop withdrawal from Iraq and control of colossal deficits.

Taking the lectern as the nation’s first black president, Mr. Obama accepted the enthusiastic applause of both Republicans and Democrats in the House chamber and called on partisans from across the spectrum to join him in a pact of shared sacrifices and shared accomplishments.

“The weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation. The answers to our problems don’t lie beyond our reach,” he said. “Those qualities that have made America the greatest force of progress and prosperity in human history we still possess in ample measure. What is required now is for this country to pull together, confront boldly the challenges we face, and take responsibility for our future once more.”

He laid out three major challenges that he said the nation must confront even as it works to restore an economy that has been in recession for more than a year: health care, energy and education.

In the Republican response, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal matched Mr. Obama’s praise for Americans’ resilience and blasted his own party for failing the nation by embracing “earmarks and big government spending.”

“Republicans lost your trust - and rightly so,” he told voters.

To read the text of President Obama’s address click here: click here:

But while calling for bipartisanship, Mr. Jindal said Democrats are going down that same big-spending path as Republicans, and said his party must oppose them when they do.

“Democratic leaders say their legislation will grow the economy. What it will do is grow the government, increase our taxes down the line, and saddle future generations with debt,” he said. “Who among us would ask our children for a loan, so we could spend money we do not have, on things we do not need? That is precisely what the Democrats in Congress just did.”

Still Mr. Obama, even as he extended the hand of bipartisanship, ruled out debate with those who say the government doesn’t have a role in trying to ease the current economic troubles.

“That does not mean we can afford to ignore our long-term challenges. I reject the view that says our problems will simply take care of themselves; that says government has no role in laying the foundation for our common prosperity,” he said.

In the speech, which was timed beforehand to last about an hour, the president took a victory lap on his $787 billion economic-stimulus spending bill, which he passed almost exclusively with Democratic votes, and said that was only a beginning to what the government must do to rescue the economy.

He challenged the stock market, which has declined markedly since he took office, saying, “Wall Street may be more comforted by an approach that gives banks bailouts with no strings attached, and that holds nobody accountable for their reckless decisions. But such an approach won’t solve the problem.”

And he said blame extends across the government, business and American consumers themselves.

“I say this not to lay blame or look backwards, but because it is only by understanding how we arrived at this moment that we’ll be able to lift ourselves out of this predicament,” he said.

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