Seeking to steady a nervous nation, 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 tackling colossal deficits.
“We are not quitters,” Mr. Obama said, taking the lectern as the nation’s first black president. He 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.”
Mr. Obama gave voters plenty of specifics by which to judge him. He said his administration has already identified $2 trillion in savings over the next 10 years, including his vow to end subsidies to big agribusinesses that he said don’t need the help.
He also laid out three major challenges that he said the nation must confront even as it works to restore an economy suffering a 14-month recession, Mr. Obama pledged to “seek a cure for cancer in our time,” to restore American leadership on alternative energy and to insist that students attend at least one year of post-high school education as a patriotic duty.
“Dropping out of high school is no longer an option,” he said. “It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”
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.
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.
• To read the text of President Obama’s remarks, click here.
“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.”
Republicans were usually quick to applaud along with Democrats for many of Mr. Obama’s calls to action, but they greeted the president’s declaration that the stimulus spending bill was “free of earmarks” with laughter.
When Mr. Obama defended his tax increase on wealthy Americans and predicted that Republicans would call is “a massive tax increase on the American people,” Republican Rep. John Culberson of Texas shouted, “You’re right.”
And 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.View Entire Story
Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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