- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 17, 2011

President Obama used his weekly radio address to cap a week of events devoted to ending the war in Iraq and thanking U.S. troops — and their families — for their service and sacrifice.

Mr. Obama began the week with a meeting at the White House with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki marking the end of the war in Iraq, but it ended with more partisan haggling over a must-pass bill funding the government and another to extend the payroll tax cut.

In his radio address, Mr. Obama held up the U.S. armed forces as an example of those who put country before party and self-interest.

“See, there’s a reason our military is the most respected institution in America,” he said. “They don’t see themselves or each other as Democrat first or Republicans first. They see themselves as Americans first.”

The message was particularly on point after a new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 42 percent of people judged the first session of the 112th Congress “one of the worst” in its 222-year history, reflecting a growing frustration with gridlock in Washington and partisan brinkmanship.

“For all our differences and disagreements, [the troops] remind us that we are all a part of something bigger; that we are one nation and one people. And for all our challenges, they remind us that there is nothing we can’t do when we stick together,” Mr. Obama continued.

After years spent trying to rebuild Iraq, the president said, it’s time to enlist veterans, as well as all U.S. citizens, in the work of rebuilding America’s economy.

“Folks like my grandfather came back from World War II to form the backbone of the largest middle class in history,” he said. “And today’s generation of veterans — the 9/11 generation of veterans — is armed with the skills, discipline and leadership to attack the defining challenge of our time: rebuilding an economy where hard work pays off, where responsibility is rewarded, where anyone can make it if they try.”

The U.S. is at a pivotal point, Mr. Obama stressed, and it’s time for all Americans to work together to build a country that “lives up to the ideals that so many of our bravest Americans have fought and died for.”

“That is our highest obligation as citizens,” he said. “That is the welcome home that our troops deserve.”