WASHINGTON (AP) — Placing a final punctuation mark on a week devoted to foreign policy, President Barack Obama on Saturday declared that his goal of defeating al-Qaida was within reach and said it was now time to turn the country's attention to more domestic concerns like strengthening the middle class.
Just four days after a surprise 36-hour round trip to Afghanistan, Obama said that money saved from ending wars should be used equally to pay down the debt and to spend on health care, education and infrastructure.
"After more than a decade of war, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home," he said in his weekly radio and Internet address.
The president took note of the agreement he signed with Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday that shifts security to the Afghan people and reminded the American public, once again, of the special forces operation that killed Osama bin Laden a year ago.
But he said the nation now should concentrate on economic issues like tax disparities and targeted government spending. Without mentioning Republicans, he cast the GOP view as one that promotes more tax cuts for millionaires while cutting spending "that built a strong middle class."
"That's why I've called on Congress to take the money we're no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt and use the other half to rebuild America," he said.
The partisan subtext of the address was clear. Obama is portraying Republicans as the party of the wealthy as he seeks to demonstrate action in the face of a slow economic recovery.
The address came as he was embarking on his first official campaign trip, visiting college campuses in Ohio and Virginia on Saturday.
In the Republican address, Sen. Bob Corker accused the administration and the Senate's Democratic leadership of fiscal mismanagement, saying they have put off difficult decisions that would tame government spending.
"The president punts on almost every tough decision," Corker said.
The Senate's failure to adopt a budget has helped create an atmosphere of uncertainty that is hurting businesses and impeding job creation, the Tennessee Republican said. He called for an overhaul of the tax code that eliminates most of the $1.2 trillion in loopholes and tax breaks, and lowers rates and broadens the tax base.
Obama address: www.whitehouse.gov
GOP address: www.youtube.com/gopweeklyaddress
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