Even as President Obama announced the troop withdrawal from Iraq on Friday, he acknowledged the U.S. now faces a bigger challenge: creating opportunity and jobs in this country.
"After a decade of war, the nation that we need to build — and the nation that we will build — is our own," he said, "an America that sees its economic strength restored just as we've restored our leadership around the globe."
Opposition to the Iraq War helped launch Obama on his path to the White House, but whether he stays there is likely to depend more on how voters think he's handling the economy here at home. As he travels around the U.S. ahead of the election, Obama is promoting his plans in Democratic and Republican territories alike.
'In This Together'
The president has been pushing Congress to approve a combination of tax cuts and new government spending designed to boost the economy and lower the 9.1 percent unemployment rate. Twice in the last two weeks, Senate Republicans have blocked all or part of the president's plan. On a three-day bus tour of Virginia and North Carolina, Obama vowed to keep trying.
"If they vote against these proposals, if they ... say no to steps we know will put people back to work right now, they're not going to have to answer to me," he said at a fire station in North Chesterfield, Va., on Wednesday. "They're going to have to answer to you."
Obama was speaking in a congressional district represented by House Republican Leader Eric Cantor.
"A number of people have been asking during the course of this road trip, 'Why have you been visiting some of the most Republican parts of North Carolina and Virginia?' And what I've had to remind them is that I'm not the Democratic president. I'm not the Republican president. I'm the president of the United States of America," he said, "and I don't care what party you belong to. We're all Americans, and we're all in this together."
Having enjoyed the high school bands and barbecue of the South, Obama heads this coming week to the purple-mountain majesty of Colorado and the desert sunshine of Nevada, where he'll continue to promote his jobs plan.
Colorado and Nevada, like North Carolina and Virginia, have often gone Republican in past presidential contests, but Obama won all four in 2008. The president's re-election campaign is trying to stay competitive in as many states as possible, so that his chances aren't limited to winning Florida and Ohio.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell complained Wednesday that Obama's effort to promote his jobs plan from sea to shining sea is little more than political theater.
"Let's park the campaign bus, put away the talking points and do something to address the jobs crisis," he said. "The American people want action. The election's 13 months away. Why don't we do what we were elected to do?"
Obama celebrated a rare example of bipartisan cooperation Friday, when he signed three new trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. The trade deals passed Congress with strong Republican backing. Obama told supporters in Asheville, N.C., this week he's eager to cooperate with the GOP, whenever possible.
"In fact some of you have been mad at me for trying too hard to cooperate with them, haven't you?" he said. "I get some of your letters, and your emails, and you're all like, 'Why are you cooperating with them all the time?' Because it can't be all about politics. Sometimes we've got to try to actually get something done."
The White House expects another Senate vote on the public works component of the president's jobs plan when lawmakers return from their recess in November. There's no sign, though, of a break in the Republican opposition.
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