President touts bin Laden killing, end of Iraq war in speech
Calling for a post-war era of unity and selflessness reportedly not seen since the wake of World War II, President Obama led and closed his State of the Union address with an invocation of the impressive list of national security accomplishments under his watch in the past year.
"For the first time in nine years, there are no Americans fighting in Iraq," Obama said. "For the first time in two decades, Osama bin Laden is not a threat to this country. Most of al-Qaida's top lieutenants have been defeated. The Taliban's momentum has been broken, and some troops in Afghanistan have begun to come home." Obama announced 23,000 troops in Afghanistan will come home by the end of the summer, sticking with his timetable for ending the surge on schedule, and then set out to convince lawmakers and voters that his policies have kept terrorists on the run and unified a once-divided global community against Iran.
"Let there be no doubt: America is determined to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, and I will take no options off the table to achieve that goal. But a peaceful resolution of this issue is still possible, and far better," he said, directly contrasting with the hawkish rhetoric of GOP contenders to unseat him.
He also hit back on critics the U.S. has lost global influence. "The renewal of American leadership can be felt across the globe," he said, "America is back."
Obama made only passing reference to his new defense strategy, revealed at the Pentagon a week ago, or the budget request to slash nearly $500 billion from the next decade of defense spending, something that has broad support on Capitol Hill save for the most hawkish House Republicans.
Coming full circle, Obama closed his speech reminding Congress that former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a Republican, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, his campaign opponent, were at his side in the Situation Room when he learned bin Laden had been killed.
"One of my proudest possessions is the flag that the SEAL Team took with them on the mission to get bin Laden. On it are each of their names. Some may be Democrats. Some may be Republicans. But that doesn't matter," he said. "All that mattered that day was the mission. No one thought about politics. No one thought about themselves."