WASHINGTON - President Obama said Saturday his goal of defeating al-Qaeda was within reach and that it was time to turn the country's attention to domestic concerns.
Just four days after his trip to Afghanistan, Obama said money saved from ending the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan should help pay down the national debt and go to 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. He reminded the American public once again of the military raid that killed Osama bin Laden a year ago.
But he said America now should concentrate on economic issues such as tax disparities and government spending. Without mentioning Republicans, he cast the GOP view as promoting 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 went out on his first official campaign trip Saturday, visiting college campuses in Ohio and Virginia.
In the Republican address, Sen. Bob Corker accused the administration and the Senate's Democratic leadership of fiscal mismanagement, saying they had 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.