Obama to lawmakers: Let's harness unity to confront challenges

President Obama urged Republican and Democratic leaders in Congress Monday evening to lay partisanship aside and rally behind the successful military operation that killed Osama bin Laden on Sunday.
 
He said the unity that people across the nation felt after hearing of bin Laden’s death should serve as a model for lawmakers, as they approach difficult problems, such as dealing with a $1.6 trillion budget deficit.
 

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“Last night, as Americans learned that the United States had carried out an operation that resulted in the capture and death of Osama bin Laden,” Obama said before being interrupted by an ovation, according to a transcript released by the White House. “You know, I think we experienced the same sense of unity that prevailed on 9/11.”
 
He delivered the remarks at a previously scheduled dinner at the White House attended by the Democratic and Republican leadership of the Senate and House as well as the chairmen and ranking members of both chambers’ committees.
 
Obama acknowledged that national political unity has frayed since the terrorist attacks that struck Manhattan and the Pentagon a decade ago.
 
But he said Sunday’s victory and other moments, such as the bipartisan outpouring of condolences after the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.) earlier this year, show that the nation can come together at crucial moments.
 
“And so tonight, it is my fervent hope that we can harness some of that unity and some of that pride to confront the many challenges that we still face,” Obama added. 
 
The president sought to use the momentous victory in the war against al Qaeda and other Islamic terrorist groups to build on his image as a leader willing to bring partisans together in the nation’s best interest.
 
It’s an image he pursued during last month’s contentious congressional debate over spending cuts and last year, during an equally acrimonious debate over extending former President George W. Bush’s tax cuts.
 
Obama made sure to praise the nearly 80 American commandos who participated in the daring raid, which also killed three other men believed to be one of bin Laden’s sons and two couriers.
 
“I want to again recognize the heroes who carried out this incredibly dangerous mission, as well as all the military and counter-terrorism professionals who made the mission possible,” he said, thanking members of Congress for supporting the military and intelligence communities.
 
“Without your support, they could not do what they do,” he said.
 
Cabinet officials in attendance included Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Attorney General Eric Holder and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.