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Weekly remarks: Mitch McConnell salutes the U.S. military, Obama orders reports on terrorism lapses

January 2, 2010 |  3:00 am

Capitol

Weekly Republican remarks by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, as provided by the Senate Republican Communications Center:

This is Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.

The new year always brings with it renewed hope and a spirit of optimism — qualities that have exemplified our nation and its people from the very start.

One such moment that stands out took place on this very day in 1777, along the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border.

The Continental Army, under the direction of George Washington, had just finished a daring but successful surprise attack on the British at Trenton.

In retaliation, the British launched an attack of its own on the Continental Army.

But instead of retreating, Washington ordered his troops to stay and fight. It was a daring move.Mitch McConnell

When the soldiers in the Continental Army saw the size and strength of the enemy arrayed against it, many of them were filled with dread.

But, as one historian put it, even in that awful moment … “these men had a sense of their own strength, a confidence in one another ... and a feeling that Providence was with them that night.”

Against impossible odds, these rag-tag patriots broke the enemy column, forcing the British to retreat. And at the moment of victory, the entire continental line is said to have triumphantly shouted as one.

The second battle of Trenton was a great victory for Washington’s troops. And it was a great moral victory for a young nation that had become exhausted and discouraged by war.

Two hundred and thirty three years later, Americans haven’t lost the spirit of....

...Trenton. Two long and difficult wars, a prolonged recession, double-digit unemployment — these are difficult days for our nation.

And in this new year, we’re grateful for the courageous men and women of our own day who keep a lonely watch to defend the cause of liberty. We’re also painfully aware of how many Americans were out of work this Christmas.

But these challenges don’t define us as a people. What’s always defined America is its ability to overcome even the most daunting difficulties.

So in this new year we can be filled with new hope and optimism that our greatest challenges will be met, that better days are ahead … and that in these difficult times, we will persevere as we always have — not just for our own individual good, but for the good of all our countrymen, because we believe that for those to whom much is given, much is expected.

Some look at Washington and wonder how lawmakers who always seem to disagree can ever solve any of our problems. And while it’s true that many of us approach the issues differently, at the beginning of a new year, it’s important to remember that we’re all united by our love of country, and by a common faith that no challenge is too great for the American people to overcome.

Political disagreements will continue in the year ahead. This is an essential part of any vibrant democracy. But Americans expect and deserve their elected leaders to put country first, and work together to solve our common problems.

Powerful forces may be aligned against us, just as they did against the Continental Army on that cold January night in 1777. But when the challenges are greatest, Americans always join ranks. It was true in Trenton. It’s no less true today.

Thank you, and Happy New Year.    ###

Democrat president Barack Obama's empty holiday White House

Weekly remarks by President Obama, as provided by the White House

It has now been more than a week since the attempted act of terrorism aboard that flight to Detroit on Christmas Day. On Thursday, I received the preliminary findings of the reviews that I ordered into our terrorist watchlist system and air travel screening. I've directed my counter-terrorism and homeland security advisor at the White House, John BrDemocrat president Barack Obama golfing in Hawaii 12-09 after Detroit terrorism incidentennan, to lead these reviews going forward and to present the final results and recommendations to me in the days to come.

As I said this week, I will do everything in my power to make sure our hard-working men and women in our intelligence, law enforcement and homeland security communities have the tools and resources they need to keep America safe.

This includes making sure these communities-and the people in them-are coordinating effectively and are held accountable at every level. And as President, that is what I will do.

Meanwhile, the investigation into the Christmas Day incident continues, and we're learning more about the suspect. We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty and deadly insurgencies.

This is not the first time this group has targeted us. In recent years, they have bombed Yemeni government facilities and Western hotels, restaurants and embassies-including our embassy in 2008, killing one American. 

So, as President, I've made it a priority to strengthen our partnership with the Yemeni government-training and equipping their security forces, sharing intelligence and working with them to strike al Qaeda terrorists.

And even before Christmas Day, we had seen the results. Training camps have been struck; leaders eliminated; plots disrupted. And all those involved in the attempted act of terrorism on Christmas must know-you too will be held to account.    

But these efforts are only part of a wider cause. It's been nearly a year since I stood on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and took the oath of office as your President.

And with that oath came the solemn responsibility that I carry with me every moment of every day-the responsibility to protect the safety and security of the American people.

On that day I also made it very clear-our nation is at war against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred, and that we will do whatever it takes to defeat them and defend our country, even as we uphold the values that have always distinguished America among nations.

And make no mistake, that's exactly what we've been doing. It's why I refocused the fight-bringing to a responsible end the war in Iraq, which had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks, and dramatically increasing our resources in the region where al Qaeda is actually based, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's why I've set a clear and achievable mission-to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and its extremist allies and prevent their return to either country.

And it's why we've forged new partnerships, as in Yemen, and put unrelenting pressure on these extremists wherever they plot and train-from East Africa to Southeast Asia, from Europe to the Persian Gulf. And though often out of sight, our progress has been unmistakable. Along with our partners, we've disrupted terrorist financing, cut off recruiting chains, inflicted major losses on al Qaeda's leadership, thwarted plots here in the United States, and saved countless American lives.

Yet as the Christmas Day attempt illustrates, and as we were reminded this week by the sacrifices of more brave Americans in Afghanistan-including those seven dedicated men and women of the CIA-the hard work of protecting our nation is never done. So as our reviews continue, let us ask the questions that need to be asked. Let us make the changes that need to be made. Let us debate the best way to protect the country we all love. That is the right and responsibility of every American and every elected official.

But as we go forward, let us remember this-our adversaries are those who would attack our country, not our fellow Americans, not each other. Let's never forget what has always carried us through times of trial, including those attacks eight Septembers ago.

Instead of giving in to fear and cynicism, let's renew that timeless American spirit of resolve and confidence and optimism. Instead of succumbing to partisanship and division, let's summon the unity that this moment demands. Let's work together, with a seriousness of purpose, to do what must be done to keep our country safe. As we begin this New Year, I cannot imagine a more fitting resolution to guide us-as a people and as a nation.    ###

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Photo credits: Top, by Associated Press. Middle, Sen. Mitch McConnell, by European Pressphoto Agency. Middle, by Ron Edmonds / Associated Press. Bottom, Obama in Hawaii after Detroit terrorism incident, by White House press pool.