A Heck Of A Week For President Obama
SCOTT SIMON, host:
This is Weekend Edition from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.
President Obama ended one of the most eventful weeks of his administration by thanking some of the people most responsible for it. In Fort Campbell, Kentucky, the president met privately with some of the special operations forces who conducted the raid on Osama bin Ladens compound in Pakistan. He also made a public speech to troops at the base.
Yet, even in this momentous week, with news from abroad, the White House tried to maintain focus on jobs and other challenges at home. NPRs Ari Shapiro traveled with the president and has this report from Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
ARI SHAPIRO: In the last week, President Obama and other White House officials have often said they do not want to take a victory lap or spike the ball after Osama bin Ladens death. Even the wreath-laying ceremony at Ground Zero on Thursday was conducted completely in silence. But here in this Kentucky Army hanger, the spirit of victory was in the air.
(Soundbite of music)
SHAPIRO: Thousands of members of the 101st Airborne Division sat on bleachers in camouflage uniforms. Many have served in Afghanistan. Private Brandon Beemis just returned from war a week ago. Now that Osama bin Laden is dead, Beemis thinks its time for the rest of his buddies to come home, too.
Private BRANDON BEEMIS: I just believe, I mean, with him out of there, hopefully, I mean, like I said, we can get out of there, come back here and focus on America.
SHAPIRO: Nicholas Moore is a 22-year-old soldier with a different view.
Mr. NICHOLAS MOORE: The missions over there will dictate when were going to finish with our job. It could bring it closer. It could draw it out, just depending on what happens over there and how people react to his death.
SHAPIRO: And so you dont feel like the death of bin Laden means, all right, guys, were done over there, lets come back home.
Mr. MOORE: No. Absolutely not because we started something we got to finish it. I mean, you got to see it through til the end so that way the people have a better life and they can have everything that they want.
SHAPIRO: Nicholas Moore said he couldnt describe what the mood here was when the news broke of bin Ladens death. That was his first night home from Afghanistan and Moore was not about to leave his wifes side. But yesterday, he was with his buddies on base for a special visitor.
President BARACK OBAMA: You know, sending you, more of you, into harms way was the toughest decision that Ive made as Commander-in-Chief.
SHAPIRO: President Obama told these young men and women that he does not intend to pull them out of danger sooner than he had planned.
Pres. OBAMA: Were making progress in our major goal, our central goal in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that is disrupting and dismantling and we are going to ultimately defeat al-Qaida.
(Soundbite of cheers)
Pres. OBAMA: We will cut off their head and we are committed to defeat them.
SHAPIRO: Just before this public address, he met in private with the assault force that conducted the raid. He gave them the Presidential Unit Citation, the highest such honor that can be given to a group.
Pres. OBAMA: These Americans deserve credit for one of the greatest intelligence and military operations in our nations history, but so does every person who wears Americas uniform.
SHAPIRO: This is a week when the world has been focused on foreign affairs, but the White House knows that when bin Laden is off the front pages, the economy will be back on. So Fort Campbell was the presidents second event of the day. His first was at an Indiana company that creates clean energy vehicle transmissions. There was a chance for him to talk about high gas prices, the economy and new jobs numbers that were better economists had expected.
Pres. OBAMA: This is where the American economy is rebuilding, where we are regaining our footing.
SHAPIRO: The private sector created 268,000 jobs in April. The president said the numbers are remarkable given high gas prices and the nuclear crisis in Japan.
Pres. OBAMA: And there will undoubtedly be some more challenges ahead. But the fact is that we are still making progress and that proves how resilient the American economy is and how resilient the American worker is and that we can take and hit and we can keep on going forward. Thats exactly what were doing.
SHAPIRO: It was a day to demonstrate the White Houses short- and long-term calculations, a chance to celebrate good news, prepare the country for more difficulties ahead and surround the president with heroes and high hopes. Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
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