Obama: Olympics welcome amid campaign tug-of-war

WINTER PARK, FL - AUGUST 2: U.S. President Barack Obama speaks during a campaign stop at Rollins College August 2, 2012 in Winter Park, Florida. Obama urged Congress to immediately prevent a tax increase and spoke about his plan to cut the deficit by more than $4 trillion through spending cuts and reforms. (Photo by Edward Linsmier/Getty Images) Edward Linsmier/Getty Images

(CBS News) Opting to shelve politics and policy for his weekly address, President Obama on Saturday praised U.S. Olympians as they head into the final week of the Games, thanking them for bringing the country together amid "the back-and-forth of campaign season," and for "presenting the best of America to the rest of the world."

"It's no surprise America is vying for the top of the medal count, but it's not the medal count alone that inspires us," Mr. Obama said, telling stories of several athletes' barbed paths to the London Games. "It's that unconquerable spirit - that American spirit - that says even thought we may have very different stories to tell; even though we may not look alike or talk alike or be dealt the same hand in life, if we work hard, we can achieve our dreams."

The president admitted he was "a little jealous" that first lady Michelle Obama was able to attend the Olympics Opening Ceremony and several subsequent rounds of competition, but said that by way of television he "caught as many events as I could, jumping off the couch for a close race, or a perfect vault."

Earlier this week, Mr. Obama phoned the U.S. women's gymnastics team - including McKayla Maroney, whose near-perfect vault routine he was likely referencing - to congratulate them on their team gold.

Other highlights for the president, he said, included watching swimmer Michael Phelps become the most decorated Olympic athlete in history, and seeing "our women's soccer team power through the competition." Mr. Obama also acknowledged the champions of sports like rowing and skeet shooting, nodding to "our athletes in sports that don't always get as much attention."

"These Games remind us that for all our differences, we're Americans first," he said. "And we could not be prouder of them men and women representing our country in London, in both the Olympics and the Paralympics."

While also managing a shout-out to the U.S. Olympic team, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., struck a significantly more policy-oriented note in the Republican address, calling on the Democrat-controlled Senate to pass a bipartisan bill "to stop the looming tax hike that will hit all Americans next year."

"Watching the Olympics this week," Cantor said, "I am reminded that one of things that sets America apart is that ordinary people have the freedom to accomplish extraordinary things. Every day I hear from Americans who are ready to do the extraordinary: open a new business, create new jobs, build a better future for our children and theirs. All they ask is that Washington get out of the way. After over 40 straight months of 8 percent-plus unemployment, isn't it time to make jobs priority one?

"While we continue to work to provide solutions here at home," he continued, "we wish our athletes in London the very best."

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