(CBS News) Ahead of the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President Obama in his weekly address cited Osama bin Laden's killing, New York's new One World Trade Center, and the end of the war in Iraq as examples of "just how far we've come as a nation."
Remembering the nearly 3,000 Americans who died that day, and the emergency first responders who leapt to action, the president said, "This anniversary is about them."
"On that clear September morning, as America watched the towers fall and the Pentagon burn and the wreckage smoldering in a Pennsylvania field, we were filled with questions," Mr. Obama said. "Where had the attacks come from, and how would America respond? Would they fundamentally weaken the country we love? Would they change who we are?
"The last decade has been a difficult one, but together, we have answered those questions, and come back stronger as a nation."
Nodding to "the courage and skill of our intelligence personnel and armed forces," Mr. Obama noted the death of the al Qaeda leader who orchestrated the attacks, which was carried out last year by a Navy SEALs team, on the president's order. "Osama bin Laden will never threaten America again," he said.
"Instead of changing who we are, the attacks have brought out the best in the American people," the president continued, thanking the "more than 5 million members of the 9/11 Generation" who have enlisted in the service, and touting his foreign policy accomplishments. "We've ended the war in Iraq and brought our troops home," he said. "We brought an end to the Taliban regime. We've trained Afghan Security Forces, and forged a partnership with a new Afghan Government. And by the end 2014, the transition in Afghanistan will be complete and our war there will be over."
In the aftermath of 9/11, the president said, "Instead of turning on each other, we've resisted the temptation to give in to mistrust and suspicion. Instead of pulling back from the world, we've strengthened our alliances while improving our security here at home. As Americans, we refuse to live in fear. Today, a new tower rises above the New York skyline. And our country is stronger, safer, and more respected in the world."
But delivering the GOP's weekly address, Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., borrowed from Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney's newest line, seeking to make the case that under President Obama, "America is not better off." Responding to what he called a "lofty speech", Barrasso said: "The conventions are over now; the soaring speeches have ended. It's time for rhetoric to meet reality."
Barrasso slammed Mr. Obama on everything from unemployment numbers to his health care law to his now infamous "You didn't build that" remark. Lamenting the increasing federal debt, Barrasso quoted a Democrat, former President John F. Kennedy: "He said, 'Persistently large deficits would endanger our economic growth and our military and defense commitments abroad.' He said that 50 years ago, in 1962. Washington's budget deficit that year was $7 billion - from $7 billion then, to a $1.2 trillion deficit this year."
The president "is now asking you to give him more time. The question is, can we afford to give him that time?" Barrasso concluded. "Instead of giving President Obama four more years to continue the policies that are not working, it's time for a change."