U.S. President Barack Obama is urging his Democratic Party to continue fighting for its causes, despite a hostile political climate. Mr. Obama has recently adopted a more combative tone.
The high U.S. unemployment rate, a resurgent Republican opposition and President Obama's shrinking approval ratings are making Democrats nervous as they face the November elections for Congress and governors.
In this climate of unease, Mr. Obama addressed the Democratic National Committee's winter meeting near the White House, and reassured the party faithful that he will continue the fight.
The president said Democrats can point to numerous accomplishments in this year's campaign.
He said his administration has calmed a troubled economy, made progress on many domestic issues, and strengthened America's standing in the world. "We are working with our partners to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and to seek a world free of nuclear weapons. We banned torture. We have begun to leave Iraq to its own people. We charted a new way forward in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and made good progress in taking the fight to al-Qaeda across the globe," he said.
Mr. Obama said much of this has been accomplished with no cooperation from Republicans.
In Saturday's Republican Party radio and Internet address, Texas Congressman Jeb Hensarling says Mr. Obama's domestic programs cost too much. "So, you pile up all this Democrat spending, all their borrowing, all their debt, you add it to their government takeover of health care, their 'cap and trade' national energy tax and their continued bailouts. Is it little wonder that job growth is lagging in our economy?"
The president says he is not surprised that Americans are angry that the jobless rate remains high, and that this has hurt his approval rating, which stands at about 50 percent. "When unemployment is 9.7 percent, when we are still digging ourselves out of an extraordinary recession, people are going to be frustrated, and they are going to be looking to the party in power to try to fix it. When you have got another party that says, 'We do not want to do anything about it,' of course people are going to be frustrated," he said.
But the president reminded an enthusiastic crowd of Democrats that solving long-entrenched problems is a difficult process. "That is why I ran for president. That is why you worked so hard to elect a Democratic Congress. We knew this stuff was tough. But we stepped up because we decided we were going to take the responsibility of changing it. And it may not be easy, but change is coming," he said.
After criticism from Republicans and some Democrats that he was concentrating too much on health care reform and not enough on the economy, Mr. Obama has devoted many of his recent public statements to economic issues.
However, the president told the Democrats Saturday he is still committed to overhauling the U.S. health care system, which has been a centerpiece of his domestic agenda. "Just in case there is any confusion out there, let me be clear: I am not going to walk away from health insurance reform. I am not going to walk away from the American people. I am not going to walk away on this challenge. I am not going to walk away from any challenge. We are moving forward," he said.
The Democrats met just three blocks from the White House, but with half a meter of snow on the ground from a winter storm, the trip became dangerous. In the president's motorcade, a vehicle carrying photographers collided with an ambulance as it traveled to the event, and was struck by a falling tree limb as it returned. No injuries were reported.