WHITE HOUSE — U.S. President Barack Obama observed the second anniversary on Friday of the end of the Iraq War, in a visit to an Army base in Texas. The Democratic president will then spend the Labor Day weekend campaigning, as will his Republican opponent, Mitt Romney.
Two years after he announced the end of major U.S. combat operations in Iraq, Obama again went to Fort Bliss to pay tribute to the soldiers who fought in the war.
“After nearly nine years, our war in Iraq was over. And today, Iraq has a chance to forge its own destiny," said Obama. "There are no American troops fighting and dying in Iraq. On this anniversary, we honor the memory of all who gave their lives there.”
The president said the Army faces a tough fight in Afghanistan, but he promised that the war there will be ended responsibly, with the transition to Afghan control complete by the end of 2014.
Obama called on Congress to pass a deficit reduction plan that avoids large cuts in the military budget.
“There is no reason those cuts should happen. Because folks in Congress ought to come together and agree on a responsible plan that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong,” he said.
The president also said he has signed an executive order expanding suicide prevention and mental health treatment services for troops and veterans.
Obama’s visit to the base was considered an official trip, not a campaign stop. But the speech was an election-year reminder that the president ended the Iraq war, and it preceded a weekend on the campaign trail.
Meanwhile, Vice President Joe Biden campaigned Friday in the swing state of Ohio, where he told workers at an auto factory that the president’s 2009 bailout of the auto industry saved 1 million jobs.
Biden ridiculed Republicans for criticizing the administration’s handling of the U.S. economy. He blamed Obama’s Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, for mishandling economic issues.
“How do they think we went from a surplus and the middle class doing well, to, by the time we came into office, this disaster? As my little seven-year-old granddaughter would say, ‘Pop, did Caspy the Ghost do that?’ I mean, who did it? How did we get here?” said Biden.
Obama canceled one of the two campaign stops he had planned for Ohio on Monday. Instead, he will go to Louisiana to review the government’s response to Hurricane Isaac.
Republican nominee Mitt Romney went to Louisiana on Friday to survey the storm damage.
Before he left Florida, the scene of his party’s convention, the former Massachusetts governor asked supporters in the largest swing state to continue working for his election in the coming months.
“I need to have you do the work on November 6 that gets me elected the next president of the United States. That has to happen here in Florida. And for that to happen, you are going to have to go out and find a person or two who voted for Barack Obama. I know they are here. They are not as visible as they used to be,” said Romney.
At the same rally, Romney’s vice presidential running mate, Paul Ryan, urged voters to put the country on a new path.
“We can either stay on the path that America has been placed upon by President Obama - a path of debt, a path of doubt, a path of decline - or we can get people back to work," said Ryan. "We can restore growth in this economy and opportunity in our society. And the way we do that is we elect this man, Mitt Romney, the next president of the United States.”
With the Republican National Convention concluded, Romney is beginning a period of intensive campaigning.
Obama leaves Texas to visit the states of Iowa and Colorado for the second time this week, before stopping in Ohio, Louisiana and Virginia.
The president will formally accept his party’s nomination for re-election at the Democratic National Convention next Thursday in Charlotte, North Carolina.