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Duty Calls at Home


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This week the heroic actions of Navy SEAL Team 6 helped close a chapter in our history that began with the cowardly attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Nothing can erase the painful memories of that day, especially when so many of us in Boston lost friends on the doomed planes leaving Logan Airport.

Osama bin Laden's death doesn't end the threat of terrorism, but his iconic stature, his ability to plot, organize and motivate terrorists made him a unique threat, and America is safer today because he's dead.

This week's developments highlighted the reality that we've got serious challenges at home. Suddenly, we're not hearing about "birthers" and Donald Trump because Americans want to talk about real things. Right after 9/11 we said we couldn't let terrorists change who we are and they haven't. We've preserved our democracy and the debate at the very heart of it.

But as citizens we've got lots of big ticket items on our agenda.

In July, President Barack Obama will unveil his strategy for drawing down our forces in Afghanistan. This is a milestone that will have ripple effects across the region and the world. What does an acceptable end-state look like in Afghanistan, and how do we get there?

Next, bin Laden's hideout in Abbottabad, a garrison city 35 miles from Islamabad, raises questions.

What did Pakistani officials know and when did they know it? How could bin Laden have gone undetected living next-door to Pakistan's equivalent of West Point?

Pakistan has promised an investigation and answers. Like every other American, I want to know whether the Pakistani military or its intelligence services were unaware of its infamous neighbor or knowingly protected him.

Going forward, we have to act thoughtfully about the larger strategic interest and the full nature of our relationship with Pakistan. It's undeniable that this relationship has helped us, but no matter what, Pakistan is and will remain a nuclear state in a tinderbox.

At home, we have big decisions on energy, education, infrastructure, research, deficits and entitlements that will decide whether America will keep leading the world. These decisions can bolster our economic recovery and create jobs of the future, but only if Congress gets serious about doing what's right for America.

The government was brought to the brink of shutdown because the budget debate devolved into partisan finger pointing. Republicans began criticizing the president's budget ?-- a detailed plan that reduces our deficit by $4 trillion in 12 years --before he had even announced it. We can do better, but only if politicians are willing to put aside the ideology and ask the wealthiest Americans and richest corporations to share in the responsibility, rather than just asking senior citizens to carry all the burden through radical changes to Medicare.

I hope this week shook Washington out of predictable partisan routines. Everyone should share responsibility for our country's future, and everything needs to be on the table to reduce the deficit. We need to make tough decisions about revenue, spending and entitlements and have a real honest and open debate in Congress.

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