GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In the aftermath of the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya, Republican vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan opened a town hall meeting questioning the administration’s leadership, though he did not criticize the White House as strongly as his running mate, Mitt Romney.
Ryan called the violence “outrageous” and asked the crowd at a Green Bay community ice arena to pause for a moment of silence for the loss of four Americans, including the widely regarded U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens.
“In the face of such a tragedy, we are reminded that the world needs American leadership,” Ryan said. “And the best guarantee of peace is American strength.”
Romney interrupted his campaign appearance in Florida to deliver a sharp rebuke of the Obama administration’s handling of the situation in the Middle East and North Africa. The consulate in Benghazi, Libya, was attacked by protesters outraged over a depiction of the prophet Muhammad in a video reportedly produced in the United States. Protesters also attacked the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
The Cairo embassy initially issued a statement saying it condemned the effort of “misguided individuals to hurt the feelings of Muslims,” the Los Angeles Times reported earlier Wednesday. But that was before protesters broke into the compound. Romney had earlier called it “disgraceful” to “apologize for American values” -- a statement he stood by Wednesday.
Ryan’s trip to his home state had been billed as an opportunity for the Republican campaign to focus once more the nation’s $16-trillion debt load and the jobs situation, issues on which Romney has staked much of his campaign.
The town hall opened by focusing on the economic front, with Ryan continuing the theme of leadership -- and what he sees as President Obama’s lack of it. But the conservation quickly pivoted back to foreign policy after a question from the audience about the White House’s relationship with Israel after reports that Obama declined to meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu -- reports the White House said flatly Tuesday were not true.
“If you show weakness, if you show moral equivocation, then foreign policy adventurism among our adversaries will increase,” Ryan said. “That is unfortunately the path we are on right now.”
Obama has found several foreign policy successes during his first term, including the killing of Osama bin Laden and the end of the war in Iraq.