SWANTON, Ohio–After three days of intensive debate prep, a crisper Paul Ryan focused on foreign policy emerged today, in lockstep with Mitt Romney on what the GOP challengers for the presidency claim are the Obama administration’s many purported failings overseas.
Just minutes after his running mate finished his own foreign policy address, Ryan took the stage at an airplane hangar here and echoed many of the same points Mitt Romney made in his own speech in Virginia.
Tune in to ABC Thursday, 9 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET as Martha Raddatz, Senior Foreign Affairs Correspondent for ABC News, moderates the vice presidential debate. View the live stream at ABCNews.com.
“If you go home after this and your turn on your TV, you will likely see the failures of the Obama foreign policy unfolding before your eyes,” Ryan said after Romney’s speech was shown live before the event began. “You see, if you look around the world, what we are witnessing is the unraveling of the Obama foreign policy.”
Ryan continued, noting the Obama administration wasn’t clear about calling the attack on the American consulate in Libya a terrorist attack.
“Four Americans were murdered in a terrorist attack in Benghazi,” Ryan said. “The point is, in a Romney administration, when we know that we are clearly attacked by terrorists, we won’t be afraid to say what it is. If terrorists attack us, we will say we had a terrorist attack and more importantly, we will do what is necessary to prevent that from happening by having a strong military, by making sure that our adversaries do not test us, do not think that we are a weak and in retreat. This was not simply an isolated incident but indicative of a broader failure.”
As Romney did in his address to the Virginia Military Institute, Ryan spoke at length about Iran saying during this administration the nation has gotten “closer to a nuclear weapon” and the “Middle East is in turmoil.”
“Nearly two dozen nations that we witness on our televisions were burning our flags in protest and riots,” Ryan said. “You see, if we project weakness abroad, our adversaries are that much more willing to test us, to question our resolve. And our allies are more hesitant to trust us. We can’t afford to put more daylight between ourselves and our allies, like Israel.”
On the issue of Israel, the language Ryan and Romney used in their separate speeches was almost identical.
“I will reaffirm our historic ties to Israel and our abiding commitment to its security–the world must never see any daylight between our two nations,” Romney said.
Both Romney and Ryan accused the president of not actively swiftly or effectively enough on the crisis in Syria with Romney saying the president was “sitting on the sidelines” and Ryan sending a similar message.
“We can’t afford to equivocate when dissidents are taking to the streets arguing and fighting for peace against the tyrannical dictators that are crushing them,” Ryan said. “We can’t afford to call Bashar al-Assad a reformer and say he has to go and then watch 20 months go by while he slaughters tens of thousands of his people. The reason we can’t afford this is because if we want peace here at home in America, we need to have a strong military.”
This was Ryan’s first formal solo event since he went into three days of intensive debate prep and it showed as the candidate was much crisper in his delivery, especially on foreign policy, delving into more details than he has ever before on the stump. He faces off against Joe Biden Thursday in their only vice presidential debate, moderated by ABC News’ Martha Raddatz.
The GOP vice presidential nominee praised Romney’s address calling it “what leadership looks like.” He added that his ticket will “make sure that we have a missile defense system to protect ourselves and our allies” when “we see nations like Iran racing toward nuclear capability.”
In front of several hundred voters in this crucial battleground state, the House Budget Committee chairman said the ”president is not offering the kind of spirited and principled leadership we need to create jobs here at home or to keep us safe.”
He also hit the president on $500 million in defense cuts that are looming, known as sequestration, and accused Obama of distorting his record.
Although Ryan blames the president consistently on the campaign trail for the cuts, the cuts were a result in the debt limit being increased under an agreement that called on a bipartisan “super-committee” to negotiate an additional $1.2 trillion in savings, or face sequestration – meaning the automatic cuts that include those defense cuts and items unpalatable to each party. After the super-committee failed to strike a deal, the country was left with sequestration.
The Obama campaign took issue with the president being blamed for sequestration saying it’s instead because Republicans “refuse to ask for a single dime from millionaires and billionaires.”
“Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan are standing in the way of an agreement to prevent automatic defense cuts,” Obama spokesperson Danny Kanner said. “Romney has suggested privatizing veterans’ health care and their budget includes unspecified cuts to domestic spending that could mean deep cuts to Veteran’s Affairs. No matter their rhetoric four weeks before an election, those are the unfortunate facts about their policies.”
Despite Ryan’s sharp focus on foreign policy, he still relied on a joke about his experience that’s been part of his stump since the beginning of his candidacy:
“Overseas, and where I’m from we call that Lake Superior,” the Wisconsin congressman said to laughter from the audience.