Paul Ryan addresses supporters during a rally in Owensville, Ohio. (Tom Uhlman / AP Photo )
OWENSVILLE, Ohio -- Republican vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan stepped up his criticism of the White House response to the attacks on American envoys, backing up his running mate by echoing Mitt Romney's assertion that the Obama administration gave “mixed signals.”
Ryan's statement was more pointed here in Ohio than earlier in the day in Wisconsin as the GOP presidential ticket appeared to adjust to fallout from Romney's initial remarks.
“The administration sent mixed signals to those who attacked our embassy in Egypt and mixed signals to the world,” Ryan told the crowd as he opened an evening campaign rally at fairgrounds in Owensville.
Four were killed, including the U.S. ambassador and three other American officials, as protesters attacked the consulate overnight in Benghazi, Libya, outraged over an American's video depiction of the prophet Muhammad. Protesters also breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt.
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A statement from embassy personnel in Cairo initially condemned the effort by “misguided individuals” to hurt the feelings of Muslims, presumably referring to the filmmaker.
Romney called those early statements “disgraceful” and he characterized it as an apology from the Obama administration. The White House had not approved the embassy's statement. Romney's remarks drew sharp criticism as a political swipe during a time of national mourning for the first ambassador to be killed abroad in years.
Republicans on Capitol Hill distanced themselves from the remarks of their presidential nominee, focusing instead on the tragedy and need for justice of those held accountable for the violence.
Obama, in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes,” said Romney had a “tendency to shoot first and aim later.”
Ryan had earlier said the attack is a reminder of the need for American leadership as he called for a moment of silence at a late-morning event outside Green Bay, Wis.
But the Wisconsin congressman backed up his potential boss in the evening -- a shift in tone the campaign attributed to the changed venue.
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“I want to be clear, it is never too early for the United States to condemn attacks on Americans, on our properties and to defend our values,” Ryan told the outdoor crowd, taking the stage after country singer John Michael Montgomery played a few hits.
“This administration's policies project weakness abroad,” Ryan continued, mentioning the coming defense cuts Congress agreed to in a deal last summer with the White House but Republicans now want to undo. “A weak America breeds insecurity and chaos around the world. The best guarantee of peace is American strength. And peace and strength will be the Romney-Ryan foreign policy.”
Ryan campaigned with his mother and his wife, Janna. He was introduced by his onetime predecessor as the House Budget Committee chairman, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio.
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