(AFP PHOTO/Mandel NGANMANDEL…)
WASHINGTON -- In a blistering attack on the Democrats’ leadership abroad, Paul Ryan charged that President Obama has failed to show “steady, consistent American leadership” in the face of recent violence in the Arab world while accusing his administration of treating Israel with “indifference bordering on contempt.”
The Republican vice presidential nominee, known primarily for his role in setting his party’s course on domestic fiscal policy, opened his remarks at the Values Voter Summit in Washington by continuing to hammer the president for showing “equivocation” and “mixed signals” that he said have fueled anti-American rioting at diplomatic posts, leading in one case to the death of four American personnel in Benghazi, Libya, including Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens.
“In the days ahead, and in the years ahead, American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose. Only by the confident exercise of American influence are evil and violence overcome,” Ryan said. “That is how we keep problems abroad from becoming crises. That is what keeps the peace. And that is what we will have in a Romney-Ryan administration.”
The bulk of Ryan’s speech to the yearly gathering of religious conservatives did, however, focus on domestic issues, most prominently the economy and social issues like abortion.
Ryan said Obama, without a strong record to run on, was now campaigning for a second term by presenting false choices and “straw-man attacks.”
“No politician is more skilled at striking heroic poses against imaginary adversaries. Nobody is better at rebuking nonexistent opinions. Barack Obama does this all the time, and in this campaign we are calling him on it,” he said.
In the face of a weak economy, Ryan said Obama tried to argue that those questioning whether his policies have made the situation worse are only “hoping for the decline of America.”
“Everyone knows that President Obama inherited a bad economy. And four months from now, when Mitt Romney is sworn in as president, he will inherit a bad economy. But here’s the difference. When a Romney-Ryan administration takes office, we will also take responsibility,” he said.
Ryan also blasted the Department of Health and Human Services mandate that employers provide contraception, a common refrain among other speakers here.
The Wisconsin congressman also said that Obama had broken from a Clinton administration that aimed to make abortion “safe, legal and rare,” to now stand for “an absolute, unqualified right to abortion – at any time, under any circumstances, and even at taxpayer expense.”
He also warned the audience of what reelecting the president might mean.
“If we renew the contract, we will get the same deal – with only one difference: In a second term, he will never answer to you again,” he said. “In so many ways … re-electing this president would set in motion things that can never be called back.”
In response, the Obama campaign accused Ryan of “a series of over-the-top, dishonest attacks against the president that once again reminded voters that he’s just not ready for prime time.”
“In the not too distant past, Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan said they wanted a serious debate on substantive issues. We’re still waiting,” spokesman Danny Kanner said.
Ryan was introduced by conservative commentator Bill Bennett, whom Ryan once worked for and whom he called a mentor. Bennett noted that he once carried his coffee and his religious texts.
“Paul Ryan, if there’s any carrying to be done … I will carry your jacket and your coffee and your books while you take it to them,” he said.