OWENSVILLE, Ohio – Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan sharpened his attacks on the administration’s handling of violence in the Middle East, bringing him into line with nominee Mitt Romney’s more forceful response to the attacks.
“The administration sent mixed signals to those who attacked our embassy in Egypt, and mixed signals to the world,” Ryan said to a crowd of roughly 3,000 people Wednesday evening. “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. That’s what leadership is all about.”
His remarks were a stark contrast to his tone earlier in the day, when he expressed sorrow over the deaths of four American diplomats and called for a moment of silence. “This is a time for healing. It is a time for resolve. And in the face of such a tragedy, we are reminded that the world needs American leadership. And the best guarantee of peace is American strength,” Ryan said during a town hall meeting in De Pere, Wis.
Spokesman Michael Steel said the change reflected Ryan’s intent to lead a moment of reflection in the morning and to discuss policy in the evening, but that it was also a response to the White House, which accused Romney of injecting politics into a foreign policy crisis. In an interview with CBS News, Obama said Wednesday that Romney “seems to have a tendency to shoot first and aim later.”
Romney has said that a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which condemned “those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others,” amounted to an administration apology for U.S. principles. While Ryan did not directly rebuke the president in his Wisconsin rally Wednesday morning, he said that a Romney administration would be better able to articulate American values abroad.
“It is very important that a president speak with a singular voice representing our principles and our values. We don't want people around the world wondering what our values are. We believe in individual rights, and particularly in the Middle East, we believe in women's rights,” Ryan said during a town-hall meeting with about 1,500 voters in his home state.
When a woman in the audience mentioned Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who has been jailed for helping the CIA collect information about the family of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden before a raid last year, Ryan accused the administration of leaking security details about the operation.
“These leaks are not helpful. They're counterproductive,” Ryan said, promising that a Romney-Ryan administration would not make the same “mistakes.”