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Monday, September 24, 2012

On Stump in Ohio, Ryan Criticizes Obama\'s Military and Foreign Policies


LIMA, Ohio â€" Representative Paul D. Ryan took aim at President Obama's military policies on Monday, likening the differing national security philosophies of Mitt Romney and Mr. Obama to those of Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter, while lambasting a United States Army plan to halt Pentagon funding for several years for the nation's only main battle tank, which employs 800 people at a plant in this northwest Ohio town.

Despite heavy criticism of Mr. Romney's comments this month on the crisis in Libya, it was clear on Monday that the Romney-Ryan campaign believes that with six weeks to go before the election it can still score points off Mr. Obama's handling of turmoil across the Middle East.

â €œI mean, turn on the TV and it reminds me of 1979 in Tehran,” Mr. Ryan, Mr. Romney's vice presidential running mate, told a packed rally here. “They're burning our flags in capitals all around the world. They're storming our embassies. We've lost four of our diplomats, and what is the signal that our government is sending to the rest of the world?”

Just as quickly as he alluded to Mr. Carter's biggest foreign policy crisis, Mr. Ryan also asserted that a Romney-Ryan administration would follow a strategy of “peace through strength” â€" an equally plain reference to the national security motto Mr. Reagan favored.

And yet it remains to be seen whether trying to gain ground on foreign policy will continue to be an uphill battle for the Republican ticket. While national security is a portfolio that has often favored the G.O.P. in recent elections, the killing of Osama bin Laden and the Obama administration's assassination program in Pakistan using drone-fired missiles may help explain the president's consistent polling advantage on the issue.

A New York Times/CBS News national poll two weeks ago found that Mr. Obama held a 49 percent to 39 percent lead over Mr. Romney among likely voters who were asked which candidate would do a better job handling foreign policy. The five-day poll was largely conducted before the killing in Libya of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans, and it is not yet clear whether that crisis â€" or Mr. Romney's reaction â€" has swayed public opinion on the issue in either direction.

In Lima, Mr. Ryan was quick to hone what he maintained was Mr. Obama's national security weakness into a local issue: criticism of the Army's move to cut funding for several years for manufacturing or upgrading tanks at the Lima plant, which is owned by the government and operated by General Dynamics. The Army says it wants to save the money until it restar ts funding in 2017 for upgrading existing tanks.

Ohio politicians in both parties have sought to get the plant more Pentagon funding, arguing that even a temporary suspension would destroy the supply chain that supports the plant and would lead to far higher costs to reopen the program in the future. Supporters hope foreign military sales will keep the plant open in the interim but worry the plant's jobs are in very serious jeopardy without the Pentagon funding.

“We are not going to shut down the only tank factory we have in America over a budget gimmick,” Mr. Ryan told supporters in Lima.

The Obama campaign wasted no time in attacking Mr. Ryan's comments, suggesting that he is a hypocrite whose support for tax cuts skewed to benefit the wealthy would hurt the country's national security.

“Congressman Ryan has repeatedly authored and voted for automatic defense cuts,” an Obama campaign spokesman, Danny Kanner, said in a statement. “But this time, the only thing ensuring that these cuts will become reality is Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan's opposition to asking for a penny more from millionaires and billionaires.”

Mr. Kanner added, “If Mitt Romney and Congressman Ryan were serious about keeping middle class taxes low and protecting our nation's security, they'd simply drop their insistence on tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.”