Paul Ryan a foreign policy question in a campaign about economy

Paul Ryan
Saul Loeb-Pool/Getty Images

One of the first things Congressman Paul Ryan said on Saturday when accepting the role of Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate was that even though he was in Congress he had “never really left” his hometown of Janesville, Wisconsin in the American Midwest.

Ryan’s focus on domestic issues and his reputation as a rather wonky budget hawk confirm that Romney sees the November contest with President Barack Obama as a referendum over the U.S. economy and the size of the federal budget.

Still, although U.S. voters overwhelmingly cite economic issues as their main concern, they also want reassurance that their leaders can execute the role of commander-in-chief.

Introducing Ryan on Saturday, Romney said his new running mate was ready. But Democrats are already aiming at what they say is a dearth of national security experience on the Republican ticket.

“I think his (Ryan’s) experience as a vice presidential candidate is thin; or for a future president and commander-in-chief, it’s virtually absent,” said Tim Roemer, a former congressman, former ambassador to India and member of the commission that reported on the circumstances surrounding the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

Obama had little foreign policy experience when he ran for president in 2008 as Illinois’ junior senator. He chose to balance that by tapping Senator Joe Biden, who had a long history of international experience and contacts, as his vice president.

None of the four men running for the two highest offices in the land are military veterans.

Romney campaign officials contend that Ryan does bring experience in the foreign policy department, particularly when it comes to dealing with the defense budget.

“This election is going to be about which candidate has the right vision for growing the economy and balancing our budget, but Governor Romney chose Congressman Ryan first and foremost because he’s ready on day one to step in as commander-in-chief, should he need to assume that responsibility,” said Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck.

Romney and Ryan “share the view that America’s leadership position in the world is based on a robust national defense, strengthened relationships with our allies and a philosophy of peace through strength,” Buck said.

The two campaigns took the debate over Ryan’s foreign policy qualifications to the Sunday morning talk shows.

Eric Fehnstrom, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign, told CBS’ “Face the Nation” that “Paul Ryan has the same amount of foreign policy experience that Barack Obama had when he was sworn in as president.”

Stephanie Cutter, Obama’s deputy campaign manager, seized on Romney’s recent, gaffe-plagued trip to Europe and Israel, during which he offended Britain by questioning London’s readiness to host the Olympics and suggested the Palestinians’ culture was at the root of their economic plight.

“I think that was proof positive that Mitt Romney doesn’t have the judgment necessary to be America’s commander in chief. And whether Paul Ryan can help him with that, we’ll see,” she told the CBS news talk show.


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