Ryan says violence in the Middle East shows need for change in US leadership

Paul Ryan slammed President Obama's foreign-policy agenda on Friday, accusing the president of failing to provide "steady, consistent American leadership" and implying he had waffled on standing up to extremists in the Middle East.

Speaking to a conservative audience at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, D.C., Ryan kept up the Romney campaign strategy of hammering the president on the issue.

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"We know who America is dealing with in these attacks: They are extremists who operate by violence and intimidation, and the least equivocation or mixed signal only makes them bolder," the GOP vice presidential nominee said to strong applause.

After mentioning ongoing turmoil across the region and accusing Obama of treating Israel with "indifference bordering on contempt," Ryan attacked the president for failing to lead.

"What we do not see is steady, consistent American leadership," he said. "In the days ahead and in the years ahead, American foreign policy needs moral clarity and firmness of purpose."

His comments follow a week of attacks from the Mitt Romney campaign on Obama's foreign-policy credentials.

The turmoil in the Middle East has dominated the presidential race this week as both campaigns have hit the other repeatedly for their response to the increasing violence in the Middle East.

"Peace, freedom — these civilized values have enemies in this world, as we've been reminded by events in Egypt, Libya and Yemen," Ryan said. "We've all seen the images of our flag being burned and our liberties under attack by vicious mobs. The worst of it is the loss of four good men, including [the] ambassador to Libya."

The Obama campaign fired back, accusing the Wisconsin lawmaker of going to extremes in his remarks.

Ryan "unleashed 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," Obama campaign spokesman Danny Kanner said in a statement.

Amid the presidential politics come reports of increasing violence in the Middle East, with the U.S. embassies and those of its allies under siege.

U.S. officials were bracing for widespread protests in the Middle East after Friday prayers, in response to an anti-Islamic video that was publicized this week.

Romney addressed the video for the first time on Friday, telling ABC News it was a "terrible idea."

“I think the whole film is a terrible idea,” the GOP nominee said on "Good Morning America." “I think people should have the common courtesy and judgment — the good judgment — not to be — not to offend other people's faiths. It’s a very bad thing, I think, this guy’s doing.”

White House spokesman Jay Carney placed the blame for the Middle East unrest squarely on the anti-Islamic video, saying the reason the embassies seemed unprepared to deal with the attacks was because of the unpredictable Muslim reaction to the obscure film.

“What we have seen is unrest around the region in response to a video that Muslims find offensive,” Carney said at his daily press briefing. “We have seen incidents like this in the past in reaction to other actions, cartoons, other actions taken that have led to protests and violence in the region and we have managed those situations and we are working to ensure that our diplomatic personnel … are secure as we deal with response to this video.”

The U.S. Embassy, before protests in Egypt, criticized the anti-Islam film for abusing “the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others.”

That led Romney on Tuesday to say the Obama administration’s first reaction to the protests was to blame the United States instead of those violently demonstrating, though the embassy statement was released before the protests.

The situation was further complicated for Romney after a separate incident in Libya left the U.S. ambassador to that country and three others dead. Many people awoke on Wednesday morning to that news, along with Romney’s tough response to the Obama administration’s handling of the Egypt protests.

The protests are now in their fourth day.

On Friday protesters set fire to trees and scaled the walls at the U.S. Embassy in Tunisia as police fired tear gas to try to stop the assault, according to reports from that country.

There are also reports that protesters have stormed several embassies in Khartoum, Sudan.

And Marine Corps units with the Pentagon's quick-reaction counterterrorism team have been sent to Yemen to quell anti-American protests being launched against the U.S. embassy there, according to reports.

Obama, meanwhile, will travel to Andrews Air Force Base on Friday afternoon to greet the remains of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens and the three other Americans killed in the attack in Benghazi. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will join him.


— Jonathan Easley, Jeremy Herb, Carlo Muñoz and Justin Sink contributed
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