Paul Ryan avoids controversy over Romney statement

Republican vice presidential candidate Paul RyanPaul RyanClinton camp: Trump's Russia remarks 'a bridge too far' Have Republicans hit rock bottom on voting rights yet? Biden should have been the clear choice for vice president MORE skirted the brewing controversy over his running mate's criticism of President Obama after violent attacks on two American embassies in the Middle East left four American diplomats dead.

In contrast to Mitt Romney, who said "mixed messages" from the Obama administration "demonstrated a lack of clarity," the Wisconsin congressman simply offered condolences and condemnation at the town-hall meeting in Green Bay, Wis.

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“I know all Americans today are shocked and saddened by the news in the Middle East. The attacks on our diplomatic missions in Egypt and Libya, and the loss of four American lives — including our ambassador, J. Christopher Stevens — this is outrageous. Our hearts are heavy. And our thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," Ryan said on Wednesday, calling for a moment in silence in memory of the American diplomats who lost their lives.

"We are reminded that the world needs American leadership. And the best guarantee of peace is American strength," Ryan continued.

Later in the town-hall meeting, a questioner referenced the attacks and asked how a Romney-Ryan administration would have handled things differently. Again provided an opportunity to directly criticize the administration's handling of the riots, Ryan didn't.

"First of all, peace through strength works," he said, "It is very important that a president speak with a singular voice."

"If you show weakness, if you show moral equivocation, then foreign policy adventurism among our adversaries will increase," Ryan continued.

That was the closest that Ryan came to matching the criticism made by his running mate, who faulted the Obama administration for a statement issued by the U.S. Embassy in Cairo criticizing the anti-Islam film that sparked the riots. Ryan went on to discuss looming defense cuts and budget priorities.

The U.S. Embassy in Egypt and multiple media reports have said the embassy statement was issued before the attacks began in hopes of preemptively quelling the protest. And many Republicans have stopped short of criticizing Obama in the aftermath of the riots.

But Romney doubled down on that criticism at his press conference Wednesday.

"I also believe the administration was wrong to stand by a statement sympathizing with those who had breached our embassy in Egypt instead of condemning their actions," Romney said. "It's never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and defend our values."

Doing so has drawn criticism from some prominent Republican political analysts.

“I don't feel that Mr. Romney has been doing himself any favors, say in the past few hours, perhaps since last night,” Peggy Noonan, a speechwriter for President Reagan, told Fox News. “Sometimes when really bad things happen, when hot things happen, cool words or no words is the way to go.”

“I was thinking as he spoke, I think I belong to the old school of thinking that in times of great drama and heightened crisis, and in times when something violent has happened to your people, I always think discretion is the better way to go,” Noonan said. 

“When you step forward in the midst of a political environment and start giving statements on something dramatic and violent that has happened, you're always leaving yourself open to accusations that you are trying to exploit things politically.”

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