Ryan's rivals rip foreign-policy speech

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Frank Schultz
Wednesday, June 11, 2014

JANESVILLE—The two Democrats vying to take on Paul Ryan for the 1st Congressional District seat took aim at the Republican incumbent's speech on foreign policy Wednesday.

Rob Zerban and Amar Kaleka are battling for votes in the Aug. 12 Democratic primary. They were asked for their thoughts about an advanced copy of the speech.

Ryan spoke at the Center for a New American Security's annual conference in Washington, D.C.

Ryan called President Barack Obama's foreign policy weak and indecisive.

“In far too many cases, the president doesn't back up his words with actions,” Ryan said. “It's not that he says one thing and does another. It's that he doesn't do enough. The instinct is to go for the bare minimum—just enough to show concern, but not enough to get results.”

Kaleka said in an email that he found the speech unimpressive.

“Ryan demonstrated that his foreign policy includes an abundance of criticism for the president but no tangible details of what he would do different,” Kaleka wrote. “…I doubt our allies will be impressed with stale platitudes and broad pronouncements written by his party. They want to see definitive action.

“Congressman Ryan wants you to believe that his academic discussions on the debt-to-GDP ratio will force the ISIS from Mosul,” Kaleka said, referring to the Al Quaeda-linked Islamic State of Iraq and Syria that reportedly took control of the major Iraqi city in recent days.

Ryan didn't directly address the dangerously destabilized Iraq or Syria, but he said the greatest threat to the United States' leadership in the world is the national debt.

“To us, the debt is a liability. To our rivals, it's leverage. And to our friends, it's demoralizing. It's hard to trust a country that's maxed out its credit cards and taken out a third mortgage,” Ryan said.

Ryan returned to familiar ground by calling for entitlement reform and paying down the debt to help “job creators”

Zerban was equally critical.

“Ryan predictably pivots to his extreme budget proposal, including economic policies which have been widely rejected by the American public,” Zerban wrote in an email. “Ryan's budget asks to increase military spending while demanding tax cuts for millionaires and large corporations, all funded by asking the middle class to pay more.

“In fact, when he does address foreign affairs, Ryan voices support for many of President Obama's policies, but proposes that Republicans would carry out these policies—somehow—differently. In my view, it goes to show that Republican ideas extend very little past criticizing the president,” Zerban said.

Ryan also faces a little-known challenger in the Aug. 12 Republican primary, Jeremy Ryan of Madison.

Jeremy Ryan said Paul Ryan's speech is another indicator the congressman will run for president.

“While reading his speech it became clear to me that this was all about what he has always been about: cutting social programs, particularly Medicare, and handing off billions to large corporations,” Jeremy Ryan wrote. “Much like his budget, this speech is pushing writing blank checks to corporations and the military while balancing those checks on Social Security and Medicare.

“Additionally he wants to continue the failed war in Afghanistan, spending billions, likely even trillions more …,” Jeremy Ryan said.

Paul Ryan said Obama's plan to pull out all the troops by the end of 2016 tells America's enemies that they can wait us out.

“The commander-in-chief's focus should be the conditions on the ground. We should bring our troops home as soon as possible—but not before we finish the job,” Paul Ryan said.

The congressman also called for increased exploitation of oil and natural gas from shale, increased natural gas exports, “And resist the temptation to over-regulate.”

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