WASHINGTON -- GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan accused the Obama administration Friday of treating Israel with "indifference bordering on contempt," the latest in a series of jabs on the president's foreign policy after attacks on U.S. embassies abroad this week.
"Look across that region today, and what do we see?" he said at the Values Voters Summit, an annual gathering of 2,000 social conservatives, at the Omni Shoreham hotel in Washington. "The slaughter of brave dissidents in Syria. Mobs storming American embassies and consulates. Iran four years closer to gaining a nuclear weapon. Israel, our best ally in the region, treated with indifference bordering on contempt by the Obama administration. Amid all these threats and dangers, what we do not see is steady, consistent American leadership."
Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Ryan have responded to attacks on the U.S. embassies in Egypt and Libya, where an ambassador and three other staffers were killed, with a critique on what they say is President Barack Obama's weakness. Ryan said earlier this week that "adversaries ... tempted to test us need to know that America is strong militarily."
But some polling indicates that a majority -- if slight -- thinks Obama is dealing with foreign policy just fine. Democrats have also polled evenly with Republicans on who is best to prevent terrorism, according to a poll released by Gallup on Thursday.
Ryan then turned to the economy, which he and Romney have tried to make the major focus of their campaign. "Values voters are also economic voters," he said. "The Obama economic agenda failed, not because it was stopped, but because it was passed."
Ryan was interrupted by three hecklers, who shouted "corporations are not people," then were shouted down by the crowd's "USA" chants. Two of the hecklers were quickly taken out of the room by security.
He went on to accuse Obama of making excuses for his record -- or refusing to discuss it at all. Ryan repeatedly said that the president relies on "straw-man arguments."
"Everyone knows that President Obama inherited a bad economy. And four months from now, when Mitt Romney is sworn in as president, he will inherit a bad economy," Ryan said. "But here’s the difference. When a Romney-Ryan administration takes office, we will also take responsibility."
Ryan also attacked Obama for his recent defense of government, saying the president "looks to government as the great benefactor in every life."
"Our opponents even have a new motto. They say, quote, 'Government is the only thing that we all belong to'," Ryan said. "I don’t know about you, but I’ve never thought of government as something I belong to. As a matter of fact, on the seven occasions I’ve been sworn in as a member of Congress, I have never taken an oath to the government."
His speech had few mentions of social conservatism, largely focusing on the economy, limiting government and foreign policy. He did, however, criticize the president for requiring employers to provide contraception as part of insurance, which many Catholic organizations and social conservatives oppose.
"Never mind your own conscience, they were basically told, from now on you're going to do things the government's way," he said. "... As Governor Romney has said, this mandate is not a threat and insult to one religious group -- it is a threat and insult to every religious group. He and I are honored to stand with you -- people of faith and concerned citizens -- in defense of religious liberty."
Ryan said Obama "has chosen to pander to the most extreme elements of his party" by supporting abortion rights and opposing against pro-life Democrats. He called for a law against abortion.
"Apparently, the Obama-Biden ticket stands for an absolute, unqualified right to abortion -- at any time, under any circumstances, and even at taxpayer expense," he said.
Ryan concluded with an appeal to voters, "whatever your political party," to vote for his ticket. "Let’s put these divisive years behind us," he said, met with a standing ovation. "Let’s give this effort everything we have. Let’s get this done."