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Paul Ryan’s First Foreign Policy Grilling

SAUL LOEB/AFP/GettyImages(GOFFSTOWN, N.H.) -- Taking the stage together for the first time in more than a week, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan held a town hall in New Hampshire today and fielded several questions about foreign policy, an area critics say is a weak spot for the vice presidential candidate.

Flexing those foreign policy talking points, Ryan repeated many of the lines Romney has honed during his year-plus on the campaign trail.

Asked by a voter what their plan was in Afghanistan, Romney criticized the president for not communicating the plans overseas enough with the American people, while Ryan chimed in, touting his trip there late last year.

“I was in Helmand Province with the Marines in December, learning and listening to our Marines who were fighting there,” said Ryan. “And it is amazing, there is not an Army or a troops that hold a candle to the American military.

“The president, in my opinion, has made decisions that are more political in nature than military in nature,” said Ryan, echoing one of Romney’s common talking points. “A drawdown occurring in the middle of a fighting season when we are still giving our military the same mission, we don’t want to do something that would put them in jeopardy. We want them to fulfill the mission in the safest way possible and that, to me, means you make decisions based on what is right for the country, for our national security and let our men and women serving in our armed forces do their job in the safest possible way. Period. End of story. Elections not withstanding. That is what leadership is all about, especially when you are sending men and women into harm’s way.”

Romney has long said that he would follow the direction from commanders on the ground when it comes to decision-making in Afghanistan, and has argued that Obama’s timetable to withdraw troops is politically motivated.

Ryan offered a joke about his lack of overseas experience, quipping that overseas, “where I come from, means Lake Superior.”

But he also echoed Romney on Israel and Iran.

“First off, Israel is our strongest ally in the Middle East. Let’s treat ‘em as if they’re our strongest ally in the Middle East,” he said. “It is very vital and important that the signals we send, that the leadership we provide, that we strengthen our relationship with our allies, that we improve this relationship, which has deteriorated so much under this president, so that our allies in this region are negotiating from a position of strength and not being undercut by the United States of America when they’re trying to arrive at peace. That is critical.

“We’ve both been there, we’ve traveled in this region, we’ve met with the leadership of Israel, and we have to recognize that perhaps the greatest threat in the world today is an Iran with nuclear capabilities, nuclear weapons capabilities,” said Ryan. “This is an existential threat to Israel, and it’s a threat to our own national security and we need to be firm in our resolve in preventing Iran from getting nuclear weapons capability and standing up for our allies in the region so that we do not have a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.”

Ryan’s focus in Congress has clearly been the budget and health care, but he gave a personal spin on the foreign policy experience he does have.

“When you vote to send men and woman to war like … I did after 9/11, it’s a vote you take very seriously, very solemnly,” Ryan said. “And when you give the military a specific mission and the military tells you, ‘Here is what we need to complete this mission, to keep our soldiers, sailors, airman and Marines safe,’ you give them what they ask for. It is very important.”

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