ASHWAUBENON, Wis. -- In the wake of news that four Americans were killed in attacks in Libya, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said on Wednesday that President Barack Obama's defense spending cuts "breed weakness."
His comments at a town hall meeting near Green Bay came in reaction to a question about national defense from an audience member wearing a hat indicating that he was a Bronze Star recipient. Ryan began the meeting asking for a moment of silence for four Americans killed overseas.
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"Peace through strength works," Ryan said in reaction to the question. "It is very important that a president speak with a singular voice representing our principles and values. We don't want people around the world wondering what our values are. ... It's important people know who we are and what we believe in."
Ryan then repeated his frequent criticism of Obama for cutting defense spending.
"I believe the president's devastating defense cuts breed weakness," Ryan said.
Obama on Wednesday vowed the United States would "work with the Libyan government to bring to justice" those who killed U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in an attack on the consulate in Benghazi.
Ryan called the attacks "outrageous."
"We do not want a world climate where our adversaries are so tempted to test us and our allies are worried about trusting us," Ryan said to loud applause. "That is unfortunately the path we are on in America."
Ryan said this was a "time for healing. It's a time for resolve. In the face of such a tragedy, we are reminded that the world needs American leadership."
Ryan, the House Budget Committee chairman, spent much of his time repeating well-worn campaign themes warning of an economic collapse, criticising Obama for the level of national debt and promising a more frugal federal government under Romney. Ryan said the collapse in 2008 wasn't expected, while the new threat that looms is.
"Remember the Jimmy Carter years?" he said. "We don't want to repeat the Jimmy Carter years?"
One person asked Ryan if he had a deadline on turning the economy around.
"I don't want to spend eight years on another risk," the man said.
Ryan said, "The answer is yes and it's called a budget. We're going to have one, we're going to pass it, and it will be on time."
Ryan was introduced to the crowd of about 1,500 by Gov. Scott Walker, who promised that for the first time since he was in high school and Ryan was in middle school, Wisconsin would vote for a Republican for president. The last time that happened was in 1984.
"It's pretty nice to have a cheesehead on the ticket, isn't it?" Walker said in introducing Ryan, who came to the stage wearing a Green Bay Packers polo shirt.
Many in the crowd waved orange fans that said "Defend freedom, defeat Obama."
Wanda Wanie, 44, of De Pere came to the event with her 14 year-old son and 16-year-old daughter. Wanie said she agreed with Ryan's criticisms of Obama on foreign policy.
"I think the president right now spends more time golfing than the things he needs to be doing," she said.
Joe Eastman, 49, of Green Bay called Ryan's address "brilliant" and said he agreed with his support for foreign policy based on "peace through strength."
"This is an unstable world," Eastman said. "We don't need to be in 150 countries, but we need to support our allies."
Ryan, a native of Janesville, has spent a lot of time in his home state since being added to Romney's ticket in early August. Wednesday's town hall was his third large campaign stop. He also spent Tuesday in the state meeting with firefighters and emergency responders in Oak Creek, near Milwaukee.
Ryan also began running ads Wednesday in his congressional race called "America has a Choice." Wisconsin law allows Ryan to seek both offices simultaneously but only serve in one if he wins the pair. His Democratic opponent in the state's 1st District is Rob Zerban, a former county official.
Obama's campaign launched its first ads in Wisconsin on Wednesday, which came after Romney started running spots on Sunday.
Wisconsin and its 10 electoral votes has become more of a battleground with the increase in advertising and appearances by the candidates. Vice President Joe Biden planned to campaign on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire on Thursday.