He told the crowd that “amid all these threats and dangers, what we do not see is steady, consistent American leadership.”
In addition to sharpening his criticism of Obama on foreign policy, Ryan also took aim at the administration for the contraception mandate under the national health-care law, making note of his own Catholic faith and echoing GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney in framing the mandate as an attack on religious liberty.
“Ladies and gentlemen, you would be hard pressed to find another group in America that does more to serve the health of women and their babies than the Catholic Church and Catholic charities,” Ryan said. “And now, suddenly, we have Obamacare bureaucrats presuming to dictate how they will do it. 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.”
Ryan also introduced a new line of attack against Obama, telling the crowd that “the only kind of debate he can win” is “against straw-man arguments.”
“No politician is more skilled at striking heroic poses against imaginary adversaries,” Ryan said. “Nobody is better at rebuking nonexistent opinions. Barack Obama does this all the time, and in this campaign we are calling him on it.”
The conference is considered a campaign-trail must for GOP presidential and vice presidential candidates as well as prominent conservatives. Among those speaking ahead of Ryan on Friday were tea party favorites, including Sens. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), who also spoke prior to Ryan, blamed the Obama administration for this week’s attacks on U.S. diplomatic missions.
“What we’re watching develop before our eyes today are the direct consequences of this administration’s policy of apology and appeasement across the globe and the supposed success of the president’s foreign policy genius,” Bachmann said.
Ryan’s speech on Friday was not his first visit to the summit, but it comes as the Wisconsin Republican has taken a more prominent role on the national stage as GOP vice presidential nominee. That higher profile was apparent Friday as protesters interrupted Ryan two separate times during his remarks, chanting, “Corporations are not people!”