Ryan: "I just don't understand" bayonet remark

Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan on "CBS This Morning" Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2012.
CBS News

(CBS News) Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan defended his running mate's positions following Monday's third and final presidential debate and took aim at the president for comparing Mitt Romney's military budget strategy to the game "Battleship."

"You mentioned the Navy, for example, and that we have fewer ships than we did in 1916," Mr. Obama said in response to Romney's critique of the administration's military spending. "Well, Governor, we also have fewer horses and bayonets, because the nature of our military's changed.

"The question is not a game of Battleship, where we're counting ships," he added.

Appearing on "CBS This Morning," Ryan suggested the president was being petty: "To compare modern American battleships and Navy with bayonets - I just don't understand that comparison.

"Look. We have to have a strong Navy to keep peace and prosperity and sea lanes open," he continued. "The president's, all these defense cuts, if all these defense cuts go through, our Navy will be smaller than it was before World War I. That's not acceptable. And, yes, the ... the ocean hasn't shrunk. You still have to have enough ships to have a footprint that you need to keep sea lanes open, to keep our strength abroad where it needs to be."

"CBS This Morning" host Norah O'Donnell asked Ryan about the ways in which Gov. Romney "seemed to be bending over backwards to agree with the president," saying he concurred with Mr. Obama on specific policies. "Why did he fail to draw some of the distinctions tonight?" she asked.

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"Well, there are some things where we do agree," Ryan said. "We agree with the decision to go after Osama bin Laden. We agree with the continuation of the Bush drone policy. Those things we agree with. Where we disagree is in the president's poor handling of the Iranian situation. Iran is four years closer to a nuclear weapon. The administration has fought us on sanctions in Congress on a bipartisan basis for years until we finally got bipartisan support to overwhelm the president's position, now we have the sanctions in place.

"What we also disagree with was on the defense policy. This trillion-dollar cut in defense will devastate our defense. It will make us weak. It will project weakness abroad. And I think Mitt Romney did a great job of contrasting that."

The defense cuts Ryan refers to are part of the sequestration that Congress passed that will automatically trigger cuts in defense and non-defense spending if the House and Senate do not agree on a plan to cut the deficit . Ryan was among those who voted for the bill.

One issue that was absent from the debate was a discussion of the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, which has become a topic of attack by both Romney and House Republicans as questions about security measures and the administration's initial characterization of the assault persist.

When asked by O'Donnell whether he thought Romney should have pushed on the issue, Ryan replied, "We didn't wanna go into all the litigation of it.

"What Mitt Romney wanted to do is lay out his vision for the country, how they have a strong economy which makes it for a strong national defense and a strong America."


Click on the video player above to watch the complete interview with Paul Ryan.

O'Donnell then asked about the Republican candidates' position on Syria. "We have heard Gov. Romney in the past say that you would work to ensure that 'the opposition obtains the arms they need to defeat Assad's tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.' Does that mean you'd be willing to supply the opposition with heavy weaponry?"

"Well, so what we've always said is that we wanna work with our allies in the region - the Turks, the Qataris, the Saudis - in identifying the good allies in Syria, who are Syrians fighting against the Bashar Assad regime. So here's the problem: the president outsourced to the U.N. for too long."

Pressed again on the question of providing heavy weaponry needed to defeat Assad's tanks, helicopters and fighter jets, Ryan said, "Yeah, what they, they, as well, through, through open source, we already know that they have what we call man pads. We already know that the Free Syrian Army that, that people in Syria already have the kinds of weapons to do just that. Here's the problem with delaying so long. Here's the problem with going over a year and a half and not having leadership: Bad actors are joining this fight. Al Qaeda's coming into Syria."

Touching on Iran, Ryan said he could also see one-on-one negotiations between Washington and Tehran.

"Look, we've always said that we're willing to talk, but we're not gonna take off sanctions. We're not gonna lessen anything. We're not going to give any kind of talk, whether they're multi-lateral or whether they're bilateral, as an excuse to delay sanctions. We gotta keep pushing sanctions. We gotta have harder sanctions. We have to do all the list of the things that Gov. Romney said. And if they want to talk, that's fine. But we're not gonna, we're not gonna seize or put any kinda temporary hold on any kinds of sanctions as a condition of talking. No pre-conditions. But if they wanna talk, that is perfectly fine."