(CBS News) DE PERE, Wis. - Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan took a softer tone than Republican nominee Mitt Romney in response to protests and attacks on American diplomats in Libya and Egypt. He began a campaign event here Wednesday with a moment of silence rather than outright criticism for the administration's response to violence in the region.
"This is a time for healing. It is a time for resolve. And in the face of such a tragedy, we are reminded that the world needs American leadership. And the best guarantee of peace is American strength," Ryan said.
Romney has said a statement from the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, which condemned "those who abuse the universal right of free speech to hurt the religious beliefs of others," amounted to an administration apology for U.S. principles. While Ryan did not directly rebuke the president, he framed a Romney-Ryan foreign policy as better able to articulate American values abroad than Obama has done during his presidency.
"It is very important that a president speak with a singular voice representing our principles and our values. We don't want people around the world wondering what our values are. We believe in individual rights, and particularly in the Middle East, we believe in women's rights," Ryan said during a town hall with about 1,500 voters in his home state.
"If you show weakness, if you show moral equivocation, then foreign policy adventurism among our adversaries will increase. We do not want a world climate where our adversaries are so tempted to test us and our allies are worried about trusting us and that is unfortunately the path that we are on right now."
When a woman in the audience mentioned Shakil Afridi, a Pakistani doctor who has been jailed for helping the CIA collect information about the family of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden before a raid last year, Ryan accused the administration of leaking security details about the operation.
"These leaks on national security coming from the White House undermine the men and women who put risks on their lives for us. This is not helpful," he said, to extended applause from the audience. "I suppose it could have served some short-term political gain... But let's ask this question: If you're a doctor in Pakistan and the American government asks you to help in the future and you see that, what do you think you're going to do?"
"These leaks are not helpful. They're counterproductive," Ryan said, promising a Romney-Ryan administration would not make the same "mistakes."