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News Clash

Waa-Frickety-Waa. President Cry Baby Goes After Paul Ryan.

New York Times-President Obama came out swinging at Mitt Romney’s running mate on Monday, accusing Representative Paul D. Ryan of standing in the way of aid to farmers and ranchers who have been hurt by the severe drought.

During his first full day of campaigning since the Wisconsin congressman was tapped as the presumptive Republican vice-presidential nominee, the president targeted Mr. Ryan, who is campaigning solo for the first time since joining the ticket, in Iowa as well.

“I am told Governor Romney’s new running mate is in Iowa today,” Mr. Obama said to jeers from the crowd of 4,300 gathered in a park here. “He is one of the leaders of Congress standing in the way” of passage of a farm bill.

The House Republican leadership chose not to bring a long-term, committee-passed farm bill to the floor for a vote before the August recess, fearing a Republican split over spending and farm price supports. The House instead passed a short-term measure which the Senate rejected, saying it was too limited.

In his remarks, Mr. Obama added: “If you happen to see Congressman Ryan, tell him how important this farm bill is to Iowa and our rural communities.” His remarks, coming as he opened his three-day bus tour through this state that catapulted his first campaign for the presidency, segued perfectly with the barrage of criticism that his campaign unleashed Monday against the Romney-Ryan ticket.
In fact, at times it seemed as if the Wisconsin congressman was at the top of the Republican ticket instead of Mr. Romney. Mr. Obama’s political adviser, David Axelrod, told CBS’s “This Morning” that while Mr. Ryan was “a genial fellow,” he believed his selection was similar to John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin four years ago, a choice that initially generated much excitement. Mr. Axelrod warned darkly that Mr. Ryan favored policies that would gut Medicare and put a greater burden on the less fortunate.

By the time Mr. Obama appeared at the podium in Council Bluffs — just as the sun came out to lay waste to hopes here that maybe some rain would lessen the effects of the drought that has devastated farmers and ranchers here — Mr. Obama had seized the campaign attacks against Mr. Ryan’s budget policies and was running with them.

“This weekend, my opponent chose as his running mate the ideological leader of the conservative Republican agenda,” Mr. Obama said. “He is an articulate spokesman for Governor Romney’s vision, but the problem is that vision is one which I fundamentally disagree with.”

Appearing before Mr. Obama spoke, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack was even more pointed. “Take a look at the Ryan budget,” Mr. Vilsack said. “Take a look at what it does to farm families. It destroys the safety net.”

The choice of Council Bluffs to launch this week’s bus tour is significant not only because Iowa is so critical to the president’s re-election hopes, but also because it is just across the Missouri River from Omaha, and in the same television market. With Nebraska’s split electoral map, the president is trying to scrape as many votes as he can get. He won the state’s second congressional district in 2008, the first time a Democrat did so since 1964, a win that gleaned him one electoral vote in Nebraska to Mr. McCain’s four.

The president addressed the drought that has wrecked farm crops, saying he has directed the Agriculture Department to buy up to $150 million of meat and poultry to help relieve farmers and ranchers. The president has been pushing passage of the farm bill, but Democrats and Republicans have been fighting over farm subsidies and food stamp items in the bill.

The Romney campaign issued a statement quickly in response.

“Paul Ryan hails from an agriculture state and supported disaster relief, and the truth is no one will work harder to defend farmers and ranchers than the Romney-Ryan ticket,” said Ryan Williams, a campaign spokesman. “After nearly four years of failure, it’s no wonder that Barack Obama returns to the state that launched his presidential campaign with nothing more than broken promises and false attacks.”