Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (right) and his former vice presidential running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., arrive Thursday night at the Union League Club in Chicago, where Romney interviewed Ryan’s about his new book, “The Way Forward: Renewing the American Idea.” Ryan is on tour to promote the book as he weighs a presidential campaign of his own. | Charles Rex Arbogast/AP
Romney, Ryan together again to talk policy — and critique Obama
Onetime Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his former running mate, U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, reunited in Chicago on Thursday night in a rare joint appearance.
The event, dubbed a Romney-moderated interview with Ryan about his new book, “The Way Forward, Renewing the American Idea,” at the Union League Club of Chicago was instead a shared space for both men to voice their opinions — mostly criticism of Barack Obama’s presidency.
They jabbed at Obama’s foreign policy decisions, including what they called his lack of action in Syria and Iraq, while touting their own views on everything from economic growth to solving America’s poverty problem to Hillary Clinton.
Ryan did not address whether he would run for president in 2016, but Romney told a packed banquet hall of largely Republican supporters that the congressman would make a great president.
Ryan later told reporters he will not decide whether to run until after the November elections.
“That decision and that timeline is something I have pushed off until after the election because I believe we have more important things to do right now,” Ryan said. “That’s my priority and I’ll focus on ’16 in 2015.”
Ryan said he’s concerned about the nation’s growing inequality and poverty, and he said the country needs a systematic review of approaches to fight poverty.
“The federal government sidesteps all these great things happening [in communities] that may stop us from isolating people and get them out of poverty,” Ryan said.
He said Americans need to get involved in a set of reforms to battle poverty.
“I’m not one of those people that say things like I’ve got it all figured out,” Ryan said. “But I want to get this conversation started. If we all just go with the status quo, we will never have change or reform to break this cycle of poverty.”
Romney said the Republican Party is not the party of “no,” and that Republican politicians are trying to get bills through.
“If people want to see actual action and dealing with problems from education to health care to immigration, to our fiscal needs, tax reform, if we want to see those things happen, they’re going to have to vote for Republican senators, and a Republican president as well,” he said.
Romney criticized Obama’s decisions on foreign policy, saying the president naively believes other countries have the same ideals as Americans.
“His foreign policy is one based on the fact that everyone has the same interest and all want the same thing, and I don’t believe that,” Romney said. “I believe some people want to dominate, to oppress . . . Some people are fundamentally evil.”
Romney criticized possible presidential nominee Hillary Clinton for trying to distance herself from Obama when it comes to foreign policy.
“That would work better would she not have been the secretary of state for four years,” Romney said.
In response to a question from an audience member, Ryan, of Janesville, Wisconsin, told the crowd of 450 that he accepted same-sex couples being parents to adopted children.
“If there is a child that is an orphan, that is adopted, that finds a home with loving parents, that’s a child that’s no longer an orphan, that is no longer homeless,” Ryan said to applause.
Ryan later told reporters he was not familiar with the specifics of Illinois’ same-sex marriage law but again said any “loving parents” should be able to help get orphans a home.
“I think the best ideal home is between a mom and dad, but if we are talking about children who are homeless, or orphans, I think we need to help find them homes and think local adoption agencies ought to be able to have the flexibility,” Ryan said.
Romney and Ryan began the night with a standing ovation and a lighthearted conversation about the 2012 campaign.
“It’s not where we wished we were,” Romney joked. He said running for the presidency was exhilarating.
“The truth is it’s a magnificent experience because you get to see the country person by person, state by state,” Romney said. “We learned about their life stories, and it was very touching and made me more optimistic about the future.”
“If you get the chance to run for president, do it,” Romney said.
Ryan’s response? “The third time is the charm.”
“You wouldn’t be so bad yourself,” Romney chimed in.