Romney, Ryan honor victims and military on 9/11 anniversary
By NBC's Garrett Haake and Alex Moe
RENO, Nev. -- The men at the top of the Republican presidential ticket largely set aside partisan campaigning today to focus instead on remembering and paying tribute to victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, as well as the first responders and military members who stepped forward in the aftermath.
Here in Nevada, an important battleground state this fall, Mitt Romneyaddressed the convention of the U.S. National Guard, recounting his own experience in Washington D.C. during the terrorist attacks 11 years ago. He thanked the men and women who stood up to defend the country at home and abroad in the wake of the attacks.
"It is an honor to be with you on this day of memorial and appreciation. We remember with heavy hearts the tragic loss of life, and we express thankfulness for the men and women who responded to that tragedy," Romney began. "We honor them, and we honor those who secure our safety even to this day."
Romney's speech came after he received criticism -- from both Democrats and even some Republicans -- for not once mentioning "Afghanistan" in his GOP convention speech, despite the U.S. troops who are serving in that war zone.
Across the country in another state targeted by Republicans, running matePaul Ryan had lunch with firefighters in his home state of Wisconsin after meeting with members of the Air National Guard.
"I have been flying into this airport for a long time back and forth from Washington to see my family. But when we hit the ground today flying home, this day meant a bit more because this is the anniversary of 9/11," he told roughly 100 members of the 128th Air Refueling Wing of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. "And I just wanted to come with my associates and thank each and every one of you for what you do every day. For what you do to make us safe. For what you do to make us proud."
The seven-term Wisconsin congressman stopped by a firehouse in his district to thank two-dozen first responders for what they do each and every day.
"This is a day where we as Americans need to think and remember the people who lost their lives and be thankful for those of you who put your lives on the line for us every day," Ryan said before sitting down to enjoy lasagna and salad inside the Oak Creek Fire Station.
In his speech from Nevada, Romney largely refrained from politics in his 19-minute address to a few thousand guardsmen and women here, with the name of President Obama never passing his lips. While Romney spoke of creating an American century -- a regular part of his stump speech -- and improving the Veterans Affairs department, he did not target the president or Democrats for explicit criticism as he does in more traditional campaign appearances.
"With less than two months to go before Election Day, I would normally speak to a gathering like this about the differences between my and my opponent’s plans for military and for our national security," he said. "There is a time and a place for that, but this day is not that. "
But Romney did make an implied contrast with the president on the issue of cuts to the military budget -- an attack that the GOP presidential nominee makes against Obama on the campaign trail.
"The return of our troops cannot and must not be used as an excuse to hollow out our military through devastating defense budget cuts. It is true that our armed forces have been stretched to the brink -– and that is all the more reason to repair and rebuild," he said.
"We can always find places to end waste. But we cannot cancel program after program; we cannot jeopardize critical missions; and we cannot cut corners in the quality of the equipment and training we provide to our men and women in uniform."
Obama campaign spokeswoman Lis Smith issued this response to Romney: “The president agrees that we should avoid the automatic defense cuts in the Budget Control Act. That’s why he has called on congressional Republicans to help prevent them by asking millionaires and billionaires to pay their fair share.”