By BRIAN A. HOWEY

WAYNESVILLE, N.C. - Indiana Gov. Mike Pence forcefully waded into foreign policy at CPAC’s Reagan Dinner Friday evening. With Hoosier aide worker Peter Kassig a victim of “Jihad John’s” murderous knife, Pence said, "Mr. President, 'Jihadi John' doesn't want a job. He wants to see paradise and I think we should help him get there as quickly as possible."

Pence invoked President Reagan, a personal hero, early in his speech. “While the challenges we face are daunting, the choices we must make to meet them are not,” Pence said. “Fifty years ago the namesake of this dinner gave birth to our movement with his iconic “Time for Choosing” speech. Today we have come to another time for choosing. You either choose to view America as the shining city on the hill that inspires the best in all mankind, or you don’t. You either want America to stand by her friends and stand up to her enemies or you don’t. You either are for limiting the power of the federal government, or you are not. You either are for protecting the unborn and the religious liberty of every American, or you aren’t.”

Pence continued, “First, let’s recognize that 2016 could be the first foreign policy national election since 1980. The world seems to become more dangerous by the day. Sadly, the administration has reduced our Army to its smallest size since 1940. The Navy has fewer ships than at any time since 1916, and our Air Force has its smallest tactical fighter force in history. History teaches that you cannot reduce our military strength without provoking our enemies. Weakness arouses evil. As we speak, ISIS is setting up franchises across the Middle East and is on the offensive across the Arab world.”


Pence invoked President Reagan, a personal hero, early in his speech. “While the challenges we face are daunting, the choices we must make to meet them are not,” Pence said. “Fifty years ago the namesake of this dinner gave birth to our movement with his iconic “Time for Choosing” speech. Today we have come to another time for choosing. You either choose to view America as the shining city on the hill that inspires the best in all mankind, or you don’t. You either want America to stand by her friends and stand up to her enemies or you don’t. You either are for limiting the power of the federal government, or you are not. You either are for protecting the unborn and the religious liberty of every American, or you aren’t.”

Pence continued, “First, let’s recognize that 2016 could be the first foreign policy national election since 1980. The world seems to become more dangerous by the day. Sadly, the administration has reduced our Army to its smallest size since 1940. The Navy has fewer ships than at any time since 1916, and our Air Force has its smallest tactical fighter force in history. History teaches that you cannot reduce our military strength without provoking our enemies. Weakness arouses evil. As we speak, ISIS is setting up franchises across the Middle East and is on the offensive across the Arab world.”

Pence also pointed to China and Iran. “In Asia, China is massively expanding its military. Just last month, the Pentagon admitted that China’s satellite and ballistic missile technologies are rapidly approaching parity with our own,” Pence said. “And as we gather tonight, a new Iron Curtain is descending down the spine of Europe as modern Russia seeks to redraw the map of Europe by force. Unlike the former Soviet Union that respected the strength of the West, Putin’s Russia ignores talk of sanctions and claims land and supports rebels in Ukraine with impunity.”
 
Turning to Iran, Pence said, “As if we didn’t know enough about the threat we face from Iran, the Heritage Foundation’s Annual Index of Military Strength released this week lists Iran as ‘by far the most significant security challenge’ facing the United States, its allies and interests in the Middle East.”

Pence then criticized President Obama, while praising President Reagan, who like Pence was a former governor who sought the presidency to usher in an era of "new federalism."

“The truth is you cannot command the respect of the world when you spend years apologizing to our enemies and abandoning our friends,” Pence said. “Lecturing the American people about the Crusades while refusing to call Islamic extremism by name is an abdication of leadership. And as President Reagan taught us, peace comes through strength. Providing for the common defense of the United States is the chief responsibility of our national government.”

Pence was one of a half dozen Republican presidential hopefuls making the CPAC event in suburban Maryland on Friday. Others including Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush.

 Pence also struck a theme he outlined for Howey Politics Indiana last week. He made his plea for "state-based innovation," describing a potential Republican nominee that could have been himself.

 "I came to encourage you with the progress being made in Indiana and other Republican-led states, and to urge you, the leaders of our movement, to take encouragement from the successful results conservative policies are achieving in states across the country," Pence said. "After twelve years in Congress and two years as governor, I am more convinced than ever that the cure for what ails this country will come more from our state capitals than it ever will from our nation’s capital. So let’s put state-based innovation and reform back at the center of our national agenda."