Published September 24, 2012
President Obama, in agreeing to a lengthy interview with "60 Minutes," may have created his own "bump in the road."
The president was facing heavy criticism from Republicans Monday for, in the course of that interview, referring to Middle East unrest as "bumps in the road," conceding "mistakes" in campaign ads and appearing to dismiss concern about Iran's nuclear program as "noise."
Romney's campaign seized on all three of those comments, and by Monday afternoon was hammering the president for the Middle East remark -- perhaps in a bid to return the favor after Democrats kept Romney against the wall last week defending his hidden-camera remarks on the "47 percent" of Americans who don't pay taxes. In the CBS interview, Obama said supporting the Arab Spring was the "right thing" to do but acknowledged there would be "bumps in the road" in the process.
"These are no bumps in the road. These are human lives," Romney retorted at a campaign stop in Colorado. On ABC News, Romney also said: "I can't imagine saying something like the assassination of ambassadors is a bump in the road."
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney was hit with a string of questions at Monday's briefing about the "60 Minutes" interview. The most aggressive accusation by the Romney campaign merited the most aggressive response from Carney.
The accusation about Obama's Middle East comments, Carney said Monday, is "both desperate and offensive."
He rejected the idea that the president was minimizing the recent violence -- in which four Americans were killed in the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi and others have been killed in the course of raging protests across a number of countries.
"The president was referring to the transformations in the region," Carney said. "There is a certain rather desperate attempt to grasp at words and phrases here to find political advantage and, in this case, that's profoundly offensive."
That wasn't the only line Carney had to carefully explain Monday.
Romney's campaign had also criticized the president for his comments on Israel.
Asked about whether he feels pressure regarding Iran from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Obama said in the interview: "When it comes to our national security decisions, any pressure that I feel is simply to do what's right for the American people. And I am going to block out any noise that's out there."
He went on to refer to Israel as "one of our closest allies in the region."
Israel is typically referred to as America's closest ally in the region -- not just one of several.
Carney clarified Monday at the briefing that "you've heard the president say numerous times that Israel is our closest ally in the region." He said that bond is "unshakable."
As for the comment on the "noise" surrounding Iran's nuclear program, Carney again said Obama was making clear that his commitment to Israel "is as strong as ever and unbreakable in nature."
The Obama team was also taking heat Monday for Obama's suggestion that sometimes the campaign ads go "overboard" and contain "mistakes"
Obama argued that the "vigorous debate" helps better define each candidate's vision.
But Romney spokesman Ryan Williams said "the Obama campaign and its allies have repeatedly shown a reckless disregard for the truth -- all while claiming to be concerned with 'the facts.' Tonight, even President Obama himself admitted his campaign has gone 'overboard' and made mistakes."