By Justin Sink - 09/24/12 06:37 PM EDT
Mitt Romney launched an aggressive new attack on President Obama's comments Sunday in an interview with "60 Minutes," during which Obama described recent events in the Middle East as "bumps in the road."
"These are not bumps in the road, these are human lives," Romney told a crowd in Pueblo, Colo. "These are developments we don't want to see."
Romney's comments at a rally on an airplane tarmac echoed similar remarks he made in a pair of television interviews conducted shortly before he spoke.
"His indication that developments in the Middle East represent bumps in the road is a very different view than I have," Romney said. "The president — I can’t imagine saying something like the assassination of ambassadors is a bump in the road, when you look at the entire context, the assassination, the Muslim Brotherhood president being elected in Egypt, 20,000 people killed in Syria, Iran close to becoming a nuclear nation — these are far from being bumps in the road."
Romney mentioned "tumult" in Pakistan in similar remarks to NBC News, and argued that "we can't afford four more years like the last four years."
"I think this is a time for American leadership domestically; the president's policies are a continuation of the past four years," Romney said.
Obama made the comments during a larger discussion of whether recent events had given him any pause in his support for governments that had arisen following the Arab Spring.
"I think it was absolutely the right thing for us to do to align ourselves with democracy, universal rights, a notion that people have to be able to participate in their own governance," Obama said. "But I was pretty certain and continue to be pretty certain that there are going to be bumps in the road because, you know, in a lot of these places, the one organizing principle has been Islam."
Romney was asked by NBC News whether he "genuinely" believed that in those comments, Obama intended to express that he was not deeply saddened by the deaths of four American foreign service officers.
"When the president was speaking about bumps in the road he was talking about the developments in the Middle East and that includes an assassination," Romney replied.
Earlier Monday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Republican attacks on the president's phrasing were "profoundly offensive" and amounted to a "desperate attempt to grasp at words and phrases."
"The president was referring to the transformations in the region to this process that has only began less than two years ago, as we saw in Tunisia, and continues to this day with remarkable transformations occurring in countries around the region," Carney said. "And obviously in these countries there are huge challenges, huge obstacles to the kinds of change that the people in these countries are demanding, to the kinds of governments that are democratic in nature and responsive to the interests of average citizens in these countries."
And in a statement Monday afternoon, the Obama campaign blasted back at Romney's criticism.
“Today, we saw what Mitt Romney meant when he told a closed door group of high-dollar donors that he would ‘take advantage of the opportunity’ to politicize an international crisis to help his campaign," said Obama spokeswoman Lis Smith. "He’s purposely misinterpreting the President’s words and making reckless statements about the death of four Americans in Libya, apparently for the sole purpose of his own political gain. Using this incident to launch political attacks should be beneath someone seeking to be our nation’s Commander-in-Chief.”
The Romney campaign hopes the latest attacks — and specifically the assertion that "we can't afford four more years like the last four years" — will dovetail into a new strategic emphasis on how voters would be affected by Obama policies going forward.
During a conference call with reporters Monday, Romney aide Ed Gillespie used identical phrasing to characterize the new strategy, and pledged an emphasis on "the cost of [Obama's] policies going forward."
"As we go into these first debates we do see an opportunity to put a greater emphasis on that choice," Gillespie said. "And so to a certain extent it is a change in message focus and the focus in the emphasis is on the side of choice, but that choice is based on what we know of the president's performance in office and his policies."
From Colorado, Romney will head to Ohio, where tomorrow he joins running mate Paul Ryan on the second of a three-day bus tour through the pivotal swing state.