White House defends Obama's 'bump in the road' comment

GOP suggestions that President Obama had qualified the deaths of four Americans as a “bump in the road” were “desperate and offensive,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. 

Republicans from Mitt Romney to Newt Gingrich have assailed Obama for saying in a “60 Minutes” interview that aired Sunday that recent protests in the Middle East were but a “bump in the road” to democracy. Some Republican said the choice of words belittles the deaths of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“The president was referring to the transformations in the region,” Carney said at his press briefing Monday. “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.”


In the interview, Obama was asked if the recent anti-American protests in Egypt, Libya and other countries had made him rethink the administration's support for the revolutions that have rocked the Middle East over the past year and a half.

“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. The one part of society that hasn't been controlled completely by the government. There are strains of extremism, and anti-Americanism, and anti-Western sentiment.”

Republicans piled on the remarks Monday morning.

“After nearly four years in office, President Obama is eager to make excuses for his failed policies at home and abroad by declaring ‘bumps in the road,’ ” said Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul. “But it’s clear Americans can’t afford four more years like the last four years under the president’s policies.”

House Republican Leader Eric CantorEric Ivan CantorVirginia GOP candidates for governor gear up for convention Cantor: 'Level of craziness' in Washington has increased 'on both sides' White House says bills are bipartisan even if GOP doesn't vote for them MORE (R-Va.) also weighed in.

“Even as the black flags of al-Qaeda are being hoisted over our embassies and our consulates attacked by terrorists, President Obama considers these problems no more than bumps in the road for his foreign policy,” he said in a statement. “It is time for strong new leadership in the White House.”

Others more directly tied the comments to the Stevens's death.

“It is disgusting to have Obama describe the killing of an ambassador and three other Americans as 'a bump in the road' on 60 minutes,” former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich tweeted.

And former George W. Bush spokesman Ari Fleischer wrote on Twitter: “I guess when u win a Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing, an attack that kills an Ambassador is just a 'bump in the road.'”