WASHINGTON — The White House Monday slammed "desperate and offensive" Republicans over claims President Barack Obama dismissed the death of the US envoy to Libya and anti-US attacks as "bumps in the road."
The president was also taken to task by his foes in the highly charged political environment before the November 6 election, for referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's warnings over Iran as "noise."
Obama said in an interview with CBS show "60 Minutes" broadcast Sunday that there were going to be "bumps in the road" following the Arab spring as nations dominated by Islam and formerly governed by dictators evolve.
Republicans, seeking to dent Obama's electoral advantage over his challenger Mitt Romney on foreign policy, quickly attacked the president, suggesting he was downplaying the killings of four Americans in Libya.
"That assertion is both desperate and offensive," White House spokesman Jay Carney said.
"The president was referring to the transformations in the region, to this process that only began less than two years ago ... with remarkable transformations occurring in countries around the region."
Carney said the nations rocked by the Arab Spring revolutions were facing huge challenges as they evolve from autocracies to what Washington hopes will be democratic states responsive to the aspirations of their people.
"This transformation will not happen overnight, and it will encounter challenges along the way, as we've seen," Carney said.
Republicans quickly seized upon Obama's remarks, with every remark of either candidate grist for political attack and manipulation with the election just over 40 days away.
"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,'" former George W. Bush presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said on Twitter.
Eric Cantor, a Republican leader in the House of Representatives also hammered Obama.
"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.
The Romney campaign and the Republican National Committee also bombarded reporters with emails criticizing Obama's comments.
The president told "60 Minutes" that he believed he had been correct to align US policy with demonstrators demanding freedom for autocrats, even if the reality of politics in the Arab world was now much more volatile.
"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," he said.
"There are strains of extremism, and anti-Americanism, and anti-Western sentiment. And you know (these) can be tapped into by demagogues."
Obama also said he agreed with Netanyahu's insistence that Iran not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons as this would threaten both countries, the world in general, and kick off an arms race.
But Obama added: "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."
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican chairwoman of the House International Relations Committee, issued a statement through the Romney campaign condemning Obama's remarks.
"The President of the United States must be unwavering in his commitment and resolve to standing with our most loyal democratic ally.
"President Obama has fallen far short of that, which is one of the reasons we must have Mitt Romney in the White House," she said.
Carney rejected the Republican charge.
"The president was making clear that his commitment and this country's commitment to Israel and Israel's security is as strong as ever and unbreakable in nature. There's obviously a lot of noise around this issue at times."
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