On “60 Minutes” over the weekend, Steve Kroft asked President Obama about unrest in the Middle East and whether it’s led to a reevaluation of the Arab Spring. The president noted that he’s long believed the process would be “a rocky path,” and there are “going to be bumps in the road” created in part “demagogues,” but he’s nevertheless optimistic that “over the long term we are more likely to get a Middle East and North Africa that is more peaceful, more prosperous and more aligned with our interests.”
And just like that, the Romney campaign found a new shiny object.
Mitt Romney assailed President Obama for calling the unrest in the Middle East “bumps in the road,” saying Monday that the remarks show how different their views are on foreign policy and the president’s lack of leadership on the world stage.
“Bumps in the road, we had an ambassador assassinated. We had a Muslim Brotherhood … member elected to the presidency of Egypt. Twenty thousand people have been killed in Syria. We have tumult in Pakistan and of course Iran is that much closer to having the capacity to build a nuclear weapon,” Romney told about 1,600 people at a rally on the tarmac here. “These are not bumps in the road, these are human lives, these are developments we do not want to see.”
On Friday, we talked about campaign organizations and the ways in which they create themes and frames to reinforce larger arguments. Winning campaigns are usually pretty good at it.
Team Romney is not, which is why I compared them to small children playing soccer, running wildly to wherever they see a bouncing ball, whether it’s strategically wise or not.
At this point, the diminishing returns are hard to miss. This campaign is going to be about “the private sector is doing fine”! Wait, scratch that, it’s going to be about “you didn’t build that”! Oh, actually, on second thought, it’s going to be about the “redistribution” quote from 1998! Um, now it’s going to be about “you can’t change Washington from the inside”!
And as of yesterday, it’s going to be about “bumps in the road.”
For one thing, constantly chasing after bouncing balls is counterproductive – it means there’s no consistent argument and all voters hear are constantly-changing, disparate messages. For another, this new manufactured outrage doesn’t even make sense – are voters supposed to believe that Obama is heartless? That he doesn’t care about lost human lives? What larger theme is this supposed to reinforce?