Whatever his outer confidence, though, Obama is in a potentially dangerous situation. Americans don't like to see foreign mobs scale the wall of an embassy, tear down the American flag and replace it with an Islamic banner. And they're horrified by the murder of American diplomats. The Obama administration's initial response to trouble in Egypt -- a statement fretting about an Internet video that might hurt Muslim feelings -- really did sound weak and irrelevant.
If troubles continue -- if the Arab Spring continues to unravel -- Obama's policy of restraint could increasingly look like impotence. His much-touted outreach to the Muslim world could look naive and misguided. And Romney's critique of Obama's leadership -- that it has often involved apologizing for past American actions -- could seem more on target.
Already, events in Libya and Egypt invite more scrutiny. The public still doesn't know exactly what transpired in the hours around Stevens' death, nor is much known about the nature of American security measures, other than they were obviously inadequate. The final story might not reflect well on the administration.
As far as the storm over media coverage is concerned, the fact is that actual events, and not campaign reporting, will determine the course of public opinion on Obama's foreign policy leadership. Yes, Romney advisers are unhappy with the press. But Obama's policies are being put to a test in a way that no spin can obscure. If Romney has the better proposals, voters will get the idea by Nov. 6.
For years, Romney mapped out a campaign based on economic issues. Barring some enormous, unexpected event, the race is still largely about the economy. But the events of this week have shown Romney how quickly the subject can change, at least for a while. And just like those diners in Wisconsin, voters will be most swayed by the substance, not the coverage, of events.
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