Jake Tapper, "Republicans Jump on President Referring to ‘Bumps in the Road’ in Muslim World", ABC News 9/23/2012:
“I guess when u win a Nobel Peace Prize for doing nothing,” tweeted former Bush White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, “an attack that kills an Ambassador is just a ‘bump in the road.’”
Other Republicans and conservatives, including officials from the Romney campaign, similarly criticized the president.
Fleischer was referring to this exchange on CBS’ “60 Minutes” this evening:
STEVE KROFT: “Have the events that took place in the Middle East, the recent events in the Middle East given you any pause about your support for the governments that have come to power following the Arab Spring?”
PRESIDENT OBAMA: “Well, I’d said even at the time that this is going to be a rocky path. the question presumes that somehow we could have stopped this wave of change. 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. 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 earliest example that I've been able to find of a metaphorical usage of "bumps in the road" comes from a story in the Chicago Daily Tribune for 9/29/1928, "Cubs win, 7-5; Giants can only tie Cards now":
Guy Bush, once an efficient Giant killer, came back to show that some of his skill remained. He got away with it, but not because of any spectacular hurling. Round after round he hurdled the bumps in the road because of sensational support by a team that lost three regulars during the course of battle.
In the Google Books ngram collection, the relative frequency of "bumps in the road" begins to rise steeply in the early 1990s:
Perhaps as a result, the Golden Age of foreign-policy road bumps, both diplomatic and violent, seems to have been the first term of George W. Bush. During Ari Fleischer's tenure as White House press secretary, we find e.g. "Dr. Condoleezza Rice Discusses the Roadmap for Peace in the Middle East", 6/3/2003:
Clearly, this is a difficult process and it's going to be a long process and there will be bumps in the road, we understand that.
And "Speech by Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III", National Press Club, 7/23/2003, discussing events in Iraq:
But we need to be realistic. There will be bumps in the road. Total security is not possible. Continued success on our overall reconstruction plan will probably be met by bitter-enders who target our successes.
If you look at some of the most disruptive and symbolic attacks in recent weeks, it turns out that what they do is attack our success stories.
Mr. Bremer seems to have been rather fond of this phrase, and had quite a few opportunities to use it. Thus "Bush hits back at Iraq critics", BBC News 10/9/2003, quotes him saying that "There have been bumps in the road, there will be bad days like today, but… it's a lot better than it was".
The usage continued — "For White House, Reversed Iraq Tactics Are Billed as Bumps on Road to Peace", NYT 5/2/2004:
"We have a strategy and we have a plan and we are doing our best to implement it," the [senior administration] official said. "And it runs into bumps in the road, as all plans do."
Presented with a short list of the most notable recent reversals — the abandonment of Mr. Bremer's plan for the transfer of power; the pullback from declarations that Moktada al-Sadr, the renegade Shiite leader in Najaf, must be arrested or killed; a last-minute decision to allow former Iraqi Army soldiers to quell the insurgency in Falluja — the official shrugged.
Academic historians, he said, will have to consider those issues.
Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has made similar points.
"It's never been an easy road to go from a dictatorship to a free system," he said Thursday in an interview with MSNBC. "It's bumpy. It's hard. And it isn't going to be a straight path."