The past several months have brought some extraordinary changes to the Middle East. The developments aren’t even close to being over, but it’s fair to say the Arab Spring has shifted the balance of power in the region in fundamental ways.

Of course, with dramatic change comes instability. Fortunately, Republican presidential hopeful Rick Perry believes he understands what’s driving this regional volatility.

Human Events, a far-right outlet, reported on the Texas governor’s speech in New York yesterday, and said Perry believes “that a driving factor of Middle East instability during Obama’s tenure has been his ‘apologizing for American exceptionalism.’”

When I saw that, I assumed it had to be wrong. Alas, it’s not. Here’s the exact quote, which Perry offered in response to an inaudible question:

“For three years, the Middle East has heard a wavering and aimless foreign policy and they’ve seen it all too often out of this White House, apologizing for America, apologizing for America’s exceptionalism. I think that message has been the driving factor in the instability in the Middle East.”

Perry has quite a record for saying dumb things in public since launching his presidential campaign, but this one has to rank right up there on the greatest hits list.

First, the Obama administration’s foreign policy has been proven to be quite effective.

Second, President Obama has never “apologized for America.” It’s simply never happened.

Third, the president has never “apologized for America’s exceptionalism.” It’s not only wrong, but as it turns out, Obama is the only sitting president to ever explicitly endorse “American exceptionalism.”

But it’s that last point from Perry that’s just breathtaking. The confused Texas governor believes an imaginary message from the White House has been “the driving factor in the instability in the Middle East.” It’s not democratic uprisings; it’s not corrupt dictatorships; it’s not the peace process in Israel; it’s not wars; it’s not terrorism. No, for Rick Perry, the main cause for regional instability is rhetoric from the U.S. president that doesn’t exist in reality.

I argued yesterday that foreign policy isn’t Perry’s strong suit. In retrospect, I probably understated the case.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.