By Alicia M. Cohn - 03/26/12 03:31 PM EDT
Sen. John McCainJohn McCainObama ex-physician mainstreams Clinton health reporting McCain survives primary challenge The Trail 2016: Drip, drip, drip... MORE (R-Ariz.) ripped President Obama as "a real 'Etch a Sketch' leader" for suggesting he could switch his policy on missile defense after the election.
In the midst of an often tense discussion between the United States and Russia over plans for a U.S.-led NATO European missile defense system, Obama was heard asking Russian President Dmitry Medvedev for more time on the subject and promising he will have “more flexibility” following the election in November. The comments came across a live mic the two leaders did not appear to realize was on.
McCain, who is backing Mitt Romney for president in the GOP primary, was referring to comments a Romney adviser made that the GOP presidential candidate could shift his messaging from the GOP primary to the general election like an Etch a Sketch.
Democrats and Republican opponents of Romney pounced on that comment, but Obama on Monday suggested he could also change his position on an issue — after the general election, not a primary.
The hawkish McCain, who is ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has often strongly disagreed with and sometimes personally exchanged barbs with Russia’s prime minister and now President-elect Vladimir Putin. Medvedev, in the overheard conversation, promised to convey Obama’s message to Putin.
Last week, an adviser to the Romney presidential campaign said Mitt Romney could “reset” with voters for the general election if he became the GOP nominee, much “like an Etch A Sketch.” The remark was used as fodder for Romney’s opponents who call him a “flip-flopper” who will “say anything to get elected,” regardless of whether it means changing positions on the issues.