By Ian Swanson - 09/13/12 12:54 PM EDT
McCain noted the statement was later withdrawn, which he said proved it was the wrong message to send out. Romney had suggested the statement represented an attack on U.S. values because it did not defend freedom of speech.
Romney’s criticism came as people learned of the death of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three others in an attack on the U.S. embassy in Libya. Some Republican commentators argued Romney should have withheld his criticism, and Democrats lashed out at the nominee for playing politics during a time of national tragedy.
Pressed on whether Romney should have withheld his criticism given the death of Stevens, McCain said “it’s always a time to set aside politics” and then turned his attention to a critique of Obama’s handling of the Middle East.
He specifically criticized Obama for his policy toward Iran, Iraq and Syria, where he has long argued the administration should do more to help rebels fighting the Assad dictatorship.
“What this is all about is American weakness and the president’s inability to lead,” McCain said. “Iraq is dissolving. Our relations with Israel are at a tension point. I’d like to see the president of the U.S. speak out for once for the 20,000 people that are being massacred in Syria.
“There’s an absence of American leadership in the region and they are very weak,” McCain said.
For more on McCain's comments, click here.