Watch CBSN Live

McCain Calls Obama's "Bitter" Comments "Elitist"

From CBS News' Dante Higgins:

In the wake of a weekend back-and-forth between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton regarding comments he made at a San Francisco fund-raiser last week, John McCain weighed in for the first time this morning at a journalists' roundtable.

"I think those comments are elitist," he said, referring to Obama's comment
that some small-town voters are bitter over the economy and, because of that, they "cling to guns and religion."

"I think anybody who disparages people who are hardworking honest dedicated people who have cherished the Second Amendment and the right to hunt and their culture that they value and they've grown up with sometimes in the case of generations and saying that's because they are unhappy with their economic conditions," McCain told an audience of reporters at the Associated Press Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

With no public events scheduled over weekend, McCain was noticeably absent from the political sparring since Friday over Obama's comments.

McCain also said that he decided to support the "shield law," which would protect reporters and their confidential sources. He said the decision came after much thought.

"To be very candid, but with no wish to offend you, I must confess there have been times when I worry that the press' interest in getting a scoop occasionally conflicts with other important priorities, even the first concern of every American -- the security of our nation," he said.

"The shield law would give great license to you and your sources, with few restrictions, to do as you please no matter the stakes involved and without fear of personal consequences beyond the rebuke of your individual consciences. It is, frankly, a license to do harm, perhaps serious harm. But it also a license to do good; to disclose injustice and unlawfulness and inequities; and to encourage their swift correction," he continued noting his disappointment in stories he felt compromised national security. However, McCain also credited journalists with uncovering the "disgrace of Abu Ghraib".

"There will be times, I suspect, when I will wonder again if I should have supported this measure. But I trust in your integrity and patriotism that those occasions won't be so numerous that I will, in fact, deeply regret my decision. And I would hope that when you do something controversial or something that many people find wrong and harmful you would explain fully and honestly how and why you did it, and confess your mistakes, if you made them, in a more noticeable way than afforded by the small print on a corrections page."

During a roundtable discussion after his speech, McCain sat down with two AP reporters and discussed an array of topics from latent racism in America to potential running mates.

McCain said it would bother him if he won the election over Obama, if he becomes the Democratic nominee, because of latent prejudice in the U.S.

"That would bother me a great deal," he said. "I rely on -- frankly, I rely on the goodness of the American people. I think, at the end of the day, they will vote for that candidate that has the vision and the ideas for the future in these difficult times, both domestically and national security-wise."

McCain refused to comment on possible veep choices claiming it "gets into an invasion of privacy thing... And it's not fair to someone who is just a person, a citizen, that if their name comes up then, of course, then there's an intense focus on that individual. And I understand that. So it's hard for me to do that," he said.

He also joked with his interviewers, pretending to fall asleep when he was asked how he felt about possibly being rejected by voters because of his age. He will be 72 years old next January.

View CBS News In