Watch CBSN Live

McCain's Call To Not Politicize Georgia Conflict Goes Unheeded By His Supporters

From CBS News' Ryan Corsaro:

(BIRMINGHAM, MICH.) - John McCain told reporters today that he does not want the hostile attacks of Russia on its neighboring country Georgia to be politicized in this campaign, despite the fact that his members of his campaign have been doing so this week.

Asked about criticisms by Barack Obama's campaign saying he was being "belligerent and aggressive" toward Russia, McCain replied, "This isn't a time for partisanship and sniping between campaigns. This is about hundreds if not thousands of innocent people whose lives are being taken or they are being rendered homeless, wounded. This is not time for that to start with."

But just yesterday, both McCain supporter Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and McCain's foreign policy advisor Randy Scheunemann did exactly that.

Scheunemann told reporters, "I think the first major speech (McCain) gave expressing concerns about Russian policies in former Warsaw Pact or former Soviet Pact was in 1993. I don't know when the first statement Senator Obama might have given about Russia when he started issuing statements on Russia. So there's a depth of knowledge, a breadth of knowledge and an extent of historical experience that doesn't compare between the two on Russian policy."

"You can't compare a 15-year historical record with three or four statements over the course of fifteen months," he added.

Yesterday in Teaneck, N.J., Lieberman criticized Obama to a group of fundraisers, saying, "If you read the statements from the beginning, Senator McCain and Senator Obama, one had kind of moral neutrality to it, that comes I think from inexperience. The other, Senator McCain, was strong and clear and principled and put America where America always wants to be."

When reporters pointed out Lieberman's statement to McCain, who was standing next to Lieberman during today's press conference, McCain gave a response that left some confused.

"Well, let me respond by, by just saying that, I think that whatever we think at the moment, that we can all reserve that for a future time. And I think judgments will be made about how we handled that situation, how we approached the situation in Iraq, and how much experience and knowledge and background means in selecting the American people's decision as to who should be the next commander in chief. And so all I can say is there will be plenty of time for that."

Lieberman remained silent during the press conference.

Asked if he would instruct his campaign surrogates to refrain for contradicting his stance, McCain only slightly varied from his earlier statement and would not say that Lieberman's remarks were out of line with his own views.

"Sorry to be repetitious. This is no time for that," said McCain, and repeated it. "This is no time for that. The time now is for Americans, for the United States of America to act united in behalf of the people of the country of Georgia and not do a lot of partisan sniping. When this crisis is resolved, and I hope that it's soon -- I hope that in the next 24 hours Russian troops will be withdrawn and negotiations are initiated so that there's an agreement."

"I remain concerned about the issue…of Georgian territorial integrity. And then we'll move on to the back-and-forth of campaigning and comments back-and-forth."