LAS VEGAS - Arizona Sen. John McCain said critics complaining about his recent joke about bombing Iran should "lighten up and get a life."
"Please, I was talking to some of my old veterans friends," the Republican presidential candidate told reporters Thursday, a day after he parodied the Beach Boys song "Barbara Ann" at a campaign stop in South Carolina. The senator changed the song's title to "Bomb Iran."
"My response is lighten up and get a life," he said.
McCain's quip, which was circulating on the Internet, was prompted by an audience question about whether the senator believes the U.S. should send Iran "an airmail message to Tehran."
"That old, eh, that old Beach Boys song, Bomb Iran," McCain joked and broke into the melody: "Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, anyway, ah ..."
McCain then said he agreed with President Bush's policy of protecting Israel from Iran and working to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Asked by reporters Thursday if he thought the joke was insensitive he said: "Insensitive to what? The Iranians?"
McCain, speaking at a press conference before a fundraiser at a Las Vegas casino, also responded sharply to comments made Thursday by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Reid said he thought the war could not be won through military force, although he said the U.S. could still pursue political, economic and diplomatic means to bring peace to Iraq. He called the Iraq war "lost" and said Bush's plan to increase troop levels "is not accomplishing anything."
McCain, a defender of the president's troop surge proposal, blasted the Nevada senator, saying his comments would hurt troop morale.
"It seems to me Sen. Reid has lost all sense of priority," he said.
McCain later continued the criticism in a speech to the Clark County Republicans, where a critique of Democrats in Congress was met with applause.
He called a Democratic funding proposal that include timelines for troop withdrawal a "date for surrender." He tied the war against insurgents in Iraq to the fight to keep terrorists from striking the U.S.
"They want to follow us home because it's not Iraq they're after, it's the United States they're after," McCain said.
The fundraising stop was the senator's first public appearance in Nevada since mounting his bid for the White House.