McCain refers to 'tea party hobbits,' blasts Bachmann-backed idea
July 27th, 2011
07:36 PM ET
12 years ago

McCain refers to 'tea party hobbits,' blasts Bachmann-backed idea

Washington (CNN) - On the same day that House Speaker John Boehner told Republicans to "Get your asses in line" and support his debt ceiling proposal, Sen. John McCain also blasted fellow Republicans.

In a Senate floor speech laced with sarcasm and stings, the Arizona Republican aimed especially harsh fire at the tea party Wednesday.

McCain said the movement is "foolish" to think a balanced budget amendment could pass before the August 2 deadline. At one point, McCain read from an op-ed in Wednesday's Wall Street Journal. That article referred to activists as "tea party hobbits" – the little people who inhabit Middle-earth in the Lord of the Rings series.

McCain – 2008's Republican presidential nominee – also blasted as "bizarre" an idea supported by current GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, though McCain did not mention her by name.

McCain's fiery language comes amid competing Democratic and Republican plans to reduce the deficit.

McCain also blasted Democrats in his speech. He called the plan from Majority Leader Harry Reid "full of smoke and mirrors," and said President Barack Obama is leading "from behind" by not offering "a specific plan that perhaps could be considered by both bodies."

"It's unfair of the president of the United States ... only to go out and give lectures and act in as partisan a fashion as I have seen in his addresses to the American people," McCain said.

When it came to the tea party, McCain was equally biting.

He said he fully supports a balanced budget amendment. But he thundered that current political realities make passing one in the near future near impossible.

"What is really amazing is that some (Senate) members are believing that we can pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in this body with its present representation – and that is foolish," McCain said.

"That is worse than foolish," he continued. "That is deceiving many of our constituents."

"To hold out and say we won't agree to raising the debt limit until we pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution, it's unfair, it's bizarre," McCain added. "And maybe some people who have only been in this body for six or seven months or so really believe that. Others know better."

McCain did not mention which senators he was referring to. But also on Wednesday, Sens. Jim DeMint of South Carolina, Mike Lee of Utah and Rand Paul of Kentucky, tea party boosters, joined many tea party activists who rallied on Capitol Hill demanding passage of the "Cut, Cap and Balance" plan. Among other things, that proposal would cut total spending by $111 billion for fiscal year 2012 and require a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution that would cap total annual spending at 18 percent.

McCain talked about Boehner's plan and quoted the Wall St. Journal piece, which said: "The question now is whether House Republicans are going to help Mr. Boehner achieve significant progress, or in the name of the unachievable, hand Mr. Obama a victory."

McCain continued reading the article: "The idea seems to be that if the House GOP refuses to raise the debt ceiling, a default crisis or gradual government shutdown will ensue and the public will turn en masse against Barack Obama....Then Democrats would have no choice but to pass a balanced budget amendment and reform entitlements, and the tea party hobbits could return to Middle-earth...This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell into GOP nominees. The reality is the debt limit will be raised one way or another."

Earlier in his remarks, McCain blasted a position that Rep. Bachmann supports.

Saying, "Today we are six days away from a possible default which could plunge this country into a serious crisis," McCain added: "There are those that argue somehow in a bizarre fashion that somehow we could prioritize our payments to the most urgent requirements, such as our veterans, such as Social Security."

Bachmann recently co-sponsored a bill that aims to ensure military service members receive their paychecks on time should the nation default.

McCain won re-election in last year's midterm elections after a bitter primary with former congressman J.D. Hayworth, who had some tea party support.

The nation's largest tea party group is responding to McCain.

Mark Meckler is co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots. He told CNN that many Americans support a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution – and "What Republicans should be doing is pushing all the way to the line."

As for McCain's quoting the Wall Street Journal's line about "tea party hobbits," Meckler used his own Lord of the Rings metaphor to strike back at the senator.

"Clearly he's been corrupted by the ring of power," Meckler said.

Republican Sharron Angle, who lost her Nevada Senate bid against Democratic Sen. Harry Reid in 2010 with support from the tea part movement, praised the "hobbits" while taking a jab at McCain.

"As in the fable, it is the hobbits who are the heroes and save the land," Angle said in a statement. "It is regrettable that a man seeking dialogue, action and cooperation for votes on the floor of the United States Senate has only one strategy to achieve that effort: name-calling. Nice."

Follow Shannon Travis on Twitter: @ShanTravisCNN

Filed under: Debt • Deficit • John McCain • Tea Party movement
soundoff (381 Responses)
  1. John

    McCain 2016 (not with Palin this time).

    July 27, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  2. srichey

    Elder statesman talking some sense and reality.

    July 27, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  3. Jack

    Well, at least somebody in DC is slightly in touch with....

    July 27, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  4. Ed B

    Considering the role he had in bringing in the Tea Party philosophy to life with his selection of their darling Sarah Palin, I just don't think he has much credibility when it comes to criticizing them ....

    July 27, 2011 10:17 pm at 10:17 pm |
  5. CSM

    The Tea Party is a sham and FULL OF CORPORATE MINIONS!!!!

    July 27, 2011 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  6. ron mcloughlin

    As a life-long democrat, for want of another party, I have to agree with Sen McCain who on other occasions years ago wud have got himself in trouble by shooting from the hip. The T-party is a surly bunch of misfits ruining the republican party,

    July 27, 2011 10:18 pm at 10:18 pm |
  7. Gene

    "Tea party hobbits." I like that. I think I'll make a t-shirt using that theme. 😉

    July 27, 2011 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  8. sd

    what in the world is wrong with our leaders. Do we need to take them back to the playground to learn the rules on how to get along? It is pathetic, that they don't get it! Why in the world would one consider revisiting this budget issue in 6 months. Why would I not choose to pay more taxes, if I am making the income versus asking the people that are barely making it to pay or do without. Why would they choose to have the US credit rating lowered, and forget about what this would do to the people that have some savings or retirement plan. What about the people that are no longer counted in the unemployment, what about the future of the under employment. What are they thinking letting this get to the eleventh hour, other than their egos... get off your butts and do something, stop whining and get off your you know what, and start serving the people and not your special interest groups etc., you have failed us miserably and know that voting has come to a new level. I will never vote a straight ticket, I will look at all that you have or have not done and you should be ashamed for your lack of commitment to this country and its citizens. I am sick of all the whining, my two and four year old, could teach you all a lesson. Go to time out and get it together!!!!

    July 27, 2011 10:19 pm at 10:19 pm |
  9. Priceman

    Mr. McCain is a proven war hero. That does not mean he knows a thing about good economic policy, and to date I've never read or heard anything that would make me think he knows dollars from cents.

    July 27, 2011 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  10. thing55

    The TEAnderthals haven't finished scratching themselves yet (it itches!). Perhaps next they will concentrate long enough to hear what economists and people who CAN think straight have been telling them for months: they have no choice; the debt ceiling will be raised. It is no surprise that the feckless, clueless Tea Party folks would happily plunge the world into an economic cataclysm. After all, these folks are the same people who named their party after the acronym Taxed Enough Already at a time when taxes are the lowest they've been in 60 years. That's like saying "hot enough already" in the middle of an Arctic winter.

    These are the same people cheering for government to get out of the way after the economy was plunged into a Great Recession and a financial crisis by government getting out of the way of the financial sector. And these are generally the same people screaming about our debt crisis after voting for the Republican presidents who fueled that crisis. The educated Republicans I know are ashamed of them. Unfortunately, I don't think they are done recklessly damaging the country they claim to love.

    July 27, 2011 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  11. Robert Platt Bell

    Wow, if he gave a speech like that in 2008, he would be President, today.

    He was poorly advised back then. Who told him Palin was a good idea?

    July 27, 2011 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  12. Thomas R

    Never mind who can come up with the best Lord of the Rings quip, McCain is correct about the foolishness of expecting to be able to pass a balanced-budget amendment before the U.S. goes into default with this mess. But apparently, Tea Party leaders have no qualms about risking the financial ruin of the country in order to push their agenda.

    July 27, 2011 10:21 pm at 10:21 pm |
  13. AZGuest

    McCain needs to retire. He's senile, out of touch with the "American people" he supposedly speaks for and doesn't have any constructive input, solutions or ideas. For that matter, since we're hard at work impeaching the person who spearheaded SB1070 (Pearce) in Arizona, he needs to watch out because he may be next. The joke is over.

    July 27, 2011 10:22 pm at 10:22 pm |
  14. jeff Cassidy

    To compare Michelle Bachman to Hobbits is an insult to Hobbits

    July 27, 2011 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  15. Notafan

    While I'm not a fan of Senator McCain or the Republicans, he does seem like one of the few sane Republicans that exist in Congress. I kind of miss the old Republicans. Tea Party really FUBAR'd the remnants of the GOP. They should've formed their own party instead of hijacking the Republican party.

    July 27, 2011 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  16. cliff

    I don't usually agree with McCain, but once in a while he tells the hard truth – and again he does. I agree with his criticism all around.

    July 27, 2011 10:24 pm at 10:24 pm |
  17. Joyce have spoken...WHERE have you the shadows....don't stop and you will win back credibiity after your performance in the 2010 election. And you know what I mean.

    July 27, 2011 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  18. kim

    Shut up John McCain, you still owe America an apology for unleashing Sarah Palin on us. There is no telling how long we have to suffer from her because of you. America don't worry, President Obama will not let us default. He will invoke the 14th Amendment if Congress fails to do their jobs. Let this be a wake up call "The Republicans don't give a damn about mainstream America"! They aren't a bit concern about the future debt their children will inherited and even less concern about good American people who rely on entitlement benefits just to survive right now. Let's face it, they are simply out of touch! That's right, Boehner get all their asses in a single line and march right out of Washington D. C. and over the nearest cliff. America will prevail despite your valant efforts to see her destroyed.

    July 27, 2011 10:26 pm at 10:26 pm |
  19. s kel

    wow, mcains right

    July 27, 2011 10:30 pm at 10:30 pm |
  20. marty

    Does anyone else find it very odd that the champion of the tea party he so much hates is his very own VP candidate in 2008 ?

    July 27, 2011 10:32 pm at 10:32 pm |
  21. Rev Mkell,

    And the Tea Party attacks a respected member of congress and war hero for not getting on his knees and kiss their WHAT? Hobbits?...... No!..... Orcs!

    July 27, 2011 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  22. v kirk

    Senator McCain, you have saved my remaining a republican. Thank you for your leadership you should be the leader of the republican party. You understand the magnitude of the debt ceiling situation. Good Luck with the young tea party reps.

    July 27, 2011 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  23. Ken Kass

    Thank you Senator McCain for finally standing up to the Republicans stating that it is impossible to balance the budget in such a short time remaining and sending a wakeup call to the freshman (tea party) senators. Perhaps I have misjudged you as a flip-flopping senator.

    July 27, 2011 10:33 pm at 10:33 pm |
  24. petena

    Mr. McCain: That took a lot of guts and while I don't care for Republicans, I respect you for taking a position. All you tea partiers watch out! You will reap what you sow!

    July 27, 2011 10:34 pm at 10:34 pm |
  25. Nate (Seattle, WA)

    The last time I checked, John McCain has been part of all the recent Republican filibusters in the Senate, which are a pure partisan perversion of democracy (and not even in the Constitution!).

    So, I'm not sure where he gets off calling Obama a partisan.

    July 27, 2011 10:36 pm at 10:36 pm |
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