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. gtbdave

    Even if they had a balanced budget amendment, if it were like most others, it would not be in effect now, since they are not in effect in wartime, or in times of economic emergency. Since we are always at war, and always have economic emergencies, it would never be in effect. Even using State balance budget amendment as examples is not valid, because they don't fight wars, and they dont deal with National, and International emergencies like recesssions/etc. Not being able to use debt, or deficit spending, for recession, economic emergencies, or wars, would not leave many tools for dealing with such. You basically cancel out Keynes by law, the only thing you could do in emergencies, at least economic emergencies is give tax breaks to the rich, or supply side economics. then interest rates, and then, like now, interests rates may already be at zero. I guess a general rule would be that if you don't want the responsibility of the budget, debt, growth, jobs, getting out of recession, dealing with economic crisis, or paying the bills, etc., don't run for Offices in the government that deal with such, don't try to legislate your responsibilites away. Go into something like trucking, or fruit picking, where you don't have to deal with those types of problems. I was in air conditioning for a while, a machinist for awhile, no one asked me about debt ceiling, budgets, etc.

    July 27, 2011 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm |
  2. Mike in SA

    Wow...the RINO in chief blasts his party. How...common.

    July 27, 2011 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  3. Jeffer65

    I give McCain some credit for speaking out. I partially agree with him about Obama, however it is not the President's job to raise the debt ceiling, it really is the job of Congress. The Tea party is wrong. Most Americans want a balanced approach to solving the debt crisis.

    July 27, 2011 10:38 pm at 10:38 pm |
  4. Gail van Glabbeeka

    I never agreed with McCain's politics but respected his independence and spunk. Some how he lost that duriing the 2008 campaign. He is beginning to sound like the McCain that his life long Democrat could respect. I still don't agree witih him politically but do respect that he seems to have finally found his balls.

    July 27, 2011 10:40 pm at 10:40 pm |
  5. nu2cnn

    This is not going to end well at all.

    I am an Independant and Iam blaming BOTH sides. However, what is real troubling to me is, the in-fighting within the Republican Party. I am reminded a line by Sean Connery in the movie The Hunt for Red October where at the end he states:

    "A Cival War every now and then is a good thing, don"t cha think."

    He was referring to his trying to defect to the U.S> with a world destroying Nuclear Submarine built by the Russians. Ok maybe I am over reaching a bit, but NOTHING can come form this.


    July 27, 2011 10:41 pm at 10:41 pm |
  6. Anonymous

    Who cares what McCain has to say anyways.

    July 27, 2011 10:43 pm at 10:43 pm |
  7. joanie

    From our viewpoint here in Canada it appears you americans are pouring gasoline over yourselves and handing the matches to the tea party terrorists. They are extreme enough to think that a default and all the havoc that will wreck on the USA and the rest of the world is in their interests. They don't care about the average american family and the hurt they will endure. The responsible Republicans in congress should sit down with responsible Dems and hammer out a deal that both can support. The republicans have gotten landmark concessions re cuts and should take them and run. As for the debt ceiling – are you kidding?? It is only paying for expenditures already made and approved by congress. Lunacy. Is this the start of the Fall of the American Empire?? It looks like it.

    July 27, 2011 10:44 pm at 10:44 pm |
  8. motil

    THIS is the John McCain I always respected, and that I thought was long gone after his choice of running mates in '08.

    July 27, 2011 10:45 pm at 10:45 pm |
  9. max

    I find Sen. McCain's politics every bit as distastefull as the baloney which comes out of the Tea Party.

    July 27, 2011 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  10. MommaM

    I give John McCain a lot of credit for standing up and speaking sense. We need more members of Congress to act like him. I believe that members of Congress should NEVER sign a pledge to any group. The only pledge a member of Congress should take is the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and the Oath of Office.

    July 27, 2011 10:46 pm at 10:46 pm |
  11. JSO

    Sen. McCain good talk. House Republicans are making the mistakes of their political career by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Bush gave tax cuts to the wealthy Americans, started two unfunded wars which is still ongoing. But now House Republicans want to balance the budget on the back of low income earners, retirees and veterans. Americans will remember at the polls in 2012.

    July 27, 2011 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  12. TerryV

    Sen. McCain is right. He has been around. He realizes that the Tea Baggers are a joke who are simply dragging the country down with their unrealistic demands. The longer that they are around, the worse things will be.

    July 27, 2011 10:48 pm at 10:48 pm |
  13. Chris

    To bachamnn fades but stupidity is forever

    July 27, 2011 10:49 pm at 10:49 pm |
  14. Neo

    McCain is a has-been who never was. Previously a useful idiot for the Dems, but now too marginalized to help them. And few Republicans care much about what he has to say. He is now the poster boy for why term limits are needed.

    July 27, 2011 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  15. Muhammad

    This is insanity pure and simple. Holding the nation hostage to their theories regarding growth. The debt ceiling should have never been tied to any of these negotiations. You don't hold off the oxcgen mask from a sick smoker to convince him to stope smoking !!! This is a life line to the nation's economy, these kids shouldn't have been allowed to fool with.

    July 27, 2011 10:50 pm at 10:50 pm |
  16. Vader

    Wow! The 1990's McCain is back. Perhaps the 'fog of flip flop' has lifted (albeit temporarily).

    July 27, 2011 10:51 pm at 10:51 pm |
  17. Dr Matrix

    Short memories. Clinton gave Bush a balanced budget. Bush then transferred as much of the wealth of the nation to Haliburton, KBR, Titan, Blackwater and the other war profiteers and kept it off the books and still couldn't balance the budget. Why do they now feel the need to act fiscally responsible?

    July 27, 2011 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  18. Christopher

    Bravo Senator McCain. The only people will be damaged by this debt ceiling fiasco will the American people. Congress fails to note that a good chunk of American have revolving debt and the Federal Reserve did not raise interest rates but there is the real possibilty Congress will do it for them. As a Republican I can say those who cause interest rates to raise will not be getting my votes again. I don't blindly vote by party affliation. But this is a nonsense crisis create by a small and vicious segment of the GOP who does not care about Americans particularly but rather are blindly obsessed by crazy notions and ones I doubt Ronald Reagan would have appreciated. Enough is enough. Congress is on the verge of damaging the economy further. Vote out these crazies next time you have chance.

    July 27, 2011 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  19. There he is!

    There is the lefty McCain that the media loves so much. Must not be an election year. If it was he would be the most conservative senator in the congress.

    July 27, 2011 10:53 pm at 10:53 pm |
  20. samuel

    May God help US ! Again as a Rep I cant understand how we can not take care of the weak, the poor, the old and Vet. But, are willing to fall on our swords for the top 1% and thier luxury taxes exempts. What have this party turned into. It should union first not oil companies, or the top !% money, or the well off. When the country is back on it feet and weak, poor and others are better....then we can let them have the tax breaks on the toys and give the oil company thier welfare. But, righ now the country needs everyone to come together and pay thier faur share....or do we only come together for spending billions on wars !

    July 27, 2011 10:55 pm at 10:55 pm |
  21. Morales

    Dear Senator,
    Time to retire.
    Respectfully submitted,

    July 27, 2011 10:56 pm at 10:56 pm |
  22. usa8888

    The tea bags are a bunch of idiots who unfortunately got elected last year when no one knew exactly how backward and foolish they are. In 2012, the bags will be soundly defeated but now we need to move ahead and take care of the debt ceiling. When the bags are out of politics, they can join the flat earth society, but wait -they are probably already members.

    July 27, 2011 11:00 pm at 11:00 pm |
  23. Nunya

    Bravo Sen. McCain!

    July 27, 2011 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  24. Barry from Wisconsin

    I am not a fan of McCain, but it is refreshing to see a prominent Republican speaking in a halfway rational fashion.

    July 27, 2011 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
  25. Perry Shipman

    As a long time Liberal Democrat I can only say ... why didn't I vote for McCain ...

    THIS is presidential ... good for you Senator McCain!

    July 27, 2011 11:01 pm at 11:01 pm |
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