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. buckthorn

    You can be sure that Mr Do Nothing - Ron Johnson of Wisconsin - was one of McCain's targets. Johnson is a disgrace - topped only by the idiots in this state who actually voted for this loser.

    July 27, 2011 11:02 pm at 11:02 pm |
  2. Voice1

    The tea party kindergardners think they now know everything. A wise old man once said – A man's understanding of the world is limited by his knowledge. Many of these Tea party guys appear to be pretty ignorant. I would recommend that they be provided with a 101 on basic economics, at least so that they can understand something when they read. For many of these elected representatives, maths and economics are like greek and latin; they are absolutely clueless.

    July 27, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  3. Jason Glugla

    Gee, it's funny but I remember the President offering up almost 5 trillion dollars of reduction in his plan. Of course 25% of that would've been taxes and loophole closures on those who have benefitted by shipping the economy to China over the last 10 years and we will have none of that.

    July 27, 2011 11:03 pm at 11:03 pm |
  4. Johnson

    John McCain is the man!

    July 27, 2011 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  5. Gemini Girl

    McCain seems to be all over the place on this, it's like he wants EVERYBODY mad at him! Well, MOST OF US are mad at him for introducing u-know-who to us over three years ago, and NOW she just won't go away! Thanks a lot, McCain! If I were you I would retire and head on over to that rocking chair that has been waiting for you for years! You have enough money and enough years...give somebody else a chance in your senatorial spot!! Hopefully a Democrat, as I really think that alot of Repubs are going to lose this coming election..the GOP, the party of No, the Get Obama Party! (sorry I borrowed that from somebody else earlier!)

    July 27, 2011 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  6. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    McCain fires at both sides?! That is great because it shows he knows that everyone has good and bad ideas. I would have prefferred that he nail the tea people (often weak) more in their unrealistic and questionable timing. Where were these people when the GOP was in charge? No where because they didn't understand then (don't know now) what the government does and how to reform it. As for what should be done, I say that there should be a new debt limit passed on its own for right now while continuing talks go to have spending cut back and taxes raised and clearing out loop holes. There are mulitple things that need to be done. Just cutting spending isn't going to do it on its own.

    July 27, 2011 11:04 pm at 11:04 pm |
  7. Scott

    Meckler is a liar and fool. While many Americans may support the balanced budget amendment that does not mean that it should happen with this piece of legislation. It also does not mean that "many" = most or anywhere close to a majority. People need to understand the little differences in our language. And why during Reagan or Bushes reins has there not been this obstinate approach to raising the debt ceiling? Easy answer, they hate anything and everything about Obama. And their political and economic war to bring total right wing power to the US is nearly won. They have paid to buy seats for judges, governors and politicians in Congress. WIth just a little more push they can have total control, add a justice or two to the supreme court and completely destroy any social safety nets and the middle class. Maybe when that happens enough of these middle class and poor republican supporters will finally realize what has happened. By then however, it may be too late. WAKE UP!

    July 27, 2011 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  8. ZweiStein

    The "Voice of Reason" from the Republican Party. Thanks John, been a long time since anyone in the Republican camp made a reasonable, sensible and honest statement. Aren't you getting tired of the 'baggers' skruing up your party?

    July 27, 2011 11:08 pm at 11:08 pm |
  9. Aeromecahnic

    I hope everyone is paying attention to what the Tea Party is doing to this country. They are essentially holding all of us hostage by weilding some unusual power over certain republicans.

    We simply need to let the Bush era tax cuts expire. We are taking in 400 billion LESS than we collected 4 years ago. How can that be? The answer is the tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy are bankrupting us. We do NOT have a spending problem, we have a revenue problem.

    How sson people forget the scenario that GE found itself in back on April 15th. They made 5 billion dollars, paid no federal taxes and yet somehow got a multi-million dollar refund!! Thats just one company, how many more like it are out there? We need to be able to collect the taxes that are due the government. this situation cannot go on any longer.

    July 27, 2011 11:10 pm at 11:10 pm |
  10. Happy Smiley

    This is what happens when a majority of a country makes politics about targeting the President (who creates discomfort by failing to look the part). I have a feeling that the President and his wife and kids will not pay nearly as dear a price going forward as the kids of the masses who targeted him, joining the thinly veiled missiion to deligitimize the Obama presidency. The masses who voted for those who advertized Obama obstructionism in 2010. That scary, boogieman Obama – this is what this "crisis" is really about. Maybe when it becomes a real crisis, agendas will naturally correct themselves. When fears become real and not media-manufactured.

    July 27, 2011 11:12 pm at 11:12 pm |
  11. opinion1234

    Michelle Bachmann is not even become President yet, she already shows her incapibility to lead..whoever will vote for her in 2012 is clueless and stupid!!!!!

    July 27, 2011 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  12. Matt

    The Tea Partiers are a joke. Vote them and the rest of the Republicans OUT!

    July 27, 2011 11:13 pm at 11:13 pm |
  13. James

    Finally a republican with a shred of sanity.

    July 27, 2011 11:14 pm at 11:14 pm |
  14. momomiester

    He is like a mentally ill old crazy person. He must of had some brain damage in that prison camp cause this guy is one beer short of a six pack.e. Mr. Sell out. Some war hero. He just can't deal with the guilt of being such a loser and losing to Obama. Another piece of garbage that is partially responsible for running this country to the ground. He must be an agent for the Viet Cong. Go away! You're done!

    July 27, 2011 11:16 pm at 11:16 pm |
  15. Jack

    I agree the tea parties have very big heads, wth very little smarts.

    July 27, 2011 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  16. tinyterror

    I am a registered Democrat and have been behind the President from the get-go -I vote as much as I can – across party lines when I am making what I think is the best choice. I thought Senator McCain gave a courageous speech and spoke like the patriot we all know he is. Now I am not an economist, but I know this is a big deal. Some of us are just digging ourselves out of the recession and some will never make it out. Just get it done guys, I don' t want to wake up next week with the Tea Party in charge and calling the shots- and neither do you- (what a scary thought)- Let's see some more dems and repubicans remember they are Americans first. The clock has run out for perfect deals – we are now left with avoiding a crash into a brick wall....Forget perfect – just stop the train...and buy us some time...unless you have Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin and John Adams brought back just for the occasion – I think you need to go for time and backtrack to fix it – – the stocks are reacting, the populus is getting really nervous, our reputation is sinking and our creditors are startled and taking notice. The Tea Party Hobbits are dancing in the forest...Let's end the party for them please – they have gollum gloats all over their faces.

    July 27, 2011 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  17. Frank

    Interesting that McCain didn't submit his own proposal....

    July 27, 2011 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  18. Terry Gloege

    My my!!! Things are starting to get real interesting now that the teabaggers have shown the world their true purpose.

    July 27, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  19. Frank

    Who is McCain not angry with?

    July 27, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  20. momomiester

    I am sick and tired of people attacking the Tea Party. Just because people are concerned about their country due to how it is being run into the ground, doesn't make the stupid or radical. Look at where we are now letting these fools run things!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    July 27, 2011 11:18 pm at 11:18 pm |
  21. DLG

    its about time someone gets real

    July 27, 2011 11:19 pm at 11:19 pm |
  22. J

    Finally a Republican who tells it like it is. I make great money and if my taxes went up 3 or 4 % I would not lose any sleep or have any change in my lifestyle. I am happy as an American Citizen who is sucessful to help fix some of the financial problems with additional tax revenue that our previous President got us into. Dont forget just 11 years ago we had a budget surplus before George W got his hands in the US cookie jar.

    July 27, 2011 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  23. al

    Have always thought this man was a little weasel. He is no conservative. The Republicans would do best to rid themselves of him. Ostracization until he goes where he belongs, to the Democrat Party. Then, he would have take some other GOPs with him, like Boehner and Lindsay Graham. Forget all this nonsense about conservatives and liberals and Republicans and Democrats. There are only two kinds of people in this country: people who believe in freedom and people who don't, and that is really where this struggle is at. McCain is one of the latter. How about yourself?

    July 27, 2011 11:22 pm at 11:22 pm |
  24. Neurotoxin

    Wake up and smell the coffee, John, those "hobbits" came within 2% of unseating you from Senate in your own primary only 2 years after you got the same party's Presidential nomination. How does it feel to be a geriatric, obsolete RINO that in the final years of his political career has no party to call his own? This kind of Keynesian apologism from a Republican is just plain sickening. It makes sense that Democrats work to panic America; the continued deadlock corners megabanks into accepting losses in the face of greater losses from a default and the banks are THEIR special interest, but a Republican joining said choir is as disgusting as your pal John Kerry voting in favor of the Iraq invasion to enrich your pals at Haliburton. The circle-jerk is over, John, the fringes on both sides see you corporate puppets as indistinguishable and will bury you both before they take on each other; you raving about it isn't powerful or emotional, it's desperate and pathetic.

    July 27, 2011 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
  25. tom

    McCain is showing once again why he lost and why many rep didn't support him

    July 27, 2011 11:23 pm at 11:23 pm |
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