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. Valerie from Raleigh

    The clear-thinking and decent man that John McCain once was has finally returned. He has called out the Tea Party nuts for their total stupidity and their unbelievable ideas of governing. When he was running for president in the last election and had Tea Party princess Sarah Palin thrust on him, he received first hand a dose of just how crazy the Tea Party group was. I feel McCain would have had a good chance of being elected president had he not had Palin ruining his chances. Thank you Mr. McCain – you have restored my faith that not all Republicans are just losers.

    July 27, 2011 11:24 pm at 11:24 pm |
  2. Jules Semegi

    John McCain is a disgusting RINO. Scum like this is the reason we need term limits.
    McCain is a water boy for the Obama administration, he needs to be removed from office.

    July 27, 2011 11:25 pm at 11:25 pm |
  3. Anonymous

    You know I have always liked McCain....I am a democrat...but I always thought the Senator was smart..until he picked Sarah Pahlin to run with him....Thank god you spoke out I remember why I liked you in the first place...thank you.

    July 27, 2011 11:26 pm at 11:26 pm |
  4. dmf

    Sen. McCain 's anger and disappointment , with the Tea party folks and GOP House majority on their uncompromising stand on debt and deficit , should be noted as a leading voice of reason . This would be helpful in resolving this impasse on debt ceiling increase . It is about time for leaders of both parties in the Congress , to invite former leaders of both parties in the Congress , to work with them on a grand compromise , on debt and deficits . The Congress should work harder to bring a consensus on debt and deficits " grand bargain ", that should take U. S. thru 2013 and 2014 . They have to take some responsibility and do the right thing . The Congress has a constitutional responsibility, to have a broader vision for solvency of the U. S. in the long term . The Republican House majority has created this unprecedented stalemate on debt ceiling . The GOP allowed during president Bush 's two terms of office , $ 4 trillion in expenses not paid for ( includes the two wars , tax cuts for the rich and economic bail out ) . This debt and deficit problem was created by the GOP , they should face it .

    July 27, 2011 11:28 pm at 11:28 pm |
  5. Tom

    Senator McCain: From a long time fan not necessarily from your party as of late. I have always admired your guts and especially thought that you were shoved by the big dumb elephant in the southern elbow convention by number 43, rather disrespectfully. You have consistently raised your concerns (and your constituents) regardless of the poiitical winds. Proud to support your views.
    Tom Syracuse, NY

    July 27, 2011 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  6. Cutter Johnston

    It is shameful that elected officials can not seem to achieve movement on this issue. What's more shameful is the fact that they are holding the American people hostage and they know it. The reality is that the economy is a house of cards right now, on the verge of collapse. As a pedestrian in Manhattan you can clearly see that EVERYTHING is on sale. And retailers are still closing their doors. I have come to believe that default was on the agenda from the beginning. And someone is going to reap huge profits from it. A very sad commentary on the United States Of America

    July 27, 2011 11:33 pm at 11:33 pm |
  7. Sean VanHandel

    Go back to the hole you crawled out of Mr. McCain. You are the apathy and malaise that has defined this country for long enough. I am sick of your type of wishy-washy politician who can't even get his own house in order before he tells the GOP what to do with his own. Enough of the spending and out of control entitlement programs, special interest projects and expansion of the federal government. Your part of the problem, not the solution.

    July 27, 2011 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  8. KellyinBoston

    Sen. McCain–As a lifelong republican (though more of the Rockefeller brand), it relieves me to know that some in my party still have brains. Thank you for your measured conservative comments.

    July 27, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  9. frustrated

    McCain is blasting all of Washington including Obama but in true unbalanced media fashion, the article reads, "McCain blasts Republicans." I am so sick of how slanted everything is. Just report, don't try and persuade. He makes a very great point, "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," More people believe Republicans are the ones at fault because of article titles like this and outspoken democrat finger pointing that makes bigger headlines b/c the media is so slanted. Both sides are saying no and both sides are being unreasonable. Deal with it. I'm just hoping that people from both sides can find a way to be reasonable and get us out of this mess. And Obama buck up. You make a damn fine speech but DO SOMETHING other than sound pretty.

    July 27, 2011 11:35 pm at 11:35 pm |
  10. deerwhisper

    We need more leaders like McCain who see the whole picture from both points of view and tries to find a balance in the middle. These extreme right and left-winners are holding our country hostage. Its like a giant football game where both teams want to "blow out" the other.
    It's just not right.

    July 27, 2011 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  11. Tonyl

    The Republican party has become a circus. All the tea baggers are clowns living in a make believe world. These crazy nuts are going to destroy our economy what's left of it. They are going to destroy our nations AAA credit rating which in turn will increase the interest rates and raise the price of all the commodities which means high gas prices. Our debt interest payment will increase by billions so that in turn will increase the deficit and debt. How stupid is that move when they want to decrease the deficit and debt. Tea party is actually going to hurt the nation instead of helping. This will be proven when it's all over. The is about to hit the fan. This is all due to the unreasonable uncompromising and stubborn GOP members of the house who are bent on blackmailing American people.

    July 27, 2011 11:36 pm at 11:36 pm |
  12. BlindSquirrel

    Finally, a Republican talking some sense. Everybody has a piece of this right. But everyone seems to be ignoring that we have 5 DAYS to avoid catastrophe. The markets are already getting a whiff of the potential disaster here. There is a compromise path, but the Tea Baggers seem bound and determined to bring the whole thing crashing down. I'll tell you, as a Democrat, if we extend the Bush tax cuts, but at the same time close the loopholes that allow the wealthiest to pay little or no tax, I think I'm ok with that. If we make a serious effort to make reasonable cuts in the entitlement programs which go after fraud and mismanagement first, I think I'm ok with that too. After that, it's tough choices on defense, infrastructure projects, etc. which can best be done by a committee similar to the base closure committee. But right now, we HAVE to raise the debt limit to cover spending we've already done, and we have to get serious about making sure we don't have to raise it again, ever if possible.

    July 27, 2011 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  13. Sgt Schultz

    The Tea Party members in Congress and their indoctrinated followers are more like Trolls than Hobbits. All the Tea Party does is serve as political activists with make believe Fox "News" propaganda to hype it up. Hardly anyone attends their rallies.
    McCain gets larger crowds than the Tea Party Hobbits & Trolls.

    July 27, 2011 11:38 pm at 11:38 pm |
  14. Louis

    The McCain of 2000 has returned. The Tea Partiers are the worst demagogues this country has seen since Joe McCarthy and the red scare. (What's going on in Wisconsin anyway? They keep coughing up these wacky Republicans. They should just stay Democrats.) I'm from Texas an Louisiana. Those guys are a bunch of crooked, self serving thieves but at least they weren't nuts and they certainly didn't practice economic suicide.
    Here's a suggestion, want more revenue, tariff imported oil. (I would exclude Canada and Mexico from the tariff.) Start with $10/barrel the first year, $20/barrel the second year, on up to $50/barrel the fith year and leave it at $50/barrel. 5.4 million barrels/day (that is excluding Canada and Mexico) and were talking about $788 billion over 10 years.
    The great thing is, if you don't like paying the tax, get an economical car, or motorcycle.

    July 27, 2011 11:39 pm at 11:39 pm |
  15. Howard

    "Little Hobbits"! Great way to describe the tea party.

    July 27, 2011 11:40 pm at 11:40 pm |
  16. Monica

    I love that Mac always speaks his mind, regardless of what it means to him politically. I agree with what he says, the whole debate is nothing short of political theater. At this point it's just a big yawn for me. I'll wait till August 2nd and see the compromise. This circus right now is just about looking good to some far left, far right groups. They make up about 10% of the electorate, but I guess they're crucial during primary season, so they'll keep playing.

    July 27, 2011 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  17. Carla

    This is probably one time that I will agree with McCain. Hobbits, that's a new one.

    July 27, 2011 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  18. Me 2

    I have contended for a long time that the average American is too stupid to be allowed to vote. However, it was not until the Tea Party came along that we have had a Congress that is too stupid to be allowed to govern. It is hard to believe that we have a top Republican presidential candidate (Michelle Bachmann) who is too stupid to be allowed to run for President. And, we wonder why we can no longer compete against China. This country is full of idiots.

    July 27, 2011 11:43 pm at 11:43 pm |
  19. wsc547

    McCain for 2012.

    July 27, 2011 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  20. "He's Dead Jim."

    NO. The politicians and their supporters are the ones who are under the influence of the "ring" of politics. This cannot be passed to everyones or apparently anyones liking. So get something that sucks passed then, work on cutting internal and external waste. Encourage growth of the economy. Tax the wealthy and corporations at the same percentage at which the rest of us are taxed. If you cannot tax them for fear that they will not create jobs then the reality is that our nation is their hostage and they will do what they want (either way). I think that those with the money will invest it when they see a proof that the leaders of our nation are serious about a recovery instead of propping them and everyone else in the world up with quantitive casturbation and partisan packingfudgemanship.

    July 27, 2011 11:44 pm at 11:44 pm |
  21. NewReality

    McCann is old. Too old to be effective and be a force for change in the political system. He should accept his irrelevance, firmly secure his diaper around his waist and retire in the Arizona sun.

    July 27, 2011 11:45 pm at 11:45 pm |
  22. Peter s

    Long live Marverick John McCain you just hit it outside the park!!.The teatard caucus is dyfunctional and its sending this Great Nation down the drain!!! Can someone say over 90 men/women in congress will just serve for a single term then go study for their GED

    July 27, 2011 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  23. bob fink

    Thanks and cudos to Mr. McCain, for the fortitude to speak out against the tea party (lower case is intentional). They are setting a course that will cause immeasurable damage. I hope mainstream America will run them out of town.

    July 27, 2011 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  24. wileysee

    What's he going to do for a job after the next election?

    July 27, 2011 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
  25. Later than you think!

    Those that created this mess had better get it cleaned up! Pronto! AND I am not talking about the American people who have been duped over and over again by traitors in both the "government" and the civilian & military power brokers. "We the People" need to take back the country. Time is running short.

    July 27, 2011 11:49 pm at 11:49 pm |
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