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. LouAz

    "Ordinarily he was insane, but he had lucid moments when he was merely stupid.” – Heinrich Heine (1797 – 1856)

    July 27, 2011 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
  2. Scratchy

    John, where were you during the Presidential run?

    July 27, 2011 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  3. nolapearl

    First time Senator McCain has said something reasonable in a while. Good for him!

    July 27, 2011 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  4. Marc Lewis

    Hum. Would have thought 'Ocrs' would have been better. After all, the 'Tea Party' members do seem venal, stupid, and dangerous.

    July 27, 2011 11:54 pm at 11:54 pm |
  5. AndyBlue

    There is seriously something wrong with republicans since the tea party extremists took over. Not that their unpaid wars for profit , unpaid medicare part B and unpaid tax cuts for the rich didn't already prove them to be not only hypocrites, but knowing the majority of all republican congressmen and senators are making a profit off these wars while caskets are flown in without notice doesn't already tell us all what these crooked creeps are all about.

    July 27, 2011 11:55 pm at 11:55 pm |
  6. david bidlack

    i didn't think i would live long enough to see the dreamy eyed GOP who are following ragans old "suppy side trickle down economics" failure to better average americans lives to the point of taking this country to its knees! its not economics its a failed ideolgy that they are unwilling to except has failed in every way except for the rich who see nothing wrong with taking all of americas jobs out of the country for greed only. i can't wait to see the end of the GOP when they put this country into a default and with that a world wide economic down fall. its not going to hurt the middle class either because over the last ten years of loosing home values ,jobs, 401k values, and retirement pensions they have nothing left to loose the rich are about to be the biggest loosers this time finally!

    July 27, 2011 11:56 pm at 11:56 pm |
  7. LouAz

    This is the ONLY intelligent "speech" that Sen. John McCain has given in the last 6 or 7 YEARS !

    July 27, 2011 11:57 pm at 11:57 pm |
  8. svann

    He's right. Trying to pass a constutional amendment on a 1 week deadline is insane.

    July 28, 2011 12:00 am at 12:00 am |
  9. Cynthia

    Come on, John, we in Arizona know how partisan YOU are, of course that partisanship changes with the wind. Next week you'll be panting for a belly rub from the Tea Party. We Arizona moderates, on both sides of the aisle, used to at least admire your non-partisan approach to many issues, but that is all in the past. Still wondering how you make any speech without choking on your words.

    July 28, 2011 12:04 am at 12:04 am |
  10. Cynthia

    Maybe John had a lucid moment about how the biggest defict spenders have been the GOP for the past several decades.

    July 28, 2011 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  11. bp

    McCain chose Sarah Palin as his running mate. History will never forgive him for that.

    July 28, 2011 12:07 am at 12:07 am |
  12. bobsaget

    long live the tea party! this is America not communist Russia!

    July 28, 2011 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  13. Emmittkitty

    Senator McCain brought on this Tea Party dysfunction when he selected Sarah Palin to run with him. He gave these crackpots the stage in his desperate attempt to become president. This country will be paying a heavy price for his decision...I think he knows the mistake he made. His voice and leadership, which once had respect, has been silenced by the shouting from the loonies that now control the Republican Party. What a waste.

    July 28, 2011 12:12 am at 12:12 am |
  14. Donovan

    Now that's the McCain I used to know. Carry on Dude.

    July 28, 2011 12:15 am at 12:15 am |
  15. Vence

    Smeagol Mcain still want the ring on his hand!

    July 28, 2011 12:16 am at 12:16 am |
  16. Republicans Are The American Taliban

    When will McCain finish the fence around Arizona, that he promised the Teabaggers he would complete to keep out the illegal Mexicans and Canadians? He made this promise to get reelected, but has since forgotten it and gone back on his word....again.

    July 28, 2011 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  17. Seth

    Time for America to take the yuky medicine,it is not pleasant but very necessary and will help in the long run, cut, cap and balance is the only sensible thing to do, our elected officials will never do the right thing until it is to late Senator McCain.

    July 28, 2011 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  18. Todd

    Maybe if McCain had shown some sanity and picked someone who was NOT Sarah Palin all of this could have been avoided...

    In any event, he's right. Time for the far right to stop being delusional and the far left to stop ignoring reality and for those closer to the center in both parties to join together and get the job done.

    July 28, 2011 12:20 am at 12:20 am |
  19. Allen Meredith

    Senator McCain – With the highest of respect, I am impressed by your forthright candor and stabilizing effect on the extremists in the GOP, a group of freshmen sparing for personal distinction and endearing fame at the expense of the national debt and our world credibility. There are few individuals with your profound prospective on the severity of the global impact who have taken such bold efforts to correct a runaway group of renegades. Very few people could have been so effective, and we were most impressed by your blunt and mature prospective.

    July 28, 2011 12:21 am at 12:21 am |
  20. jakinak

    Demonstrating once more why he lost the election..

    July 28, 2011 12:22 am at 12:22 am |
  21. William

    For the first time in my life, I agree with, and respect what John McCain has said.

    July 28, 2011 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  22. CommonSensical

    For once I agree with John McCain. We cant solve our country's problems by destroying our entire system.
    Fiscal responsibility cannot be achieved through irresponsible means. Big budget cuts, re-allocations and whetever adjustments must be made to the tax code must come from serious efforts and plan execution and not ideology.
    It is sad to point out that the last 2 presidents to have a Balanced budget were Bill CLinton, and Jimmy Carter. (Carter ran our last trade surplus and balanced budget and passed these to Reagan.)

    July 28, 2011 12:28 am at 12:28 am |
  23. Joe Plum

    Neither party works for we the people. I would love to see an article on wealth of politicians before and after getting elected. The middle class needs take the power back somehow.

    July 28, 2011 12:32 am at 12:32 am |
  24. Kalena

    The old McCain is back. Good for him and good for our county!

    July 28, 2011 12:33 am at 12:33 am |
  25. ted

    I think the GOP is in big trouble with the Tea Pottiers. These delusional lunatics haven't a clue as how to budget or govern, but they are pressing their will on Boner and McClownell, who most likely would be in a more negotiable mood with Obama than they are right now because the TeaBaggers are being idiots. Where were the Teapotters when GW Bush was spending money on two insane wars? They were quiet. But now they are adamant to get to a balanced budget, cut spending, reduce taxes adn all that because of a scary african american in the white house. Jerks. The Teabuggers need to get a life and real quick.

    July 28, 2011 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
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