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. Godinus

    IJohn McCain " the dude with the Tude" He needs to hang it up. We are at a point where new ideas are needed not people bashing. Grow up!

    July 27, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  2. Pissed off AMERICAN

    The Moron Tea-Party Congress members should be in jail that's where they belong. They would endanger the country to get their ridiculous way like a 2 year old throws a temper tantrum. They state publicly on TV they are not here to compromise, well I got a news flash, compromise is what this country was founded on and 2 year olds have to learn they can't have their way all the time. FREAKING IGNORANT LOSERS is what they are.

    July 27, 2011 08:08 pm at 8:08 pm |
  3. knox

    McCain is right. I vote Dem, but i have to agree with the center repub on this one. Tea P'ers need to understand the current political situation and think with reason , not emotion. I am not a fan of John McCain but he is dead on here.

    July 27, 2011 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  4. Jeff Brown in Jersey

    John, John, John! You bowed to these Hobbits when you ran last time. Take a stand and tell the world what they really are...NUTS!

    July 27, 2011 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  5. Jaime Z

    Meckler? Heh! More like Melkor! He, being the root of Greed and darkness in the Tolkien world, would delight in the self destruction of the "men of the west" . Sauron was merely a lieutenant for the true dark lord Melkor when the world was young, men slept, and tree beard walked alone. Isn't this all just silly? Why?

    July 27, 2011 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  6. twophad

    Sounding sharper than he has in awhile...

    July 27, 2011 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  7. They ought to change from the elephant to the hippo...

    Well John... Glad you're beginning to see the light. Wish you would have figured this out before helping to start the whole thing by unleashing that fool from Alaska on us all. Perhaps begging forgiveness may help you, but....

    July 27, 2011 08:09 pm at 8:09 pm |
  8. The GOP doesn't care about America

    Hey John what the hel1 happened to you after all these years.

    July 27, 2011 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  9. Mark L.

    The Tea Party wants to turn the United States of America into the United States of Somalia !!

    July 27, 2011 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  10. BuckeyeJim

    A balanced budget amendment to the US Constitution is actually a silly idea. It could require massive emergency tax increases in dire situations. And nothing is more permanent than a tax increase. We need to have a borrower of last resort.
    States which have balanced budget requirements have had to sell off state assets even the capitol building. Suppose we sold the Lincoln Memorial to the Chinese and they replaced the Lincoln statue with one of Chairman Mao.

    July 27, 2011 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  11. Wise1Speak


    Millionaire GOP Republicans like John & Cindy McCain are finally speaking out against the stupidity of Tea Party Hobbits like Michele Bachmann, Eric Cantor, and Sarah Palin. Hmmm . . . . I wonder why?

    Would it have anything to do with the potentially huge lost that rich GOP Republicans will suffer if the nation defaults on its debt? Hmmm . . . .

    July 27, 2011 08:10 pm at 8:10 pm |
  12. Chloe in Chatsworth, CA

    Mr. Meckler, many more Americans believe the Tea Party is a cult hellbent on the destruction of the Federal Government.

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

    When McCain is the voice of reason..... HAHAHA props for the "tea party hobbits" comment though.

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

    I love the old codger, but it sounds like he is losing it.

    July 27, 2011 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  15. Really?

    Wow! Is the straight talk express back? Doubt it will last.

    July 27, 2011 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  16. C.

    Wait wait wait, Hobbits. The best middle earth insult you could come up with? The hobbits were GOOD. the teaparty isn't. Better to call them "tea party orcs" or something associated with Sauron. You know, the savage beasts of middle earth seem like more like the tea party.

    July 27, 2011 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  17. Shane

    Both extremes, the left and the right are nieve if they think that they can change everything in a year, or hell even four years. It isn't going to happen that fast, whether or not its better for the country doesn't really matter. Its the fact that making huge changes like that is going to end up hurting a lot of people with little to no warning.

    Yes, the budget needs to be decreased, everybody agrees on that. We are spending too much money on entitlements, on tax breaks, on our foreign policy, and domestically. Everybody is going to have to make sacrifices here, and in all honesty its looking like at least some of the Democrats are understanding this and willing to change parts of their ideals for the better of the nation, but some of the Tea Party people are stupid to think that they can make the changes this fast.

    I don't always agree with John McCain, but he's absolutely right on this case.

    July 27, 2011 08:12 pm at 8:12 pm |
  18. wild bill

    somebody mixed up the decaf with regular

    July 27, 2011 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  19. jack johnson

    The president is not supposed the be doing the debats it s CONGRESSIONAL JOB now get it done.

    July 27, 2011 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  20. w7rkd

    Calling them Tea Party Hbbits is being too kind if you ask me!

    July 27, 2011 08:13 pm at 8:13 pm |
  21. Pat in Jacksonville, FL seems that some in the Republican Party are finally growing a pair. Someone needs to give the House Freshman a dose of reality. How about none of them get paid or any benefits for them or their staff as long as this matter doesn't get resolved.

    July 27, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  22. Hobbit

    Mr. McCain is just upset that he lost last time around and didn't get his war with Iran.....but he'll settle with an unconstitutional war with Libya.
    He clearly was the one infected in the mind (with hobbits no less). Too bad he won the Republican nomination last time.

    July 27, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  23. brodeano

    The GOP establishment seems to be beside itself when confronted with principled people! McCain and Boehner should go!

    July 27, 2011 08:14 pm at 8:14 pm |
  24. DaVuVuZeLa

    You sure picked a fine time to recover that lost spine, Senator McCain.

    July 27, 2011 08:15 pm at 8:15 pm |
  25. rker321

    As a Republican, I feel that many of us have learned a lesson. By allowing the Tea Party have so much power that they feel entitled to push their agenda, even if is the wrong agenda, They won't listen to reason, they will destroy the country,
    I have news for them, Americans are not stupid, we will turn on them. We will not allow these people to destroy our country.
    Their intransigence, their tunnel vision, is hurting this country more that they are able to recognize,
    If they don't desist in their intransigence, People will remember and will become very frightened if they ever have more power

    July 27, 2011 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
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