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. gaucho402

    McCain with a backbone...finally, perhaps the old Maverick is back.

    July 27, 2011 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  2. Alan

    Tricksy hobbitses, he hates them forever!

    July 27, 2011 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  3. TG

    McCain continues to be one of the democrats favorite republicans.

    July 27, 2011 08:16 pm at 8:16 pm |
  4. Bob

    "hand Mr. Obama a victory" Just shows that the GOP doesn't care about the future of the country. Their sole goal since 2008 has been to stall and block anything that might make the economy better. They want to economy to stay as bad as it was under Bush so they can say in 2012 "Look at this terrible economy! It's all the Democrat's fault. Elect us (you know, the guys that doomed us to deficit spending by giving tax cuts to billionaires)." Name one thing the GOP has done to generate jobs. Cutting taxes has never created jobs in the history of the U.S. but that's their only answer to anything. "A meteor's about to hit earth!" GOP: "Quick! Cut taxes so the rich will like us enough to let us work as slaves on their escape spacecraft!"

    July 27, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  5. LC

    Hey, the Tea Partiers said it themselves before they even took office. "There's nothing getting done in Washington!" See, they have proven their point!!!

    July 27, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  6. Midwestmatt

    That's the McCain I liked before. Where did he go and why did he leave???

    Amend the Constitution in a few months? Tea Part idiots...

    McCain is calling out the hobbits and it's about time. The Tea Baggers are all about smaller government until it cuts into their Medicare and Medicaid or their preferred "entitlements".

    They are paper tigers. Nothing more.

    July 27, 2011 08:17 pm at 8:17 pm |
  7. Randy of Los Angeles

    McCain has hit it right on the nose... but I have to say that Meckler's line about being "corrupted by the ring of power," was really good. It's just that it applies to all the politicians.

    July 27, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  8. Jason

    McCain is as they say, Republican in Name Only. I truly believe he is a war hero and an honorable man. However he clearly does not represent the vast majority of Republicans and that is why the base was not excited and did not show up to vote for him in the last election. The only reason he was nominated is because he was the "best" of the worst. Last campaign cycle, there were no good candidates for Republicans to vote for. While I did vote for McCain, it was not really a vote for him, it was a vote against the Anti-Christ.

    July 27, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  9. Bowie

    Weren't the hobbits one of the good guys in the series?

    July 27, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  10. AQ

    Seems to me McCain was just fine with the Tea Party when they supported him. The GOP created this monster and this monster has gone out of control. They want someone to blame? Take a look in the mirror.

    July 27, 2011 08:18 pm at 8:18 pm |
  11. Byrd

    Thanks, John. You're finally starting to get a few things right.

    July 27, 2011 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  12. rational thinker

    everyone seems to forget that the original proposal for a balanced budget amendment came from democrat paul simon in response to reagan's skyrocketing debt

    July 27, 2011 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  13. Fantazius Von Fistenburg the 69th

    I greatly admire John Mccain and wish he had been President back when he ran against Bush Jr. We missed our opportunity for a great President. This statement again illustrates why he has lost his glean. He should have said this about a year ago, Just like he should have spoken out sooner during the campaign with birtherism. If he had tamed the hoard of torch wielding bigots sooner, I just might have voted for him. He always waits till its too late these days.

    July 27, 2011 08:19 pm at 8:19 pm |
  14. Bill

    Once in a while, the old Maverick shows up when it counts. He would have been president if he stayed in the centre rather than trying to get right wing votes. The good news, we still have him as a senior senator and his voice counts..

    July 27, 2011 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  15. Blame Bush

    Thank you John McCain. Too bad no one took your advice in 2001 when you correctly said the Bush tax cuts were wrong.

    July 27, 2011 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  16. Doug O

    We can only hope that this is this dope's last term in the Senate.

    July 27, 2011 08:20 pm at 8:20 pm |
  17. Joe

    This coming from the man who brought us Sarah Palin. You never know what he or his linebacker for a daughter is going to say. If only he had fought so hard against Obama he might be President. He deserves respect for his military service but as a Senator he has been pathetic.

    July 27, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  18. patcee

    Is McCain thinking of running again?

    July 27, 2011 08:21 pm at 8:21 pm |
  19. Republican Contract ON America

    Tick,tick,tick,tick. The sound of the clock ticking towards the 2012 election

    July 27, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  20. Chris

    Public Law 95-435, which was signed into law by Jimmy Carter in 1977, requires a balanced budget. In other words, it is already federal law that the federal budget be balanced – we do not need an amendment to the Constitution that will be ignored by both parties. They've managed to ignore the one from 1977.......

    July 27, 2011 08:22 pm at 8:22 pm |
  21. BENJI

    Teabaggers only exist because Obama is black. If McCain had won there would be no teabaggers whining about balanced budgets.

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

    McCain needs to move to the rear. Been around to long and to bitter.

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

    This from the man who turned loose on America the ultimate tea party hobbit–Sarah Palin. Has he forgotten? Has he no shame? Is he finally so detached from reality that it doesn't matter?

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

    McCain is a liberal? .... DUHHHHHHHH!!!!! I told you so

    July 27, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  25. The Greedy Old Pigs have declared class war on US!

    The Dems have already compromised with their 3-1 cuts and tax increases. Now it's time for the GOBPbaggers to put on a clean pair of big boy pants and ask their corrupt corporatist cult leaders to share in the sacrifices the rest of us are making. :"We help the greedy, and not the needy" is not a compromise.

    July 27, 2011 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
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