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. CBR

    Senator McCain is on the right track. Washington politicians are grasping for straws. They cannot seem to produce a plan that takes ideas from both sides of the aisle. Instead they go before the cameras and new media constantly to tell us what is wrong with the other side.

    I agree with Senator McCain. There is not one person with a backbone int he whole group.

    July 27, 2011 08:25 pm at 8:25 pm |
  2. carlos

    dump the teatards in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, case closed......also their Reps. and Sens.............good day!!!!

    July 27, 2011 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  3. The Elephant in The Room

    McCain has a few lucid moments still. This was one of them but after the Year 2000 the man should never be anywhere close to the Oval Office.

    The only Balanced Budget Ammendment that we should ever consider is one that DOES NOT exempt any part of the budget ESPECIALLY the DOD budget.

    July 27, 2011 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  4. Elaine

    I do not belong to the Tea Party but I like them & believe in what they do. It would serve Senator John McCain well if he did not forget that the Tea Party People are Americans too. They do not like being put down. If not for them & the rest of us, the Conservatives, we would not have control of the House. We messed up with the Senate but that is because Harry Reid had the Unions buy his winning again.

    July 27, 2011 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  5. Willy Brown

    McCain is an old progressive RINO. John McCain along with Harry Reid should have retired 20 years ago.

    July 27, 2011 08:29 pm at 8:29 pm |
  6. Christopher P. Vaughan

    the truth and reality can not exist in a Republican world...
    the Republican Party has gone so far from Ronald Reagans vision and
    while i could care less, it is only going to get worse for the party


    July 27, 2011 08:30 pm at 8:30 pm |
  7. Jean Askew

    Thanks, John. But please remember that it was you who chose to insert Sarah Palin into our national politics, thereby assisting those who pretend to know how to fix everything the easy way with sound bites and indeology rather than with wisdom, study and gravitas - the Tea Party.

    July 27, 2011 08:31 pm at 8:31 pm |
  8. yuhmad

    McCain needs to clean his ears properly and listen.

    July 27, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  9. Sergentpeppa

    The senior republican leaders have finally spoken. Thanks senator McCain and speaker Bohener.

    July 27, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  10. Jack Cardwell

    I am a 100% disabled vietnam veteran, when I went to Vietnam I served every American, white, black, hispanic, asian, every religion, the poor and the rich, Dem and Rep, I served America and I don't expect less from people elected to office. If you have a split country you still serve the whole country and not throw the other half under the bus. If so, we have the wrong system. If this country defaults every person should be expelled from office in congress and found guilty for dereliction of duty. Have a popular vote on all major legislation and skip the House and the Senate.

    July 27, 2011 08:32 pm at 8:32 pm |
  11. Chris

    McCain I am sure you are correct. Bachmann is an extremist right wing nut job just like the tea party.

    July 27, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  12. James

    For once, I agree with McCain. Even my mother, who is Republican, is just disgusted with the way the GOP/Tea Party are handling things right now.

    July 27, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  13. cameo

    .............Wow !...Mcain just pimp-slapped all of tea party Hobbits..............

    July 27, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  14. Robert

    McCain is a RINO fool. I had no choice but to vote for that scumbag. I am glad he lost so now we are coming to a head in this country.

    We either fix the deficit and cut programs right and left or we will have a revolutions. We are preparing for the worst.

    July 27, 2011 08:34 pm at 8:34 pm |
  15. evensteven

    While Congress is at it, they should add a term limits bill to the debt reduction legislation and get rid of career politicians.

    July 27, 2011 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  16. Oregon

    Good for McCain...and I'd never thought I'd say this, but good for McConnell. I'm glad some members in the republican party are waking up to the reality of the situation. I truly appreciate their efforts.

    July 27, 2011 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  17. A disgusted former Republican

    Isn't it fun watching republicans devouring each other. Go republicans; hearty appetite!

    July 27, 2011 08:35 pm at 8:35 pm |
  18. R.Lord

    Glad to see this old warhorse laying into the Obama and Pelosi decision to go off and make speeches instead of keeping their commitment to the duties they were elected to perform. There has been too much "make nice"here lately by Republicans toward these socialist sellout Democrats who have tried to buy votes with handouts to the chronic welfare/criminal class. McCain is also right to chastise unrealistic "solutions" proposed by idealistic Tea Party groups. I do have to support Sen. Bachman, though, prioritizing payments to Americans who depend on government checks should be put before payments to foreigners.

    July 27, 2011 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  19. Rick McDaniel

    Anyone with half a brain, KNOWS that there is NO WAY to pass a balanced budget amendment, even if it was a good idea.....which it ISN'T!

    Governments have to have major latitude to deal with financial crisis.

    However, there is NO QUESTION, that Obama's spending (quadrupled Bush's in just 2yrs.), HAS to be contained and stopped. Obama is bankrupting this country from within, and he isn't stupid, so that raises the issue.......did he plan it this way, all along?

    July 27, 2011 08:36 pm at 8:36 pm |
  20. Phil Barger

    Roger on the friggin Hobbits!!!!!

    July 27, 2011 08:37 pm at 8:37 pm |
  21. conoclast

    McCain is an inigma. You gotta hate the guy for inflicting Palin on us - but the old geezer can sure tell-it-like-it-is when he gets riled! I'm very glad we don't have him as prez! He certainly has a role to play in congress though, doesn't he! (I wonder what "Myth" McConnell does when HE gets riled)

    July 27, 2011 08:39 pm at 8:39 pm |
  22. Brody Keck

    With all do respect to Senator McCain and his service to our country, he has done nothing but bash everyones ideas and hasnt proposed any better ideas since the presidential campaighn. It seems the only thing he is recognized for anymore is his harsh comments towards everyone else. I think its time he make a stride towards helping deal with our country's problems instead of making controversy when he cant back up his comments.

    July 27, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  23. JackT

    John McCain, a member of Charles Keeting's, "Keeting Five", a group of 5 U.S. Senators who were bought and paid for by the owner of the Lincoln Savings Bank, should have been indicted, but, like Charles Rangel, was not and continued his scurrilous ways. No better than Ted Kennedy, guilty of Vehicular Manslaughter, McCain, author of the Kennedy-McCain Immigration Bill, which was AMNESTY for Illegal Aliens. This guy is a scoundrel. For HIM to criticize Congressmen & Senators who want to get the United States going on the right path to secure our future, is MORE proof that John McCain needs to go away. He will wiggle and duck to save his behind and flip flop with the greatest of ease and the Press never "out" him. He is a true RINO, and an old man, who needs to get to the retirement home, one of 10 homes that he owns? He is not sure, as he said in the Presidential debates. Imagine a guy so wealthy (actually it is his wife's money, he is a Gigalo) that he is not even sure how many homes he has!!!! And, HE wants to control the Tea Party and call them names????? That would be funny if not so pathetic.

    July 27, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  24. john smith

    Good for John McCain. About time some of the leadership comes forth.

    July 27, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
  25. Sarah Palin

    The Tea Party

    This will be the epitaph on the 2012 GOP Tombstone.

    July 27, 2011 08:40 pm at 8:40 pm |
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