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. Jason

    Pretty Mavericky!

    Good for Sen. McCain

    July 27, 2011 08:41 pm at 8:41 pm |
  2. LB

    II always liked John McCain. I was wondering when he'd speak up. I wonder how he feels about having picked HER for his running mate- and now being up against the tea party.

    July 27, 2011 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  3. Anon

    McCain is a moron and I am ashamed I live in a state represented by him. The only answer is compromise, a mixture of spending cuts (get the hell out of afghanistan and iraq and cut pentagon offence spending) and tax increases (eliminate bush era tax cuts on the rich). Here's a clue mr. good old boy, you must be really stupid because after all these years you haven't figured out that the president doesn't create legislation, that's congress' job!! But then you don't have a clue what's in the constitution anyway.

    July 27, 2011 08:43 pm at 8:43 pm |
  4. Dan in Az

    I cannot stand John McCain, but he's mostly right here.

    GOP needs to get their act together and figure out what works for the country, not what works best for them.

    July 27, 2011 08:45 pm at 8:45 pm |
  5. Jane

    Unfortunate, your party sent these radical idiots to Washington

    July 27, 2011 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  6. R Crook

    Most Dems, GOP'sters, Tea Baggers are as useful as udders on a bull...(politically correct comment) – cut their salaries and benefits as Members of C***gress

    July 27, 2011 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  7. usualone

    Because of his recent past, most probably won't listen to Senator McCain now. But hie is right on in this regard.

    July 27, 2011 08:48 pm at 8:48 pm |
  8. Shinea

    Well, at least there is one Republican who hasn't sold his soul to the fringe wackos.

    July 27, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  9. logic in LA

    100 Senators- 451 Representatives whose single job is to worry about our safety and protection, much of that through our national budget. The President's job is to broker those deals, be the face of the nation domestically and internationally to insure our place in the world.
    John McCain forgot that. If the President is putting forth legislation and approving it -that's called a dictatorship.

    July 27, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  10. Erick

    No matter what he says now, I still can't forgive him for creating the Palins

    July 27, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  11. caramiamy

    I love McCain. And I usually vote democrat. If he hadn't have picked Palin as a running mate he would have had a good chance of getting my vote. I agree with pretty much everything quoted from him in this article. I

    July 27, 2011 08:49 pm at 8:49 pm |
  12. a

    In other words, everyone is wrong except himself.

    July 27, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  13. Senile

    I don't know what to say other than: McCain has become to old to legislate effectively. Thank the Cloud Ferry that he never was elected President

    July 27, 2011 08:51 pm at 8:51 pm |
  14. maikl

    Obama manufacturing scary picture , so people can blame GOP. This not presidential,this tactics of crooks.

    July 27, 2011 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  15. John from Canada

    "Tea Party hobbits?"

    Trolls, more like it.

    July 27, 2011 08:53 pm at 8:53 pm |
  16. dave

    You cannot balance a budget without taxes, and taxing to the wealthy must be part of any Budget Plan. I applaud McCain. Although I don't always agree with him. For each day the debt ceiling is left unsigned the more the stock market falls and the more jobs that will not be created, as a matter of fact may people may be laid off if it isn't signed. Who will Republicans blame then? By the end of the next week the US will rank slightly higher than Mexicos credit rating.

    July 27, 2011 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  17. Scott Phila

    One of the only sensible republicans left.

    July 27, 2011 08:54 pm at 8:54 pm |
  18. Namepolert

    What he's good at nothing but yelling, old fool

    July 27, 2011 08:55 pm at 8:55 pm |
  19. scranton

    Give em hell John.

    July 27, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  20. Zoomie

    John WHO?

    July 27, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  21. Jim

    The RNC talking points say the democrats have not passed a budget in 800 days. This is dumb because the US would have shut down 435 days ago and there would be no USA.

    July 27, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  22. PJ

    The Tea Party Congressmen are indeed small people with 15 mins of fame. Good for McCain and Boehner

    July 27, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  23. suteki777

    Some sanity. Better than the other Republicans. He should have backed Obama, though. Yes, compared the to other horrendous choices of Republicans McCain looks great right now. I couldn't have imagined the Republican party would come out with choices worse than Palin but McCain is the one who started her and some also to blame for the string of idiots that have followed. We are in a sorry, sorry state and he shares this blame.

    July 27, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  24. Joshua Topla

    You're time came and went flip-flop man.

    You don't have the right to blast anyone. I donated to your campaign and I went door to door for you but I have absolutely no respect for you anymore. You just want to be a politician because you have no other skills and you KNOW....come 2012 you're out of a job.

    Just go away.

    July 27, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
  25. John Kaufman, Oceanside, CA

    Look who is calling the kettle BLACK!! McCain you are as much of an incompetent idot as the rest of those morons! You have no business sense, have no solution as to ending this no win debt situation and frankly you should RETIRE old man!!!

    July 27, 2011 08:56 pm at 8:56 pm |
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