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. boo

    Way to go Mccain. Put the Tea Party Hobbits in their place. They are going to ruin the country.

    July 27, 2011 08:57 pm at 8:57 pm |
  2. ronwagn

    " Don't speak ill of another Republican."
    Ronald Reagan

    July 27, 2011 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  3. sassypants

    Well, I disagree with McCain. You can do anything that you put your mind to. The problem is that you don't want to pass a balanced budget amendment. I managed a department of engineers and when we made significant changes to our processes we had a meeting and flipped the switch in our minds that we were going to do it. Everyone envisioned it and believed it was possible. The fact that you all are fighting it says volumes about the lack of leadership and vision in the Senate and House by both parties. I hate to break it to Mr. McCain but those Hobbits helped put him in office in 2010.

    July 27, 2011 08:59 pm at 8:59 pm |
  4. Glenn

    Forget politices and Compromise to get debt ceiling raised long enoug to avoid Default and reduction in credit rating. This is to important to screw around like a bunch of little kids wanting their way.

    July 27, 2011 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  5. John Kaufman, Oceanside, CA

    Problem with you people is, you just can't handle anyone who calls it like it really is, a joke!

    July 27, 2011 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  6. Ronnie James

    I'm a 71 year old white male, registered as a Democrat who has voted for Nixon (still not ashamed), Reagan and several Republican house and senate members thru the years. I voted for President Obama and plan to vote for him again because I believe he is trying to do the right thing. In my humble opinion the root of the current problem is that the elite Republican Party cannot accept a black man, and especially a black Democrat as President. The Party is dictating, word for word, what each and every Republican is saying. If they each truly believed what is spouting from their mouths that would be great. That is what they were sent to Congress to do. However, that's not the case as stated above. On the other side, I would like to know if in fact President Obama's tax proposal is correct. Only the most wealthy would see increases? Please report! Thanks for allowing me to vent. These comments are much nicer than I really feel and express privately.

    July 27, 2011 09:00 pm at 9:00 pm |
  7. John

    Comparing the Tea Party to Hobbits is an insult.

    To Hobbits.

    July 27, 2011 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  8. John

    Which John McCain is this? The one that tries to be all things to all voters? The so-called "maverick?" The shape shifting chameleon? The candidate who told us the economy was doing fine? Sarah Palin's running mate?

    July 27, 2011 09:01 pm at 9:01 pm |
  9. Dark Lord

    What a bunch of idiots. Cut military spending, cut foreign aid, end the wars in Iraq and Afganistan and bring our troops home NOW! We need to spend our money on USA! We need to over haul our infrastructure, healthcare for all of USA! OMG? Why is this such a hard decision?

    July 27, 2011 09:02 pm at 9:02 pm |
  10. Ron

    Where has this guy been for the past two years?! Finally had enough of the Tea Party he helped to usher in. About time you put "country first". Glad you finally made it back!

    July 27, 2011 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  11. Oldboy

    McCain being McCain. Ever since he lost to Obama he become a Tea Party man, but he knows that's not how he is wired.

    July 27, 2011 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  12. DCMike

    Finally a real Republican is calling out those members of his own party "the hobbits" who would wreak havoc on all the American people. Yes, wasteful government spending certainly needs to be brought under control but not tied to raising the debt ceiling. What the hobbits do not understand is they are playing into the hands big business who prefer to retain their tax breaks and run amok with little or no government oversight. We have already seen seen that kind of environment. If the Bush tax cuts were so good for America, how come the unemployment rate is so high? It is a good thing that the Senate is there to reign in a rambunctious House that appears totally out of control. Beware of Cantor, he appears to not to want to work within the system –that is how Hitler started.

    July 27, 2011 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  13. bb8371

    I have not heard one that is willing to cut the tax credits for employers who have outsourced American jobs ? or the Tax credit for the oil Companies.
    I say lets start by ending the full salary retirement and medical benefits for these clowns, since they want to take away from the American people. They keep saying we need to realize it cant go on forever, and I agree !! They no more earn the entitlements they receive for life !! Can you imagine a retirement salary of 110k and full medical for life?
    Come on America Stand up and say no more...We can not afford this any longer... less

    July 27, 2011 09:06 pm at 9:06 pm |
  14. avalon

    This is the guy the ran against Bush in 2000 and the guy that should have run for President 3 years ago. The 2008 verison just rolled over and played dead. The "tea party hobbits" – was a great line. Hey Barista, the tea is getting cold now....

    July 27, 2011 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  15. Mike davis

    I never had much respect for Mcain before, but I do now.

    July 27, 2011 09:08 pm at 9:08 pm |
  16. Hobbit fan

    He insulted the hobbits. Hobbits are like smurfs, they share everything and are very community minded. Totally unlike the tea party and most republicans (and dems for that matter)

    July 27, 2011 09:09 pm at 9:09 pm |
  17. Sarah107

    THe tea=party has had some success but they are now about to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by being inflexible.
    I am a Republican but I can't tolerate these naive teapartiers who are about to completely wreck the Republican Party.

    July 27, 2011 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  18. qasd

    tea party : "seems we's gots us 'nother Rino on our hands" lol

    July 27, 2011 09:10 pm at 9:10 pm |
  19. avalon

    The Tea-Party Hobbits are so dumb, the would cut their nose off despite their face, that's what's going to happen.

    "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." How are they doing to stop it with this tunnelvision they have.

    July 27, 2011 09:11 pm at 9:11 pm |
  20. Uncle Vanya

    When will the tea party tail stop wagging the republican dog? Both Boehner and Obama are leading from behind. The difference is, one of them is allegedly in charge of the "purse strings" of the legislature, too bad he lives in fear and provides no real leadership. The other has a "bully pulpit" which is often empty or muted.

    July 27, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  21. Capt. Midknight

    The Tea Party is not of the Hobbit realm but more of the Alice through the Looking Glass realm. Clueless in Washington is the realm we the citizens know is in charge. Maybe its time to head to me local Pub and talk a little insurrection! Slainte!

    July 27, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  22. Frank

    Meckler is a fool among fools. And as for McCain, the President has made it clear for months exactly what he was prepared to do: agree to almost $4 Trillion in cuts over the next decade in exchange for closing some tax loopholes, taxing those whose net taxable income is over $250,000 (back at what they were taxed in the 1990s) and completely restructuring the Tax Code to lower the highest rate to 29% (from 36%). The GOP cannot take YES for an answer!

    July 27, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  23. Collateral Damage Guy

    Uncle McCain tell the story of the ancient times when republicans, thought with their head, were intelligent, down to earth... Not sold out(ok thats stretching it) ..... Which pretty much leaves Ike....

    July 27, 2011 09:13 pm at 9:13 pm |
  24. PhilG.

    I never expected Sen John McCain to stand up and try to help this situation get more focus.

    His efforts are much appreciated.

    July 27, 2011 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
  25. Randy, San Francisco

    McCain shows courage in taking on the Tea Party. However, he is wrong to refer the just say no wingnuts as Tea Party Hobbits. It is an insult to peace loving sensible Hobbits. The Tea Party wingnuts are more like neo-fascist shock troops from Modor.

    July 27, 2011 09:17 pm at 9:17 pm |
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