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. T

    Where were all these Tea Baggers from 2001 thru 2008 when the deficit was sky rocketing? Once a Democrat and a Black man was elected, they are up in arms about spending, but while in charge spent like a drunkin sailor!!

    July 27, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  2. Calvin

    Quo: "President Barack Obama is leading "from behind" by not offering "a specific plan that perhaps could be considered by both bodies." when the Congress 've got fires between two redicoulous groups of senator and representative (one leads by the almost failed Reid and one leads by too extreme Bohner). Both the plans must be modified and compromised. This "opportunity and freshmen senator" – president just find a hole under nanny Polesi and papa Reid to dig from the fire. Once the fire reduced, he will stand up quickly and claim others credits as soon as he can, that is his job as the lead of executive branch. American are sick to our stomach, Mr Obama, Reid and Bohner. Look at german for a good sample., Mr. Obama.

    July 27, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  3. Guest

    I tend to agree with Sen. McCain. I tend to lean toward the Republican side of life, but alot of these people as a group are acting as if stupidity were a virtue. My feelings are that if the gov. defaults, every eligable voter in this country should fire every politician in this country. Send new guys there with the message "you take care of this country FIRST and your political party somewhere near LAST, or we'll fire you too"! There are enough registered voters in this country who do not vote in every election, that could put any candidate in office they want to if they voted together. I personally do not like the president (and no, it's not because he's black, for those of you who want to play the race card), but he seems to be the only one in this whole debacle that has his head in the game trying to divert a disaster. Congress (both parties-equally guilty), grow up, get to work, and do the job you were hired to do, or lose your job next election. And those of you who think the Democrats are on the right side of this; well, you are just as stupid as the Tea Partiers!

    July 27, 2011 09:18 pm at 9:18 pm |
  4. Scott

    I think McCain is one of the few responsible people in Congress. Meckler is a bit off. It is unclear that a amendment would be good. Who gets to decide what programs get cut? Is it the President since Congress can't do its job? You just need to get to a annual surplus and be honest about the costs of programs. President Kennedy was the last significant person who told Americans to sacrifice. I think the real question is why can't Congress do its job? It has in the past, but not anytime in recent memory. For example, Congress last declared war over 60 years ago and yet we have had several significant military operations since then.

    July 27, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  5. moses

    Why can't they compromise? Raise taxes a little and make deep cuts? Currently there are two very different mentalities and neither wants to give in some of their demands in order to COMPROMISE. I would hate to see what would happen to this country if we default!

    July 27, 2011 09:20 pm at 9:20 pm |
  6. Jon

    When he's right, boys and girls - he's right.

    July 27, 2011 09:22 pm at 9:22 pm |
  7. Ntmainstream

    You have be a very spooky individual for McCain to blast you for been too conservative...

    July 27, 2011 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  8. Mark L.

    The Tea Party is the FASCIST PARTY !!!!

    July 27, 2011 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  9. Joe Shmid

    Just think, this whole tea party thing started with Mccain picking Palin. I very much wish he hadn't. for one I would've voted for him, and 2 I strongly believe the country would be in a different place right now. What she stirred up is a really bad thing for this country.

    July 27, 2011 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  10. pudding

    Loser.....sit down mccain you are a has been. yes i voted for you but look who else was running. you are a disgrace to the Republican Party. Palin supported you for loyality more than I would have done. Bow out and go home... you are an old man that has served his time..... quit while you're down...

    July 27, 2011 09:23 pm at 9:23 pm |
  11. mark

    the precious is going to make everyone fall into the crack of doom. and here we were clucking at greece and portugal for irresponsibly putting economies at risk...

    July 27, 2011 09:24 pm at 9:24 pm |
  12. EdG

    Amazing! These career politicians still just don't get it. I'm not a Tea Party member but i AM one of tens of millions of Americans who are sick and tired of being told how stupid we are and to just sit down and shut up by the people we elect. I used to think that was primarily a Democrat trait (like last year's passing of health care legislation and the blatant refusal of Democrats to even meet with their supporters in Town Hall meetings, but no, it's pretty much anyone who has been in office for more than two terms from EITHER Party. Their arrogance is astounding. Vote EVERYONE out who has been in office for more than two terms. Sure, we'll have some inept clowns, but it sure as hell would be preferable to Boehner, Pelosi, McConnel, Reid, etc. Remember folks,THEY work for US, not the other way around!!!!

    July 27, 2011 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  13. pplr1

    Thank you Senator McCain. I've voted for you twice for President now and I'm glad you are still involved in major issues.

    July 27, 2011 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  14. Harv

    I just signed a pledge:
    I pledge to never vote for anyone who signs a pledge!

    July 27, 2011 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  15. Mike

    Welcome back to the REAL John McCain, you've been AWOL since you last sought the republican nomination and sold your soul to the right wing.

    July 27, 2011 09:25 pm at 9:25 pm |
  16. andrew

    WRONG! The "Hobbits" are the good guys. The "Orcs" are the better comparator to the houe republicans. The "Orcs" are the ones who try to rule by force, not the Hobbits. TheOrcs are the middle earth tea party bad guys, jvery similar in many ways to the house republicans, at least as to how everyone hates except for themselves.
    The orcs and the house tea party 'clubbies'; same thing. Hateful, arrogant and GONE FOREVER after this! There will be ten orcs (house republicans) elected next time around.

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

    Interesting. The presidential candidate who picked Sarah Palin as a running mate is now ridiculing the Tea Party.

    John McCain is at his best as a guest on the late-night comedy shows. Beyond that, he really should fight the urge to speak.

    July 27, 2011 09:27 pm at 9:27 pm |
  18. Ancient Texan

    McCain is exhibiting the very thing that kept him from winning the presidentcy in 2008; his liberal bent toward politics. He was not a conservative and the Republican base knew it and stayed home in droves on election day.

    July 27, 2011 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  19. Marie MD

    Sorry mcnasty, but nothing, absolutely nothing that you say can be taken serious after what you did to our country in 2008. You are part of the problem we are having right now with the teatards by unleashing the she devil unto the world.

    July 27, 2011 09:28 pm at 9:28 pm |
  20. Rennes

    The difference between those who know against those who think they know.

    July 27, 2011 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  21. DCBill

    No McCain fan, but he is correct.

    But, what worries me is the Tea Party types don't seem to recognize the precipitous nature of renouncing the nation's debt obligation even for days or weeks.

    Millions worked valiantly for our national financial integrity, making it world's finest, and some first year extremist congressional hacks shouldn't let it slip away.

    July 27, 2011 09:29 pm at 9:29 pm |
  22. The Unsub

    What? McCain? I am starting to like him!

    July 27, 2011 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  23. C-bag

    First comment!

    July 27, 2011 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  24. SkyKing

    Finally! A little bit of leadership in the Republican Party. Not right, but still leadership. Now let's get back to managing the health, safely and welfare, and assets the American people have entrusted to its Congress. Republicans have the MBAs and business people to know how to do it, let's spank the petulant toddler-tantrum neophyte freshmen and get on with doing what Repubicans know how to do best – running an organization efficiently.

    July 27, 2011 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  25. JP

    The tea party are a minority intent on taking over this is time for the majority to stand up your rep and tell them to stand firm against this extremist lunatic fringe group

    July 27, 2011 09:32 pm at 9:32 pm |
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