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. independent voter

    the tea party is the american taliban.

    July 27, 2011 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  2. J

    Where have been Senator? Why did you wait so long?

    July 27, 2011 09:33 pm at 9:33 pm |
  3. Stobie Piel

    Leave hobbits out of this!

    July 27, 2011 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  4. Biff Schmeng

    We're screwed.

    July 27, 2011 09:34 pm at 9:34 pm |
  5. Shayne from NH

    For once, just this once, I truly commend you John McCain. Well done. Superb. Say it how it is.

    July 27, 2011 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  6. Mary Beth Frezon

    Hobbit? Seriously? Rise up Tolkien/LoTR fans and strike back against this stupidity!

    July 27, 2011 09:35 pm at 9:35 pm |
  7. Bob in Pa

    And that is eactly why you didn't get eleacted Mr. McCain. Because you time and time again prove you are out of touch with America.

    July 27, 2011 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  8. JS

    McCain should've been President! If we only knew about the corrupt, socialist "KENYAN"- then – what we know now! His fault, though, for picking the whack job woman as the VP candidate- or he'd have had it. And we'd all be a lot better off

    July 27, 2011 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |
  9. JonDie

    First time in his Senate career that McCain has actually said something that makes sense.

    July 27, 2011 09:37 pm at 9:37 pm |

    This teabaggery nonsense should be taken to Mordor and cast into Mt. Doom.
    Wow. McCain finally made sense today? Can he explain to us Sarah Palin? LOL.

    July 27, 2011 09:38 pm at 9:38 pm |
  11. Pete

    No, Mr. Meckler, he's been corrupted by common sense. I personally do not like the Boehner plan, but reaching further to the right of it is a baffling misunderstanding of the current makeup of our nation's legislature. Right now a super-majority of the public basically thinks you guys are totally disconnected from reality, and will support President Obama 100% when he inevitably goes the 14th route and hands you nothing. That's what you will get if you don't learn to compromise with the left on this – nothing.

    July 27, 2011 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  12. andrew

    John McCain is a great man for sure and he's schooling the newbies in the fine art of US Democracy. The newbies HATE it, but so what? They hate the United States too, so what's new? The house republican tea bagging peons are learning how much their plans stink to the vast majority of other people alive. You can tell McCain is sick of them. The senate is sick of them. The President is sick of them. 90% of the American taxpayers are sick of them. The world markets are sick of them. Sooner or later, with everybody walking being sick of you, you gotta know you are a sicko, don't ya?

    July 27, 2011 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  13. John I forgive you John McCain for unleashing Palin. She's nothing more than monkey flinging feces from her cage. I forgive ya.

    July 27, 2011 09:39 pm at 9:39 pm |
  14. Milwaukee11

    Why is McCain insulting Hobbits?

    July 27, 2011 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  15. Mike From MI

    Mr. McCain is clearly part of the problem. Thank God he didn't win 2008, and hopefully he can be voted out of office the next time his employers have the chance.

    July 27, 2011 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  16. dwt

    McCain acquires some balls too late.

    July 27, 2011 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  17. Juice

    As a democrat I have always liked McCain. He really is a smart man.

    July 27, 2011 09:41 pm at 9:41 pm |
  18. TerminalSanity

    Bit a mixed bag in McCain's words, but at least he's acknowledging the junior house reps that road the Tea party into office are acting like complete fools.

    July 27, 2011 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  19. Maria

    A Republican that makes sense. I am happy to see that. In reference to Mr. Meckler's comment, all of you are corrupt. The answer lies in term limits. Congress should be subjected to term limits. Without them, the corruption continues. Raise the debt ceiling and deal with the budget during the budget process. I am terribly disappointed in the whole bunch of you. Stop blaming President Obama when it is actually Congress' job. I think I have heard what the President would like to see. However, the Democratic leaders are willing to give the Republicans everthing except let's go through this ridiculous process again in 6 months. Why. It is politics on both sides. Stop blaming each other and fix the problem. Which is raise the debt ceiling and nothing else at this point.

    July 27, 2011 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  20. JRH

    You *know* you're bad when John McCain thinks you're a fool. This is the guy who pegged Sarah Palin as VP material, don't forget.

    July 27, 2011 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  21. Rock Maker

    he gave us Palin....

    July 27, 2011 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  22. FauxNews

    This is no surprise. McCain has been a ward of the state since his birth.

    July 27, 2011 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  23. Anonymous

    BLAH,BLAH,BLAH!!! Congress and the White House better hope that we don't all have a revolution! People in this country are sick of all the crap that is going on up the Hill!!

    July 27, 2011 09:43 pm at 9:43 pm |
  24. Norps

    Now THERE's the John McCain I would have voted for last election. Too bad we got Smeagol

    July 27, 2011 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
  25. Mr. Moderate

    That sound you hear is Ronald Reagan weeping.....

    July 27, 2011 09:44 pm at 9:44 pm |
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