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. gary powers

    finally, someone who isn't afraid to call this the way it is. rather than look out for what is in the best interest of this country our elected representatives would rather posture a position that they believe could get them re-elected. the country continues to vote incumbents out of office because of crap like this and we'll do it again next year. wake up Washington and listen to what we say at every election!

    July 27, 2011 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  2. Peter T

    The pressure on the Tea Partiers increases. Wall Street doesn't want a default, so get your asses in line and vote for raising the debt limit. What will Tea Partiers do without the money from business and the coddling in business oriented media that they are used to? Useful idiots.

    July 27, 2011 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  3. SirDirtiness

    Hard not to agree with McCain. Time to face reality on the debt ceiling and what can be accomplished by Aug 2nd. With that said it's just further proof that the people running this country are reactive instead of proactive. A balanced budget should have already been in place.

    July 27, 2011 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  4. andree churchill

    Mr McCain
    I didnt refer to you as Senator as I feel you have lost touch with all of the people who once thought of you as a hero and someone who was making a difference to the little people. I feel you have been in to long and need to retire with all the rest of your democract buddies and your elite republicans buddies. We voted concervative in November for a reason to get you repubicans out of office. There are so many of us out here and you just don't get it. THERE SHOULD BE TERM LIMITS.Believe me the liberals don't like you any more than the conservatives. So where do you go to the liberals. Yes.You dare put the Tea Party down and we would not have the house if it wer'nt for us. You had better not make any deals or Arizona might get smart next election.

    July 27, 2011 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  5. G. R.R.

    The teaparty need to leave the republican party and start their own. SImple as that. Before leaving the republican party, they should push election rule changes that no longer discourage more than 2 parties. As it stands the republican party pushed through rule changes (and the dems went along with) that pretty much kills 3rd parties.

    July 27, 2011 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  6. Yankee patriot

    Why insult the hobbits? They just wanted to live peacefully and quietly without excitement.
    If you need to compare Tea Party activists to Middle-Earth creatures, I would suggest the Uruk-hai, a more evil and corrupted version of Orcs (who Republicans could be compared to) serving their master, Big Business. But then I can't think of who to compare the Democrats to ... There doesn't seem to be any race in Middle Earth that's just confused and directionless and unable to come together for a common purpose.

    July 27, 2011 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  7. laughing duck

    I'm going to withold comment on these a) insightful or b) ill concieved comments until I hear from Fox news for my talking point. John McCain has finally risen to the task of a) providing needed guidance to the freshmen or b) destroying his remaining credibility as a Republican. Gotta go, Hannity's on. Stay tuned, we're gonna a) fry or b) praise ol Maverick McCain. I'm so a) pi$$ed off or b) elated over this!!!!

    July 27, 2011 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  8. beevee

    Finally the old coot got up from his long sleep. It is a bit too late for him to be cracking the whip. I don't think when some americans voted for the teaparty candidates to be their representatives in the congress they probably have no idea they have elected a bunch of nuts and buttheads without any reasonable thinking. Now we are paying for that blunder. Come next election we should boot these nuts.

    July 27, 2011 09:49 pm at 9:49 pm |
  9. Larry M

    I hope something good comes from this – that the Tea Party gets tossed out by the Repubs and replaced by reasonable people.

    July 27, 2011 09:50 pm at 9:50 pm |
  10. Leon

    Thank You Senator McCain. I am for everything the Tea Party activists want But we have to be realistic. Sticking to principle will just re-elect Obama and return Nancy Pelosi to power. Wake up and govern.
    This is why we lost the 2008 elections Hannity, Beck and Limbaugh said they would rather have Clinton and let the country go down the tubes rather than support a RHINO like McCain. Well they didn't get Clinton they got worse and they still haven't learned.
    The Obama-Reid-Pelosi unholy alliance rammed Obamacare down our throats and now the Teaparty is trying to force their non-wavering Principles down our throats also. A Pox on both your houses.

    July 27, 2011 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  11. Romas

    All politicians are fools and these so-called tea people (not a party, they are Republicans – pity) show zero concern for what is best for the country. These people not only talk about cutting all kinds of programs but also about cutting corporate taxes. sure, lets keep giving the idoits that destroyed the economy more money. It has already been seen that helping the big boys does not create jobs or improve the economy. Hedge fund managers making 25 million plus a year don't care about anyone but themselves.

    July 27, 2011 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  12. Irene

    These people, our representatives, should all remember there are many, many, many more lower income voters than there are wealthy voters in America and none of the foolishness that's going on now in Washington is going away. It will remain on the internet forever and when election day arrives, everyone who's been hurt by these antics will be reminded who they don't want to vote for and why. At some point, Americans will get even.

    July 27, 2011 09:54 pm at 9:54 pm |
  13. Bertomus

    I'm glad McCain said what needed to be said.

    The Republicans need to DO THEIR JOB and stop turning everything into some weird scheme to get Obama discredited. He's the PRESIDENT, so the least they could do is THEIR JOB to work with him.

    July 27, 2011 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  14. sparknut

    I'll have to reconsider McCain. Maybe he hasn't lost if after all. Probably one of the most sensible Republican voices out there now.

    July 27, 2011 09:55 pm at 9:55 pm |
  15. Larry L

    A voice of reason to a Party of morons. He must be frustrated. I know I'll never vote Republican again – and I have many times.

    July 27, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  16. Kent Bowen

    I didn't vote for McCain but he at least demonstrates that he was a legitimate and viable candidate for the highest office in the land by his comments. I hope the next nominated Republican candidate for president understands the requirements for and challenges of the presidency.

    July 27, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  17. unretired05

    Too bad he wasn't this sensible when he picked a running mate.

    July 27, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  18. David

    Finally, we have somebody thinking straight! How realistic is it to think that a balanced budget amendment can be passed by August 2nd? How realistic is it to suggest that the largest enterprise the world has ever seen will be operated by a priority scheme to determine who gets paid, and what to delay (default on)? How truthful is it to behave as if this is the first administration that has ever asked congress to increase the debt limit when in fact, this is typically routine for the past 30 years or so? How wise is it to even link raising the debt ceiling to restructuring major programs like social security and medicare? Realistic? True? Wise? Have we populated this Congress with realistic, rue and wise people, or have we created a group that is unrealistic, untrue, and unwise?

    July 27, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  19. Amazing

    Wow, a Republican with an independent thought! I normally disagree with a lot of things that McCain says. But, I must give him credit because this time most of his commentary on this issue is valid.

    July 27, 2011 09:57 pm at 9:57 pm |
  20. CTTexas

    I think Senator McCain is right on this one.

    July 27, 2011 09:59 pm at 9:59 pm |
  21. WiserThanEwe

    Even though I am far to the other end of the political spectrum from Senator McCain, I can't help but admire his devotion to his country and his courage to fight for what he believes is best for it. It's very sad that his generation of conservative has been replaced by irrational, whiny, ignorant, self-serving cowards. They are without integrity, honor or compassion. Even though the vast majority of the debt was incurred by members of their own party, they blame their opponents and refuse to honor that debt unless they can pay it by stealing money from grandma’s purse.
    Clinton was the only president in modern history that balanced the budget and the debt would have been paid off by next year if the last Republician administration hadn’t run up the debt by invading Iraq for their oil (which we didn’t get) and Afganistan for their Osama (which Bush didn’t get). But, it astonishes me after eight years of Bush’s fumbles to discover that he was one of the smarter and less greedy members of his party.

    July 27, 2011 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  22. rhumba

    If McCain had talked sense like this in 2008, he would have won the presidency. Instead he chose to be a maverick and take a back seat to the hockey mom.

    July 27, 2011 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  23. un-decided

    With so much hatred against our president by Republicans, I am amazed how this Country functions at all.
    Maybe a dictatorship is what we really need in this country, And see how fast the bad mouthing by Republicans will stop.

    July 27, 2011 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  24. Litterboxrox

    Great. Now we can add "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy to the list with the Bible and the Constitution; the other two works the Tea Party quotes but has not read.

    July 27, 2011 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  25. jennifer

    Go John, the new breed of republicans are a disgrace.

    July 27, 2011 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
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