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John McCain derides 'tea party hobbits' in debt ceiling fight

The Arizona senator says conservatives would end up helping reelect President Obama if they reject the House Republican plan to raise the debt ceiling.

July 28, 2011|Times staff and wire reports
  • Sen. John McCain talks with reporters after leaving the Republican caucus meeting.
Sen. John McCain talks with reporters after leaving the Republican caucus… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

Sen. John McCain on Wednesday took on conservatives reluctant to raise the national debt ceiling, calling them "tea party hobbits" and saying that if they reject the House Republican plan, they will help reelect President Obama.

At times reading from a Wall Street Journal editorial during his floor speech, the Arizona Republican also ridiculed Democrats, saying Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan is "full of smoke and mirrors."

But he directed the most biting sarcasm at his own party.

The "hobbits" remark came from the Journal editorial, a reference to the little people of Middle-earth in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

McCain said conservatives' insistence that an increase in the debt ceiling be accompanied by a balanced budget amendment was "worse than foolish" because it couldn't get through the Senate.

Reading from the editorial, McCain continued:

"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 having defeated Mordor.

"This is the kind of crack political thinking that turned Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell into GOP Senate nominees," he said, referring to the failed tea-party-backed candidates from Nevada and Delaware.

"The reality is the debt limit will be raised one way or the other.... If conservatives defeat the [GOP] plan, they will not only undermine their House majority, they will go far to reelecting Mr. Obama and making entitlements that much harder to reform."

Mark Meckler of the Tea Party Patriots responded via CNN. "Clearly he's been corrupted by the ring of power," Meckler said.

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