Senator John McCain, Arizona Republican, found himself in hot water with tea party activists when he went to the Senate floor last Wednesday and read from a Wall Street Journal editorial that compared tea party activists to “hobbits,” fictional creatures from the books of fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien. Mr. McCain, critical of conservatives who did not approve of House Speaker John Boehner’s initial debt ceiling plan, read the following excerpt from the WSJ piece: (bolding below is mine)
But what none of these critics have is an alternative strategy for achieving anything nearly as fiscally or politically beneficial as Mr. Boehner’s plan. 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. The Republican House that failed to raise the debt ceiling would somehow escape all blame. 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. The reality is that the debt limit will be raised one way or another, and the only issue now is with how much fiscal reform and what political fallout.
I caught up with Senator McCain on Sunday afternoon before the GOP in the upper chamber blocked Senate Majority leader Harry Reid’s debt ceiling plan via filibuster and asked if he regretted making the “hobbit” remarks on the floor last week.
“That’s what the Wall Street Journal was saying That’s what I’m saying. So if a balanced budget amendment of the Constitution passes through the Unites States Senate, then I would certainly regret my words,” the Arizona Senator said.
“The Wall Street Journal wrote that and the Wall Street Journal explained as I did, we were talking about things that are not reality. It’s not reality we’re going to pass a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution through the United States Senate as the numbers are today,” he explained. “And its unfair to tell the American people that we can pass a balanced budget amendment of the Constituiton through the Senate, so therefore its not reality.”
Both Senator Jeff Sessions, Alabama Republican, and Congressman Allen West, Florida Republican both distanced themselves from Mr. McCain’s statements when I asked for their thoughts, saying that Senator McCain was wrong in his remarks on the floor about tea party activists.
However, Senator McCain remained adamant he does not think of the Tea Party as “hobbits.”
He insisted, “Nor did I or the Wall Street Journal intimate that and The Wall Street Journal is almost as conservative as The Washington Times.”
After speaking to me, Mr. McCain entered the Senate chamber and managed to anger conservatives again by going Senator Pat Toomey, Pennsylvania Republican. Senator McCain also made reference to why he believes passing a balanced budget amendment in the Senate is impossible.
In a soliloquy with the number two Senate Democratic leader, Dick Durbin of Illinois, Senator McCain helped Mr. Durbin slam the Pennsylvania conservative: (bolding below is mine)
DURBIN: “Does the senator believe defaulting on our national debt for the first time in our history, the threat looming over from the House Republicans and others for a long period, is good for America’s economy?”
“One of the senators on the floor here from the state of Pennsylvania has come in and said defaulting on the debt is not that big a deal. It can be, quote in his words, easily managed. Does the senator from Arizona agree with that thinking?”
MCCAIN: “As the senator may know, I came to the floor a couple of days ago and made that comment, and the senator from illinois and I are in agreement, point number one. you can prioritize — I think the senator and every economist I know literally would agree.”
“You can prioritize for awhile where you want what remaining money is left, but the message you send to the world, not just our markets but to the world, that the United States of America is going to default on its debts is a totally unacceptable scenario and beneath a great nation. We are in agreement.”
“Number one: passage through the United States Senate of a balanced budget amendment to the constitution of the United States, as i said before, is not fair to the American people because, because the terrible obstructionists on this side of the aisle, the terrible people, their flawed philosophical views about the future of America is not going to allow to us get 20 additional votes from your side, assuming that you get all 47 since it requires 67 votes to pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution.
“So i think it was not only wrong assessment … I think it’s not fair to the american people to say we can pass a balanced budget amendment to the constitution through the Senate at this time.”
Senator Toomey, former Club for Growth president, appeared on Fox News two weeks ago and defended his views on the debt ceiling and the issue of whether or not the country would default stating, “Look, I’ve said all along, if we get to August 2 without having raised debt ceiling that will be disruptive. That will be a partial government shutdown. But we will not default on our debt. There is enough ongoing revenue in the form of tax revenue to prevent that. And, frankly, if we just raised the debt limit without the structural reform, without the real spending cuts we need, then we’re inviting a catastrophe down the road.”