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Lord of the Zings

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), left, took a swipe at Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), right, invoking Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, center.

There might not be two factions more irascible, more willing to sling barbs, than John McCain and the Tea Party. And they proved it yesterday and today.

McCain, the veteran Arizona Republican senator, has never been one to shrink from a fight. In a scalding Senate floor speech yesterday, he blasted the Tea Party and freshmen members of Congress, as well as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and the president of the United States.

McCain’s comments against the Tea Party members centered on their demand that a balanced-budget amendment be attached to a deal that raises the debt ceiling. He said he supports a balanced-budget amendment, but that there’s no chance of its passage with Democrats controlling the Senate and the White House.

He derided their logic as “bizarre,” “foolish,” “unfair,” and even the Seinfeldian “bizarro.” He went on to quote a Wall Street Journal editorial likening the Tea Party to “hobbits,” who “could return to middle earth.” And that “this is the kind of crack political thinking that turn Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell into GOP nominees.”

Angle and O'Donnell, of course, won their party's nominations, but lost in general elections.

Asked if McCain endorsed the language of the editorial he read into the record yesterday, spokesman Brian Rogers told First Read: “He obviously doesn’t believe that Tea Party folks are ‘hobbits,’ but he does strongly agree with the viewpoint of the editorial that the Boehner plan is a good one despite the protests by Democrats and some conservatives.”

Nonetheless, McCain’s comments drew a swift rebuke from those aligned with the Tea Party, including the aforementioned Angle, who pointed out the irony of McCain putting Sarah Palin on his presidential ticket and McCain campaigning for Angle in 2010.

She called him the “Lord of the TARP."

Palin also campaigned for McCain during his contentious Senate reelection primary last year at the height of the Tea Party’s power. Many credit Palin for insulating McCain, no darling of the Tea Party, from the full ire of the group's fiery activists.

“One man in Washington, who chose Sarah Palin to be his VP running-mate and came to Nevada to campaign for me last year in the Senate race against Harry Reid, is now promoting attacks against TEA Party activists, ordinary American citizens, and fiscally conservative members of congress -- all of whom are adamantly opposed to continuing the deficit-spending strategies proposed by some congressional members and the President,” Angle said. “Ironically, this man campaigned for TEA Party support in his last re-election, but now throws Christine O’Donnell and I into the harbor with Sarah Palin. As in the fable, it is the hobbits who are the heroes and save the land. This Lord of the TARP actually ought to read to the end of the story and join forces with the TEA Party, not criticize it. 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.”

Rogers points out that McCain also slammed Reid and, in particular, Obama for not presenting a plan. And he did -- forcefully.

But Angle turned the tables on McCain and hit him for not presenting any "new ideas."

“It is similarly unfortunate that Senator McCain brings no new ideas to the Senate floor,” Angle said, charging that McCain, instead, has resorted to using “borrowed soliloquies.”

But the jibes didn’t just come from failed candidates. They also came from elected members of his own party, including at least one in the Senate.

On Twitter, a place that makes it easy to be venomous, Rep. Connie Mack (R-FL) wrote, “Senator McCain has lost his way again. Hey Senator, we are Republicans and we are over here. Please join us.”

And Sen. Rand “I have a message from the Tea Party” Paul got personal.

“To those referring to ‘Tea Party hobbits.’ I'd rather be a hobbit than a troll,” Paul Tweeted.

And showing he can fight fantasy geekery with fantasy geekery, Paul included a photo of Lord of the Rings curmudgeon Gollum.

Precious.