Shelby County GOP chairman defends Tea Party, calls McCain’s comments ‘regrettable’

Published 2:22 pm Thursday, July 28, 2011

By BRAD GASKINS / Staff Writer

The Shelby County Republican Party issued a press release Thursday to disagree with comments Sen. John McCain recently made about the Tea Party.

Party chairman Freddy Ard said some of the Arizona Republican’s comments on the debt ceiling and spending policy were “regrettable.”

In the press release, Ard wrote “while Senator McCain made some legitimate points concerning the critical struggle that is playing out, resorting to name-calling of a critical base of Republican voters is indeed regrettable, inadvisable and in no way constructive to the political process.”

At issue are statements McCain made Wednesday on the senate floor concerning the debt ceiling debate.

In the speech, McCain quoted an opinion piece from the Wall Street Journal, which contained a line about “tea party hobbits.” Reading from the article, McCain said:

“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.”

Countered Ard in the press release:

“If Sen. McCain had concluded his remarks with his disagreement of strategy or the prognostication of what the public sentiment might be after a presumed government shut-down, that would be fine,” Ard wrote. “To continue on with the insinuation that a critical segment of the Republican vote – tea party activists – live in some imaginary place and time, and in such a depreciatory manner, is indeed unfortunate.”

According to the release, Ard “carefully distinguished between expressing a differing assessment of the situation than those generally considered to be espoused by the tea party, and calling names of those activists.”

The release said Ard agreed with some of McCain’s remarks, and noted that Ard supported McCain’s 2008 presidential candidacy early in McCain’s primary campaign.

Specifically, Ard wrote that he agreed with McCain’s comments on President Obama’s position, and McCain’s assessment of the Democrat’s plan proposed by Majority Leader Harry Reid.

McCain said the president “is leading ‘from behind’ by not offering a specific plan” and went on to say “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.”

Wrote Ard in the press release: “To Sen. McCain’s credit, he did later attempt to soften those statements during an interview with Sean Hannity.”

According to the press release, McCain told Hannity, “I admire, respect and appreciate (the tea party). They are the ones that gave us a majority in the House of Representatives.”