Local tea party activists felt that Sen. John McCain had some explaining to do.
As a result, McCain, R-Ariz., spent some of a town hall meeting at Gilbert Municipal Center on Monday defending his comments last week in the U.S. Senate, where he read from a Wall Street Journal editorial referring to "tea party hobbits."
McCain said he quoted the editorial to make a point about some Republicans' insisting on a balanced-budget amendment to the Constitution in exchange for agreeing to raise the nation's debt limit.
"What apology is in order?" McCain responded when asked if he would apologize. "What was wrong that I said?"
McCain continued: "There was no way that a balanced-budget amendment would have passed the Senate. If anyone said that it could, they were not being truthful. Hobbits are not real, and the point is that it was not real. You should not deceive people and say that something like a balanced-budget amendment could happen ...
"It's not my fault that it was misunderstood. I'm sorry that it was misunderstood."
McCain said that he has voted for a balanced-budget amendment 13 times, adding that it can become reality when "you have enough people committed to it." A Constitutional amendment must be ratified by a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress and approval by three-fourths of state legislatures.
The nation's debt ceiling was raised after an agreement was reached between Congress and the Obama administration. However, Standard & Poors downgraded the U.S. credit rating, and as McCain spoke, the Dow was en route to dropping 634.76 points.
In its report, S&P stated that the downgrade was, in part, "because the majority of Republicans in Congress continue to resist any measure that would raise revenues, a position we believe Congress reinforced" with the debt-limit deal that calls for $2.1 trillion of deficit reduction over the next 10 years.
But McCain suggested that the nation's $14.5 trillion debt reflected a spending - not a revenue - problem, and rejected raising taxes. He called for the nation's corporate-tax rate to be cut from 35 percent to 25 percent.
"We are paying a big price for unbridled spending," McCain said. "The U.S. fiscal situation is unsustainable, and it should be fixed ...
"I'm of the belief that you don't take money from people and give it to government in a time of a (slow economy)."
McCain said that current recipients of such programs as Social Security and Medicare should not have benefits cut, but future beneficiaries could be affected.
One Tea Party advocate scolded McCain as being part of the "old guard in Washington" that was around for the major drivers of the nation's debt over the last decade: the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts and the 2003 Medicare Part D prescription drug plan.
McCain responded that he voted against Medicare Part D - its expected expenditures from 2009-18 are $727 billion - because it was not paid for. He voted against both rounds of tax cuts, but supported their extension in 2006.
"I will match my record as a fiscal conservative against anyone in the House and Senate, including the new members," McCain said. "I have fought both the Republican and Democratic leaders on spending. I will defend my record."
In other matters, McCain was asked about United Nations Agenda 21, a plan for sustainable development introduced at the 1992 Earth Summit. McCain was jeered by some in the audience when he asked the questioner to elaborate.
"It's a takeover of the United States," a man said. "The UN wants to take over our farms."
"You are so out of touch, dude," another told McCain.
After the 75-minute town hall meeting concluded, one audience member repeatedly shouted, "Where's our fence?" - the only time on Monday that the topic of illegal immigration came up.