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NBC "Meet the Press" - Transcript


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Welcome back to MEET THE PRESS and congratulations.

REP. BACHMANN: Thank you, David. Thank you.

MR. GREGORY: Here is the headline in the Des Moines Register here, the Sunday edition, "Bachmann Takes First." Just one of the big headlines in a busy political weekend. Are you now the front-runner in Iowa?

REP. BACHMANN: Oh, I, I'm, I'm grateful that we won the straw poll, but we see this as just the very first step in a very long race because we, of course, have the caucuses here coming up after Christmas. And then there's South Carolina and New Hampshire and onward and upward. There's a lot of work to be done. We're extremely grateful and that's why, after we're done talking with you today, I'll be going back up to Waterloo, Iowa, where we launched this race 48 days ago. I've only been in the race 48 days, so this is a tremendous accomplishment in that amount of time. I want to go back to Waterloo where I was born and say thank you to the people of Iowa.

MR. GREGORY: Governor Pawlenty is now dropping out of the race. You had a pretty sharp exchange with him in the debate this week. I just wonder, has he been in touch with you to let you know that he was getting out?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, I'll be calling him today to, to wish him well. And he brought a very important voice to the race. I have a lot of respect for the governor, I know the governor. We've known each other many years, and I'm grateful that he was in. He's a very good competitor.

MR. GREGORY: Do you--will you seek his endorsement at this point?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, I'll talk to the governor, and, and I'll wish him well. A lot has happened in the last 24 hours.

MR. GREGORY: Including the fact that Governor Rick Perry from Texas is now in the race, and he could have quite an impact. How do you size him up in terms of competition?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, I welcome anyone who's coming into the race, and I think it'll be good competition for everyone. And I think, you know, he'll run his campaign, we'll run ours, but we really look forward to that. And what I'm really looking forward to more than anything is taking on Raback--Barack Obama as the Republican nominee.

MR. GREGORY: But this is our Meet the Candidates series, so this is an opportunity to talk a little bit more at length, a little bit more detail and really give Americans a better sense of where you're coming from, what your plan for the country is. So, as you approach this race, you are a third-term member of Congress. You have not served as a chair of either a committee in Congress or a subcommittee, you don't have broad legislative experience. In fact, fair to say, you're, you're most known for being a pretty hard-line conservative member of Congress who's also said some pretty controversial things. What is the case that you've got the judgment and experience to be the president of the country?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, I have a lifetime of experience. I'm 55 years old. I've been married 33 years. I have five children. I've raised 23 foster children. I also am a federal tax litigation attorney. I have a law degree and then a post-doctorate degree from William & Mary, and I've worked for years in the United States Federal Tax Court. So I know up close and personal how devastating high taxes are on businesses and families and farmers. But also my husband and I started a successful company. We're job creators. We get it how you have to turn a profit and, and keep a margin in line. So I've lived life, but also--I've also been in the state senate, where I've been very successful turning around education reform in Minnesota. I led that effort in Minnesota. I brought Republicans and Democrats and independents together. I did that. But in Congress, I've been at the tip of the spear and a champion for what people have been calling for and that's fiscal responsibility and accountability. For the last two months, I was the leading voice in Washington against raising the debt ceiling. Now that doesn't mean default.

MR. GREGORY: Mm-hmm.

REP. BACHMANN: I introduced a bill to make sure that we would not default, but also to get our spending priorities in line.

MR. GREGORY: Well, and I want to talk more about that. What about the fact that you're demonstrating thus far, and there's no real voting yet, but you are demonstrating that you can win the support of conservative Republicans, right-wing conservatives. What makes you confident that you've got more crossover appeal to actually be a general election candidate?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, because we had a number of people here in the Iowa Straw Poll yesterday that--who were Democrats, who were independents and who were apolitical people. That's how I had to win in Minnesota. Again, we are not a conservative state. I was from a swing district. It was the district that elected Jesse Ventura governor of our state, but I, I'm able to attract Democrats and independents because when I grew up here in Iowa, I was born in Waterloo, we were Democrats when I was growing up. And we were reasonable, fair-minded people. Most Democrats are reasonable, fair-minded people. And so I have a message that reaches out to them because they, after all, they want jobs, too, and they want the economy to turn around too.

MR. GREGORY: Let's talk about the important issue in this campaign and what Americans are really dealing with right now, and that's this economy. You said in the debate this week that you could, as president, begin to turn the economy around within several months. How specifically would you do that? How would you jump-start growth?

REP. BACHMANN: Sure. I think the markets need to see a signal, what's going to come out of Washington. And the only signal they've seen so far is that it is going to be more spending, spending money that we don't have and more taxing. And so that leads the markets to say it doesn't look like we're going to see a new, a, a new face of our business world. And so what we need to do is have a president who is willing to come forward and have true spending reduction and people in the business world, I know this as a businesswoman, we have to know what the tax rates are going to be. That needs to be stable. And I'll tell you the biggest job killer right now, because I'm all across Iowa asking people, business people tell me it's Obamacare and it's the Dodd-Frank law. Dodd-Frank is drying up credit for businesses.

MR. GREGORY: Financial regulations.

REP. BACHMANN: Yes. And I have the repeal bill for Dodd-Frank. I also have the repeal bill for the Obamacare legislation. People want that gone. It is absolutely without a doubt a job killer. And I was just at a business...

MR. GREGORY: What...

REP. BACHMANN: Indianola, Iowa, they've let half of their workforce go, over 100 employees.

MR. GREGORY: What, what about immediately, though, because there are economists who are talking about you've got to do something to immediately stimulate the economy because the consumer's simply not spending, there's no demand out there right now.

REP. BACHMANN: Well, we know what not to do, don't we?

MR. GREGORY: Well...

REP. BACHMANN: We know that, we know that you don't pass another stimulus. We know that you don't do a QE3, like the Federal Reserve wants to do. Those don't work. And you don't raise taxes. That will clearly put us in a double-dip recession.

MR. GREGORY: What about, what about extending the payroll tax cut? Is that something you could support?

REP. BACHMANN: I think what we need to do is to cut government spending right now. I think that's...

MR. GREGORY: But I'm asking you about the payroll tax cut. Would you extend that?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, the payroll tax cut, as many people know, was a part of the tax compromise that occurred in December. That is one aspect that can be done. But again, I think what we need to focus on more than anything is what will lead to job creation. And what will lead to job creation is taking the United States down from about the top corporate tax rate in the world at 34 percent, down to something that is far more competitive.

MR. GREGORY: What about extending jobless benefits for people who are out of work? Do you think that's a necessary step?

REP. BACHMANN: I think it would be very difficult for us to do because we, frankly, don't have the money. I mean, that's, that's the bottom line in the United States. We are now, according to Mark Steyn, he wrote a book called "After America," and in his book he says we are the brokest nation in history. He said we have gone from being the biggest creditor nation to the biggest debtor nation in a very short period of time.

MR. GREGORY: So, so no on extending jobless benefits.

REP. BACHMANN: Right now, I don't think we can afford it.

MR. GREGORY: Let me ask you about the debt ceiling. You were adamantly opposed to raising the debt ceiling. You voted against that.


MR. GREGORY: And there's a lot of people who said that was an incredibly reckless thing to do for our economy.

REP. BACHMANN: Oh, hardly, hardly.

MR. GREGORY: But, wait...


MR. GREGORY: ...let me just, let me just take you through it. It wasn't just the president of the United States, it was also the chairman of the Federal Reserve, it was the Treasury secretary, it was your entire...

REP. BACHMANN: And they've done such a smashing job for us, haven't they?

MR. GREGORY: Well, if I can just finish the question. The entire Republican leadership thought that was the wrong thing to do. Major members of the business community in this country thought that was the wrong thing to do. Why should we trust your judgment that that was the right thing to do and not a reckless act...

REP. BACHMANN: Because...

MR. GREGORY: ...on the part of a congresswoman?

REP. BACHMANN: It's a great question you're asking, a fantastic question. Because that's the judgment of the people of this country. The people of this country would love to weigh in, and they would love to say, "Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, you're wrong. Mr. President, you're wrong." And that's what we...

MR. GREGORY: But this is why we have elected representatives, Congresswoman...

REP. BACHMANN: That's, that's really, that's really...

MR. GREGORY: ...who actually know the true financial impact of a step like this. Maybe people are against raising the debt ceiling, but the reality is, bipartisan agreement, in the business community saying you don't do that, you don't mess with the full faith and credit of the United States. Would you have voted the same way...

REP. BACHMANN: That's right, that's exactly right.

MR. GREGORY: ...if you were the deciding vote?

REP. BACHMANN: That's right, you don't mess with the full faith and credit of the United States. That's why I introduced the bill that I did that would have prevented any form of default. It's President Obama who failed to put any sort of a plan forward. That's what led to uncertainty. I was at another business here in, in west Des Moines, Competitive Edge, and, and the owner of that company told me that their problem right now is, again, uncertainty and the fact that they didn't know what was going to happen with interest rates, they don't know what's going to happen with Obamacare, and so they're on hold right now for hiring. The president is not sending the right signals. And again, let me just answer your question because you said, well, all the people in Washington said we had to raise the debt ceiling, all the people out in America said don't raise the debt ceiling. That's the problem with Washington.

MR. GREGORY: Right. But, but why does that make it...

REP. BACHMANN: They're not listening to the people.

MR. GREGORY: ...why does it make it the right thing to do? I mean...

REP. BACHMANN: Well, because, because, because representatives are supposed to represent the people that they serve. The people that they're serving are saying, "You guys don't have it figured out. Stop spending money you don't have."

MR. GREGORY: But so public opinion will be the sole determinant of how you vote on a particular issue?

REP. BACHMANN: I think it's important that we--well, obviously President Obama's policies are failing the economy. We took the biggest punch to the gut this week that we have seen in our, in our economy. This was a very bad week.

MR. GREGORY: But, Congresswoman, if you were the deciding vote on the debt ceiling...

REP. BACHMANN: So, so the wrong thing to do for the president--let me finish...


REP. BACHMANN: So the wrong thing for the president to do, number one, is to come out and blame earthquakes, blame the Arab spring, blame everybody but his own policies. And instead, what did he do? The president called for more of what doesn't work. We've got to spend more money we don't have, we've got to increase taxes. He clearly doesn't have the result. That's why the markets are roiling right now, because people see that this president is flailing without a plan. We've got to have a plan.

MR. GREGORY: Let me stop you there. One of the reasons that the markets are roiling, one of the reasons cited by the Standard & Poor's and the downgrade of America's credit rating is political dysfunction in Washington. And they cited their--in their analysis--this was described by Michael Cooper in the, The New York Times blog--Caucus blog on Thursday, and I'll put it up on the screen. This is in part what he wrote. "The ratings agency lamented in its report on the downgrade that the `statutory debt ceiling and the threat of default have become political bargaining chips in the debate over fiscal policy.'"

And "it was Republicans in Congress who made it a bargaining chip. They balked at raising the debt limit unless the White House agreed to a new package of spending cuts. The Obama administration initially sought a clean bill to raise the debt limit, but the Republicans prevailed." You keep talking about the desire to cut spending. No question that's the case, but a lot of Americans are disgusted with the fact that there is so much tension in Washington that something like the debt ceiling of the United States, our full faith and credit of the United States, the ability to pay its bills, was used by Republicans as a bargaining chip.

REP. BACHMANN: Remember, I introduced a bill that would not have had the United States default. The president did not. Let me tell you what the president did. President Obama went out and, and effectively said through his administration, "We don't know if we're going to pay our military men and women in uniform." This was--this comment was made overseas to our men and women while they're serving our country.

MR. GREGORY: That's not what the president said, that was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs.

REP. BACHMANN: That was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. That was highly irresponsible. The other, the other statement that was made was by the president saying to senior citizens, "We don't know if you'll get your Social Security checks in August." There were people in Dexter, Iowa, who canceled their Internet, who canceled their, their satellite TV...

MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, you're not answering my question...

REP. BACHMANN: ...because they didn't--let me finish.

MR. GREGORY: ...which is this was used as a bargaining chip.

REP. BACHMANN: Because they didn't, they didn't think...

MR. GREGORY: That's what created the uncertainty.

REP. BACHMANN: It was--because they didn't think that the president was going to get their Social Security check to them. That was more than irresponsible, it sent a very bad signal. I wouldn't do that to senior citizens. I care about them. I love them. I wouldn't want them to be in a position where they don't think they're going to get their check.

MR. GREGORY: Let me...

REP. BACHMANN: That's why the president has so mishandled this entire debate.


REP. BACHMANN: He's the one who threatened default. Not me. Not Republicans. I didn't see Republicans threatening default. I saw the president threatening default.

MR. GREGORY: Yeah. Let, let me move on to a couple of other issues. One more on the economy and the super committee now in Washington that's supposed to cut more government spending, and the debates are going to continue whether tax increases have to be, in any way, part of this discussion. Increases not necessarily, marginal rates, but through closing loopholes, other ways to get revenue. You're opposed to that, and there are those in the business community, in the private sector, some influential voices who have taken issue with your point of view and those of other conservative Republicans. Bill Gross, as you know, the founder of Pimco, it's the, the giant bond trading firm in this country, this is what he said being critical of that lack of a balanced approach. I'll put it up on the screen. "An anti-Keynesian budget balancing immediacy imparts a constrictive noose around whatever demand remains alive and kicking." In the economy he means. "Washington hassles over debt ceilings instead of job creation in the mistaken belief that a balanced budget will produce a balanced economy. It will not." Why do you say no to any prospect of new revenue as you're trying to unwind this debt?

REP. BACHMANN: The way that you get revenue is by growing the economy, and that way that you grow the economy is to have the federal government get its hand, quite frankly, out of your pocketbook. Once you get the federal government out of your pocketbook, you have a little bit more money...

MR. GREGORY: This is Bill Pimco, largest bond trader in the country...

REP. BACHMANN: have a little bit more money--and I'll be happy to answer your question.

MR. GREGORY: ...who knows a little something about how the markets work.

REP. BACHMANN: I'll be happy to answer your question. And the way that you grow the economy, then, is have a little bit more money in your pocket so that you can put it into your business, hire a few more people, pay them a little more, give them a little bit better benefits, create a better mousetrap, if you will, and, and charge less for it. I want jobs here in America. I'm tired of seeing them go overseas. We are losing companies, literally, all across Iowa. This is a very serious issue. Webster City, Iowa, Electrolux vacuum cleaners, they've closed their doors, they're gone. They didn't just leave Webster City, they lost--left the United States. David, this is real. People are suffering across America; and, if we want to be serious about job creation, then we've got to be serious about government cutting back. And I'll give you the best example I can. There is only one employee at the Federal Department of Transportation that made over $170,000 a year at the beginning of the recession; 18 months into the recession there were 1,690 employees at the Federal Department of Transportation that made over $170,000 a year. Government grew exponentially from the stimulus while private businesses were closing their doors and letting people off in real America. It's real America that needs to have their voice, not Washington. Let's listen to real America--that's what I'm trying to do--and bring their voice to the White House.

MR. GREGORY: From the economy, I want to move on to another topic that's deeply meaningful and important to you, and that's your faith in God. This is something that not only motivates you as a person, inspires you as you try to live a virtuous life, but it's also been very important to your political identity as well. And I want to ask you about, not only the role God plays in, in your life but to what extent he's a motivator for decisions that you make. One example that's gotten some attention is some remarks you made back in 2006 about your career path, which you've talked about here, and I want to play a brief clip of those remarks.

(Audiotape, October 14, 2006)

REP. BACHMANN: My husband said, "Now you need to go and get a post-doctorate degree in tax law." Tax law! I hate taxes. Why should I go and do something like that? But the Lord says, "Be submissive, wives, you are to be submissive to your husbands."

(End audiotape)

MR. GREGORY: Is that your view for women in America? Is that your vision for them?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, I--during the debate I was asked a question about this, and my response was is that submission, that word, means respect. It means that I respect my husband and he respects me.

MR. GREGORY: Right. Congresswoman, I didn't even have to check with my wife and I know those two things aren't, aren't equal.

REP. BACHMANN: What's that?

MR. GREGORY: Submission and respect.

REP. BACHMANN: Well, in our house it is.


REP. BACHMANN: We've been married almost 33 years and I have a great deal of respect for my husband. He's a wonderful, wonderful man and a great father to our children. And he's also filled with good advice. He...

MR. GREGORY: But so his word goes?

REP. BACHMANN: ...he leads--pardon?

MR. GREGORY: His word goes?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, both of our words go. We respect each other. We have a mutual partnership in our marriage, and that's the only way that we could accomplish what we've done in life is to be a good team. We're a good team together.

MR. GREGORY: To what extent does your relationship with God mean that you take cues from God for decisions that you make and that you would make as president. You've talked about God inspiring you to marry your husband, you know, telling you to marry your husband, to get into politics, to take certain decisions about your career, as we just talked about.

REP. BACHMANN: Well, I have--I, I do have faith in God, and I learned it right here in Iowa. We're in Ames, Iowa, right now. I was born in Waterloo, Iowa, I'm heading up there to say thank you to everyone who instilled my early values in me. And that began at our church. My parents took us to church every week. We went to a Lutheran church, First Lutheran in Waterloo. And we were--they prayed with us at night, and we prayed before we prayed before we had meal time. They really instilled wonderful values in us. And I recognize that I'm not perfect and that I need God in my life, and that's really...

MR. GREGORY: Would God...

REP. BACHMANN: ...set--helped me to set my course.

MR. GREGORY: Guide has--God has guided your decisions in life. Would God guide your decisions that you would make as president of the United States?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, as president of the United States, I would pray. I would pray and ask the Lord for guidance. That's what presidents have done throughout history. George Washington did. Abraham Lincoln did.

MR. GREGORY: But you said that Gald--God called me to run for Congress. God has said certain things about, you know, going to law school, about pursuing other decisions in your life. There's a difference between God as a sense of comfort and safe harbor and inspiration, and God telling you to take a particular action.

REP. BACHMANN: All I can tell you is what my experience has been. I'm extremely grateful to, to have a faith in God. I, I see that God has so blessed this country. His--you know, we heard that song that he's "shed his grace" on the United States. I believe it. He's been very good to our country. And I think that it's important for us to seek his guidance and to pray and to listen to his voice.

MR. GREGORY: Would you appoint an openly atheist person to be a member of your administration, your Cabinet or even as a judge to a court?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, my criteria, would be first of all, "How do you view the Constitution?" If you uphold the Constitution, if you're competent, and if you're--if you, if you share my views, then you can get appointed. That's my litmus test is, do you stand for the Constitution, are you competent, and do you share my views.

MR. GREGORY: Right. Those are--but an atheist would be acceptable to you as a member of your administration?

REP. BACHMANN: I--that wouldn't be a question I would ask.

MR. GREGORY: OK. I want to also ask you about your interpretation of the Bible and your feelings about gays and lesbians. You have said in recent years that opposition to same sex marriage is defining a political debate in this country. You're opposed to it, you'd like to see a constitutional ban against it in this country. And during a speech that you gave in 2004 at an education conference, you spoke openly and in detail about gays and lesbians. And I want to play just a portion of that speech and have you react, react to it.

(Videotape, November 6, 2004)

REP. BACHMANN: It's a very sad life. It's part of Satan, I think, to say that this is gay. It's anything but gay. ... It leads to the personal enslavement of individuals. Because if you're involved in the gay and lesbian lifestyle, it's bondage. It is personal bondage, personal despair, and personal enslavement. And that's why this is so dangerous. ... We need to have profound compassion for people who are dealing with the very real issue of sexual dysfunction in their life and sexual identity disorders.

(End videotape)

MR. GREGORY: That is the view President Bachmann would have of gay Americans?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, I am running for the presidency of the United States. I'm not running to be anyone's judge. I do stand very...

MR. GREGORY: But you have judged them.

REP. BACHMANN: I, I, I don't judge them. I don't judge them. I am running for presidency of the United States.

MR. GREGORY: Is that the view of gays--gay Americans that President Bachmann would have?

REP. BACHMANN: Well, my, my view on marriage is that I believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. And that's what I stand for. But I ascribe honor and dignity to every person no matter what their background. They have honor and they have dignity.

MR. GREGORY: Do you think that gay Americans hearing quotes like that from you would think that that's, that's honor and dignity coming from you about their circumstance?

REP. BACHMANN: I am not anyone's judge...


REP. BACHMANN: ...and I'm not standing in as anyone's judge.

MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, you have--I mean, do you think anyone hears that and thinks you haven't made a judgment about gays and lesbians?

REP. BACHMANN: That's all I can tell you is that I'm not judging.

MR. GREGORY: So your words should stand for themselves?

REP. BACHMANN: I'm running for the presidency of the United States. That's what's important.

MR. GREGORY: Would you appoint a gay, an openly gay person, to your administration, to your Cabinet, or name them as a judge?

REP. BACHMANN: My criteria would be the same for that--for, for--which would be, where do you stand on the Constitution, are you competent, and do you share my views. That's my criteria.

MR. GREGORY: But those views are, are, are pretty clear. So you would, you would--as far as judge, you talked about that, an openly gay person is acceptable as a matter of your administration, as a member of your administration?

REP. BACHMANN: I, I, I have, I have my criteria for what I--my appointments would be based on, and it's whether you uphold the Constitution, if you're competent, and if you share my views.

MR. GREGORY: So it would not be a factor?

REP. BACHMANN: I am not out asking any other questions.

MR. GREGORY: One last one on this. Can a gay couple with--who adopt children in your mind be considered a family?

REP. BACHMANN: When it comes to marriage and family, my opinion is that marriage is between a man and a woman. And I think that's, that's been my view, and I think that's important.

MR. GREGORY: So a gay couple with kids would not be considered a family to you?

REP. BACHMANN: You know, all of these kind of questions really aren't about what people are concerned about right now. This isn't what--this isn't...

MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman, you said it...

REP. BACHMANN: ...and I'm not judging them.

MR. GREGORY: You said that any, any candidate for president should be asked about his or her views and their record. This is a record of your statement. These were defining political issues for you as your political career advanced. You're the one who said that same-sex marriage was a defining political issue of our time. Those were your words back in 2004. So I'm just asking you about your views on something that has animated your political life.

REP. BACHMANN: Right. I think my views are clear.

MR. GREGORY: OK. Final point here, and that is again about what afflicts Washington.


MR. GREGORY: And the inability, it seems, to compromise. This was Michele Bachmann back in 2008 speaking to the Monticello Times. I'm put it up on the screen. "[Bachmann said] that six years in the Minnesota Senate was ... a huge help overcoming the partisan `poison' that is so prevalent in Washington, as well.

"`Coming from Minnesota, you learn to reach across the aisle,' [Bachmann] said. `Some of my closest friends there are Democrats. The problems we're going to face in the next term are so big, no one party can solve them all. You have to work together. I think I've made that a priority and will continue to do that.'" That doesn't sound like the Congresswoman Bachmann of 2011 who's now running for the presidency, does it?

REP. BACHMANN: No, it really does. Because when I was in Minnesota, I think one thing that I'm extremely proud of was education reform. That's where I cut my political teeth. I put five years of my life into changing Minnesota's education system. People said it couldn't be done, and I was able to help bring it about. We actually were able to get the federal government out of our education system and enhance our high academic standards. And I did that by bringing together Democrats, Republicans and independents. Republicans alone couldn't have done this. But we did it together, and I brought voice to that, and I'm extremely proud of that.

MR. GREGORY: Congresswoman Bachmann, much more debates to come. We thank you for coming here and...

REP. BACHMANN: Thank you, David.

MR. GREGORY: ...answering our questions. Good luck on the campaign trail.

REP. BACHMANN: We look forward to it in the future. Thank you.


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