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NBC Host to Michele Bachmann: Have You Ever Influenced Debate in Washington?

On Friday's NBC Today, fill-in co-host Lester Holt interviewed Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann and was skeptical of her political relevance: "Can you name an instance where you have moved the needle, where you have significantly altered the outcome of a particular debate?"

Bachmann pointed to her stand on the debt ceiling as evidence: "In particular now, on the last two months when I've been the leading voice, almost the lone voice in the wilderness of Washington, fighting against raising the debt ceiling, people paid attention." Holt replied: "But they didn't follow."

If NBC didn't think Bachmann had any influence over the national political debate, then why was this her sixth appearance on Today this year? And why more than any other GOP candidate?

Bachmann fired back: "...remember who's been running Washington. It's President Obama, Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker of the House for the majority of the time that I was there, and Harry Reid....You don't fight when you're just in the majority. You fight when you're in the minority."

On the subject of the downgrade of U.S. credit by Standard and Poor's, Holt argued: "...what they said was, 'The political brinksmanship has made American governance less stable, less effective, less predictable.' If your view had prevailed, if the debt ceiling had not been raised, wouldn't we be even in a deeper pickle with the rating agencies?"

In response, Bachmann condemned the "blank check" the $2.4 trillion raise in the debt limit gave Obama, causing Holt to hit back with a White House talking point: "You used the term 'a blank check.' In fact, this raising the debt ceiling was for bills that have already been agreed to, not new spending." Bachmann pointed out: "Actually that's not true. This money will go not just to bills that have already been spent. This will be for future money as well. That's a false statement." Holt did not back up his assertion.

At the end of the interview, Holt asked about the unflattering Newsweek cover of Bachmann and noted that, "it caused quite a controversy, some people thought it was a cheap shot." After Bachmann explained that it had little impact on her, Holt followed up with: "Is 'rage' an appropriate word to describe you?" Bachmann replied: "No, not at all. I'm a very happy person and I'm a very optimistic person."

Here is a full transcript of Holt's August 12 interview with Bachmann:

7:06AM ET

LESTER HOLT: Michele Bachmann is in West Des Moines this morning and she's with us exclusively. Congresswoman Bachmann, good morning. Nice to have you with us.

MICHELE BACHMANN: Good morning, Lester.

HOLT: As we saw, Governor Pawlenty really went at you on the question of experience. I'd like to tee off our conversation with a little of what he said and then get your response. Here it is.

TIM PAWLENTY: She fought for less government spending, we got a lot more. She led the effort against ObamaCare, we got ObamaCare. She led the effort against TARP, we got TARP. If that's your view of effective leadership with results, please stop, because you're killing us.

HOLT: Congresswoman, to his point, you came into office as someone with a fresh voice, with a clear mandate. Can you name an instance where you have moved the needle, where you have significantly altered the outcome of a particular debate?

BACHMANN: I certainly have. Whether it was on the TARP debate or whether it was on ObamaCare. In particular now, on the last two months when I've been the leading voice, almost the lone voice in the wilderness of Washington, fighting against raising the debt ceiling, people paid attention.

HOLT: But they didn't follow.

BACHMANN: And they recognize if – well, remember who – remember who's been running Washington. It's President Obama, Nancy Pelosi was the Speaker of the House for the majority of the time that I was there, and Harry Reid. Obviously they weren't interested in my pro-growth agenda. But that's when you fight. You don't fight when you're just in the majority. You fight when you're in the minority.

And I've been the champion for the voice for people who've been crying for Washington to stop spending so much money and reduce taxes. People aren't happy with this debt deal. And I'm very happy that I was a leading voice in not raising the debt ceiling. And I think Standard & Poor's and the stock market have proved me right in the last week.

HOLT: Well, with regard to Standard & Poor's, you said, 'They lowered our rating because we don't have the ability to pay our debts.' In fact, what they said was, 'The political brinksmanship has made American governance less stable, less effective, less predictable.' If your view had prevailed, if the debt ceiling had not been raised, wouldn't we be even in a deeper pickle with the rating agencies?

BACHMANN: I had introduced a plan together with colleagues that would not cause the default to occur. Because, number one, if I'm President of the United States, this is what I would do. I would call all the members of Congress back to Washington immediately. I would say, 'Look, we are getting this AAA credit rating back, we're going to announce to the markets we are not going to default, and then we're going to make sure we pay the military, we pay senior citizens who are currently on entitlements, then right now, today, we're going to begin the process of reforming entitlements and reducing spending so our budgets balance.'

As President of the United States, I will only introduce balanced budgets and I will not increase the debt ceiling. That's what we need to do, because that sends a signal to Wall Street we're serious, we're tough, we're going to get our financial house in order. I'm a private businessperson, we started our own company, and I'm also federal tax lawyer. One thing I know is that you cannot turn the economy around if you give Barack Obama a blank check for 4 point – 2.4 trillion in exchange for $21 billion in a illusory cuts. Washington has to be fundamentally restructured, this isn't working.

HOLT: You used the term 'a blank check.' In fact, this raising the debt ceiling was for bills that have already been agreed to, not new spending.

BACHMANN: Actually that's not true. This money will go not just to bills that have already been spent. This will be for future money as well. That's a false statement.

HOLT: Let me ask you about – we played a moment ago, in Chuck Todd's story, the jeers that resulted from the question about whether you would be submissive to your husband. You had made the statement earlier. Are you happy the question was asked, did it need clarification?

BACHMANN: Well, I was happy that I was able to talk about my wonderful husband. I was – you know, Chris Wallace asked the question he asked. I certainly can't make comment about what question he asked. But I was happy to have the opportunity just to be able to talk about my wonderful family and my husband.

HOLT: But the phrase 'submissive to your husband,' I think, for some people it maybe raised some eyebrows when you first mentioned it. Was it important to clarify it? And do you think you did clarify your thoughts on that?

BACHMANN: Oh, I think so. I think it's important to talk about respect. We've been married for 33 years, and the basis of our marriage is respect. And I'm just grateful to get that answer and that comment out.

HOLT: As you know, Rick Perry, the conservative governor of Texas, is about to join the already crowded field of GOP contenders. He has the same, comes from the same conservative cut out that you come from, but he also has the added advantage of being the chief executive of a huge state like Texas. How will you compete against him and how will you distinguish yourself from him to conservative members of the party?

BACHMANN: Well, I've been in Washington D.C. now going on five years and I have been a very consistent challenger to the unconstitutional policies that Barack Obama, Speaker Pelosi, and I've been at the tip of the spear on battle after battle. I understand the problems that the country is facing right now. I've worked in the private sector. I've created a business from scratch. I know what you have to do to create jobs.

We need a president who has been a fighter and a champion on the issues that people want us to turn away from. They want us to turn away from spending. I've been there. And I've also stood up against my own party. I've stood on principle rather than party. And I think that's what people are looking for. I have people – I've been a voice for a movement all across the country, whether it's disaffected Democrats or independents or apolitical people.

I've been bringing this voice and this movement into the halls of Congress very successfully. And this voice hasn't been heard in the White House for a very long time. That's what I intend to do, take this very reasonable, fair-minded voice into the White House and finally get the economy turned around and focus on job creation. And I will repeal ObamaCare.

HOLT: Congresswoman Bachmann, let me ask you about the Newsweek cover photo this week. It caused quite a controversy, some people thought it was a cheap shot. You did not weigh in. You were not part of those questioning this. Let me ask you this. What did you think when you first saw the picture and the title, 'Queen of Rage'?

BACHMANN: Well, you know, it really didn't impact me that much because over this last week the United States has received a punch to the gut. We've seen the stock market plunge over 1,500 points, we lost, for the first time in the history of the country, the AAA bond rating. We had a terrible tragic loss of life in Afghanistan, unparalleled. And the President got a blank check for 4 – $2.4 trillion. That's not a good week. And so a magazine photo is not a – is not even a factor in the midst of all that.

HOLT: Is 'rage' a – is 'rage' an appropriate word to describe you?

BACHMANN: No, not at all. I'm a very happy person and I'm a very optimistic person, because what I know to be true is that if we put the right policies into place, in the next quarter we'll already see the beginnings of an economic turn around. That's what I'm focused on. I love people. And I really care about where people are at right now in the economy. And so I want to focus on making their lives better and getting people back to work. That's what I'm focused on right now.

HOLT: Alright, well, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, again, our thanks to you for taking the time to join us. We appreciate it.

BACHMANN: Thanks, Lester.


- Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. Click here to follow Kyle Drennen on Twitter.