ABC's George Stephanopoulos Grills Michele Bachmann: Will Tea Party 'Undermine' GOP Chances?

One day after suggesting that terrorist attacks during Barack Obama's watch be "set aside," Good Morning America's George Stephanopoulos grilled Michelle Bachmann, forcing her to respond for every supposed crime of the Tea Party movement.

The former Democratic operative wondered if being "more formally aligned with the Tea Party" movement could "undermine Republican chances of taking the House back in November." He then quizzed, "What did you think when you saw that billboard, comparing the President to Hitler and Lenin?" [MP3 audio here.]

In contrast, during Iraq war protests, vulgar, sometimes violent signs held up by liberals were routinely ignored by journalists. Yet, Stephanopoulos berated the Minnesota representative, "You yourself had to distance yourself last fall from members of the Tea Party that were using Holocaust imagery."

Earlier in the piece, the GMA host hit Bachmann for suggesting that extension of unemployment benefits should be paid for. He asserted, "The tax cuts passed by President Bush are set to expire at the end of the year. I know you want to extend them. Do you support paying for those, as well?"

Asking a politician to be consistent on how to pay for their programs and policy beliefs is fair. It's just too bad that reporters rarely ask Democrats how they will pay for things or what programs should be cut.

A transcript of the segment, which aired at 7:09am EDT, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: For more on this, we are going to turn to the founder of the brand new Tea Party caucus in the House, Republican Congressman Michele Bachman of Minnesota. Thanks for joining us this morning, Congresswoman. And let's get right to this unemployment debate. President Obama, you saw that offensive in the Rose Garden yesterday, very tough on your party. He took on those who, he said, have no problems on spending hundreds of billions of dollars on tax breaks for the wealthiest of Americans. But are now saying we shouldn't offer relief to the middle class Americans. How do you respond?

MICHELE BACHMANN: Well, the best way to offer a relief to the middle class is to have a pro-job growth economy. And that's not what the President has laid forth in his strategy. Republicans are not opposed to unemployment benefits, hardly. We're looking at $34 billion in unemployment. But, remember, it was Democrats that made a big deal of the concept of pay-go. They said they would not spend money unless they made cuts in other places. Neither the President, nor Speaker Pelosi has made an attempt to cut spending in order to pay for the benefits. This is a basic function of government. And, so, it's important that they find other cuts in other places. But instead, George, what we've seen, they've continued to expand the long line of benefits in other areas. We need to make first things first.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's take a look at that principle. The tax cuts passed by President Bush are set to expire at the end of the year. I know you want to extend them. Do you support paying for those, as well?

BACHMANN: I think we need to be paying for all of the spending that's going out. But when people are able to keep more of their own money, that shouldn't be considered a cost.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, that's a no?

BACHMANN: Well, I think what we need to do is have a pro-job growth formula. And, really, what that is, cut the dramatic government spending that has happened. This didn't happen in a vacuum. President obama spent over $1 trillion on stimulus. We were all promised that about four million jobs would be created. Instead, about four million jobs were lost. Then, President Obama decided to take over, through either direct ownership or control, one private industry after another. What we've learned is that the federal government takeover of private business leads to unemployment, not employment.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me be clear then-

BACHMANN: Your story's accurate. People want jobs. That's true. They don't want unemployment. But the government's policies have brought about failure in private job creation.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, to be clear, you're saying the tax cuts don't have to be paid for. But this unemployment extension does. Let me turn to the new Tea Party caucus that was formed. You said it was designed to promote fiscal responsibility, adherence to the Constitution and limited government. I'm wondering, why do you think it's necessary? Are leaders in the House not living up to that responsibility?

BACHMANN: Well, what we've been hearing from people all over the country, George, is that Congress is not listening to the American people. This is a forum for members of Congress to be able to listen to what people have been trying to tell us. And it is very simple. It's a banner that comes under the idea of don't spend more than what you're taking in. People want the federal government to live just the way they do. And they want us to adhere to principles of the Constitution, because people believe they're taxed enough already. This isn't a political party, like the Republican Party or Democrat Party. It's a set of ideas that, after all, members of Congress, swore that they would uphold under the Constitution.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You also run the risk of taking in the controversy that comes with the Tea Party, as well. We all saw the billboard in northern Iowa last week, comparing President Obama to Hitler and Lenin. The broader movement had to expel the Chairman of the Tea Party Express this weekend for making racist comments. You yourself had to distance yourself last fall from members of the Tea Party that were using Holocaust imagery. Are you worried that being more formally aligned with the Tea Party, you might undermine Republican chances of taking the House back in November?

BACHMANN: Well, what I think what we're trying to do more than anything, again, is to give a forum to the ideas that people have tried to talk to us about. Most of the people who came to Washington, to rallies, and to town hall meetings across the country, are just trying to get the attention of Congress to say, would you please stop spending money that you don't have. Because, the money is our money. That's what the people are saying. These are lawyers, doctors, small business owners, housewives, farmers. People from all walks of life, just saying, please, federal government, get your act together. And start acting in a way that will not leave us bankrupt and will create a pro-growth agenda here in America.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We only have a few seconds. What did you think when you saw that billboard, comparing the President to Hitler and Lenin?

BACHMANN: Well, you know, some things aren't helpful going forward. And to focus on the ideas of a pro-growth economy, living within our means, that's positive. That's what we hope to do in this caucus.

-Scott Whitlock is a news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.