Networks Chide: GOP Debate Was a 'Race to 'Out-Bash the President' with 'Anti-Obama Soundbites'

The morning shows on Tuesday used loaded terms to describe Monday's Republican presidential debate. According to Good Morning America's John Berman, it was a "two-hour race to out-bash the President." On the Today show, Chuck Todd sniffed that "much of the affair was an anti-Obama soundbite contest."

CBS's Early Show proved to be more mild. Co-host Erica Hill recounted, "Attacking Obama. The top Republican candidates for President face off in their first debate, but instead of going after each other, they took dead aim at the President."

Congresswoman Michele Bachmann appeared on both GMA and the Early Show. ABC's liberal anchor George Stephanopoulos was surprisingly positive. He enthused, "And Congresswoman, I'm reading the reviews this morning, 'Bachmann is a winner.' 'She's done herself the most good,' 'a steal-the-show performance.' You must be feeling pretty good this morning."

Over on Today, Todd offered what could be a back-handed compliment, commenting on how Bachmann announced a run for the presidency during the debate: "She stole a headline. And in many ways, she manipulated the press in a way that I hadn't seen a candidate do ever."

In an interview with Bachmann, CBS's Hill pushed the Representative from the left on health care: "Meantime you pledged last night in the debate to repeal healthcare reform. There are 40 million Americans without coverage. What would you offer to them as an alternative?"

A transcript of the June 14 Stephanopoulos, which aired at 7:05am, follows:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's bring in one of the big winners, Michele Bachmann. She took the moment to announce that she was officially in the race last night. Joining us now from New Hampshire. And, congresswoman, I'm reading the reviews this morning, Bachmann is a winner. She's done herself the most good, a steal the show performance. You must be feeling pretty good this morning.

MICHELE BACHMANN: Well, I'm extremely grateful last night for the debate and it was just a thrill to be able to be there and it was wonderful, I think, to be able to announce last night that we had filed our paperwork for seeking the office of the presidency of the United States. It was just terrific, the welcome that we had from the people of New Hampshire. So, I was grateful to be a part of that wonderful historic evening.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We were just talking about it. All the candidates on the stage last night took aim at President Obama and all of you would repeal president Obama's health care bill, but I want to ask you about Governor Mitt Romney, what he did in Massachusetts. He said there are big differences between what President Obama did nationally and what he did in Massachusetts. Do you accept that explanation, or do you think the Massachusetts plan is more like what Governor Pawlenty first called it, Obamneycare?

BACHMANN: Well, I think it is very clear what I said last evening, that as President of the United States, it would be one of my top priority, the full-scale repeal of Obamacare. I've been involved in this fight from the beginning, George, when President Obama was trying to put this forth, because as the Congressional Budget Office said, this is a job killer. It's going to kill 800,000 jobs. And even more unfortunate, President Obama is taking away from senior citizens $500 billion out of medicare and shifting it to younger people and Obamacare. This is a very serious issue.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, Congresswoman- Governor Romney made that point as well last night. What I'm asking is do you think what he did in Massachusetts is the model for what President Obama did for the country?

BACHMANN: Well, what I'm focusing on is the model that President Obama gave to the American people and one thing I know, George, in 2014 no matter what any state decides to do with their health care, Obamacare will trump all 50 states and so it doesn't matter if states right now are trying to mitigate against the ill effects of Obamacare, Obamacare will trump all state law.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So- So, from that-

BACHMANN: That's why it's very important- so the states actually effectively lose whatever they tried to put into place, because Obamacare will steam roll over all the states.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, no big differences between you and Governor Romney on health care?

BACHMANN: Well, I know what I will do. I will. I will repeal Obamacare because it won't matter what happened in any of the states. Obamacare will steam roll over that state law. That's the reality.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me ask you a question about another issue that game up last night, gay marriage. At first you suggested that you don't think that state laws that legalize gay marriage should be overturned and there are states, both Iowa and New Hampshire, have legalized -

BACHMANN: No, George, no, George, the question I was asked was if I was president of the United States, would I come into the states that passed that legislation and advocate either for or against a state law? And as President of the United States, that would not be my role-

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you later-

BACHMANN: -to advocate for or against it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Right. But you later you said you were for a constitutional amendment. A constitutional amendment would have the effect of overturning state law.

BACHMANN: Well, in my home state, I was the chief author of a constitutional amendment to define marriage as between a man and a woman. That's consistently been my position. And I do support that position at a federal level. But what the questioner asked me is if as president of the United States, I would come into a state and advocate either for or against a state law, and I said that I would not do that. I believe in the Tenth Amendment and I believe in federalism.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But you believe in the constitutional amendment which would overturn the state law?

BACHMANN: I believe in the constitutional amendment, but also one thing I do know on the DOMA law, that's the Defense of Marriage Act, President Obama has said as the President of the United States who swore that he would faithfully execute the laws of the United States, he said that he would pick and choose and not select- not enforce laws that are on the books. That's why we're seeing a movement toward a federal marriage amendment because President Obama won't even stand up for law that President Clinton signed and passed into law and that's the Defense of Marriage Act, which would preserve marriage between one man and one woman.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Congratulations on getting into the race. Thanks for coming in this morning.

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