Lauer Shocks Bachmann: Should We Show Compassion to Al Qaeda in Libya?

NBC's Matt Lauer, on Wednesday's Today show, startled Michele Bachmann as he tried to convince her that Obama's strategy of bombing Libya was a good way to show support for the rebels as he pressed the Republican Minnesota Congresswoman "If there are flickers, as you say, of al Qaeda among the rebels, would it not be a sign to them or showing them that the United States has compassion and we are willing to use our military might to help all people?" Bachmann was taken aback by the thrust of the question as she responded: "Compassion for al Qaeda?"

Lauer scrambled to clarify himself, insisting he meant the U.S. would be showing compassion for "civilians in Benghazi." Bachmann pointed out to Lauer: "Well of course we have compassion for people. That is not the point," as seen in the following exchange:

(video, audio and transcript after the jump)

(MP3 audio)

MATT LAUER: Going back to my question though, had you been President on that day, March 17th, what would you have done? Would you have done nothing?

MICHELE BACHMANN: I would not have gone in.

LAUER: So would you have called the other leaders of NATO countries and said, "We support you, but we're not coming?"

BACHMANN: Well I think that what, what presidents do is they stay involved and they, they try to get their, the very best intelligence that they can. Because I think, one thing the American people need to know is that we did not know, nor did the intelligence community know who the opposition is. If we are going in - because, remember, there were, there was just testimony yesterday that there are flickers of al Qaeda. We don't know how much al Qaeda is involved in the opposition forces. Why would we want to strengthen al Qaeda's hand in North Africa? That certainly wouldn't be in the interests of the United States.

LAUER: Well, well let me, let me flip that coin on, on its, on its other side. If there are flickers, as you say, of al Qaeda among the rebels, would it not be a sign to them or showing them that the United States has compassion and we are willing to use our military might to help all people?

BACHMANN: Compassion for al Qaeda?

LAUER: No, compassion for civilians in, in Benghazi.

BACHMANN: Well of course we have compassion for people. That is not the point. There is no more compassionate nation in the world than the United States of America. We are the ones that offer the humanitarian aide. But in this instance, under the Obama Doctrine, the President of the United States is using the United States military for the purpose of humanitarian aide. This is a marked difference from the way that the United States military has been used before. The Obama Doctrine is very, very different from any interventions that we have done in the past.

The following is the full interview as it was aired on the March 30 Today show:

MATT LAUER: Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann from Minnesota has been critical of U.S. involvement in Libya calling it, quote, "President Obama's war." Congresswoman Bachmann, good morning to you.

[On screen headline: "Target: Libya, What Would Bachmann Do Differently?"]

REP. MICHELE BACHMANN, MINNESOTA-R: Good morning, Matt.

LAUER: I want to take you back to March 17th. It was a Thursday, it was the day that Moammar Khaddafy told the people of Libya and Benghazi that his troops were on the way, they would show no mercy and they would find them in their closets. If you had been President of the United States on that day what would you have done specifically?

BACHMANN: Well I don't think at that point that we had seen the threat to the United States either from Khaddafy or have we seen a vital American national interest at risk. That really needs to be our first line of defense. Because unfortunately there are atrocities that do happen in different countries in the world. We just saw this weekend slaughter in Syria. So based upon that criteria humanitarian intervention, which apparently is the new Obama Doctrine-

LAUER: Right.

BACHMANN: That would be the basis for the United States to enter into one country after another. I don't think that's in the American interest-

LAUER: So-

BACHMANN: -for us to enter into one country after another.

LAUER: Going back to my question though, had you been President on that day, March 17th, what would you have done? Would you have done nothing?

BACHMANN: I would not have gone in.


LAUER: So would you have called the other leaders of NATO countries and said, "We support you, but we're not coming?"

BACHMANN: Well I think that what, what presidents do is they stay involved and they, they try to get their, the very best intelligence that they can. Because I think, one thing the American people need to know is that we did not know, nor did the intelligence community know who the opposition is. If we are going in - because, remember, there were, there was just testimony yesterday that there are flickers of al Qaeda. We don't know how much al Qaeda is involved in the opposition forces. Why would we want to strengthen al Qaeda's hand in North Africa? That certainly wouldn't be in the interests of the United States.

LAUER: Well, well let me, let me flip that coin on, on its, on its other side. If there are flickers, as you say, of al Qaeda among the rebels, would it not be a sign to them or showing them that the United States has compassion and we are willing to use our military might to help all people?

BACHMANN: Compassion for al Qaeda?

LAUER: No, compassion for civilians in, in Benghazi.

LAUER: Well of course we have compassion for people. That is not the point. There is no more compassionate nation in the world than the United States of America. We are the ones that offer the humanitarian aide. But in this instance, under the Obama Doctrine, the President of the United States is using the United States military for the purpose of humanitarian aide. This is a marked difference from the way that the United States military has been used before. The Obama Doctrine is very, very different from any interventions that we have done in the past.

LAUER: Alright, let me ask you one more question, again, placing you in the White House. If you are the President of the United States, given what you know now, what's taking place on the ground in Libya, would you make a decision to arm the rebels?

BACHMANN: I would not. Because, again, we do not know enough about who they are. And we also have not identified it an American vital international interest. That must be done before the United States can intervene in another nation's affairs.

LAUER: So as I ask you a couple of questions asking what you would do if you were president, are you running?

BACHMANN: No. I haven't made a decision to run. I'm going into the early primary states and speaking to primary voters, but I won't be making the decision, I don't think, until some time this summer.

LAUER: Republican Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Congresswoman Bachmann, thanks for your time this morning. I appreciate it.

BACHMANN: Good to see you, Matt. Thanks.

—Geoffrey Dickens is the Senior News Analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here

Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens
Geoffrey Dickens is the Deputy Research Director at the Media Research Center.