'This Week' Transcript 8-25-19: Former Rep. Joe Walsh, Cindy McCain

PHOTO: Rep.-elect Joe Walsh, R-Ill., holds a news conference on his election to Congress at the Republican National Committee headquarters on Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010.PlayBill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images
WATCH Former GOP Rep. Joe Walsh: 'I'm going to run for president'

A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, August 25, 2019 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form, may be updated and may contain minor transcription errors. For previous show transcripts, visit the "This Week" transcript archive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: THIS WEEK with George Stephanopoulos starts right now.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: Economic war.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I am the chosen one. Somebody had to do it. I'm taking on China on trade.

STEPHANOPOULOS: A dramatic escalation from President Trump on trade with China and his own Fed chair.

TRUMP: Do I want him to resign? Let me put it this way. If he did, I wouldn't stop him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The stock market dies after the president orders U.S. business to abandon China. And a week of zigs and zags on guns and taxes and Greenland leaves Washington reeling. Could Trump’s erratic approach encourage a recession and threaten his re-election? This morning, a challenge to President Trump from a fellow conservative.

JOE WALSH, FORMER ILLINOIS CONGRESSMAN: This guy is unfit. He lies every time he opens up his mouth.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Former GOP Congressman Joe Walsh preparing a White House run. He joins us live with a decision in a THIS WEEK exclusive. Plus the latest from the latest from G7 Summit with Jon Karl and our Powerhouse Roundtable with Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel. And one year after John McCain’s death --

CINDY MCCAIN, WIDOW OF JOHN MCCAIN: Our country is -- is not well right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Cindy McCain's new mission. We’ll break down the politics, smoke out the spin. The facts that matter this week. From ABC News, it's THIS WEEK. Here now, Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning and welcome to THIS WEEK. I alone can fix it. That signature line from 2016 pretty much sums up Donald Trump’s approach to the presidency and this week he pushed it about as far as it can go. With a dizzying series of impulsive moves on everything from buying Greenland to background checks on guns, tax cuts on and off the table, then back on again, a tax on China and the Fed that sent the stock market into a tailspin and threatened the strong economy that's been his best selling point for re-election. And as we come on the air this morning, a new political threat, a potential challenge from one of his own. Conservative firebrand Joe Walsh, a Tea Party Congressman, now a talk radio host and no stranger to controversy and incendiary rhetoric.

Once a staunch defender of President Trump, he appeared on CNN this week and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WALSH: If Republicans, John, stay silent in the face of this guy, I don't think the country will ever forgive the Republican party. But forget about the Republican party. If this guy gets four more years, we're in real, real trouble.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: And Joe Walsh joins us now. Good morning.

WALSH: Hey, George. Good to be with you.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Have you reached a decision?

WALSH: Yes. And it's great to be with you. I'm going to run for president and I’m to be on your show announcing my candidacy. George, no surprise, we’ve got a guy in the White House who's unfit. Completely unfit to be president. And it stuns me that nobody stepped up, nobody in the Republican party stepped up. Because I’ll tell you what, George, everybody believes -- in the Republican party, everybody believes that he's unfit. He lies every time he opens his mouth --

STEPHANOPOULOS: You say that, you say everybody believes he's unfit but one of the things the White House points to and the president points to often is just about every poll shows more than 80 support for the president among Republicans.

WALSH: They don't have an alternative. I’ll tell you what, George -- and look, I’m running because he's unfit. Somebody needs to step up and there needs to be an alternative. The country is sick of this guy's tantrum. He’s -- he's a child. Again, the litany -- he lies every time he opens his mouth. Look at what's happened this week. He is -- the president of the United States is tweeting us into a recession. I can tell you, George, that most of my former colleagues up on the Hill, they agree privately with everything I’m saying.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But then how do you explain why they --

WALSH: Because they're afraid.

STEPHANOPOULOS: -- stand behind him so strongly then?

WALSH: Because they're scared to death. They’re -- look, George, this isn't easy to do. I just sat down with you and said I’m going run for president, I'm going the challenge this guy. I'm opening up my life to tweets and attacks. Everything I said and tweeted now, Trump’s going to go after and his bullies are going to after.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You ready for it?

WALSH: Yes, I’m ready for it. Republicans are scared to death of that. Here’s what I think most of my former colleagues believe -- they think Trump’s going to lose in November and they want him to lose in November. And then they think they're done with him and everything can go back to normal.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Then they lost -- then they lose the courts, they lost the Supreme Court, they lost the next vacancy, they lose taxes. That’s the argument the president has been making.

WALSH: They want Trump gone. They're just afraid to say that he's unfit. Look at this week. If you privately polled every member -- Republican member of Congress, the president of the United States ordered private companies to not do business with China. The president of the United States said our Fed chair is as big of an enemy as China. Most Republican voters are tired of the drama. They're tired of his BS. George, I believe this. Look, the -- this --

STEPHANOPOULOS: You're on talk radio every day. You’re on in the afternoon in Chicago. When you speak like this, what do you hear from your listeners? Support, correct?

WALSH: I hear support for the president. It's difficult to be a critic of the presidents in conservative talk radio. But I hear real ambivalence as well. And I hear often, George, what you just said at the beginning, I don't like him and I wish he wouldn't tweet and I wish he would keep his mouth quiet, but we're getting some good things done. But really what are we getting done?

And when I point to those people who listen to me on conservative talk radio we haven't built one foot of a wall, that this president who said I'm going to eliminate the debt in eight years has increased the debt at a faster clip than Obama. But, George, this is not about issues. I would not be even thinking about primarying this president if I was upset with his position on the debt or the deficit.

STEPHANOPOULOS: There actually is another challenger to President Trump, as you know from inside the party, William Weld. And he had a tweet this week where he said this, he said "Donald Trump is a clear and present danger to our country, to the globe, and to himself." And this is what got everybody's attention, "#americadeservesbetter. #25thamendment."

You talk about the president being unfit. Should the 25th amendment been invoked?

WALSH: It should be looked at.

George, we've never had a situation like this. You can't believe a word he says. And again, I don't care your politics, that should concern you. He's nuts. He's erratic. He's cruel. He stokes bigotry. He's incompetent. He doesn't know what he's doing.

George, he's a narcissist. Everything he cares about, the only thing he cares about, is Trump. He doesn't give a damn about America. He doesn't care about the border.

You and I talked before I came on air, he lost me for certain at Helsinski.

STEPHANOPOULOS: The press conference with Putin.

WALSH: When the president of the United States stood in front of the world and said, I stand with that guy and not my own people, that's disloyal, that's un-American. His supporters, I think, are tired of this. Our campaign slogan, George, is "be brave." Be brave. This is not a difficult thing for me to do. I'm opening up my life. But the bet that my campaign is making, and I'm going to pound Trump every single day. He's a bully and he's a coward and somebody has to call him out. And I cannot believe nobody in our party is calling him out. But the bet, George, of my campaign is, that there are a lot of Republicans who feel like I do. They're afraid to come forward.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You said you want to make the case against the president. The question is, are you the best messenger? You said you wanted to make a moral case against the president. Here's what The Washington Examiner, conservative newspaper said in response to your potential candidacy this week. "There is the matter of his history of being Trumpier than Trump. He has made a living on peddling the same sort of demagoguery, conspiracy-mongering, and right-wing bomb-throwing for which he now condemns the president."

Your response?

WALSH: I helped create Trump. And George, that's not an easy thing to say.

Look, we were divided before Trump. I went to Washington eight years ago, part of the Tea Party class, wanted to shake Washington up.

I got involved in the battles. And there were plenty of time where I went beyond the policy and the idea differences, and I got personal, and I got hateful. I said some ugly things about President Obama that I regret. And it's difficult, but I think -- I think that helped create Trump. And I feel responsible for that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: You did provide aid and comfort for the kind of things he was saying. You mentioned Obama. You called President Obama a Muslim, an enemy, a traitor. And you often spoke out on racial themes.

I want to show a couple of tweets that you had right there. Number one, "we lowered the bar for Obama. He was held to a lower standard because he was black," that was just in 2017.

A then a few months after that, not just President Obama, "Senator Kamala Harris said something really dumb. Meh. If you're black and a woman, you can say dumb things. Lowered bar." That's kind of textbook racism and sexism.

WALSH: Well, again, the beauty of what President Trump has done is, George, he's made me reflect on some of things I have said in the past.

I had strong policy disagreements with Barack Obama and too often I let those policy disagreements get personal.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Did you really believe he's a Muslim?

WALSH: God no. And I have apologized for that.

And that's not an easy thing to do, not at all.

But think about the contrast, George. Again, I'm bearing my soul with you right now on national TV. We have a guy in the White House who's never apologized for anything he's done or said. I think it's a weakness not to apologize. I have -- I helped -- I helped create Trump. There's no doubt about that, the personal, ugly politics. I regret that. And I'm sorry for that.

And now we have got a guy in the White House, George, that's all he does.

Understand, I walk around with this piece of paper every day, George. It's got all of Trump's lies on one side, mostly updated, and then everything that he does that's wrong.

I feel responsible for this. But I'm a conservative. And I think there's a decent chance to present to Republican voters a conservative without all the baggage.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the conservative case? Set aside the personal differences you have with President Trump.

WALSH: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: What's the conservative case for why President Trump should be replaced?

WALSH: He's incompetent. He has no freaking clue what he's doing.

He ran -- he said he was going to build a wall, George. We haven't built a foot of the wall. He said Mexico was going to pay for it. We haven't. He told us trade wars are easy.

Tell that to American farmers right now. Tell that to American consumers. President Trump said: I will eliminate the debt in eight years. He's increased it faster than Barack Obama did.

STEPHANOPOULOS: With the help of a Republican Senate and a Republican House.

WALSH: Exactly. Republicans and Democrats, neither one give a damn about the debt and the deficits. But this is on Trump. He said: I will eliminate the debt.

He hasn't governed as a conservative. He's not competent. He doesn't know what he's doing.

But, George, the bigger case is this. He's not capable of being decent. He's cruel. He's bigoted. And he's a narcissist. Everything is about him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: See, when you -- when you talk to your listeners on radio, and you talk in these personal terms about President Trump, do they excuse it? Do they argue with you? Do they say it doesn't matter?

WALSH: They say: But, Joe, the Democrats are socialists. I don't like him. I don't like what he says. I don't like what he does. But the Democrats are socialists.

And I just -- I don't think that's good enough. I -- I'm not doing this to save the Republican Party. I'm doing this, George, because I think the country can survive Trump's four-year tantrum.

But you give this guy another four years in the White House -- right now, he is, George, literally tweeting us into a recession. He will tweet us into war.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But, as you know, presidents who face a serious primary challenge, Jimmy Carter, Ted Kennedy, George H.W. Bush from Pat Buchanan, hurt him -- hurt him badly in New Hampshire -- it tends to weaken them. They tend to lose.

Are you prepared to take responsibility, if you do well in this, for helping elected a Democrat that some of your viewers and listeners will say, oh, socialist?

WALSH: It doesn't matter. Absolutely, I'm going to do whatever I can.

I don't want him to win. The country cannot afford to have him win. If I'm not successful, I'm not voting for him.

I would rather get back to the place, George, where I'm sitting down next to a Democrat member of Congress and we're arguing about capitalism and socialism, we're arguing about ideas.

But, instead, we're talking about a child in the White House who tweets ugly insults at average Americans every day. We're tired of that. I want to get away from that. I want to get back to the policy.

STEPHANOPOULOS: William -- William Weld has been out there for months not making much -- much of an impact.

How can you run a real campaign? Where's the money going to come from? Where are you going to focus?

WALSH: We're going to focus on Iowa and New Hampshire.

We're going to be on TV as much as we can. Again, be brave is our campaign slogan. I believe there are people out there dying to come out, stick their necks out, and say publicly what they believe privately, that this guy is unfit, he's indecent, he's setting a horrible example for millions and millions of American children every day.

I think this thing, George, will catch on like wildfire.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And if you're wrong?

WALSH: If I'm wrong, it was the right fight, because somebody had to do this.

Again, George, we have somebody in the White House who's not fit to be president. Everybody knows that.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Joe Walsh, thanks for your time this morning.

WALSH: Thanks, George.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Up next, Jon is Karl is live at the G7 summit, and FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver on the political impact of Trump's trade war.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you concerned about how the market is reacting to the tariffs?

TRUMP: No. The market’s doing great. And you people want a recession because you think maybe that's the way to get Trump out. Maybe that's the way we get him out. But I don't even think that would work because, look, if there’s anything, it’s -- you know, we’ve got to go into trade negotiations to get it right. We have horrible trade deals and I’m straightening them out. The biggest one by far is China.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: So will Trump's trade war hurt him politically, maybe cause a recession? We’re going to get into that with Nate Silver in just a minute but right now I want to go live to Biarritz where the president is this morning for the G7 Summit. Our Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl. The president making a lot of news this morning, Jon. Some news here as well. We just heard Joe Walsh saying he's going challenge the president. Any reaction yet from the White House?

JONATHAN KARL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESOPNDENT, ABC NEWS: Well, I asked the campaign about this. We got a word back from the communications director for the Trump re-election campaign. George, simply a one-word answer -- whatever -- when we asked about Walsh jumping into this race. Look, the president’s hold on the Republican party is as strong as it’s ever been. In fact, he is by far the most popular figure, Republican figure among Republicans in the country. There's really no indication that he has any vulnerability whatsoever to a primary challenge. Which is why you’ve seen some of the bigger names who could have possibly jumped in, people like Mitt Romney or John Kasich opt not to jump in.

Although, Kasich says he is not ruling anything out.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And we’ll see if the president sticks to that one word response when he gets on Twitter perhaps later on today. In the meantime, as I said, he has been making a lot of news this morning, including something that has seemed to surprise a lot of people, when he was asked if he had any second thoughts about the trade war with China. Here's what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any second thoughts on escalating the trade war with China?

TRUMP: Yes. Sure. Why not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Second thoughts?

TRUMP: Might as well. Might as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have second thoughts about escalating a war (ph) with China?

TRUMP: I have second thoughts about everything.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Now actually the president rarely admits second thoughts about anything, so that’s why this surprised so many people. But already, the White House backtracking?

KARL: Yes, this is something else. First of all, George, it’s important to say even before he got to that, it seemed like he was backing down. He talked about how he hopes to get a deal with the Chinese, that he believes the Chinese want to do that even more than he does. He said he wasn’t going to go forward with this idea of declaring a national emergency. So it seemed like he was trying to deescalate. But after these comments about second thoughts, the press secretary and communications director for the White House, Stephanie Grisham put out a statement and I want to read it to you, George.

It said, 'the president was asked if he had any second thought on escalating the trade war with China. His answer has been greatly misinterpreted. President Trump responded in the affirmative because he regrets not raising the tariffs higher.' So while it looks like the president was trying to cool things down with the Chinese, we now have a statement coming out effectively throwing more gasoline on the fire.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So, a week of zigs and zags has one more zig as well.

In the meantime, this G7 -- last year, you know, it was a fractious, fractious meeting. The president got into several fights, including with the Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau. It seems to -- that that has created some lowered expectations for that G7 summit this time around.

KARL: Well, it sure has.

And even before it got started out, you had some back and forth, the president right before he left the White House on his way here, invoked the possibility of raising tariffs on French wines. The top official for the European Union was very critical of the president on a variety of issues while he was flying over here.

The president's largely gotten a very warm reception, it's been very cordial, very diplomatic. But George, what's interesting is, usually these meetings, as you well know end with some form of a joint statement. This time, even before this meeting got started, President Macron of France who is the host of the summit, said that there will be no joint statement. He said it would be pointless given the obvious disagreements with the president of the United States on a range of issues, including climate change, Iran and obviously trade.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Jon Karl from the G7 summit, thanks Jon.

So could the fallout from Trump's China trade war stall the economy and sink his best shot at a second term? We asked FiveThirtyEight's Nate Silver do you buy that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NATE SILVER, FOUNDER, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: So trade policy doesn't make for the most dramatic headlines. But I'd argue that Trump's tariffs on China are a threat to his re-election. In fact, I think they're one of the bigger risks he's taken politically since taking office.

That's because the economy has really been the best thing that Trump has going for him. His average approval rating on the economy is about 52 percent compared to just 42 percent job approval overall.

But consider the potential economic impact of his trade policy. Bloomberg economics estimates the trade war with China, could reduce U.S. GDP growth by about 0.6 percentage points going forward. That might not sound like much, but since the last recession, GDP has grown by only about 2.2 percent per year. So, 0.6 points removes a lot of the slack we have from negative growth, meaning a recession. And in fact, economists are quite concerned about a possibility of a recession.

40 percent of economists surveyed now expect a recession in the U.S. by the end of 2020.

As you can imagine, recessions are really risky for incumbent presidents. You have to go back to 1980 to Jimmy Carter for the last incumbent president to face a recession at some point during his re-election year. He lost in a landslide to Ronald Reagan.

There was also 1992 when George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton. The economy wasn't technically in recession then but voters thought it was. Economists said not declare the 1990 to be over yet.

Of course, what does precede economic news, like other types of news, through a partisan filter. Views on the economic are heavily tied to which party voters prefer.

But a recession would have tangible impacts that voters could see firsthand -- family members getting laid off, stores and factories closing. So politicians can only go so far by calling a recession fake news.

And just one more thing, the tariffs on China aren't really even good politics on their own terms. In fact, free trade is more popular than it ever has been. In 2015, 51 percent of voters thought that free trade was a good idea. But that's up to 64 percent in the latest polling.

So, yeah, I do buy that Trump's trade war is bad politics for him, but there's one pretty big silver lining for the president, economists are really bad at predicting recessions. Historically they've shown almost no ability to forecast recessions more than about six to nine months in advance, so any assumptions about what the economy is going to look in November 2020 when voters are back at the polls are hazy at best.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Wise caution there from Nate Silver. Thanks for that.

The roundtable is up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is ready to go.

And all week long, you can get the latest on politics with breaking news alerts on the ABC News app.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Well Greenland, I don’t know, it got released somehow. We’d be interested, but we’ll talk to them a little bit. It’s not number one on the burner, I can tell you that. I thought that the prime minister’s statement that it was absurd, that was -- it was an absurd idea was nasty. I’m also very, very concerned with the second amendment. We have very strong background checks right now. I have an appetite for background checks. We’re going to be doing background checks. Yes, we’re looking at various tax reductions. I’m not looking at a tax cut now. We don’t need it. We have a strong economy. One thing I have to do is economically take on China, because China has been ripping us off for many years. Somebody had to do it. I am the chosen one. You know exactly what I meant. It was sarcasm, it was joking, we were all smiling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: What a week at the White House. Just a capsule look at that right there and we’re going to talk about it now on our roundtable. Our team of political analysts, Chris -- Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey, ally of President Trump. Rahm Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago, White House chief of staff for President Obama. The CEO of Democracy for America, Yvette Simpson. Our Chief Political Analyst Matthew Dowd and Republican Strategist Alice Stewart. So Rahm, let's just begin. We heard what Joe Walsh had to say about the week. What was your read on this week with President Trump. Were we seeing something different or just a concentrated version of what we’ve seen before?

RAHM EMANUEL, FORMER MAYOR OF CHICAGO: Well two things. One is that -- what we all have said, but he is firm in his opinions, it's his principles that he's flexible on. And that’s how -- the only way to explain that. The other thing is if you go two weeks ago to this THIS WEEK, I put a pin on the FOX poll. It totally changed him. Now we all --

STEPHANOPOULOS: The one that showed Biden, Sanders --

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: Yes. Because it showed two things. One is the president is emperor without clothes. How vulnerable he is. The second thing is, that office creates pressure on everybody. And I’ve seen two different presidents react on that pressure. This pressure has finally cracked him.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Is he feeling the pressure, Chris?

CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: I don't sense it. You know, I spoke to him this week and -- I think what happens is, we all react and sometimes when it's concentrated like it was this week -- and I agree that it was -- we all react and think that we're seeing something different but we're not. This is him. This is who he is. I’ve known him for 18 years, this is who he always has been. And I -- I -- I understand that the -- the office does put an enormous amount of pressure on you, and I think you’re right about that.

But this guy is going to be who he is and he's going to be that way for as long as he's in the White House. So I see this week and I can't imagine how many times -- can’t count since I’ve been here how many times we’ve had a conversation where we’ve said, like ho ho ho, this week, unbelievable. You kidding, this is a turning point, this is a -- an inflection point. I just don’t believe it is. I think this is who he is and I think the American people are used to it.

YVETTE SIMPSON, CEO, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA: This week takes the cake. It was full of ups and downs and lots of crazy. And it's scary for the American people to see that in concentrated fashion and know that this is the guy who’s in charge. Right? And that’s what we have to remember. This guy is the one that makes the decisions, this is the guy who decides whether we go to war or not, whether we have a trade war or not, whether we go forward with policy or not. And it's really important for people to take a beat in this moment and really see this is the leader of the free world, unadulterated, unsupervised and this is the guy that we put in charge. It is a very scary thing.

MATTHEW DOWD, CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST, ABC NEWS: Yes, I agree with Chris, is that this is just a more magnified version of the president that we’ve seen not just for the two and a half years he’s been in office but basically for the four years that he’s been running in the course of this. The president ended the campaign in 2016 the most disliked candidate to ever win the presidency. The president starts the office with the highest disapproval rating of anybody in office. He’s now at the current point where he's the most historically disapproved president that we’ve ever had. The problem for the president is, is the president I think has understood in the last 10 days that if this race is a choice, he's got a chance to win.

But if the economy does anything at all -- if doesn’t need to be in a recession. If it turns without the strength of growth that it’s had over the course of three years and turns at all, it’s not going to be a choice. It won't matter who the Democrats nominate. If the economy turns, it will be a complete referendum on him and that scares the president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yet that doesn’t seem to stop him from escalating the trade war.

ALICE STEWART, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: No. It doesn’t. And look, this is no doubt chaos but it is his chaos and that is how he thrives and that is how he operates. We’ve gone this week from -- from Greenland to nasty leaders to Scaramucci, to Jesus Trump Superstar, that is how he has always led. But the reality is, and the governor is true, the American people are looking at how does this affect me personally? How is the economy? How is my paycheck? They don't watch Twitter all day long. They're not watching news 24/7. They're looking at how the news affects them personally.

If the trade deal with China goes south, which it potentially could, then that will be a big difference. But he is used to chaos, that's how he operates. And the American people don't look at the day-to-day, tweet to tweet moments of this administration. And they look at how it affects them.

EMANUEL: But this is -- here's the case -- he has a political strategy for three years built on digging into the red bucket and he's now realized that it's also affecting the purple bucket and the blue bucket is where it is. And he has come to terms, and I've seen it, and I really believe that Fox poll snapped something in him. He realizes the strategy he's had for three years is turning the terrain of this

election against him. And that is why he's consistently is dropping.

But he keeps trying to dig -- how do you explain background checks, background checks, two different positions less than 24 hours? How do you explain the position as it relates to both a recession preparing, the economy is the strongest. The fact is, it's the pressure of not just the office, the pressure of the campaign where he realizes where he's standing and the strategy doesn't hold up anymore.

CHRISTIE: Rahm, you know this because you worked in two White Houses. Part of what is happening here is that there's division inside the White House. OK. And so there's people out there, like on the payroll tax cut, that wasn't his idea, and I know it wasn't his idea. And that was leaked by somebody in the White House who wanted that.

Well, listen, and that happens in every White House. In every White House you get people are doing that.

So what the president does, is then he reacts to that and jerks back the other way. Instead of ignoring what a staffer might leak and saying, I am who, the economy is great, forget it. He plays it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: But how about -- just a couple of weeks ago, you were here and we were talking about background checks. You thought at the time that he meant it on background checks. I've got to tell you, I don't know what to think by the end of this week on where he is.

CHRISTIE: I think he still does mean it. My view is I think he still does mean it about background checks. I think what he did not anticipate, and you can fault him for this, but I don't think he anticipated that the people in congress would give him as hard a time about background checks as they are. And I think he's now maneuver his way to a place where he can get something done.

I believe, from speaking to him, that he believes that expanding background checks makes sense. He has now got to figure out -- and this is what happens a little when you have someone who's still not used to the legislative negotiation process. When you don't have any experience at it, you go out and say something and he expects people are going to follow him when they...

EMMANUEL: The guy who wrote the Art of the Deal, isn't used to negotiations?

CHRISTIE: Those are very different negotiations, as you know, Rahm.

SIMPSON: This is far from the stable genius, the drain the swamp, the I am control president that he ran on. He sounds like someone that when he has a conversation with the NRA, all of a sudden now I'm not so sure. Oh, I'm for background checks, now I'm not. Wait a minute, the economy is strong, well, maybe it's not. Maybe we're about to be recession. Oh, trade war with China, just kidding, we might tax French wine. Oh, let's go buy Greenland. This sounds crazy.

And so I think if he's trying to run the same campaign that he was running before where he shows himself not a political person, not influenced by politics, someone who is strong and capable, this is completely the opposite.

STEWART: With regard, you have to listen to him, he telegraphs a lot of what he's going to do in the things he says. And we have gone from background checks to now you hear him mention more about mental health and looking at...

STEPHANOPOULOS: After talking to the NRA.

STEWART: Exactly.

And here's the thing, he realizes something has to be done, but he also realizes a big portion of his base, strong second amendment supporters. NRA members, like myself, I expect something to be done with regard to gun violence. And he is at the more he mentions mental health, I see us moving in the direction of red flag...

SIMPSON: Republicans agree that reasonable background checks are a good thing?

DOWD: This is the problem that the president is in, it's not a -- it's not can he negotiate with the legislature, it's I don't think he has a concept of what it means to be a leader, fundamentally what it means to be a leader, because if he came out, which everyone thought he was going to do, strong on background checks, the Republicans in congress, by and large, would all follow in line, because -- as Joe Walsh said earlier, they are afraid of him. Every time they walk out of step they are.

But coming out for background checks, for red flag laws, for a whole series of things, which the vast majority of the country supports, would actually put him in a better position.

I think the Democrats, if they have a referendum to run, and the referendum to run is on guns, the Republicans almost in every single close race will lose.

EMANUEL: George, this is -- two things, it's political and economic. One, he's seeing the political strategy is not going to pay the dividends he thought, because he is just playing a red strategy, and he has got to have a purple strategy. And he's never had it, and now it's coming to bare home.

Second is, this is the early days of what's going to be known as the Trump slump. And he knows the economic consequences of what's happening, which is why he's moving back and forth on the economic tactics.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes.

On that, it feels like that, Chris, that what you're having here is that his longstanding views about China are running straight into his needs on the economy. He needs a healthy economy going into the next election.

But he believes what he's saying most of the time about tariffs on China and the trade war on China.

CHRISTIE: Listen, I think he does absolutely believe what he's saying about China. And it's been one of the things, one of the only things that's really been consistent about his political philosophy going back 30 years, has been this issue of trade.

But when I listen to this analysis, this is October analysis, like October of the year before analysis. This is going to mean nothing, nothing, until the Democrats nominate someone, because it could become a referendum. A lot of times with incumbents, it does become a referendum, Matt.

But it's just as often, if not more often, a binary choice. And all -- right now, we have got nothing to look at.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Even in a recession?

CHRISTIE: Yes.

DOWD: It's never a binary...

(CROSSTALK)

DOWD: ... in a slumping economy, never.

CHRISTIE: Hold on. But wait a second. I didn't say it was.

A recession will become a whole different problem for the president, as it was for Bush 41, who was wildly popular, right?

DOWD: For any president.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Any president.

CHRISTIE: Any president, it becomes a problem. That's a whole different discussion to have, which we won't know until next summer, right?

But, for right now, until it's a binary choice, all the analysis, while it's -- of course, Rahm is brilliant, but the bottom line is, it doesn't...

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

EMANUEL: Thank you for that.

CHRISTIE: But it will be completely irrelevant brilliance, irrelevant brilliance...

EMANUEL: That was heartfelt.

(CROSSTALK)

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: ... until it gets to next year, and they nominate someone.

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Alice, the question I want to ask you, though, is, will Joe Walsh be relevant or not?

STEWART: I don't think he will. Granted, he gave an impassioned plea out here this morning. And I applaud him for the courage and conviction to get in the race.

But I spoke with a senior campaign reelection campaign official after the announcement was made. And his response: Who? Who is that? He has not -- nowhere near the name I.D. that Trump does. Trump has virtually 90 percent of the Republican Party locked up.

You need fund-raising, you need infrastructure, you need data, you need the support of the Republican Party. And Trump has that, and not only that, not -- not only of the people across the country. The Republican Party is behind him.

And that means state GOP chairmen, state parties. And these elections in presidential races are run state by state. And when you have the state directors supporting the president 100 percent, unfortunately, someone like Joe Walsh isn't going to get any traction.

DOWD: I think that Joe Walsh, the odds of him being able to beat Donald Trump in the Republican primary, with Donald Trump...

STEPHANOPOULOS: But can he wound him, is the question.

DOWD: So, I think the question is -- so, should somebody make a principled argument, saying, this is what conservative -- conservatism means, this is what a Republican Party that I understand to mean, and contrast it with Donald Trump, is important?

Yes. I have been the subject and the target of things Joe Walsh has said over the course of the last two or three years. I think the most authentic thing he did today was basically taking some responsibility for the creation of Donald Trump and the devolution of rhetoric in this country and how uncivil it's become.

Joe Walsh took responsibility for that. I do think Joe Walsh's argument, just like William Weld's argument, gives an opening for people that are soft Republicans or Republican-leaning independents to nod their head and say, see, that's why I don't want to vote for this guy, because here's a Republican making the argument.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: Yes, but who are they going to vote for? But who are they going to vote for?

(CROSSTALK)

DOWD: But it's the general election.

CHRISTIE: That's what I'm talking about. In a general election, who are they going to vote for? If the Democrats continue to ignore your advice, and listen to your advice...

(LAUGHTER)

CHRISTIE: ... and go all the way to the left, those soft Republicans are going to go, yes, but no thanks.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMPSON: Oh, no, no, no. No, no, no, Governor, you need to be in your own camp today. You need to stay away from us. You have got enough problems.

CHRISTIE: That's OK. We're fine.

EMANUEL: We're good. We're good.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: That, I don't definitely believe.

SIMPSON: How do you like them apples?

(LAUGHTER)

SIMPSON: It's only August. And so this is a crack in the dam. Who knows that Joe Walsh is the last one? There may be others, now that he has stepped out, on the Republican side that might step up too.

(CROSSTALK)

CHRISTIE: There's no money for there to be others.

SIMPSON: Who needs money? You have got TV. You have got...

(CROSSTALK)

EMANUEL: You have got two events that happened that's really relevant to this. There is an awake -- what Joe Walsh represents is an awakening of some element of true conservative, because you have a president who's now talking about state control of the economy. Then, back up, Business Roundtable, they make a statement this week about their principles that are not about just shareholder, but are about something bigger, about climate change, about the responsibility we have.

And there is a seismic shift going on in coalition politics. You have a president -- Republican president who's talking about state control of the economy and the private sector. And you have businesses talking about their responsibility to workers.

Something is big missing -- something is big changing in politics right now.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the questions is going to be, can the Democrats exploit that or not?

And this week, we saw the first...

EMANUEL: We can answer that quickly.

(LAUGHTER)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, right.

We saw the first ad from Joe Biden in Iowa.

Let's take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NARRATOR: We know in our bones this election is different. The stakes are higher, the threat more serious. We have to beat Donald Trump. And all the polls agree Joe Biden is the strongest Democrat to do the job.

JILL BIDEN: And maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, OK, I sort of personally like so and so better, but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat Trump.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: I don't think we’ve ever seen, Matthew Dowd, this early in a campaign, such a bald electability argument. Now it is true, that if you look back over the course of this summer, basically nothing’s changed since the debates in the polls on the Democratic side. But is this a wise strategy for the Biden team?

DOWD: To me electability is -- is -- if you start talking about it, you're in a weak position.

SIMPSON: That’s right.

DOWD: That’s my view. Electability should demonstrate itself. I think the problem Joe Biden has -- I think he's the leading candidate. Odds are, today, if all -- you pick from all the candidates, he's likely the Democratic candidate, but he’s only got a third of the vote right now at most. His best hope is that this candidate field stays multi-candidate field for a lengthy period of time. I think that Joe Biden has to demonstrate that he has a voice for somebody, as I’ve said before, that started running for office and serving office before we had eight-track -- eight-track came and went, is that he has to demonstrate he has a voice for new generation of leadership and that’s a very tough thing for him.

SIMPSON: He’s really struggling with that. I mean, I think this has been a tough week and tough couple weeks for Joe Biden. He is having a lot of trouble staying on message, he’s saying a lot of things off, you know, and people are wondering if he has the stamina --

STEPHANOPOULOS: They would argue back it hasn’t moved his poll numbers at all.

SIMPSON: Well, but we know what polling is and we know it's early. Right? And so we’ve been talking about the fact that the more he gets out there -- he still isn’t seeing the big grassroots support, the big rallies, the big events. I think the fact that you see his wife already going to the electability argument means they know that he’s weak and I think that’s a challenge for him.

STEWART: And the tweak of his campaign message I think was important, because just going around saying I’m the one that can take on Trump wasn’t good enough. You have to give someone --

SIMPSON: Yes.

STEWART: -- voters something to vote for, not who to vote against. And he’s got a -- really a three-pronged -- moving forward, got to show that he is the one to beat Donald Trump, he has to show that he has the strong message that resonates with Democrats and he has to be able to contrast himself with his Democratic challengers. And that means pointing out these candidates, Sanders and Warren, are too far left, I am more moderate, I am someone that certainly represents the Democratic views that is also viable and strong in the general election. But he has to find that -- that -- that section in the middle that isn’t too far left but is also -- designates --

(CROSSTALK)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Where most Democrats are right now.

EMANUEL: Look, electability normally, I would say, is a thin reed. But given how Democrats feel, given -- by 54-41, they want somebody that can win, I’m not so sure it’s normally -- given this year -- a -- the thin reed it is. But the bigger challenge is what Matt hit on. Joe Biden, who's been in office, has to talk about his -- he has to fill in the picture of where he wants to take America going forward. And the problem is, he keeps going back to explain the past and not be able to define what the future looks like. And if he can get himself to future argument, he’s going to be stronger. The problem is he keeps getting literally tripped up by trying to explain what happened 30, 20, 40 years ago.

And that's his challenge and he has to be about tomorrow, not about yesterday.

CHRISTIE: Here’s the problem for Democrats. The problem isn’t Joe Biden’s lack of message, it's the message the other candidates have. It’s just not a message that’s going to sell broadly to the American public. It’s just not. And so if you look at the -- look at Bernie Sanders this week. You talk about somebody who had a tough week. I mean, his green new deal is even more expensive than the current green new deal that’s on the table. The American people are going to see this and just say I’m sorry, I can’t go that far. We don’t feel that threatened to go that far --

SIMPSON: No, in a -- in a -- in a week where the Amazon is on fire --

CHRISTIE: -- so Joe Biden’s problem -- Joe Biden -- Joe Biden’s problem is -- what Joe Biden is I think smartly doing right now is not extending himself to respond to all that kind of stuff, because if he does, he can only move left. He’s got to stay where he is, play his game and let the other burn out.

SIMPSON: But he doesn’t have answers. And in a week where the Amazon is on fire and people are really worried about climate, where people are still worried about healthcare, where people are still worried about education, immigration at a height right now, if he’s not prepared to bring forward answers, people will look to other alternatives. And most Americans, as I have said many times on this program, agree with the positioning of Bernie Sanders and Warren on healthcare and on climate --

STEPHANOPOULOS: You make a good point about the Amazon but Rahm, let me take this question to you. The -- the -- Bernie Sanders plan I think is $16 trillion.

EMANUEL: Yes.

STEPHANOPOULOS: We -- we may be heading into a recession. If you look at the programs, whether Warren or Sanders, whoever has on -- on college debt, on housing, on -- on Medicare for All, you’re talking about tax increases, potentially in the face of a looming recession. Is that something Democrats can run on?

EMANUEL: Well I mean, the big challenge for Bernie Sanders is you literally -- I mean, $16 trillion. I mean, you can see the cash register add. It’s not hard. And there’s like an hour and a half left in the debate here. I mean, that is a big hit. And first and second of all, I would just say that the point is you can have a responsible climate change plan. You can have a responsible healthcare plan that deals with cost and -- and coverage and all those issues. I do think the challenge here by Bernie Sanders, and some of the issues in an economic downturn is do you have a plan for getting the economy working for all people.

SIMPSON: You could have had that 10 years ago. I mean, when you think about where we are now with the environment, people need extreme aggressive action on it. When you think about where people are on health care and the fact that people are literally dying for lack of insulin, we're in an extreme situation and people are looking for bold ideas.

DOWD: The problem that Republicans are going to have, that Donald Trump is going to have -- first of all, he's more unpopular than any of the worst policies the Democrats are offering. He's more unpopular than any of the ones they say are bad, Donald Trump is more unpopular.

The Republicans can't make a debt argument, can't make a run of the debt. I remember the debt has been doubled in the course of the last four years.

I think the problem the Republicans have in this is Donald Trump is a huge weight. Now, the Democrats it's going to be a binary choice, unless the economy turns.

STEPHANOPOULOS: That is going to have to be the last word for today. Thank you all very much.

Up next, a new mission for Cindy McCain. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN MCCAIN, (R) SENATOR ARIZONA: I've had the good fortune to spend 60 years in service to this wondrous land. It's not been perfect service to be sure. And there will be probably times that the country might have benefited a little less of my help. But I tried to deserve the privileges the best I can. And I have repaid a thousand times over.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator John McCain died one year ago today after a lifetime of service. And this week Jon Karl traveled to Arizona to speak with McCain's widow, Cindy McCain, who has launched a new initiative in the senator's memory.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KARL: It's hard to imagine that it's been a year. How are you doing?

CINDY MCCAIN, BOARD CHAIR, MCCAIN INSTITUTE: I'm doing OK. You know this is a process. And my biggest job this past year has been making sure my family was OK.

KARL: How often do you think of him?

MCCAIN: All the time. I think of him every day every second of every day almost. And hope he's approving what I'm doing.

KARL: So now you have this new initiative. Tell me about it.

MCCAIN: It's called -- I've named it Acts of Civility. And what I'm asking people to do is to go out and perform an act of civility. Perhaps you go and talk to a family member that you've disagreed with and try to make peace with that family member, agree to disagree with that family member, and then post it on social media.

KARL: What do you think is driving the incivility that we see now?

MCCAIN: I think social media for the obvious for the obvious reasons. The contention on both sides of the aisle, the lack of civility -- I mean, somehow we've been able -- we've come down a lane now where it's OK to insult someone on the Senate floor, or insult someone on the House floor, or insult someone anonymously online and then walk away from it.

KARL: What would Senator McCain be talking to me about right now? What would be driving him right now.

MCCAIN: Certainly the shootings that have been going on, certainly the incivility that's happening. John was always the guy fighting for the little guy. And I think John would be very discouraged about the border situation right now. He would also be the voice of reason in all of this, which is what we're sorely lacking right now is his voice of reason and his understanding of the purpose and the the the ability to be able to work across the aisle on these issues, that's how we worked for so many years. And now to just close ranks and not talk to anybody doesn't make any sense. It not only doesn't make any sense, it doesn't do any good for the country.

KARL: Who's carrying that torch now?

MCCAIN: I don't see anyone carrying the voice, the voice of reason mantle right now. I'm hoping someone will bubble up.

KARL: Are you surprised that the way the Republican Party has basically marched lockstep with President Trump?

MCCAIN: I'm surprised at a lot of things. I am -- this party is not the party of Abraham Lincoln, that I have seen anyway, nor the party of Ronald Reagan.

We 're the ones that are -- should be nonpartisan, and we're the ones that should be working for the good of all. I believe this pendulum is going to swing back. I don't know when, but I just don't believe that we're going to stick right here on the side that's just disruptive and mean and nonprogressive in any way.

KARL: I mean, there's two ways it can go. It can swing back and move towards civility, like you're talking about.

MCCAIN: I hope so.

KARL: Or it can be a reaction in the opposite direction.

MCCAIN: Right, yes.

KARL: That, it's kind of more incivility, hitting back, hitting back, and counterpunching, as the president likes to say.

MCCAIN: Right. I mean, our country is not well right now. We're not -- you know, we need we need to get our act together, number one, and step back and take a breath. You know, this country is made up of immigrants. We're made up of people of every color, every creed. And that's what makes us special.

And to somehow side up black and white, or brown and white, or whatever it may be is just wrong. It's not who we are.

KARL: What about Senator McCain's friends who are in the Senate?

MCCAIN: And still are my friends.

KARL: But what's -- I mean. Sorry. Are you -- are you at all disappointed when you see somebody like Lindsey Graham basically become the president's most steadfast defender on this stuff?

MCCAIN: Well, Lindsey has his own political career to worry about and his own political life.

I would just hope that, in the long run, everyone would begin to move the right direction, including Lindsey or anybody else.

But Lindsey is a part of my family.

KARL: Right.

MCCAIN: He's a good friend. And I -- I cannot and will not be critical of Lindsey.

KARL: So, before you go, a little straight talk.

MCCAIN: OK.

KARL: We're going into another presidential campaign.

MCCAIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.

KARL: You have seen not one, but two presidential campaigns up very, very close.

MCCAIN: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Yes.

KARL: What's your advice to the candidates?

MCCAIN: Oh, gosh.

My advice is to not listen to the naysayers. Don't -- don't let the naysayers get you down. Do the right thing. You know, speak your mind. Speak your heart. But be civil about it.

And I think, also, enjoy it. Never forget your sense of humor. If you don't have a sense of humor, you're not going to survive it, quite frankly.

KARL: You're not going to endorse any candidates?

MCCAIN: No, I'm not going to. I -- I just want to watch the process. If I participate at all, it'll be on the part of encouraging civility and encouraging people to talk to one another.

KARL: And you had said not long ago that you wouldn't be surprised to see a McCain or two get into politics. So, any update on that?

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Well, I have several that are interested, so we'll see what happens on that. I would -- we encouraged all of our kids to get involved in public service, as you know.

KARL: So we could see -- we could see another McCain campaign...

MCCAIN: I think so, yes.

KARL: ... for something?

MCCAIN: For something, yes.

(LAUGHTER)

MCCAIN: Something somewhere. And I will be -- that one, I will get involved with.

KARL: You'll endorse.

MCCAIN: Oh, yes, I will endorse that one.

(LAUGHTER)

KARL: All right, thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

KARL: Thank you.

MCCAIN: Thank you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Jon Karl and Cindy McCain.

And thanks to all of you for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out "World News Tonight.

And I will see you tomorrow on "GMA."