A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday, June 30, 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.
GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, CHIEF ANCHOR, ABC NEWS: The Democrats debate.
SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: America does not want to witness a food fight, they want to know how we’re going to put food on their table.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Break out moment, shots at the president.
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Trump is a phony.
SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That’s what we call at home all foam and no beer.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And the front runner.
HARRIS: It was hurtful.
JOE BIDEN (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I ran because of civil rights.
REP. ERIC SWALWELL (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It’s time to pass the torch.
BIDEN: I’m still holding onto that torch.
PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP, UNITED STATES: This is my honor, this has been in particular a great friendship.
TRUMP: I get along with everybody.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Like the Saudi crown prince.
TRUMP: I get along with Mohammad.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And jokes with Putin in their first meeting since the Mueller report. Inside an analysis from our powerhouse round table. We’ll break down the politics, smoke out the spin. The facts that matter this week.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From ABC News, it’s “This Week”, here now Chief Anchor George Stephanopoulos.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Good morning, we want to get right to that breaking news, a bit of history made just hours ago. President Trump, the first sitting president to set foot in North Korea. There you see him at the DMZ, that dangerous dividing line for more than 60 years, shaking hands first with Kim Jong-un. Then together they cross over into North Korea. History right there, and after there a 40 minutes private meeting in Freedom House with the South Korean president. They agreed to restart the nuclear talks which collapsed in Hanoi earlier this year, and President Trump clearly thrilled with the result.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: This is a historic moment. I think the relationship that we’ve developed has been so much to so many people and it’s just an honor to be with you and it was an honor that you asked me to step over that line and I was proud to step over the line. I thought you might do that, I wasn’t sure, but I was ready to do it and I want to thank you, it’s been great.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Our Chief White House Correspondent Jon Karl on the scene in Seoul, and Jon the president said he wasn’t sure this would happen, he certainly is pleased that it did.
JON KARL, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, ABC NEWS: In terms of sheer performance, George, this may be the biggest moment of the Trump presidency so far. The president took a big gamble by issuing the last minute invitation and then he let the cliffhanger play out as nobody knew whether or not Kim Jong-un would accept, after all, North Korean dictators are not known for impromptu meetings. It is the hermit kingdom. But 32 hours after he issued that invitation over Twitter, there he was shaking hands with Kim Jong-un and taking those steps, those historic steps into North Korea. There wasn’t much substance behind all the symbolism, but the president did announce that they would begin lower level talks again aimed at getting that elusive nuclear deal. As you know, George, those talks had really completely broken down after the Hanoi summit back in February.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Yeah that was the Hanoi summit back in February and you had the Singapore summit last year when the President said the nuclear threat from North Korea is over, but in fact the nuclear program in North Korea as intact as ever.
KARL: It sure is, in fact intelligence estimates say it is growing. That said, there have now been – there have been no more nuclear tests, and the sense here in the – on the Korean Peninsula clearly is that tensions have lowered significantly. In fact, the president of South Korea today said that – that Donald Trump is, quote, “The peacemaker of the Korean Peninsula.” Perhaps quite a bit premature, but that’s clearly where they think things are going here and they think they’re going in the right direction, George.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Was this meeting really impromptu?
KARL: Well there certainly had been preparations and a possibility of a meeting. In fact, I met with a very senior U.S. official involved in these talks a week ago who told me that is was possible that this could happen, but he thought it was a very low likelihood, in fact put the odds at about five percent. So it wasn’t completely out of the blue but certainly came together at the last minute and that sense was very much an impromptu meeting.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Okay Jon Karl thanks very much from Seoul. Want to bring in a response from the Democrats now. Julian Castro made a breakthrough on the debate stage on Wednesday night, joins us now. Julian thank you for joining us this morning. Let’s start out with that trip for the president to North Korea. The first president to sit – to stand on North Korean soil. Would a President Castro have made the same move?
JULIAN CASTRO (D), 2020 PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well look, I am all for speaking with our adversaries, but what’s happened here is that this president has raised the profile of a dictator like Kim Jong-un and now three times visited with him unsuccessfully because he's doing it backward. Usually what happens, as you know, George, is that there's an intense amount of staff work that goes into negotiating how one of these talks is going to go so that you can hopefully get something out of it. We haven't gotten anything out of it. And after they had the first summit, the Singapore summit, he told the American people that North Korea was no longer a threat. Then after that, they continued to test their nuclear weapons and they have not even abided by one of the commitments that they made originally, which was to give an inventory of their nuclear stockpile. So, you know, it's worrisome that this president erratically sets up a meeting without the staff work being done, it seems like it's all for show, it’s not substantive, as Jonathan said in his report, and we're left to believe, you know, what progress are we actually making? At the same time, the cost to the United States and to our allies is that he’s raising the profile, growing the strength of a dictator.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you think he gave a gift to Kim Jong-un?
CASTRO: I think that he should put the work in beforehand and hold him accountable to the commitment that he made in the Singapore summit. I don't think that it's fitting for the United States to continue to erratically meet with a dictator when they haven't abided by the first terms a year ago.
CASTRO: Not at all. What I would like every American taxpayer to know is that right now, number one, undocumented immigrants already pay a lot of taxes. Secondly, we already pay for the health care of undocumented immigrants. It's called the emergency room. People show up in the emergency room and they get care, as they should. And then third, it is the right thing to do. We're not going to let people living in this country die because they can't see a doctor. That's not who we are as Americans.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The question is at what cost, though? And when you add up all the proposals you're -- you’re -- you’re calling for right now, decriminalization of crossing the border, no deportation absent other crimes, the offer of health benefits, also a possible path to citizenship. I know you reject the rhetoric about open borders, but isn't that effectively open borders, not limiting how -- immigration in any real way?
CASTRO: I would challenge you there, George, on a couple things. Number one, there’s no way that we can call that open borders because we have 654 miles of fencing, we have thousands of personnel at the border, we have planes, helicopters, boats, security cameras, guns. That's by no stretch of the imagination open borders. And then, you know, secondly, there is still a civil court process, there are still people who are being deported, there are people applying for asylum that do not receive, are not granted asylum. So right -- open borders is just a right-wing talking point. It always has been. And I’ll say, it doesn't matter what Democrats do on this issue. President Trump and Republicans are always going to say that Democrats are for open borders. I have a completely different vision, a better, stronger vision of how we can be more effective, more humane and smarter on border security and immigration. And you know, this president has wasted 2 1/2 years. He knew that we had a flow of people that were coming from Central America when he became president on January 20, 2017. He’s wasted 2 ½ years because he should have done what I’ve called for, which is a 21st century Marshall Plan with those Northern Triangle countries so that people can find safety and opportunity at home instead of having to come to the United States.
STEPHANOPOULOS: You talk about safety and opportunity at home, and you have called for that Marshall Plan for Central America, but what is your limiting principle on allowing people in and giving them asylum? There are wide swathes of the entire world mired in poverty, mired in -- in -- in areas where there's high crime. Anyone who's facing that kind of poverty, that kind of crime should get asylum?
CASTRO: No, and that's not the system that we have now. We have a system to consider asylum claims based on certain criteria where people either qualify for asylum or they don't. You know, I agree with people that say, look, in theory can we take everyone who would like to be in the United States? Nobody has called for that. I do believe, however, and I’ve put forward an immigration plan that would accept more people. I'll give you an example of that, my statute for the late '70s, early '80s, we can take in 110,000 refugees annually. Right now, we're only taking in between 30,000 and 40,000 refugees, I would like to see that go up to the statutory limit. So, nobody has called for unlimited number of people coming to this country, but I do believe that we should expand that significantly, and we're big enough to do that. There have been times in our history in this country where we were taking in a lot more people and we become a stronger nation for it. What has underlined this, and what the president likes to count on, is the fear and the paranoia that he's stoking. I refuse to believe, because it's not true, that the people that are coming because they're desperate, lot of them women and children, represent some sort of national security threat or cultural threat to this country. That's bull.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's talk for Medicare for all, something that's dividing Democrats right now, and whether or not private insurance should be eliminated. You were not on the stage with Bernie Sanders on Thursday night, but you've been against eliminating private insurance. Why is Bernie Sanders wrong?
CASTRO: Well, I mean, I think that Bernie is right in the sense of that everyone who wants Medicare should have it. I believe that if you want Medicare in this country, that we should strengthen Medicare for the people who are on it and then make it available to all who want it. I also believe that if somebody has a private health insurance plan, and they want to hold on to that, that they should be allowed to hold on to that. I think that we can accomplish both of those things. I also agree with Senator Sanders when he says, and many people have pointed out, that, you know, there's a lot of profit that goes into these insurance companies and to big pharma. And we need to put more of those resources into actually providing care for Americans. So, you know, we agree on a lot of it. I think that people can hold on to some sort of private, supplemental plan if they want, but there's no reason that we shouldn't allow them to do that.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Julian Castro, thanks very much.
CASTRO: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bernie Sanders is up next.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Health care could be the hottest issue heading into 2020. And as we saw at the debates, for Democrats the focus is on Medicare for All with divisions over the call from our next guest, Bernie Sanders, to abolish private health insurance. The moderates fear it will cost Democrats votes against Trump. So we asked FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver, do you buy that?
NATE SILVER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, FIVETHIRTYEIGHT: Medicare for All, that label, that brand, polls really well. When the Kaiser Family Foundation asked people if they support Medicare for All, 56 percent said yes. But the same poll showed that if Medicare for All meant taking away private insurance, support dropped to just 37 percent instead. There’s also a long history of people opposing radical change to the status quo on healthcare. Obamacare is a perfect example. For most of President Obama’s time in office, more Americans disliked Obamacare than liked it but once President Trump assumed office and the repeal of the ACA became a real possibility, Obamacare suddenly became quite popular with Democrats and Independents, especially, and the numbers totally flipped. Meanwhile, healthcare was the top issue for voters in the 2018 midterms. Eighty percent of voters said it was very important, according to Gallup. That was part of what led to Democrats winning so many seats in the House, in the suburbs and elsewhere. So that should give any party pause in altering healthcare too much. More modest proposals, for example, having a Medicare option or public option polled relatively well, including among Republicans. Americans want change on healthcare but there’s a good chance they won’t like the fix. President Trump, saw that when his approval ratings fell after he tried to pass his own healthcare legislation. So do I buy that Democrats could hurt themselves in 2020 by going too far left on healthcare? Yeah, I buy that. At the very least, they could squander what could have been one of their top issues against President Trump.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bernie Sanders is standing by. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANDERS: They said our ideas are crazy and wild and extreme. And now it turns out all of the other candidates are saying what we said four years ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Bernie Sanders campaigning in New Hampshire on Saturday. He joins us live from New Hampshire this morning. Senator Sanders, thanks for joining us this morning. Let's dive into one of those ideas right away. You just heard Julian Castro and Nate Silver on this idea of Medicare for All. They say it’s a popular program but want to pick up on that Kaiser poll that Nate just mentioned. When you talk about eliminating private health insurance, support flips, you get 58 percent opposed. It gets even worse when you tell Americans they’re going to have to pay more taxes, which you have conceded. Look at that right there, it goes to 37 percent favor, 60 percent oppose. So it appears you're pushing something people say they don't want.
SANDERS: No. We're taking on the pharmaceutical industry which charges us the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs while they make tens of billions of dollars in profit. We are going to low -- lower prescription drug costs in this country by 50 percent. We’re taking on the insurance company, also making massive profits. Now if you tell the American people what Medicare for All really is, and that is for the elderly, we're going to expand benefits to include dental care, hearing aids and eyeglasses, your numbers are going to go up. And most importantly, when you tell the American people and small businesses that they are no longer going to have to pay any premiums, any deductibles, any co-payments and then for the overwhelming majority of people, healthcare will be much less expensive under Medicare for All. And by the way, Medicare today is the most popular health insurance program in the country, private health insurance is not particularly popular. And when you tell people all of that, then your numbers go up. Bottom line here, George, is the United States must end the international embarrassment of being the only major country on Earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people as a right. We have some 80 million people in this country who are uninsured or underinsured, can’t afford to go to the doctor without duress. We’re spending twice as much per capita as the people of any other nation. That’s absurd.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know for a lot of Democrats, the question is how you get there. And there’s – it is true, you tell people you’re going to raise their taxes, support goes down, you tell people they can’t have private health insurance, support goes down. And that’s led some of – some of your opponents to say yeah, how about Medicare for everyone who wants it and if it works, if this public option works, then the private health insurance are going to wither away anyway?
SANDERS: Well two things, all right, again it’s not a question of paying more taxes or not, it’s a question of not paying any premiums. If I said to you George – let’s say you’re self-employed and you’re spending $15,000 or $20,000 a year on out-of-pocket expenses, premiums and so forth. And I said, George, you’re going to pay $7,000, $8,000 more in taxes but you’re not going to have to pay your premiums. You’re probably going to say where can I sign up? People are going to spend less on Medicare for All.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I’ll tell you what I – I’ll tell you what I – I’ll tell you what I might say, Senator. I might say, Senator, those taxes are going to be certain, those taxes are coming no matter what with the hope that your program is going to work.
SANDERS: Well you don’t have the taxes unless you have the program. So the bottom line here is we have a dysfunctional healthcare system, the overwhelming majority of the American people are sick and tired of getting ripped off by the pharmaceutical industry. And let me say it again, we are going to take on the drug companies, we’re going to lower prescription drug costs in this country by 50 percent and every American, whether you’re rich or you’re poor is entitled to healthcare as a human right. Look at the end of the day, life expectancy in the United States today is actually in decline. You have huge areas of America, county after county where people don’t even have a doctor. So we need broad changes in our healthcare system. You talk about a public option, many people will not be able to afford a public option. What the American people have got to decide is one simple question, George. Do we – do we create a healthcare system guaranteeing healthcare to all people without insurance companies and drug companies making huge profits and distorting healthcare in America? That is the issue and I think the American people will stand with me on that issue.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Debates going to continue over the course of this campaign. Also want to get you to weigh in on President Trump in walking into North Korea this morning. In past weeks you’ve actually praised his engagement with Kim Jong-un, but we just heard Julian Castro say that what he’s doing is growing the strength of a dictator.
SANDERS: Well the concern here is his incredible inconsistencies. I have no problem with him sitting down with Kim Jong-un in North Korea or any place else. But I don’t want it simply to be a photo opportunity, the whole world’s media was attracted there. What’s going to happen tomorrow and the next day? He has weakened the State Department. If we’re going to bring peace to this world, we need a strong State Department, we need to move forward diplomatically, not just do photo opportunities. And right now while he is, you know, meeting with Kim Jong-un, he is still provocative in terms of almost moving toward a war with Iran. He vetoed legislation that I supported and that we won in the Senate and won in the House, which would get the United States out of the horrific war in Yemen which is led by the brutal dictator Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia. So I don’t have a problem with him sitting down and negotiating with our adversaries, I just don’t want it to be a photo opportunity. We need real diplomacy.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So you don’t buy the argument that says growing Kim Jong-un’s strength legitimizing his nuclear program and basically letting him off the hook on human rights?
SANDERS: Look there are different ways to go forward, but I think sitting down with our adversaries is not a bad idea, I wish he would do that in the Middle East as well and in the Persian Gulf. I wish he would sit down with the dictatorship in Saudi Arabia, bring Iran into the discussion and tell those people that we are sick and tired of spending trillions of dollars because they keep going to war against each other. Bring them into a table, let’s work out some lasting peace in the region. I don’t have a problem with that. But on the other hand, we also know that you have a president who seems to love authoritarian people, whether it’s Mohammed Bin Salman in Saudi Arabia, whether it’s Kim Jong-un, you don't have to say positive things about brutal dictators, you should sit down and negotiate with them. In the case of North Korea, if we can get rid of nuclear weapons there and their missile system, which is a threat to Europe and the United States, that would be a very good thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I want to pick up on an issue that came up in Thursday night's debate. It was between Kamala Harris and Joe Biden, who are raising his opposition to busing back in the 1970s. I want to bring the debate forward. You've mentioned -- you're concerned about the idea of resegregation of our schools. Does that mean that busing should be on the table today?
SANDERS: Well, I think what we -- resegregation is a very, very serious problem. And the federal government has failed in fighting for fair housing legislation. We need basically in this country well funded public schools, we need to honor our teachers, respect teachers, make sure that they're earning a living wage. We need to take care of those schools today, which have a lot of kids who are, in some cases, actually hungry, coming from troubled families. We need to build public education in this country. We need to make sure that kids go to community schools, which are integrated and that means we have to focus on fair housing legislation and enforcement.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But does that also mean busing? Because your website actually says that you are coming out for repealing of the ban on funding for busing.
SANDERS: No, we've -- busing is certainly an option that is necessary in certain cases, but it is not the optimal. Does anybody think it's a good idea to put a kid on a bus, travel an hour to another school and to another neighborhood that he or she doesn't know? That's not the optimal. What is the optimal is to have great community schools which are integrated, that's what I think most people want to see. That's what I want to see.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Senator Bernie Sanders, thanks for your time this morning.
SANDERS: Thank you.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable is up next. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Roundtable’s here and ready to go. We’ll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And I’ve been watching the debates a little bit in between meetings and I wasn’t impressed. If you watch the debates -- if you call them debates. Whatever they are. They don’t really -- I think they want open borders, I guess.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m sure you saw the exchange between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris --
TRUMP: I did. I think she was given too much credit for what she did. It wasn’t that outstanding. And I think probably he was hit harder than he should have been hit, Biden.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thousands of miles away the president had his eye on the Democratic debates. Want to talk about that on our roundtable. Joined by Chris Christie, ABC News contributor, former Republican governor of New Jersey. Now a Fox News contributor, Former DNC Chair Donna Brazile. Yvette Simpson, CEO of Democracy for America, our newest ABC contributor. And editor of the National Review, Rich Lowry. And I do want to get everybody’s take on the debate but first, Chris, you got to talk about the president walking into North Korea this morning. This North Korean policy clearly driven by the president himself, personally. He’s the one who wanted this to happen.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, ABC NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Absolutely. And this is the way he does diplomacy. Now, we're going to see whether it works or doesn't work but this is the way the president does diplomacy. And -- and -- and I think you have to give him credit for trying. But the bottom line is, everything we’ve tried, as you know, George, under Republican and Democratic presidents over the last 30 years has not worked in North Korea, isolating and more sanctions and all the rest have not worked. He's trying to make it a personal thing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So far it hasn't worked.
CHRISTIE: That's right. And -- and -- and it may be that nothing will work with North Korea. You know, we don’t know. They're a dictatorship, they’re -- they're a backwards society that represses their own people, so nothing may work. But this is Donald Trump, who he is, the essence of who he is is he believes he gets into a room, he can convince anyone of anything. And we’re going to find out if he’s right.
STEPHANOPOULOS: And -- and Donna, you heard Bernie Sanders said no harm in trying.
DONNA BRAZILE, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Well there’s no harm in trying, but look, he's been trying for a year. Meanwhile, Kim Jong-un is still processing uranium and plutonium --
CHRISTIE: Well what do you want to do, Donna?
BRAZILE: -- he’s still making little nuclear warheads --
CHRISTIE: Well what do you want to do? I understand but what do you want to do?
BRAZILE: I'm not against talking. I am not against talking.
CHRISTIE: Well what do you want to do differently?
BRAZILE: I am -- I am -- big moment, big progress, that’s what the president said this morning as he crossed over into North Korea. But big moment, big progress means that we got to get progress on denuclearizing that area. That’s the big progress that we need.
CHRISTIE: Which is the same thing that Barack Obama said and George W. Bush said and Bill Clinton said before him, so.
BRAZILE: I’m not -- again, I’m not against talking. Talking is good.
CHRISTIE: I understand but it sounds like you are.
BRAZILE: But talk is also cheap.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So they’re both for -- they’re talking. There is an argument against talking.
RICH LOWRY, EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Yes.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The argument against talking is that you don't raise up Kim Jong-un, you don’t allow him to have that moment on the stage when he continues to build nuclear weapons.
LOWRY: Right, it’s a propaganda coup for Kim and the regime, it legitimizes him. And look, this -- Trump, this is -- his presidency is the greatest show on earth, he loves the spectacle, but he’s not going to talk Kim out of his nuclear weapons program because it’s not a personal commitment of Kim, it’s a central pillar of that regime and they’ve stopped some of their worst testing but perhaps because they’re already gotten the information they need from the -- the nuclear and the other big missile test.
YVETTE SIMPSON, CEO, DEMOCRACY FOR AMERICA: Well we need a strategy. I mean, we're talking about foreign policy. You know, he tweets, you know, a dictator and says I’m coming over like he’s coming to borrow a cup of sugar or something. I mean, this is our foreign policy and we need to know that when he goes in that room he's advocating for real change that's going to make us safer. And frankly, we're not safer based on the fact that he had a photo-op with Kim Jong-un.
CHRISTIE: And it’s foreign policy that’s been a failure for 30 years.
SIMPSON: And it’s not better.
CHRISTIE: For 30 -- for 30 years -- well, OK, and -- but I don't hear anybody around this table, whether it’s you, Yvette or whether it’s Rich telling me what the alternative is. Because --
LOWRY: Well, I think he was on the right track with the maximum pressure campaign towards, one, we’re probably just going to have to deter this threat. But two, we should be doing everything possible to squeeze, including diplomatically. And it’s -- I think it’s good that he hasn’t -- hasn’t really let up on the sanctions. But this is a coup for Kim and the only thing Kim wants is another fake deal where he promises to give up his nukes in exchange for --
CHRISTIE: But you know also he can’t -- the president can't do something differently on pressure than he’s done already until he comes to a deal with China on trade. Because China's going to be the key to increasing that pressure. And China’s not in the mood right now to do any favors for Donald Trump while they're arguing with trade. When a trade deal comes, which I think it will, then he can ask China to start putting more pressure on North Korea.
LOWRY: But he’d already -- he usefully tightened the screws. He usefully -- and it was sort of a myth that we’d already done all we could to tighten sanctions on North Korea. So --
STEPHANOPOULOS: You may have hit, though, on the biggest point of all. Is there anything -- anything at all that is ever going to get North Korea to do away with their nuclear weapons?
SIMPSON: Well here’s -- I mean, here’s what you don’t do. I mean, I think the reverse is what he’s doing. You’re coddling up to our enemies, these dictators, these authoritarian regimes, you're alienating our allies, I think that’s putting us in a less stable position going forward if Korea does something that’s out of order. I think what we need to do is shore-up our alliances, make sure we’ve got support, we're all speaking with the same tongue and not looking like we're making friends with someone who can destroy us. So I think it’s a bad strategy all the way around.
STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, let's move on. Let's talk about the debates right now. And Donna Brazile, let me start with you as -- as a former campaign chair on the Democratic side, DNC chair as well. What’s your big takeaway from the two nights?
BRAZILE: Well, we wanted action and we got a lot of action. We wanted to see how these candidates could really come across, their breakthrough moment to introduce themselves to the American people and we got a chance to see some incredible candidates. You had one on this -- well, you had both on this morning. I have to be careful.
CHRISTIE: Which one wasn’t the one? Wow, Donna. Lowry and I are going to flip a coin, see which one you didn’t really like.
BRAZILE: You’re going -- you’re going to make me go to church.
CHRISTIE: You’re going anyway, my dear, you’re going anyway.
BRAZILE: I know. I know. But look, Julian Castro, he had a great breakout moment. He -- he was able to not just articulate his -- his vision on immigration but he was -- he was on the stage with some heavyweights, and I thought he did a fabulous job. And of course everyone is still talking about Senator Kamala Harris. The -- the blow that felt -- was felt not just in the Biden camp but the blow that was felt across America as she prosecuted -- is that the right way? Because you’re a prosecutor.
BRAZILE: She prosecuted her case.
CHRISTIE: You bet.
BRAZILE: But the Biden campaign, I -- I’m -- I was somewhat shocked that they didn't anticipate this was going to go down.
STEPHANOPOULOS: That’s the big surprise here.
SIMPSON: It is a surprise.
STEPHANOPOULOS: This has been an issue for months. Years.
SIMPSON: Yes. I mean, I -- we -- I said this earlier, on an earlier program. You know, his major issue, which he hasn't figured out is own up to your mistakes and say you’re sorry. And he had to know that this was an issue was going to follow him. He hasn’t done it on the -- on the crime bill, he didn’t do it on the sexual harassment allegations. He didn't do it today. And it was a real good moment. Everybody says he's a nice guy, and I believe that, but it was a great moment for him to say, you know what, I was wrong and I'm sorry that that affected you. And I will do better in the future. And he refuses to do it. And the aftermath was worse.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think a lot of people would find some problems, some land mines in the answer you just gave. There's one thing, Rich Lowry, to show empathy, it's another thing to walk away from positions he's held.
LOWRY: If he starts down that path of apologizing for everything, that's the path of destruction for him. Now, clearly he should have been -- he should have been better prepared, but he also should have said, busing was largely a failure. It ended up being unpopular with everyone. And this debate is a policy nullity now, no one is going to seriously argue for a widespread forced busing again.
CHRISTIE: First off, he doesn't believe it, OK, he doesn't believe he was wrong. So, he's not going to apologize for something that he doesn't believe he was wrong on. And...
STEPHANOPOULOS: That's separate for how he answered the questions.
CHRISTIE: OK, so secondly now, he to me looked like Ronald Reagan in 1984 in his first debate, George W. Bush in '04 in his first debate and Barack Obama in 2012 in his first debate. People who think they understand this, they have been around for a long time, they don't need to prepare, they don't need to be ready. Well, all three of those folks learned -- now here's the key for Biden: Reagan, Bush, and Obama, all came back in the second debate. They were ready. They went back. They went after the people they needed to go after on the other side of the stage. So, to me, the Biden thing can be a blip if he comes back in the second debate and delivers.
STEPHANOPOULOS: We have to see how he performs in the second debate.
BRAZILE: It might have changed the conversation about electability, because up until this point, we kept thinking, oh, it's Biden, it's Biden, it's Biden. You know, he's a moderate. He's a centrist. He can appeal to those progressives, he can appeal to independents and probably some weak kneed Republicans, whatever. But now, I think the American people, especially Democrats, are going to take a look at the range of options we have and see if there's someone else who can beat Trump and be a better president.
LOWRY: There are a couple structural problems with his candidacy. One is whenever has the old guy promising a restoration succeeded in American presidential politics? And also this kind of model that he's running, the tightly controlled, establishment front-running campaign, all head, no heart, that also usually doesn't work. Sometimes those candidates win, but it's usually they have to abandon that at some point and say, you know, I'm going off script. I'm going all in. And I think at some point we're going to hear the campaign say we're going to let Biden be Biden, and that's when the fun begins.
STEPHANOPOULOS: The other structural issue that we're seeing, though -- and we heard both Julian and Bernie reject it in different ways, on immigration ever single one of the Democrats saying health care for illegal immigrants, decriminalizing crossing the border -- Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, not Kamala Harris, called for doing away with private insurance. Republicans look at that, they were licking their chops.
SIMPSON: I don't know why, most Americans, as we talk about, support these issues. And what are the Republicans offering as an alternative? Absolutely nothing. Separating families at the border, children dying in our custody. We talked about health care. The GoFundMe plan for treating cancer is the Republican strategy for how we deal with health care.If they have a better set of alternatives, yes. But there is no better alternative. And people are ready. They're ready for real change on these issues, because they're living and dying with it.
CHRISTIE: If that -- we're ready to have that debate, and if what they want to do is stand up on that stage, keep raising their hands for decriminalizing crossing the border, keeping raising their hands for health care for anybody who comes over here, whether they come over here legally or not, if they want to keep making that point -- and Medicare for all, you saw it in the own poll, Medicare for all sounds great until you realize that Medicare for all means your private insurance is gone. So, listen...
SIMPSON: People are not in love with their private insurance. They love their doctor.
LOWRY: No, they actually are.
SIMPSON: They're not. They...
CHRISTIE: Let's have this fight.
LOWRY: If you're going to take private insurance away from...
SIMPSON: We've got 18 -- 16 months or so to make this case...
CHRISTIE: You think Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren making this argument for the next 16 months is a winner? I'll take it.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Can this divide be healed?
BRAZILE: Oh, look, first of all I love this, because we had a great debate when nobody traded insults, no gratuitous attacks, no hand size. But on the issue of decriminalizing the border, I don't believe that's what he said, he said that it will not be a criminal violation, it would be a civil violation.
LOWRY: That's decriminalizing...
CHRISTIE: Donna, don't change the words, that's decriminalizing.
BRAZILE: He wants to come up with a policy that will keep children and their parents together and to reduce the backlog. All we're saying, I think, is a process that will get us out of this mayhem that we're in...
LOWRY: I believe on his own website, if I'm not mistaken, it says I'm decriminalizing the border. And if it's no longer to be a criminal offense to illegally cross, and you're not going to deport anyone unless they commit some other crime, that is a huge step towards open borders. And if you're going to give illegal immigrants Medicare, you're facing the difference between illegal immigrants and citizens. And if you think the American public is in favor of that, you're...
SIMPSON: Why would we criminalize and detain people who have not committed a crime? I mean, I think this country is just over the...
LOWRY: Because we have a border and the border should be enforced.
CHRISTIE: -- crossing the border illegally.
SIMPSON: It is – it does not need to be a crime.
CHRISTIE: What are happening to the people – wait a minute, what are happening to the people who are waiting in line legally?
SIMPSON: Particularly they’re fleeing – if they’re fleeing travesties where they are and they’re seeking that should not – and that’s what he’s saying we shouldn’t (inaudible) desperation.
LOWRY: Most of the asylum claims were rejected because they’re coming here for economic reasons, not whether they’re persecuted by the government (inaudible) –
SIMPSON: -- economic reasons exacerbated by our policies.
LOWRY: Well then you have to change the law, you have to change the asylum laws just to say that whoever shows up –
CHRISTIE: Yes, we’re the evil in the world, it’s exacerbated by our policies.
BRAZILE: And that is – that is exactly what we have to do. But look, here’s what we have to think about, the Democratic Party and the candidates are going to have a very vigorous discussion on many of these complex issues. It’s not going to be reduced to a sound byte or the show of hands. It’s going to be who can provide the best alternatives to what we see now, and I think on that the Democrats will succeed.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But Donna – and I think maybe you and Yvette can take this on, it does appear from the outside that all the energy is driving the Democrats to a place that in the past at least has not worked for them in general elections.
BRAZILE: Well this is the beginning, George, and everybody got a full tank. By the time we get to the debate that ABC will host and you – you know the party as well as any of us, there’s going to be a big shake up in – within the party. We’re going to get down to seven or eight viable candidates, and at that point we’re going to come up with really strong solutions, and again the alternative to what we see now in the White House.
SIMPSON: Absolutely, that’s what you saw, you saw real passion, real energy around issues that frankly, people care about. And on the other side, you’ve got Donald Trump tweeting and shaking hands with a dictator.
LOWRY: That’s what I think Democrats don’t understand.
SIMPSON: I think the reality is is that people want most Democrats want someone who’s going to fight for the things that matter. That’s why Trump’s base loves him so much, although I think he’s fighting for all the wrong things. Our folks are fighting for the right things and so they’re going to be in power, it’s going to fire up our base, the folks who rarely show up and the rest of the Democratic Party will also support their candidate.
LOWRY: That’s what Democrats can’t get their head around. I think there is a lot of room for more populous oriented economics, but the Democrats have to give at least a little on cultural issues to win back Obama to Trump voters, those working class white voters who aren’t racist, they voted for Barack Obama but felt alienated – feel alienated from the Democratic Party. And these two debates gave them nothing.
BRAZILE: When you call to – what do you – what do we – what do we got to give up? I want to know what do we have to give up?
LOWRY: Immigration, one, not in favor of open borders –
BRAZILE: Well that’s – we’re not.
LOWRY: Maybe something on guns, maybe something on abortion. Instead the party is lurching to a much more radical place on all those conditions.
BRAZILE: As a woman, I’m not giving up anything in terms of my right to full range –
LOWRY: All right, Donald Trump will be delighted.
BRAZILE: Donald Trump is not above water, so he should be – he should be fighting for more –
LOWRY: I know, he can only – he can only – he can only win if Democrats go out and affirmatively lose it and that’s –
LOWRY: And that’s what we –
SIMPSON: The reality is we are not – and I’ve heard you say this too Donna, we are not fighting for Trump voters, we are fighting to expand our electorate and so voters who traditionally show up, those who showed up in ’08 and ‘012, we can win with a strategy of firing –
BRAZILE: Trump is going to defeat Trump –
LOWRY: You don’t care about – you don’t care about the voter –
STEPHANOPOULOS: Just hold on, one at a time, Donna go ahead.
BRAZILE: I care about those voters, I care about them for the same reason I care about poor, working class Americans who still feel left behind. They are on the outskirts of hope, and the Democrats have to provide them a circle of opportunity. That’s how we win in the future. But right now, to give up something especially on some of these so called cultural issues, that is a false argument. We should not give up on what we believe –
-- basic constitutional rights.
LOWRY: When you’re in favor of federal funding of abortion and abortion in any circumstance is going to make it much, much harder.
CHRISTIE: Listen Donna – Donna –
BRAZILE: -- support a woman’s right to choose.
SIMPSON: -- which Democrat’s running (ph).
LOWRY: Most Americans (inaudible) abortion –
CHRISTIE: Donna you’re in the politics of this. OK, 77,000 voters in Michigan, right, in Pennsylvania and in Wisconsin made the difference in that election. Those are mostly white working class voters. Now I know Yvette has this dream that she’s going to have Obama-like turnout for whoever is – whoever is going to be the nominee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: But if you had that in Milwaukee, Philadelphia and Detroit, Democrats win.
SIMPSON: You win.
CHRISTIE: But if you do, George, but that’s a huge if. Barack Obama – hold on, Barack Obama was a historic figure. Right?
BRAZILE: Yes he was. Correct.
CHRISTIE: Right, the first African American presidential nominee and then ultimately president.
CHRISTIE: And so we’re going to have to see whether these people on that stage over the course of the next 12 months or so can make that kind of difference. And we’re going to see. But right now if you’re going to throw those 77,000 folks away and say we don’t care about that –
BRAZILE: We’re not throwing them away.
CHRISTIE: Well if they listen to what Yvette’s talking about, guess what? You’re not going to get one of those folks. Not one.
BRAZILE: But you know what? We can give both the so called white working class voters and the young people who did not vote, the minorities that were turned off and the millions of Americans who might have been led to believe –
LOWRY: This was Hillary Clinton’s theory – this was Hillary Clinton theory, it’s just the coalition of the ascendant, that’s all I need, I don’t care about these working class folks.
BRAZILE: Well you know I’m not litigating 2016.
LOWRY: And to double down on this approach –
SIMPSON: There was so much more to that election than that.
BRAZILE: -- I remember what it was like.
STEPHANOPOULOS: I think one thing we have absolutely seen for sure is the Democratic debates unleashed an awful lot of energy, not only on that stage but also this morning as well. That’s all we have time –
BRAZILE: All we need is love.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Marianne Williamson gets the last word. Up next, our critical care series looks at the crisis in rural healthcare. We'll be right back.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Back now with our critical care series. This week, a closer look at the crisis in rural healthcare as so many hospitals forced to close their doors, especially in states that chose not to expand Medicare under Obamacare. Tennessee is one of those states and ABC's Steve Osunsami traveled there to see how rural communities are coping.
STEVE OSUNSAMI, ABC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: They’re calling on their lord this Sunday morning to come help them in Fentress County, Tennessee. What’s happening to the good people of this mountain community is out of their control and happening all across rural America. The county’s only hospital, the Jamestown Regional Medical Center, is in deep financial trouble.
BRAD COX, PASTOR ALIVE IN THE SPIRIT CHURCH: We’ve still got to put our faith in God that God's going to open the doors and -- and it might look rough for a while but we cannot lose hope.
OSUNSAMI: They tell us it’s deadly important they keep their Hospital.
TRACY WRIGHT, TENNESSEE RESIDENT: If something happened to our children -- we live on a farm and farm machinery and snakes, whatever -- I've always just known that hospital’s there if we need it.
OSUNSAMI: But on the other side of town from the church, the hospital is no longer admitting patients. And last month came a painful blow, the federal government stopped sending the hospital reimbursements for treating patients on Medicare and Medicaid. The closest hospitals are outside the county, about 45 minutes to an hour away. Meachael Goney worked at the Jamestown Medical Center for 46 years. She came to church on Sunday after being laid off on Friday.
MEACHAEL GONEY, TENNESSEE RESIDENT: They just called us up to get our checks and said they were having a cutback.
STEVE OSUNSAMI: Marilyn Hull was also a nurse at the Jamestown hospital but she retired long ago. She had a heart attack and worries about another one and that one hour drive. Do you worry people wouldn’t make it?
MARILYN HULL, FORMER NURSE, JAMESTOWN REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Oh absolutely. I’ve said before I think about a lot of people are going to lose their life over this.
OSUNSAMI: Across Tennessee alone, a dozen rural hospitals have closed since 2010, and according to an analysis by the Tennessean newspaper, more than a dozen others are at serious risk of going under. Nationwide more than 100 rural hospitals have closed in the last decade and a recent study finds that the 21 percent of those left are in danger of closing too. he list of reasons for the failure of these hospitals is as far and long as this countryside -- aging communities, poor health, expensive treatments, gaps in insurance, and few doctors. Not far down the highway, past countless red barns, and a fork in the river, we went to meet families in Celina, Tennessee. We’re heading to this town where the hospital closed some time ago and people are having to deal with driving long, long distances to get medical care. Cumberland River Hospital, the last in the county, closed in March. We met the county mayor and a handful of longtime residents at Doris’ Diner. The bacon and eggs are good, the biscuits and gravy even better.
MAYOR DALE REAGAN, CLAY COUNTY TENNESSEE: There’s so many other neighboring communities that are going through the same thing right now.
OSUNSAMI: They know what’s next for their neighbors in Jamestown. Talk to me about the day that -- when you first heard that the hospital was closing, what -- what it did for you guys.
ROBERTA PROFITT, TENNESSEE RESIDENT: It was sad. It was the saddest day I’ve had since I’ve lived here. And you know what, if you wasn't crying, you weren't human.
OSUNSAMI: Natalie Boone runs the ambulances in town and says her four trucks are now the new E.R.
NATALIE BOONE, DIRECTOR CLAY COUNTY EMA: We have become their first line of healthcare. And you know, don't get me wrong, there's a lot of things that we can do in the back of these ambulances but we're not an E.R.
OSUNSAMI: Celina does have a hero and it’s this man, Dr. Jesse Copeland, who came back home from medical school and never left.
DR. JESSIE COPELAND SOT: Being a doctor's office in an area with no hospital, no E.R., you do the best you can.
OSUNSAMI: Does it feel sometimes like this is maybe more than an uphill battle?
COPELAND: Oh yes, absolutely. It's a fight every day to -- to get the patients what they need.
OSUNSAMI: He says that decreasing Medicare reimbursements, which helped ruin the hospital, are hurting him too.
COPELAND: Right now in this entire county, you can't get an x-ray of your ankle. If you twist it. But now it's a -- an hour drive to go over and back to the nearest hospital --
OSUNSAMI: Just to get an x-ray.
COPELAND: -- just to get an x-ray.
OSUNSAMI: Tears filled his eyes as he talked about the old medical center.
COPELAND: It was a really tough the first week or two coming by with the barricades up and it closed. Still tough but I mean, you go on. It’s all you can do.
OSUNSAMI: It breaks your heart.
COPELAN: Oh yes. Absolutely. Absolutely. It's tough.
OSUNSAMI: Back in Jamestown, Mayor Lyndon Baines told us it’s not looking good for their hospital.
MAYOR LYNDON BAINES, JAMESTOWN TENNESSEE SOT: We went to the Governor, we called people in Washington and there's nothing we can do until they settle the bill.
OSUNSAMI: Just days after our visit the hospital posted this note on their doors, saying they were temporarily closing. A new CEO was sent to help fix things, but then a few days after that, the rest of Meachael Goney’s co workers lost their jobs. The state labor department is now investigating claims the hospital was keeping money from their paychecks and not sending it to the state or IRS. The Jamestown Medical Center’s new CEO tells us in a statement that despite allegations of mismanagement, “we’re doing everything we can to try and stay open.” They explain that hospitals near bigger cities have larger number\ of patients with private insurance that help pay the bills but here in the country, most of their patients are on Medicare or Medicaid, not to mention those who walk in with no insurance at all. Last month the federal government said it was considering new rules that might help, possibly giving rural areas higher reimbursements for patients with government insurance. But none of this will come soon enough for the good people of Fentress County. Your biggest concern is about emergency care.
BAINES: Yes. You know, like tornadoes or something like that happens here -- which we do get them here, and it could happen any time, and then -- then what are we going to do?
OSUNSAMI: For THIS WEEK, Steve Osunsami, ABC News, in Northern Tennessee.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Thanks to Steve there for shining light on a tough problem. That is all for us today. Thanks for sharing part of your Sunday with us. Check out World News Tonight and GMA tomorrow.