'This is who he always has been': Chris Christie on Trump's erratic week

The Powerhouse Roundtable discusses President Donald Trump's erratic week and debates the latest in the 2020 race on "This Week."
20:15 | 08/25/19

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Transcript for 'This is who he always has been': Chris Christie on Trump's erratic week
It will be interesting. We'll talk to them. It's not number one on the burner, I can tell you that. I thought the prime minister's statement that it was absurd, it was an absurd idea was nasty. I'm also very, very concerned about 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. We're looking at various tax reductions. I'm not looking at tax cut right 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'm the chosen one. You know exactly what I meant. It was sarcasm. It was joking. We were all smiling. What a week at the white house, and we're going to talk about it right now with the roundtable. Chris Christie, former governor of New Jersey. Rahm Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago. Yvette Simpson. Our chief political analyst Matthew dowd and Alice Stewart. Rahm, let's begin, we heard what Joe Walsh had to say about the week. What was your read on this week with president trump? Well, two things. What we have all said, he's firm in his opinions, it's his principles that he's flexible he's on. 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. Where it showed Biden -- It showed two things. It showed the president is emperor without clothes. The second thing is, that office creates pressure on everybody. And I have seen two different presidents react on that pressure. This pressure has finally cracked him. Is he feeling the pressure? I don't sense it. I think what happens is, we all react and sometimes when it's concentrated like it was this week and I agree it was we all react we're seeing something different. We're not. This is who he is. I have known him for 18 years. This is who he's always has been. I understand, the office does put an enormous amount of pressure on you. But this guy is going to be who he is and he's going to be that way as long as he's in the white house. I see this week, I can't imagine how many times we have had a conversation where we said, this week, unbelievable. This is a turning point. This is a flexion point. I just don't believe it is. I think the American people are used to it. This week takes the cake. It was full of ups and downs and lots crazy. It's scary for the American people to see that in a concentrated fashion. To know that this is the guy who's in charge. This guy makes the decisions. Whether we go to war or not. A trade war or not. Go forward with policy or not. It's really important for people to see that this is the leader of the free world, unadulterated, unsupervised and this is the guy we put in charge. It's a very scary thing. I agree with Chris, this is a more magnified version of the president. The president ended the campaign in 2016 the most disliked candidate to ever win the presidency. He starts the office with the highest disapproval rating. He's now at the current point where he's the most historically disapproved president we've ever had. The problem for the president is, the president I think has understand in the last ten days that if this race is a choice, he's got a chance to win. But if the economy does anything at all, if it turns without the strength of growth that's it had over the course of three years 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. It doesn't stop him from escalating the trade war. This is no doubt chaos. This is his chaos. We have gone this week from Greenland to nasty leaders, to scaramucci, to Jesus trump superstar. That's how he's always led. 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 affect them personally. If the trade deal with China goes south, then that will be a big difference. He's used to chaos. That's how he operates. The American people don't look at the day-to-day, tweet-to-tweet moments of this administration. 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. He's come to terms and has seen that -- and I believe that fox poll snapped something in him. He realizes the strategy is turning the terrain of this election against him. That's why he's consistently dropping. How do you explain background checks, background checks, two different positions less than 24 hours? The fact is, it's the pressure of not just the office, it's the pressure of the campaign where he realizes where he's standing and the strategy doesn't hold up anymore. Rahm, you know this because you worked in two white houses. Part of what is happening here is, there's division inside the white house. Payroll tax cut, that wasn't his idea. I know that wasn't his idea. That was leaked by somebody in the white house who wanted that. That happens in every white house. In every white house people are doing that. 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 I am, the economy is great, forget it. He plays it. He responds to it. A couple of weeks ago, we talked about background checks. You thought he meant it on background checks. To be honest, I don't know what to think by the end of this week. I think he still does mean background checks. What he did not anticipate and you can fault him for this, I don't think he anticipated the people in congress would give him a hard time on background checks as they are. I believe from speaking to him that he believes that expanding background checks makes sense. He now has to figure out, and this is what happens a little when you have someone who's still not used to the legislative negotiation process. You don't have experience -- you go out and say something. He expects people are going to follow him -- The guy who wrote "The art of the deal," isn't used to negotiations -- They're very different. Far there the stable genius, I'm in control president he ran on. It sounds like, when he has a conversation with NRA, all of a sudden I'm not so the economy is strong, well, maybe it's not. Maybe we're about to be in a recession. Trade war with China, just kidding, let's tax French wine. Let's go buy Greenland. This sounds crazy. 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, strong and capable, this is completely the opposite. With regard, you have to listen to him. He telegraphs what he's going to do in what he says. We have gone from background checks now to mental health. After talking to the NRA. Exactly. Here's the thing, he realizes something has to be done and 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 the more he mentions mental health I see us moving in the way -- Reasonable background checks are a good thing -- This is the problem that the president is in, it's not can he negotiate with the legislator the, I don't think he knows what it means to be a leader. If he came out strong on background checks, the Republicans in congress by and large would all follow in line, as Joe Walsh said earlier, they're afraid of him. But coming out for background checks, for red flag laws, for a whole series of things that the vast majority of the country support, would put him in a better position. If the Democrats have a referendum to run on guns, the Republicans almost in every single close race will lose. George, two things. Political and economic. One,e's seeing the political strategy isn't going to pay the dividends he thought. He playing a red strategy, he needs a purple strategy. The early days the trump slump, he knows the economic consequences of what's happening. It feels like that, Chris, what you're having here is, longstanding views about China are running straight into his needs on economy. He needs a healthy economy. Going into the next election. He believes what he's saying most of the time with tariffs on China. Listen, I think he believes what he's saying about China. To be 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 be mean nothing, nothing until the Democrats nominate someone. Because, you know, it could become a referendum. Lots of times with incumbents it becomes a referendum, Matt. But, it's just as often if not more often a binary choice. Right now, we got nothing to look at. Even in a recession? It's never a binary -- Hold on, I didn't say it was. The recession will become a whole different problem for the president. Any president it becomes a problem. That's a whole different discussion that we won't know until next summer. But for right now, until it's a binary choice -- of course, Rahm is brilliant. The bottom line is, it will be completely irrelevant. That was heartfelt. A question I want to ask you, though, will Joe Walsh be relevant or not? I don't think he will. I applaud him for the courage and conviction to get in the I spoke with a senior campaign re-election official after the announcement was made and his response was, who? Who is that? He has nowhere the name I.D. That trump does. Trump has 90% of the Republican party locked up. You need fund-raising, infrastructure, data, you need the support of the Republican party, trump has that. Not only of the people across the country the Republican party is behind him. That means, state GOP chairmen, state parties and these elections in presidential races are run state by state. When you have the state directors supporting the president 100% unfortunately someone like Joe Walsh isn't going to get any traction. The odds of Walsh beating trump in a Republican primary -- Can he wound him? The question is, should someone make a principled argument that conservativism means, this is what the Republican party mean, contrast it to Donald Trump, yes. I have been the subject and target of things Joe Walsh has said. 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. I think Joe Walsh's argument, just like William weld's argument, gives an opening for people who are republican-leaning independents to nod their head, see, here's why I don't want to vote for this guy. Who are you going to vote for? It's the general election. 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 and go all the way to the left, those soft Republicans are going to, yeah, but no thanks. No, governor. You need to be in your own camp today. You need to stay in your own camp. You got enough problems. I love it. I love it. You know, it's only August. This is a crack in the dam. Who knows that Joe Walsh is the last one? There may be others on the Republican side. Here's what -- Who needs money, you got TV. Two events have happened that's relevant to this. Joe Walsh represents an awakening conservatism. Back up, business roundtable, they make a statement this week about their principles, about something bigger, about climate change, about the responsibility we have, there's a seismic shift going on in coalition politics. You have a Republican president who's talking about state control of the economy and the private sector and businesses talking about responsibility to workers, something is big changing in politics right now. One of the questions is, can Democrats exploit that or not? We can answer that quickly. But we saw the first ad from Joe Biden in Iowa. Take a look. We know in our bones this election is different. The stakes are higher. The threat more serious. We have to beat Donald Trump. All the polls agree, Joe Biden is the strongest Democrat to do the job. Maybe you have to swallow a little bit and say, okay, I personally like so and so better but your bottom line has to be that we have to beat trump. I don't think we have seen Matthew dowd, this early in a campaign, bold electability campaign. It's true, over the course of Summers, basically nothing has changed in the debates on the national polls on the democratic side, but is this a wise strategy for the Biden team? To me, electability -- if you start talking about it, you're in a weak position. Electability should demonstrate itself. The problem Joe Biden has, I think he's the leading candidate, odds are, he's likely the Democrat nominee. He has a third of the vote. His best hope this candidate field stays multiple candidate field for a lengthy period of time. I think Joe Biden has to demonstrate that he has a voice for somebody as I have said before that started running for office and serving office before we had eight-track came and went. He has to demonstrate he has a voice for a new generation for leadership. That's a tough thing for him. I think this has been a tough week and tough couple of weeks he's having a lot of trouble staying on message. He's saying a lot of things off -- Hasn't moved his poll numbers. We know what polling is and we know it's early. He's still not seeing the big grassroots support, big rallies. His wife already going through the electability argument know he's weak. The tweak of his campaign message just going around saying I'm the one who can take on trump. You have to give someone to vote for, not someone to vote against. He has a three prong moving forward -- he has to show he's the one to beat Donald Trump and he has the strong message that resonates with Democrats and he has to be able to contrast himself with his democratic challengers. He has to point out that Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are too far left, I'm more moderate. But is also viable and strong in the general election. He has to find that section in the middle that's not too far left but also designates -- Most Democrats -- Electability normally I'd say is a thin read. But given how Democrats feel, given they want somebody who can win, I'm not so sure normally given this year it's a thin read. 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. If he can get himself to the future argument, he'll be stronger, but he keeps getting tripped up by explaining what happened 30, 40 years ago. That's his challenge. He has to be about tomorrow, not yesterday. The problem for Democrats, it's not Biden's lack of message, it's the message the other candidates have. So, if you look at -- look at Bernie Sanders this week, somebody who had a tough week, his green new deal is even more expensive than the current green new deal on the table. The American people are going to see this, say, sorry, I can't go that far. We don't feel that threatened to go that far. No. And Joe Biden's problem -- what Joe Biden I think is 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 has to stay where he is. Play the game and let the others burn out. But he doesn't have the answers. A week, where Amazon is on fired, people are worried about climate, immigration at a height right now, if he's not forward to bring forward answers. People will look to other alternatives. People agree with positions on Bernie Sanders and Warren on healthcare. Rahm, Bernie Sanders, $16 trillion, we may be heading into a recession, on college debt, on housing, on medicare for all, you're talking about tax increases, potentially in the face of a looming recession, is that something Democrats -- The big challenge for Bernie Sanders is, literally, $16 trillion, I mean, you can see the cash register ad, it's not hard. There's an hour and a half left in the debate here. Second of all, I'd say the point is, you can have a responsible climate change plan, you can have a responsible health care plan. The challenge here by Bernie Sanders in an economic downturn, do you have a plan for the economy working for all? You could have had that ten years ago. Where we are now with the environment, people need extreme aggressive action on it. People on health care, people are literally dying from lack of insulin, we're in an extreme situation -- The problem are Republicans are going to have -- first of all, he's more unpopular than the worst policies than the Democrats are offering. The Republicans can't make a debt argument. The debt has been doubled in the course of the last four years. The problem Republicans have in this, Donald Trump is a huge weight. Democrats, it's a binary choice unless the economy turns. Last word for today. Thank you all very much.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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