'You cannot worry about the politics during a disaster ... put your people first': Christie

Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel discuss the coronavirus pandemic on "This Week."
9:57 | 04/05/20

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Transcript for 'You cannot worry about the politics during a disaster ... put your people first': Christie
ensure that the general election will happen even if this pandemic has re-emerged -- or hasn't gone away -- The general election will happen on November 3rd. Do you think every state in this country should be prepared for mail-in voting? No, because I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting. You don't send it in the mail. All sort of bad things can if they sign it. By the time it gets in and is tabulated. There's that election exchange on Friday between Jon Karl and the president. Joined now by our political experts, Rahm Emanuel, former chief of staff for president Obama, and Chris Christie, former Republican governor of New Jersey, close ally of president trump. Politics in a minute, but first, let's talk about the covid-19 spread and the white house response right now. And Chris, let me begin with you, you're there in New Jersey which is getting hit so hard right now. It really is, George, and I think, you know that's attributable to a number of different things. New Jersey, the northern part is a bedroom community to New York City, lots of commuters go back and forth to work there. Northern New Jersey and New York City as the same region. Also, we're the most densely populated state in the country. So community spread in the most densely populated state in the country is going to be something very, very difficult to deal with. And so those two factors I think are the overwhelming factors in terms of the numbers you're seeing in New Jersey. So far your democratic governor Phil Murphy seems to be getting along with the president but this tussle between the president and the governors is playing out every single day and it seems like the governors have figured out the path of least resistance is to praise the president whether they mean it or not. Is that a healthy relationship? There's always a tug of war, every local official when you're the governor and every governor when you're the president wants as much in terms of resources they can possibly get during a disaster. But I think that you're seeing governor Cuomo have a very effective relationship with the president. And this can hardly be a called a relationship where he's just praising the president. He's been highly critical at times, but he's been praise-worthy. I think the most important thing as a governor right now is to be honest with the people you represent and you have to tell them exactly what's going on and if that's being critical of the white house so be it. If that's being praise-worthy of the white house, so be it. You can't worry about the politics during a disaster, you have to put your people first, and I think you have governor Cuomo and governor hogan are two examples of people who have been able to effectively do it. Be critical when they need to be and also praise-worthy when it deserved. Rahm, let me ask you the question I asked Tom Bossert. You used to worked for president Obama. Switch hats, if the president called you today, what's the most important thing you'd be telling him to do right now? I would have a leader in this effort. Going back to the white house you have Jared Kushner, Boston has former general mcchrystal running their operation, better prepared to get all of the pieces together in coordinated plan. One of the things that happened during the transition, a tabletop exercise that president Obama directed that the incoming administration had a plan for an impending pandemic. Four people participated. All are gone. Personnel is policy, George. I would put a person in charge of the massive operation, getting the government, get the logistics operation moving and look around the corner -- that's not happening -- Isn't that the vice president? Well, it's not happening, because it's clear -- those eight weeks from the early warnings that we got of what was happening in China and knowing that China from the CIA that told the president and told the vice president, they're telling -- they're not telling what you need to know, they didn't activate the process and everything that was implemented in that tabletop exercise, between the two administrations, the policies have all been decimated and you need know a general who knows how to direct that operation. With all due respect to Mike pence, that's not happening. That's why we continually out of this white house are literally two steps behind the music. A famous story where president Lincoln looking at general Mclellan outside of Richmond, if you don't plan on using that army I'd like to use it to see what it can do. We need someone to take charge and not lead from behind as president trump and the united States can meet this challenge. It's not being organized to do it and you can't do it letting everybody kind of compete against each other as if the United States was a giant Ebay process. That's not the way to do this operation. Every day we learn how it's not being done. This will be studied at the Harvard business school of what not to do in a crisis. Chris Christie, it does appears that it's settling in on the president the last couple days, talking about the tough weeks ahead, and it's also becoming pretty clear that he now realizes his entire re-election effort, especially with the collapse of the economy, is going to be judged on how he responds to this crisis? Absolutely right, George, and in the end, we elect presidents, we elect governors, we elect mayors, the executives, on how they're going to handle a crisis like this is the way they're ultimately going to be judged. When you hit a major crisis, you know, with me it was hurricane sandy, with the president's obviously this pandemic now, in my view politically nothing else matters. In fact, I have never seen a time when an opponent is more irrelevant. That's not an insult to vice president Joe Biden. But in the end, the American people are going to decide, has the president stood up to this crisis and done right by them and protected their lives and property? Almost as if this election will be a referendum on president trump than a binary choice between the president and the vice president. I would -- Do you agree with that, Rahm? Not really in this case. One level it's a measure and a test for the president of the United States. Crises reveal character. While you can have a different policies it will be the quality of the individual comes forward. In contrast, you have competence versus incompetence. You have trustworthy versus actually constantly spin. You have the most important quality which is -- the ability of a president to be emphatic to the people they lead versus something coming out of the white house of indifference and constant conflict and fighting. Just take a moment, look at the captain when he left that ship, the way his men and women responded to him. That's what you want out of a leader. Those men and women knew that that captain had their back. Nobody can look today at the United States and the leadership and say that this president is bringing the country together in a unified version in that effort and so I agree with Chris on one level the first test is about the president. The next test is, do you want a replica, somebody who's just like? Or a replacement of some of the qualities that are lacking from the president? In that way, vice president Joe Biden, the character of the person matches up perfectly, because crisis reveals character. Chris, we just heard Rahm brought up captain Brett crozier, do you think the president handled that well? Listen, I think none of us know enough about this to make a judgment. I'll go back to the point that Rahm was making for a second, which is, you know, this is going to be judged by how the president conducts himself day-to-day and he set it up that way with these daily briefings and being as transparent and as open as any president I have ever seen in terms of taking questions from literally at times an hour, an hour and a half from the media and answering those questions. I think that shows some character as well. He's not hiding in the white house, he's not refusing to answer these questions. In the end, I still believe, the president's going to be judged up and down. I hear you, Rahm. I know you're trying to interrupt. Give me a second. I didn't interrupt you. In the end, what I think we're going to understand politically is, and I saw this in new Jersey, you know, when hurricane sandy was done and I was judged to handle that crisis correctly, my approval rating was over 75%. I won 61% of the vote in the state that's a blue state, a very blue state. That's what people say, you put policy ahead of politics. If the president is judged to have done that he'll be okay. I would just say -- Rahm, ten seconds. Hoover got replaced because he didn't measure up to the depression. This president is not measuring up. We lost critical time. I would just say to you, we have an acting secretary of the Navy replaced a 20-year career veteran and that's not right and congress should have a hearing on that. Thank you both very much.

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

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