'This Week' Transcript: Denis McDonough, Sen. Ted Cruz and Gregory Hicks

ByABC News
September 5, 2013, 6:55 PM
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on 'This Week'
White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough on 'This Week'
ABC News

NEW YORK, SEPT. 8, 2013— -- A rush transcript of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" airing on Sunday morning, Sept. 8, 2013 on ABC News is below. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


It wasn't even on the agenda one month ago, but now, the vote to use military force in Syria has become the most critical test of the Obama presidency. The stakes are high. America's security and credibility on the line. So is the balance of power between the president and Congress and the rest of Obama's agenda in his second term.

And right now, it's a vote the president would lose.

ABC's whip count in the House shows 229 members likely in the "no" camp, only 44 are likely to vote "yes."

And let's start out with more on that from ABC's chief White House correspondent, John Karl -- and, John, the situation a bit better for the White House in the Senate, but this is an uphill battle for the White House and they know it.

JONATHAN KARL, ABC CORRESPONDENT: Oh, George, that's right. Even White House officials acknowledge if the vote were today, the president would lose. But they are promising a massive effort to turn that around.

This will be the biggest Congressional effort by the White House since the battle over health care in the president's first year as president.

And it's going to be a very visible effort. First, you're going to see the president do six network television interviews, national interviews, tomorrow. There will be a big address to the nation on Tuesday.

And, George, the most important thing here is they have even enlisted former members of the Bush administration to make the case for Republicans, including Bush's former national security adviser, Stephen Hadley, who has been talking directly to Republican members of Congress.

But, George, the president himself has also been making a personal effort. They've brought individual members to the White House, even bringing them into the Situation Room to show them classified ef -- ev -- evidence.

But, uh, George, one key thing that is not happening here, the president's grassroots army, Organizing for America, 30 million Twitter followers, they are completely on the sidelines here. They will not be taking part in this effort.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Yes, not a lot of -- a lot of support for this from the president's base, at least right now.

But what if the president can't turn this around?

The White House has been dancing all over that question.

KARL: George, that is the big question, a -- especially given where the vote count is now. I tried to ask that question directly to the president and he told me point blank he would not give me a direct answer.

But what I can say is his -- some of his top advisers have told me that they cannot conceive of him going forward with military strikes if Congress says no.

On the other hand, we've had military officials tell us that given where the planning is now, they can't see him pulling the plug on this, either.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, Jon Karl, thanks very much.

Let's go right to the president's chief of staff, Denis McDonough.

And, Denis, so many questions about the president right here and what he would do if you can't, uh, succeed in getting those votes in the next couple of weeks.

As Jon pointed out, the president did not directly answer that question on Friday, but he did say this. He said his call to Congress was not a political ploy or symbolism.

And he went on to say this.