During Tuesday night’s edition of Erin Burnett OutFront, the eponymous expressed shock that Never Trumper Christine Todd Whitman would actually prefer to see Vice President Mike Pence in charge over President over Donald Trump. Whitman had recently written an op-ed for The Los Angeles Time calling on her fellow Republicans to urge President Trump to step down.
Burnett prefaced the interview by making sure the audience knew that the former Republican Governor of New Jersey backed Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. Whitman said that the President’s behavior in Europe and his rhetoric towards the European Union and NATO prompted her to write the piece:
The final straw for me was the way he behaved over in Europe for the E.U. and NATO meetings, when he basically dissed our allies and set them aside and embraced Putin. And when you take the oath of office, you agree and hold up your right hand and swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Putin is an enemy. He is not going to be our ally. Talking to him is fine; nothing against that. But to fawn over him the way the President did, to set aside our allies, to throw everything into uncertainty on the people who are…for the people who are on our side in order to appear more closely aligned with somebody like Vladimir Putin. That’s just not good for the country.
After pointing to President Trump’s extremely high approval ratings among Republicans, Burnett asked Whitman if she had any plans to leave the Republican Party and Whitman replied: “No, not right now. I still want to fight for the party. I believe in the Republican Party and what we used to stand for, before declaring “I don’t think that Donald Trump is truly a Republican. I don’t think he is truly a conservative.”
Burnett pointed out that if President Trump were to step down, “that then means Mike Pence.” She then quoted an op-ed from New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, who described Pence as a “bigot” and a “liar” before stressing that “Mike Pence has a very strong point of view on things like abortion” before asking Whitman “would you be willing to take Pence over Trump?”
Whitman shot back: “I don't think he will tweet us into a war or a difficult situation. I don’t think he would disrespect the Constitution. I am not a fan in the sense that I don't agree with any of the positions he has taken.” Burnett tried again, but Whitman reiterated that “over the next two years, I would live with...those positions.” Burnett reacted to Whitman’s declaration with a “wow.”
While Burnett may not have liked the fact that Whitman prefers Pence over Trump, her decision to criticize the President in a Los Angeles Times op-ed surely puts her in the running for a job on cable TV if she would ever consider the opportunity because, after all, we know that these are the Republicans that receive top billing on CNN and MSNBC.
A transcript of the relevant portion of Erin Burnett OutFront is below. Click “expand” to read more.
CNN's Erin Burnett OutFront
ERIN BURNETT: New tonight, President Trump asking his embattled chief of staff John Kelly to stay by his side through 2020. This comes after weeks and months of rumors that Kelly’s demise was imminent. But if one prominent Republican has her way, Trump won’t even be in office that long. The former New Jersey Governor who also served as a member of President George W. Bush’s cabinet, Christine Todd Whitman, writes in a Los Angeles Times op-ed titled, “Calling my fellow Republicans: Trump is clearly unfit to remain in office.” Quote: “I am a lifelong Republican. I have campaigned and won as a member of the party, and I have served more than one Republican president. We must put aside the GOP label, as hard as that may be, and demonstrate the leadership our country needs by calling on the president to step down.” Not mincing words, not trying to hide behind nuance. That’s a clear statement. Christine Todd Whitman is OUTFRONT. I appreciate your time. Look, I know that this took a lot for you to write. But, I mean, just so people know, you weren’t a Trump supporter. You had come out and said, look, I voted for Hillary Clinton. But now, you are coming out with this step down and you are doing it now. What made you decide to do this now?
CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN: Well, the final straw for me was the way he behaved over in Europe for the E.U. and NATO meetings, when he basically dissed our allies and set them aside and embraced Putin. And when you take the oath of office, you agree and hold up your right hand and swear to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Putin is an enemy. He is not going to be our ally. Talking to him is fine; nothing against that. But to fawn over him the way the President did, to set aside our allies, to throw everything into uncertainty on the people who are…for the people who are on our side in order to appear more closely aligned with somebody like Vladimir Putin. That’s just not good for the country.
BURNETT: So, Republican voters, as you know, strongly back President Trump. Paul Begala was just raising this point, right? He was saying, I believe his 88. Our latest polling is 82 percent. No matter how you look at it, it is a stratospheric approval rating among Republicans.
WHITMAN: That’s the key. They’re such a small percentage of the registered voters.
BURNETT: But if you get all the Republicans to vote for him, he could win again.
WHITMAN: But if you’re only 29 percent…yes, he can. Oh, I don’t doubt that he can. But if you’re only 29, and now I’ve heard 26 percent of voters identify as Republicans. So if you’re talking yes, if you get that out, it’s a serious bloc. But that’s a small percentage of the overall potential electorate.
BURNETT: You’re talking about the Trump base.
WHITMAN: The Trump base, the Republican base. Those who self-identify as Republicans now are between 26 and 29 percent, 30 percent is Democrats…say they’re Democrats. And 40 is independents or unaffiliated. So, you’ve got a huge block. And those…that 40 percent is not going to even break 50-50.
BURNETT: So, would you leave the party? Would you leave that 26 to 29?
WHITMAN: Well, I’m not in that 26 to 29. I’m an Eisenhower Republican. And those are not the ones that they ever poll as identified Republicans.
BURNETT: Would you leave the party, though as some have done?
WHITMAN: No, not right now. I still want to fight for the party. I believe in the Republican Party and what we used to stand for. I don’t think that Donald Trump is truly a Republican. I don’t think he is truly a conservative and I don’t think he is good for the country.
BURNETT: You know, the thing is, though, if he were to do what you’re asking, to step down.
WHITMAN: He won’t, he won’t.
BURNETT: Right, okay, fine, but if he were…
WHITMAN: Yes, yes.
BURNETT: That then means Mike Pence. And New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, who was just here a couple of moments ago said getting rid of Trump would be a mistake. His quote was, quote: “There are problems with impeaching Donald Trump. A big one is the holy terror waiting in the wings. That would be Mike Pence, who mirrors the boss more than you realize. He’s also self-infatuated. Also a bigot. Also a liar. Also cruel.” All right. That’s one person’s very strong point of view.
BURNETT: But let’s be clear, Mike Pence has a very strong point of view on things like abortion.
WHITMAN: Oh, yes.
BURNETT: The law on…
WHITMAN: Gender, right.
BURNETT: …gender and gay and lesbian relationships in Indiana. He has a strong point of view, which his boss actually does not seem to have on those issues in the same way.
WHITMAN: No, but I don’t think…
BURNETT: Would you be willing to take Pence over Trump?
WHITMAN: But I don’t think he will tweet us into a war or a difficult situation. I don’t think he would disrespect the Constitution. I am not a fan in the sense that I don’t agree with any of those positions he has taken.
BURNETT: But you would take those positions over Trump?
WHITMAN: But for the next two years, I’d live with those two, those positions.
BURNETT: Wow. So, let me ask you about…Hugh Hewitt in The Washington Post said, no matter what you think, “the president has…surrounded himself with superb Cabinet members,” “his commitment to originalist judges and a sizable military rebuild are two of the most consequential aspects of his tenure. The economy is cooking.” His point of view is, he’s done a good job.
WHITMAN: The economy is cooking, the best quarter since 2014. That was only four years ago under the much hated and reviled Obama administration.
WHITMAN: So, we’ve seen it before. He should take credit because he would get the blame if he didn’t.
BURNETT: Yes, he would.
WHITMAN: You know, if he were in there, there is no question about that. And as I say, some of the people that have pushed back against me have been very thoughtful. And those are the points that they raise. But that to me does not trump, to excuse that, trump what I see as a really dangerous undermining of the norms that are the basis of our democracy. This idea about false news, it scares me when the President of the United States will stand up and say, don’t believe anything you see or anything you hear. All news is fake. Only believe me. That should scare people to death. That’s not the kind of country we are.
BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you so much, Governor. I appreciate your time.
WHITMAN: My pleasure.
BURNETT: And thank you for coming and talking to me about it.