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Top GOP Senator: Trump Pushing U.S. "To WWIII"; Trump Issues Hardline Demands On Immigration Reforms; Corker: White House Chaos Like "Adult Day Care"; Stand Or Stunt? Pence Bolts After Niners Kneel. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired October 9, 2017 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. The Republican president, the Republican senator, the Republican friendship, turns sour, real sour and real fast. Leaving a lot of folks wondering now what?

After an extraordinary commentary from influential Republican Senator Bob Corker, the Tennessee lawmaker was once an ally of President Trump's campaigned with him, once considered as a running mate possibility and also considered as a secretary of state possibility.

Well, now he tells "The New York Times" that the president treats the office like a, quote, "reality show," his recklessness could put the nation, quote, "on the path to World War III," and that he's alarmed by a leader who acts, quote, "Like he's doing "The Apprentice" or something.

What does the president have to say about this? Maybe not surprisingly, quite a bit. Even before this interview was released Trump took to Twitter to say that Corker had begged him for an endorsement for re-election.

Adding that when the president refused to endorse, Corker -- adding that he refused then to endorse Corker, Corker is retiring and completely denied that the president wouldn't have backed him had he wanted to run for reelection.

So, there's that trouble on the home front and then there's this, remember that, quote/unquote, "dealing with -- quite a bit today, the quote/unquote, "deal" the president had reached with Democrats to protect DACA recipients not so long ago.


SENATOR CHUCK SCHUMER (D), MINORITY LEADER: Leader Pelosi and I had a constructive meeting with President Trump and several members of his cabinet. One of our most productive discussions was about the DACA program in which we all agreed on a framework.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: Well, that may be a thing of the past today. The White House laying out new demands now on immigration to get any such deal done, a deal breaker, let us find out. Now we've got real troubles with not only Democrats, but more members of his own party. Where is the president going to turn for help on all of this?

CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. Phil Mattingly is on Capitol Hill. Let's try to break this all down if it is possible. Kaitlin, first to you, the president very clearly not holding back this weekend about Senator Corker. What are they saying over at the White House there today?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: No, he certainly didn't hold back, and the White House is quickly learning that the president is not the only counterpuncher in this town. I can't overstate how stunning it is that a prominent senator from the president's own party is offering this sharp of a rebuke against him.

Not only is he the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but he's been an ally of the president's until now and was an early supporter of his presidency. And now in this interview with "The New York Times," he's saying things like, he concerns me, he would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.

And then after the president got on Twitter and said that Corker decided to retire because the president was not going to endorse him, Corker said that is largely wasn't true and that president had urged him multiple times to run again and even offered his endorsement.

And added, "I don't know why the president tweets out things that are not true. You know he does it, everyone knows he does it, but he does." So, some pretty sharp criticism there -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: I would say so. Phil, the president before this, needed every last Republican vote to get anything done. Is this public fight going to make that even harder? Where does this go?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think everybody is trying to figure it out right now. There is no question when you only have a majority of 52 Republicans and if you are working through certain budget processes, you only need 50 to be able to move forward. You don't have a lot of space to work with. We have example one, two, three, four, on health care where they fell short repeatedly over and over again.

BOLDUAN: Never made it to four.

MATTINGLY: We were like 3.7 or something like that. But so, you look at what their major legislative initiative is right now and it's tax reform. It's where Senate leadership, house leadership, where the rank and file, they're all-in on tax reform and it's the same type of scenario.

They need 50 votes to be able to move it forward. They have very little margin for error and Senator Corker primarily for deficit reasons has already raised concerns about tax reform. Will personal attacks matter?

I think one of the most interesting issues here when you watch what's been happening here and frankly you've heard a lot of what Senator Corker said on the record, off the record, behind the scenes, on background over the course of the last nine months from several Republican senators, from lots of senior GOP aides.

But they keep it quiet because they know that this is their best kind of last chance to be able to achieve what they want on policy grounds. But having covered Congress for a long time and Kate, you've been up here for a long time too, you know, how this works, the personal side matters.

The personal side can make or break whether or not legislation moves through. People kill legislation because they're mad at someone. I don't know that's going to be the case here, but I really think that while Republicans might align on the top line on tax reform or on certain issues whether its immigration, judges, all those types of issues right now the personal side matters.

[11:05:07] And the fact that there's just a severe disconnect and on the record manner right now with a very crucial Republican not on just something like tax reform but just on foreign policy, every issue that Senator Corker, the chairman of Foreign Relations, is going to have to deal with right now that matters, it's meaningful and will have long- term repercussions.

BOLDUAN: Yes. This is not -- every senator, obviously, has a vote and matters but this is a senator who could be a real thorn in the side of this president with his posts as the chairman.

Kaitlan, we talk about health care and a couple other things, but one of the big issues facing the president and Congress right now is what to do about the DACA program and now the White House lays out its demands yesterday. What are they laying out?

COLLINS: Yes. They laid out these series of hardline immigration rules last night and, though, the president has said multiple times in recent weeks that he did not expect a deal on DACA to include funding for that border wall, that was the top of the list last night when they released these policies.

It also included a crackdown on the influx of Central American minors living in the country and speedier deportations along with curbing federal grants for those so-called sanctuary cities. If the White House gets everything they want here that they released last night, it would be a serious tightening of immigration laws here in the United States.

BOLDUAN: So Phil, what does this do to the talks over there? Top Democrats involved in the talks are clearly not happy.

MATTINGLY: Yes. Look it's a nonstarter. There's no question about it, and they're going to need Democrats to be able to move anything forward. This is going to require a 60-vote threshold in the U.S. Senate, which means they need at least eight Democrats if they keep all Republicans together.

I think it's worth noting the framework the Democrats said was agreed to when this was initially announced is a framework that was a nonstarter for Republicans up here on Capitol Hill.

They were saying the Dream Act would be the baseline for the DACA portion of this agreement and the Dream Act is something that can't get Republican support in the House and Senate. So, there was knowledge that it was going to have to be (inaudible).

But I think the interesting element here, Kate, is in talking with Republicans over the last couple weeks, I have heard the word whiplash repeatedly. First put this was put on Congress' plate. You need to figure this out in six months.

Then there was allegedly a deal with Democrats that Republicans weren't going to sign on to. Then over the course of the last two weeks, several Republican senators including several, who have hardline immigration positions some of which have their pieces of immigration proposals in the White House, principles released last night met for dinner with the president and the White House started to kind of change its tune.

So, the way it's been going back and forth like a pendulum here has made it difficult for those on Capitol Hill to figure out how to actually move this forward. The reality is this, they have from when this was announced, six months.

These are real people who are dealing with real issues and the real possibility that if no deal is reached, deportation or losing their protection right now and as things currently stand, there is no real framework for a bipartisan deal to move forward.

Does that mean it's dead altogether? No. I think a lot of people right now are viewing this as kind of an initial proposal. This is where the negotiations are going to start and then move from there.

There's no question about it. Everything that Kaitlan laid out is severely problematic for the same Democrats, Republicans are going to need, to ever move anything through.

BOLDUAN: So just another day on Capitol Hill that is what you're telling me. Good to know. Kaitlan, great to see you. Phil, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joining me now to fight through it all, Matt Bennett, a Democratic strategist and former Clinton White House staffer, Caitlin Huey-Burns is a national political reporter for "Real Clear Politics," Steve Rogers is a member of President Trump's Reelection Advisory Board, and Margaret Hoover is a CNN political commentator and former George W. Bush White House staffer.

Great to see you all of you. Thank you so much for being here. Let's start with Bob Corker because there are too many quotes and when anyone talks about adult daycare, I have to go there right away. It's fascinating to see a top elected official take on the leader of the party, yes. Extraordinary, I would even say yes, but what is the motivation do you think for Bob Corker to be speaking out to the "New York Times" right now about this?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Bob Corker can speak truth to power and freedom because he has liberation, not running for re-election. You don't see this courage from people who are still going to be working with the president and I wish we would.

The one thing he said, though, Kate, I think it's worth reflecting on is that he said, I don't know why the president tweets out things that are not true.


HOOVER: Well, let's think about that. Why is he tweeting out things that are not true? He's tweeting out things that are not true because people believe what he says and his supporters believe what he says. If you muddy the facts and don't know what's true you can't criticize power. The president does not like to be criticized. This is a deflection and a distraction in order to embolden his base and delegitimize any criticism of him.

BOLDUAN: Does it delegitimize -- the way someone described it this morning, is this an intervention of some sort, Caitlin? Do you see this as an intervention or is this more Bob Corker throwing in the towel?

CAITLIN HUEY-BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, "REALCLEARPOLITICS": I think what's really striking about this not only that Bob Corker is a Republican senator, he is the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, so you can look at it through a rhetorical and political lens that the message that this sends abroad to allies.

You can also look at it through a policy lens which is, he chairs a committee that is very powerful in terms of national security and foreign policy issues on the president's agenda, the Iran deal if it goes back to Congress, and other measures, so that's significant here.

[11:10:11] Whether this encourages other Republican senators to speak out is another question. They have not done so. To Margaret's point, you know, Corker is as many people have been saying is uncorked because he is not running for re-election again.

But I think it's really important here on the foreign policy front, what kind of message this sends abroad at a time like this.

BOLDUAN: Steve, what do you make of this?

STEVE ROGERS, MEMBER, DONALD TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT INC. ADVISORY BOARD: Here's what I make of it. There's an irony to this. Bob Corker shows up for work with his colleagues and gets nothing done. Congress has not gotten very much done to help the American people.

President Donald Trump shows up for work and at least he's trying to get something done. And every time the president tries to move forward, somebody, whether it be a Democrat or in this case a GOP, blocks him and stops him because he's not an establishment guy.

The president is moving forward with an agenda he promised the American people and look his methods, people may not be happy with, but at the very least, he's very transparent, and he's trying to get the job done.

BOLDUAN: Do you think -- Matt, do you think that's it? I guess what I'm hearing from Steve is that this, no matter what Bob Corker says, this works in Donald Trump's favor? Because Donald Trump can say he's not with us, he's against us?

MATT BENNETT, CLINTON WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY ASSISTANT: Well, I couldn't agree less with Steve's point. Look, Donald Trump sold himself to the public as the guy that had the art of the deal mastered. He said, stupid people in Washington are screwing everything up because they don't know how to cut deals.

What deals has he cut? Where has been the art or the deal? He's unable to deal with Republicans in Congress. He's unable to deal with other foreign leaders, and he's now proven himself unable to deal with Democrats in Congress.

He has done actually done nothing. He has moved his agenda forward not at all and so this idea that he is some sort of master negotiator has been proven false. And now, what he's doing with Corker, even worse, he's engaging in this taunting with the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a moment when the world is very fraught, it's dangerous and it's not smart.

BOLDUAN: I do wonder what practically, though, this changes about the state of play? That's just something to ponder, what does this change? Does Bob Corker put other Republicans in a corner? Does Bob Corker -- Bob Corker --

HOOVER: Here's what it does, it changes the topography a little bit --

BOLDUAN: He also didn't say, I'm now not going to vote for something that Donald Trump likes. He's just saying I don't like how the guy operates.

HOOVER: But there's a lot of people in the White House who don't like how Donald Trump operates and they are doing the patriotic thing by working for this country and trying to, as Bob Corker said, be the responsible adults in the room.

And I think, you know, he is going to continue to execute his duties as a U.S. senator and the chairman of the Armed Services -- the Foreign Affairs Committee the same way.

BOLDUAN: I just want to make sure we get to it because this is very important issue and he's talking about striking deals. This is one of the deals that Donald Trump was working on with Democrats, DACA and what to do about DACA recipients. He spoke very powerfully about this. This is an emotional issue for him where he was separating himself from a lot of folks in his base on where he wanted to be on helping DACA, protecting DACA recipients and now this comes out from the White House, what's happening here?

ROGERS: Kate, he started the conversation, all right, I believe he's going to keep his promise to his base, to the American people.

BOLDUAN: To build the wall.

ROGERS: But they have to keep in mind that it's going to take time. We talked about him being a negotiator.

BOLDUAN: Are you saying you think he's going to get protections for DACA recipients done or --

ROGERS: I think he will do what's best for the American people at the end of the day and with all this --

BOLDUAN: That's up for interpretation right now.

ROGERS: It is. But he made a promise to the people. We are talking about the wall. We're talking about the DACA recipients.


ROGERS: Come to a conclusion that will benefit everyone. You're right, he has a heart, he's a father, a grandfather, he gets it. But before the Democrats and others jump the gun let's start talking the way we should be talking.

BOLDUAN: OK. Matt, are Democrats getting ready to jump the gun on this?

BENNETT: Absolutely not. The thing that came out last night as Phil was noting is a complete nonstarter. Not a single Democrat in Congress will get anywhere near it. That is not a negotiating position. That is a dead letter. I have no idea whether the president is serious about negotiating or not, but if he is, that was a really bad way to start.

HOOVER: Look, that was a document created for his base because the last thing the president did seriously undermined his base. The problem with that document it's also essentially comprehensive immigration reform from Trump's perspective. You can't get that done. We all know in the Senate, you have to have a narrow piece of legislation.

ROGERS: Right now.

BOLDUAN: But is this --

ROGERS: Right next.

BOLDUAN: What's wrong -- but what is wrong with laying out an opening -- this is like a reopening position because apparently started behind closed doors, I'm not sure where it ended up in terms of negotiating for DACA recipients.

HUEY-BURNS: When you look at the things that Trump has proposed for the border wall, for example, he has backed away from lines that he has established, right, and the budget and other issues.

[11:15:04] BOLDUAN: A lot of Republicans say that they didn't know if they -- they didn't want to see border wall funding in this conversation. They wanted to see more security measures on the border. So --

HUEY-BURNS: Exactly. He has backed away from things before which speaks to the broader point of members of Congress don't necessarily really fear this president. So, bringing this kind of back to the Corker issue, issuing these threats against lawmakers at a time when you need their support, doesn't do you any favors.

And with Democrats when he's trying to get a couple votes on tax reform because he might lose a couple, issues like immigration only make it more impossible for Democrats to work with him.

BOLDUAN: It gets to the whiplash nature that Phil was talking about, who can you trust and when and also on some level maybe that's exactly what Trump likes to do. I mean, you can see.

ROGERS: Kate, you asked the question where does it lead? It's going to lead to the 2018 midterms and we will clean house and then you'll see the change.


BENNETT: I agree with that.

HOOVER: clean whose house? That's what I want to know.

BOLDUAN: I was going to say.

HOOVER: I like Republicans not to lose the house.

BOLDUAN: Who's cleaning and who's going to pay for the house cleaning. We will establish the cleaning exercise later. Thank you all. Appreciate it. I'm not doing the cleaning. I won't.

OK. Coming up, the backlash over the vice president's NFL counter protest. The White House says he walked out to stand for the flag, for the troops, the national anthem. Others say it was stunt at a big cost to the American taxpayer. Details on that ahead.

Plus, he was on Valium, slept up all day, wagered up to a million dollars a night, CNN's exclusively reporting on the Las Vegas shooter in his own words. What it could mean now for the investigation? That's next.


[11:20:43] BOLDUAN: A stand or stunt? Depends on who you ask especially when it involves the vice president. When several players on the San Francisco 49ers took a knee during the national anthem before they faced off with the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, Vice President Pence, who was in attendance with his wife, Karen, they walked out.

The vice president tweeting that he didn't want to dignify the players' protests which he said disrespects the troops, the flag and the anthem. Instantaneously, of course, reigniting the emotional debate over the long-standing NFL protests against racial injustice.

President Trump not only applauded the VP, but said, he had asked him ahead of time to leave if any player did take a knee. Some of the 49ers players were not so impressed.


ERIC REID, SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS SAFETY: This is what it looks like, a man with power comes to the game, tweets a couple things out and leaves the game with an attempt to thwart our efforts. This is disheartening when everything that you were raised on, everything I was raised on, was to be the best person I can be, to help people that need help and the vice president of the United States is trying to confuse the message that we're trying to put out there.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now CNN's Rene Marsh with much more on this. So, Rene, it's not just the protests by the vice president when it is the vice president also involves taxpayer dollars. How much?

RENE MARSH, CNN GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: That's right. So, let's walk you through all of this. The Air Force says that it costs $30,000 per hour to fly a C-32, that is Air Force 2, and that's the aircraft that the vice president flies on.

Pence's flight from Las Vegas to Indianapolis on Saturday took about three hours and 20 minutes, that costs about $100,000. Pence then flew from Indianapolis to Los Angeles on Sunday, which took about four hours and 45 minutes, that cost $142,500. The grand total for that trip, $242,500.

Now, had he skipped the game that he left very quickly, the cost to fly from Vegas to Los Angeles, would have been a lot lower. A total of $45,000. Of course, these flight estimates, Kate, they do not include the cost of advanced personnel, Secret Service and support on the ground.

Now some of the costs we should point out to Los Angeles, that will be reimbursed by the Republican National Committee because Pence was attending a political event there, but this morning, critics are calling it a very expensive political stunt on the taxpayers' dime.

Because essentially it looks like, you know, the president by his own admission talked to the vice president about this and many people are saying look, this is the 49ers, you had to expect there was a high likelihood that someone was going to kneel, after all, this is Colin Kaepernick's former team.

So, the vice president is pushing back on all of this saying that this trip had been planned for a very long time and actually the Vegas trip was added on to his schedule last minute and there was no way he was going to skip out on honoring the victims in Las Vegas.

BOLDUAN: All right. There we have it. Laying the groundwork. Rene, thank you so much. I really appreciate it.

For more on this, let me bring in CNN political commentator and host of "BET News," Marc Lamont Hill, and CNN political commentator and former director of Black Outreach in the George W. Bush White House, Paris Dennard.

Gentlemen, great to see you. Thank you so much for coming in. Marc, first to you. Why is what Pence did a stunt versus a protest in itself?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, it's staged. He made a decision to go to a game. NFL players aren't walking around looking for anthems to crash. They staged a protest at the game that they're supposed to be at because it's their job.

Mike Pence knew ahead of time that if someone were to kneel for the anthem he would leave. Donald Trump instructed him to do so. He knew the 49ers were playing the Colts and the 49ers were going to kneel.

According to Jake Tapper and others the press was told that he would leave the game early. So, he went in knowing he was going to leave a game early. He has every right to protest, but I find it interesting that such taxpayer dollars would be used for him to fly somewhere to protest and shine a bad light on players who were protesting police violence as opposed to the anthem as he's suggesting. It's a very -- to me a very disappointing waste of money and really bad politics.

BOLDUAN: And Paris, protest or stunt, I mean, the protest and stunt can be the same thing. The fact that, though, the reporter traveling with the vice president whose job it is to track the movements of the VP, the reporter was told not to get out of the press van because it could be an early departure. Is that the beginning and end of what folks need to know about this?

PARIS DENNARD, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, it's the beginning of the truth and the truth is, the only political stunt that we saw was done by the San Francisco 49ers when they chose to make a political statement by taking a knee to the national anthem, which many view in this country as being disrespectful to the flag.

Now what the vice president did was say to the -- if they are going to be disrespectful to the flag, I will not stay there and participate in this event. They did -- the vice president actually could have stayed the entire time, had -- had the San Francisco 49ers not taken a knee. So, he didn't know what they were going to do. That's why they told the press --

BOLDUAN: It's the 49ers. DENNARD: That's not true though.

BOLDUAN: They were going to kneel.

DENNARD: I don't know that they're going to kneel. Nobody thought that --

BOLDUAN: They've done it -- folks --

DENNARD: Nobody thought that --

BOLDUAN: -- folks have done it every game since last season.

DENNARD: Nobody thought the Dallas Cowboys would take a knee with their owner, Jerry Jones, at the game against the --

BOLDUAN: That's not the 49ers, though, right?

HILL: Hold on, Paris. You're being dishonest, brother.

DENNARD: No, I'm not being dishonest.

HILL: Let me --

DENNARD: You don't like my response.

HILL: You're being -- OK. A player said I'm going to kneel every game this season. He said that at the beginning of the season. We are now in the middle of the season. He said I'm going to kneel every game this season. Could you acknowledge it is reasonable to assume if a player says I'm going to kneel every game he's probably going to kneel every game this season?

DENNARD: It's reasonable to assume somebody can make up their mind and say I'm not going to continue to be disrespectful to the flag. I choose another way --

HILL: No. You're avoiding my question, though.

DENNARD: I'm not avoiding your question. My -- this is my response to you, Marc. The vice president had a right to go to the game. The vice president decided --

HILL: That's not what I'm asking. OK.

DENNARD: The vice president decided if they take a knee, I'm going to leave. He told the press, if this happens, I'm going to leave. So, what is the problem?

HILL: OK. Let -- but my point --

BOLDUAN: The problem -- the difference, Marc, if the White House would just say yes, this was a stunt. We wanted to prove a point?

HILL: Yes, I mean, that's fine. Just say that. I mean, even if Paris is not answering my question, it still speaks to a certain issue here, right, which is --

DENNARD: Marc, this isn't your show so I don't have to answer you.

HILL: We're having a conversation. It's just reasonable. But -- so don't answer. I'll answer for myself the player said I'm going to kneel tomorrow, Mike Pence knew he was going to kneel tomorrow and still came to the game. He made a decision to come to a game where he knew players would kneel so that he could leave.

That's OK. He has a right to do that. I'm not saying he's wrong to want to do that. Call it what it is. Protests are stunts. It's a spectacle, designed to draw attention to something. The players want to draw attention to police violence against black people and unfortunately, Mike Pence wanted to draw attention to these black people as opposed to the actual issue which is what, police violence.

DENNARD: That's not the issue.

HILL: He could -- let me finish. He could have stood up and said you know what I'm outraged at Charlottesville and basically, a KKK rally that happened two days ago. He says nothing and he said he goes to pick a fight with NFL players who are protesting police violence.

And then he misframes the argument by suggesting that they're disrespecting the flag as opposed to talking about the fundamental issue. Not once did Mike Pence mention police violence which is what the players were actually challenging.

BOLDUAN: Paris, do you --

DENNARD: Well, I think -- go ahead.

BOLDUAN: Do you have a problem with the fact that this was -- when it involves the vice president and taxpayer dollars? It's no surprise again that the 49er players were going to kneel, they do it at every game. I mean, does it -- is it a problem for you that it comes at the taxpayer expense?

DENNARD: No, because if -- because at the end of the day if he would have stayed the entire game, nobody would have had any complaints about him using taxpayer dollars to go to the event to honor Peyton Manning, which is why he was originally going.

Look, he's the vice president of the United States. Any time any member of the vice president's team or the vice president or the president go anywhere, it's going to be at the taxpayer's experience. This is not new to the -- this administration when President Obama went to basketball games in town, out of town.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely right.

DENNARD: That is what happens.

BOLDUAN: I'm just saying --

DENNARD: My point it doesn't matter -- BOLDUAN: When it becomes obvious that it's going to be what it's

going to be?

DENNARD: Well, listen, I don't -- the Miami Dolphins owner changed his mind when it came to protesting and said the president has changed this debate and made this debate about patriotism, and so they changed the policy.

So, the San Francisco 49ers could have changed the policy. We do not know. The vice president went there, decided if they were going to be -- if they were going to be disrespectful, he was going to leave, he left and went over.

HILL: Wow.

BOLDUAN: I'm going to let Marc have the last thought. I don't think that folks that started the protests, started kneeling are going to say the president can change the contours of the debate. They weren't protesting patriotism.

HILL: They don't get to decide --

DENNARD: The issue is the act, not their -- not their right to protest against police brutality. It is the way that they're doing it which is disrespectful and not patriotic. The owner of the Dolphins has changed his tune. That's why Jerry Jones has said if you take a kneel, you're going to leave. Go ahead, Marc, take the last word.

HILL: So again, the -- the issue here, the issue here is that you don't get to decide the meaning of other people's protests, number one, and number two, you don't get to decide other people's patriotism.