tv CNN Tonight With Don Lemon CNN October 19, 2017 11:00pm-12:00am PDT
it belongs, not on women who dress any way or act any way, not on women who come forward or those who don't. just where it belongs. thanks for watching "360." time to turn things over to don lemon and "cnn tonight." this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon. it has been an extraordinary day to be an american. to sit back and watch true patriotism unfold. real patriotism. not the symbols of patriotism that some have been using to divide us. like whether someone stands or kneels at a ball game. i'm talking about real patriotism. the real patriots to whom we owe an incalculable debt of gratitude. and that's our gold star families whose loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice. general john kelly is one of them. his 29-year-old son was killed fighting for our country in 2010 in helmand province in afghanistan. >> understand there's tens of
thousands of american kids mostly doing the nation's bidding all around the world. they don't have to be in uniform. you know, when i was a kid, every man in my life was a veteran. world war ii, korea. and there was the draft. these young people today, they don't do it for any other reason than their selfless sense of selfless devotion to this great nation. >> absolutely. and you could hear a pin drop in that room when he said that. and who could or would argue with a gold star family about that loss and that devotion? so how did we get here? that's also important. why did the president's chief of staff even have to stand at that podium today? where did all these claims of politicizing this controversy come from? the entire thing started with the man kelly works for. and that's donald trump, the commander in chief. but that was never mentioned during the press conference today. general kelly attacked florida congresswoman fredericka wilson for listening to the phone call to the widow and then for later
answering a reporter's question about that phone call. never mind that he and other members of the trump administration listen in on the call on the president's end. never mind that it was a reporter's question that elicited president trump's initial brag about calling gold star families in the first place. but in this white house you must always counterpunch, always be on the attack. so -- >> and the congresswoman stood up and in the long tradition of empty barrels making the most noise stood up there in all of that and talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building and how she took care of her constituents because she got the money and she just called up president obama and on that phone call he gave the money, the $20 million to build the building. and she sat down. and we were stunned.
stunned that she'd done it. even for someone that is that empty a barrel we were stunned. >> empty barrel. in that same press conference kelly lamented that he felt women were no longer held as sacred in our society. perhaps he should look across the resolute desk at his boss, grab him by the p word, blood coming out of her wherever, rosie o'donnell is a fat pig, miss venezuela is miss piggy, miss housekeeping, i could go on but i don't have all night and i have to get to the show. what i'm trying to convey is that this isn't about kelly but about his boss, who didn't have to send kelly out there to defend his bad behavior. one of three generals he sent out today to clean up his mess and vouch for his behavior in the wake of niger. kelly, mattis, mcmaster. all trump had to say was i'm sorry, full stop. and if he needed to go on, if he needed to say something else, he could have said that that was not my intention and i am deeply
sorry. he could have called her again personally, the widow. he could have called the congresswoman to explain himself. he could have put class above one-upsmanship. he could have put patriotism above personal grievance. but outside the briefing room we all got another lesson in patriotism today, and i think i know who the subject was intended to be here. a lesson from two men who were once on opposite sides of a lot of issues, two former presidents speaking out for this country's real values. >> we've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. at times it can seem like the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. argument turns too easily into animosity. disagreement escalates into dehumanization. we've seen nationalism distorted into nativism. we've forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always
brought to america. >> the goodness and decency and hard work and responsibility and sacrifice that's on display by the american people every single day in their communities all across this great country, all across this great state, people of every walk of life, it doesn't matter whether they're white or black or hispanic or asian or native american, whether they're disabled, whether they are gay or straight, there are people all across this country that want to do things better, that want to work together! >> in america many people claim the mantle of patriotism. but some are willing to die for it to protect us and some speak out to protect it and to protect us from degradation of our values. now let's begin our program. i want to bring in now cnn's chris cillizza, our politics editor at large. jim sciutto, cnn's chief
national security correspondent. and april ryan, cnn political analyst. good evening to all of you. as i started, i said what a day to be an american, to witness all of this, in just one afternoon. april, i'm going to start with you because you were in the room for this. general kelly expressed disgust that congresswoman fredericka wilson listened in on the condolence call from the president. and then he talked about the media. >> it stuns me that a member of congress would have listened in on that conversation. absolutely stuns me. and i thought at least that was sacred. >> so she talked to the media about it, i should say. what is your take on the general being stunned that it became political, april? >> well, first, i wasn't in the room. i was in little rock, arkansas. but i watched from my hotel room in real time. and as you know, don, i have been in conversation with congresswoman frederica wilson
who said the reason why she heard it is because the master sergeant had the call on speaker phone for all in that car to hear, to include family members of the late sergeant la david johnson, his widow, the congresswoman herself, her staffer, as well as the master sergeant. and she was in there as well as other people who listened to it. she even said that she heard what the president had to say and she wanted to say something but the master sergeant said no. she was very upset with his words. when general kelly made that statement, he did not deny those were the words that the president used. so we do know that the president did use those words. now, the questions are what happened? frederica wilson has given her take on what she's heard from intelligence officials on capitol hill as to what has happened. so the question is is that
accurate as well? would the white house say that's accurate too? >> but if you listen to general kelly's words, he basically confirmed what the congresswoman said. right? because he said that -- >> yes, he did. >> -- he tweeted democratic congresswoman totally fabricated. i said what i said to the wife of a soldier who died in action and i have proof. sad. didn't general kelly contradict that tweet? >> he did. >> yes, he did. >> yeah. >> go ahead, chris. >> yeah. sorry, april. yeah, he did. i think what you saw general kelly doing was sort of a very powerful way of political cleanup, which was to say here's what donald trump said, which was what frederica -- congresswoman frederica wilson said he said. but here's what he meant. right? so that's where he -- and here's the origin of what he said,
which is general undunford, who's the commandant of the marine corps, also kelly said his best friend, had told him something similar when he lost his son. so he was trying to sort of show us the genesis of that phrase he knew what he was getting into -- >> but jim, here's the thing with that. listen, i have the utmost respect for general kelly. but general dunford was saying to general kelly, who is a military man to a military man about a military man. and that is a different context than telling a 24-year-old civilian woman who is with child and two -- one of them standing by her side or about to stand by her side at a casket. the context is important. and that is important. that sometimes people just don't know what they don't know. and i understand if a military man said that. i'm sure someone would understand it. but when you're speaking to a civilian, i don't think that's the right way to hear that -- i don't think she wanted to hear that in that moment, jim.
>> well, listen, can any of us imagine a more difficult conversation to have to have? >> no. >> we can't. so to find the right words, it's virtually impossible to get it right. now, so set that aside for a moment. because i can't imagine having to make that call. i watched general kelly today, a gold star father himself. i've got two sons. the idea of losing a child is just the most heartbreaking thing to imagine. the idea of speaking to someone who lost a child not quite as heartbreaking but god knows as difficult. i would set that aside for a moment, in the moment how difficult that call is. the trouble is that call was bus burst out into the public, right? first by the president to some degree because the president brought it up. right? in defense of himself. because he was asked by my colleague, our colleague sara murray, and this is how it started, why some two weeks after the attack the president hadn't said anything about these soldiers. that's where this started.
and then the president got into it and, you know, we had a bunch of back and forth over that. so the president put it out into the public. the congresswoman did as well. but let's be honest, she was there in the car with them. presumably it looks like by the family's choice. our understanding is that she knew the fallen soldier and the family before. so it's not like she was an eavesdr eavesdropper, right? >> it's not like she was an interloper. he was part of her mentoring program. for all intents and purposes she's part of the family. listen, jim, i understand. >> you know what i'm getting at. the point being it's a difficult conversation under any circumstance -- >> it is a very difficult conversation. >> it burst out into the public, and it became -- and the president has his part in this. it became a political football, right? a battling point. >> the point is it's a difficult conversation and if you say something and if it offends someone you say i am sorry, that was not my intention, in that
moment i'm not sure what i could have said or what i should even say to you in this moment, i can't imagine what you're going through. he could have done that personally. >> that's right. >> he is the commander in chief. listen, i take it that the congresswoman she put it out there as well and she has some degree of responsibility. whatever you feel about that. she is not the commander in chief. she is not the president of the united states. she does not have to be the consoler in chief. so the president of the united states should always take the high road. and if he did not intend to say it, if that wasn't his intention, tell that to the widow. don't make up for some mistake that you've made by bringing everybody else into it. >> and don't tweet, by the way, don't tweet something about fabrication and don't -- >> don't send out general kelly, who's lost his son sadly, in afghanistan in 2010, don't send him out there to clean up your mess. take responsibility. we would not be talking about it. it would be over. >> that's the nub of it, don. i think that's the central pivot
point, which is i think you could explain this as donald trump, as jim mentioned, was trying to do something that is extremely difficult and something he doesn't do and had never done before. you know, he hasn't done it a lot in his life. it's not something he's done. he's a businessman, he's never done this. you are dealing with a widow who is struggling with grief. you can understand the possibility that miscommunication, what he said and what she heard, what he meant and what she took it to be weren't right. fine. the problem is the constant doubling down, the attacking, the saying this congresswoman, whether it's general kelly and the empty barrel stuff which i thought felt totally out of place -- >> trying to discredit her for telling the truth. >> right. or just the whole idea like it's fabricated. just say, you know what? i can never understand this sort of grief. i did the best that i could.
i wanted to call -- if what i said wasn't how it was received, i deeply regret that. there's no harm done there and we're not -- >> and we would not be talking about it. and the story would be over. but stick around. you guys are going to come back. stick around, everyone. when we come back, there are even more couldn't rah dictions in general kelly's defense of the president today. we're going to cover as many as we can. when did you see the sign? when i needed to jumpstart sales. build attendance for an event. help people find their way. fastsigns designed new directional signage. and got them back on track. get started at fastsigns.com. and got them back on track. i enjoy the fresher things in life.o. fresh towels. fresh soaps. and of course, tripadvisor's freshest, lowest...
now that we have your attention... capri sun has four updated drinks. now with only the good stuff. do you know how to use those? nope. get those kids some new capri sun! the white house chief of staff john kelly wading into the middle of a massive political battle today with his defense of president trump's call to a gold star widow who lost her husband in a deadly raid in niger. back now with my panel. april, you were saying? >> i was saying this is about discrediting a congresswoman who told the truth. there were several pieces of
that statement today from general kelly that really stood out to me. one, the fact that he said he had to go to arlington national cemetery and walk around for an hour and a half. that really hit me hard because his son is there. his son -- he is a member of the gold star families now. unfortunately. but we thank him for his service and his son as well. but at the sam time this congresswoman who told the truth, who did not -- she was not an interloper, she did not do this secretly. she was in the car when the master sergeant played it. but here's another piece that i think the white house is upset about why they're trying to discredit her. because she has information that they don't necessarily want out right now. she's getting information, intel that they have not put out, and this boko haram issue is real. i called a retired general who has vast knowledge as relates to that part of the world and the u.s. efforts with niger. this general, this retired general said to me, look, this is not a unique effort, we have
trained before as well as advised the niger military when it comes to boko haram. boko haram and isis are linked. so she is giving information that they don't want out there. they want to control the narrative. and they're trying to discredit her. this is what i don't understand. >> don, april makes a great point there because beyond the issue of the call, right? there are four dead american troops here. on an operation where the intel told them it was unlikely they would make enemy contact when in fact they had 50 isis-linked militants attack them. where regardless of whether the pentagon is -- and they are -- uncomfortable with the phrase left behind, they want to say separated from his unit, regardless, for 48 hours they didn't know where he was. they found his dead body 48 hours later. why is that? why did those planes, the evacuation planes take off without him? secretary mattis said don't blame the troops on the ground. i have no intention of doing that. but it's reasonable to ask the pentagon questions as to why
that happened. why was there no u.s. air cover? a french plane came 30 minutes into that firefight with no ability to fire on the ground. it flew over to disperse the troops, scare them away. couldn't fire. then it was a french aircraft that evacuated them and a private contractor that took out the dead bodies. there were no u.s. military aircraft that could get there in time. why? those are very reasonable questions to be asking 15 days after this happened. uncomfortable questions for the pentagon and the commander in chief. they're not answering them. >> do you think, chris, that that may be part of the reason that it was -- there was such a slow response, that they didn't want to touch it, that -- >> look, i'll add to what jim said. the simple answer, don, is i don't know why the response took as long as it did and obviously when you take the time you took and you have this he said she said she said back and forth with the president saying a
congresswoman lied, it wound up not being true, if you're going to wait a while you want it to be seamless when you decide to say what you say. i'll add, though, to jim's point. john mccain is out there saying there's more to this story and i'm willing to subpoena people to find out what it is. say what you want about it. john mccain is a conservative republican from arizona who's in the same party as the president. i mean, this is not, you know, chuck schumer trying to score -- do a political -- this is a belief that there is more there. you heard -- it doesn't get as much attention because of all the other things general kelly said. but he did acknowledge that they're trying to figure out what exactly happened. >> listen, not to cut you guys off but i want to get this in because this is important. this just came out tonight. congresswoman wilson's office just released a statement and it says, "the congresswoman has decided to not make any further comment on this issue.
the focus needs to be on helping a grieving widow and family heal and should not be on her or donald trump. she has nothing else to add but stands by the statement issued last night. in addition, it is imperative that an investigation be conducted to help us understand the circumstances that led to the ambush that caused the deaths of sergeant johnson and his fellow soldiers." she's been calling for that all along. and jim, as he just said, i think that's what john mccain and others want as well. >> well, that's not an empty barrel, right? that's a congresswoman with constituents that include someone who was killed in this action asking a very reasonable question, why did he die and why did his fellow soldiers die? and we don't have those answers yet. and the families have a right to know but the public has a right to know. >> yeah. april, it's not the last we heard of. do you think they'll address it in the briefing? >> i'm sure they will. but the question is -- also there's another question.
was the soldier left behind and was there a transmitting device that the congresswoman said was on the soldier that was emitting signals when he was found? so there are so many questions about intelligence, about the vehicles were not armored, about weaponry, about firepower. there were a lot of questions that remain unanswered. the nation wants to know. soldiers' lives were lost. and that is indeed the focus. and if you can find answers you can prevent possibly another type of situation like this down the road. >> and she did yesterday, called it -- she said this is this administration's benghazi. thank you very much. when we come back, what exactly happened in niger and where else are american force that's may surprise you? we're going to talk to the former head of the cia and nsa, general michael hayden. ♪ ♪ you nervous?
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national security analyst general michael hayden, the f m former director of the cia and the national security agency. good evening, sir. >> good evening. >> what a day. >> oh, yeah. >> as i said. first of all, i have to ask you about general kelly's speech. we've used the word unprecedented so many times in the last two years. what did you make of today? >> i was frankly very impressed with the speech. and don, let me qualify that immediately. i think it was unfortunate the personal attack on congresswoman wilson. but if you take that out of the speech and let it stand on its own with what remains i think it was a magnificent statement. and don, the more i listened to it and read it and reread it and reflected i began to interpret it less as a defense of the president and more as a defense of the 1% of america who defend the other 99% of america and
general kelly's expression of the grief all of us who've been part of that 1% have when the other 99% are now taking their bitter personal, political quarrels and imposing it on the most sacred rituals of the 1% who defend us. i actually think that was the core of the speech, not the defense of the president. >> but do you think in his remarks, did he defend the president saying, you know, he knew what he signed up for? when the general -- i understood when the general was saying it. but my -- what i think it is is a military man speaking, he was talking about dunford, speaking to a military man about another military man. and they may understand it in that context. >> i think so. >> but it's different for a 24-year-old widow. >> of course. and first of all, we need to have a little sympathy and empathy for president trump. for those of us who have never made that kind of call, and unfortunately i have had to make that kind of call. but for those who haven't don't
be quick to jump to judgment here. this is very, very difficult. and i think the president is looking for some assistance and john told him what joe dunford told him when dunford personally as commandant of the marine corps went to general kelly's quarters and told him that his son had died. and here i think he knew what he had signed up for was general dunford's way of telling general kelly john, i know you're going to grieve about this but you shouldn't feel guilty about t s this. robert wasn't there because of you. robert chose there to be there on his own. which is a perfectly appropriate thing for one marine to say to another marine. but it doesn't work at all when the president tried to say it to this young 24-year-old widow. >> yeah. and let me make this clear, and i think you're right. and i tried to do it with jim sciutto. that this is a very difficult conversation that no one wants to have. but if in that moment you don't say the right thing the
appropriate immediate response is to apologize immediately. >> look, that's all correct. and in terms of politicizing it i actually think the congresswoman, she was not the intended recipient of the president's message and so i would never have made that public. but she did. but then the president then counterpunches. and you know, don, sooner or later will the president just take a punch and act presidential rather than mixing it up? after he did that, after that happened, he pulled general kelly's family into this. he trashed his predecessors quite inaccurately about what it was they did in these circumstances. and then finally it appears that he lied about what he did or didn't say to that young woman. >> yeah. >> so he bears some responsibility for politicizing this as well, even though he has my sympathy for the original task. >> right. absolutely. and you said taking a punch. but turning the other cheek. and it's interesting he just spoke at the value voters summit, turning the other cheek
is probably something that is very highly regarded amongst that crowd. but i have to ask you, general kelly also took questions today and he talked about u.s. troops in africa. let's listen. >> so why were they there? they're there working with partners, all across africa, in this case niger, working with partners, teaching them how to be better soldiers, teaching them how to respect human rights, teaching them how to fight isis so that we don't have to send our soldiers and marines there in their thousands. that's what they were doing there. >> general hayden, please expand on the intelligence and military operations going on in africa? >> yeah. actually, what general kelly expressed there, don, is the most efficient and effective use of american special forces that there is. this long-term presence with allied nations to build capacity, to build respect for the rule of law, to build partnerships between ourselves and them, enabling them to do
the things that if we didn't help them prepare for we'd have to one day go and do ourselves. right now press accounts put about 800 g.i.s in niger, and i do know we've got a footprint in a variety of african countries. frankly, don, that's why we created africa command about a decade or so ago, because we knew we were going to have this foreign internal defense presence in africa. it's a great idea. it makes americans safe. but general mattis was very clear today, there's a reason we don't ask the peace corps to do this. it's inherently dangerous. so we do send armed american soldiers to do this task. >> general, your insights are always welcome here, and we appreciate it. thank you so much. >> thank you. when we come back, former presidents bush and obama both taking aim at president trump today though not by name. why they warn america must return to the values that made this country great. whoooo.
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not so subtle jabs at the current president. both george w. bush and barack obama making rare appearances. let's discuss now. cnn's special correspondent jamie gangel is here. senior political analyst david gergen is here as well p. and presidential historian douglas brinkley author of franklin roosevelt and the land of america. so much to talk about. extraordinary times we're living in. but let's talk about the two former presidents. president obama just wrapped up a campaign speech on behalf of the democratic candidate for governor in virginia. take a listen to what he said about politics today. >> instead of our politics reflecting our value we've got politics infecting our communiti communities. instead of looking for ways to work together and get things done in a practical way we've got folks who are deliberately trying to make folks angry, to demonize people who have
different ideas. to get the base all riled up because it provides a short-term tactical advantage. >> and former president bush earlier today. >> we've seen our discourse degraded by casual cruelty. at times it can seem that the forces pulling us apart are stronger than the forces binding us together. argument turns too easily into animosity. disagreement escalates into dehumanization. we've seen nationalism distorted into nativism. >> they may not have mentioned president trump by name but their intentions were clear i think. what's your reaction to the o'two presidents coming out? >> i think it's interesting because the day was a coincidence p this speech by george bush was planned a year ago. they have very different styles when they speak, don't they? one was a campaign. one was a very formal -- sxl but each comforting. >> but here's the thing both
were addressing. they may not have said as you said donald trump's name, but this was good our country being torn apart. and very notable because george bush has avoided talking about donald trump. for eight years he didn't say anything critical about barack obama. but it was very clear what he was talking about today. >> it was very clear what both of them were talking about today. douglas, former presidents usually stay on the sidelines. we've never seen this before. >> they've both been trying hard to stay on the sidelines. i mean, george w. bush has been living a fairly quiet post-presidency down in dallas. he did write a best-selling memoir. he does do the wounded warriors. but i think enough is enough. i mean, bush's speech today i thought was very brave. it was clearly aimed at donald trump. he denounced the emboldening of bigotry in the united states. and barack obama has signed a very healthy big book advance.
he's kind of waiting to get his memoir published. he wants to have the decorum of not attacking a sitting president. but he's being goaded into action by donald trump constantly invoking him in erroneous ways. usually obama's team goes back at trump but today you saw barack obama in full campaign swing mode in new jersey and virginia. >> doing it himself. so david, president bush's remarks seemed like a point by-point takedown of president trump. let's listen. >> the american dream of upward mobility seems out of reach for some who feel left behind. in a changing economy, discontent deepened and sharpened partisan conflicts. bigotly seems emboldened. our politics seems more vulnerable to conspiracy theories. and outright fabrication. >> so president bush had to have known, david gergen, what an impact his words would have. what do you think his
motivations were for speaking out now? >> well, he had a conference that had been long scheduled. that's clear. but i also think what we saw today were two men who've held the presidency and are deeply worried about the directions in which their successor is taking the country and they're speaking conscience to power in effect. they're trying to say mr. president, please don't take us down this path of division which is so deeply bothering obama. and in george w. bush's case, a fellow republican after all, even though there have been family tensions with his brother jeb running a -- facing a lot of nasty attacks by trump and the bush family being pretty angry about what happened in 2016, nonetheless they've held their peace most of the time about the general direction and here george w. bush has broken that peace. this is very, very unusual for two former presidents to break with a president. there's a fraternity of people
who serve in that office. they form their own fraternity. they tend to be respectful of each other. they try to be supportive of each other. but when two of them break ranks as they did today there's great significance to that in terms of how much concern and worry they have deep down. >> very strong words both of them said today about white supremacy. after the break. >> yeah. ♪ it's not just a car, it's your daily treat. ♪ go ahead, spoil yourself. the es and es hybrid. experience amazing.
back now with my panel. jamie gangel's here, david gergen and david brinkley. so both presidents bush and obama spoke about bigotry and hate today. take a listen. >> our identity as a nation, unlike many other nations, is not determined by geography or ethnicity, by soil or blood. we become the heirs of martin luther king jr. by recognizing one another not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. this means that people of every race, religion, ethnicity can be fully and equally american. it means that bigotry or while supremacy in any form is blasphemy against the american creed. >> we saw what happened in
charlottesville. but we also saw what happened after charlottesville when the biggest gatherings of all rejected fear and rejected hate and the decency and goodwill of the american people came out. that's how we rise. we don't rise up by repeating the past. we rise up by learning from the past. >> charlottesville, jamie, was a turning -- that was a bridge too far for both these presidents. >> absolutely. i just want to slightly disadpree with what david gergen said earlier when he mentioned jeb. no question that was a difficult campaign. but i don't think that this is about jeb bush or bad feelings about that at all. george w. bush did not vote for
donald trump. this goes back a long way. he said during the campaign he thought he might be the last republican president. so there's been no love lost for a long time. i think there have been a number of inflection points that led to today. i think charlottesville was one of them. remember, he and his father put out a joint tweet that day. i think national security is an inflection point. i think that being presidential is an inflection point in the bush family. words matter. tweets matter. and i think that there were a lot of things that led to today. >> and it wasn't necessarily the campaign. david, i want you to respond, but when is the inflection point the one where they actually speak out and say okay, this is enough and start naming him by name? >> if you're asking this david, i think charlottesville is
probably the turning point. it's hard to say. you'd have to talk to them individually. but what was very clear today is barack obama and george w. bush are closer to each other than either one of them is to donald trump. they both represent values that are very different from the president's. they represent a view of globalization is actually a good thing over time. it presents its own challenges. immigration is a good thing. division in the country is a and racism in the country is deeply worrying us. i do think that george w. bush, his family and the values that his family represents going all the way back to his grandfather, prescott bush, are totally at variance. i think that's part of what moves him. i don't think it's the only thing, jamie, that moves him. i don't think he spoke up today just because of that. but i don't think you can erase that from his mind-set. he has been predisposed for a long time, as has the whole family to just really intensely dislike what donald trump
represents. and i think he brought that to the table today. i think he is also a man who is worried about what his party stands for. but mostly he is worried about where the country is going. >> douglas, do you think it is a coincidence that they both spoke out today? i know that the speak was planned for bush. it was planned for a long time. and president obama's on the campaign trail for governor, for someone running for governor. but do you think it was coordinated or is it a coincidence they have the same topic? >> it's not coordinated. but they're clearly surfing the same wave. and john mccain gave a similar speech just a few days ago. the key thing to understand 43 is god. he mentioned it twice in the speech. he ended this whole speech by saying "we shall overcome." george w. bush said the lowest moment of his presidency was during hurricane katrina when people thought he was racist, that he wasn't responding quickly enough to african americans in peril in new orleans. this is a president, george w. bush, look what he did in africa with aids and try to combat that.
there is not a racist bone in bush 43's body. so the way donald trump behaved at charlottesville infuriated him. barack obama today, you realize he could have won a third term. what an order. he is spell binding. we haven't heard from him for a while. i think the combo of these three, really the three speeches, mccain, obama and bush are seminole, starting to pull the country away from the trump white house and promote a kind of old-fashioned civic decency, as bush called it, we need better civic learning in this country so we're not ripping at each other's throats. >> so paul ryan has had his differences with this president. but he roasted him tonight. and we'll discuss that when we come right back. ♪ ♪ you nervous? ♪ ♪
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donald trump walks in the room. every morning i wake up in my office and i scroll twitter to see which tweets that i will have to pretend that i did not see later on. >> that was paul ryan tonight roasting the president at the al smith dinner new york, a traditionally lighthearted affair. back now with my panel. what did you think, jamie? >> i thought that was funny. i like the line about the cabinet clapping when he came in to the room. >> yeah, but the tweet thing. let's listen a little bit more to paul ryan. >> my primary opponent in 2016 was endorsed by sarah palin. i'm really not that mad about it because sarah and i actually have a lot in common. we both lost for vice president. we both debated joe biden. and given the current investigations, i too can see russia from the house. [ applause ]
by the way, i do really appreciate these laughs. i usually don't get laughs like this except when i'm actually debating joe biden. so very much appreciate that. >> david gergen, what do you think? >> i think it's good to bring a little levity. we've been so down and so depressed, and so many people are anxious and worried, that sort of thing. we should poke more fun at ourselves. >> yeah. very simply stated. and i agree with you. seriously, today was a tough day for a lot of people. and, you know, america, we have the utmost respect for our gold star families. and in many ways they're being dragged through this. but also, i think, douglas, brinkley, is that we're highlighting them in some way. at least i would hope that we are so that people can -- and putting to the fore the sacrifices that these families make. so it's been a tough day. and it's nice to have little bit of levity. i think david is right.
>> there is no question about it. and the gold star families are america's heroes. so we all love them. we all care about them. that's probably why it got so controversial here. we thought that donald trump was slighting a mother of army sergeant david t. johnson. and that's why we're all upset. but i do think any kind of humor is better than trump's humor of today when he said i was a 10 of 10 out of 10 in puerto rico in a country that is still crippled right now without electricity, sanitation problems. we can always do better in a situation like puerto rico. but his sense of humor is grandiosity of one's self. what paul ryan did is refreshing after donald trump did the 10 of 10 today. >> where he gets in trouble is someone else compared it how the former president called gold star families and compared this to katrina. it's always comparison to get him out of trouble that gets him into more trouble. >> with not one ounce of humility. he has never been able to be humble for a minute or to just
let things alone. he is live big roy cohen, counterpunching, "art of the deal" stuff. and he never deviates from that script. he doesn't have the empathy, and that's the problem. >> that's got to be the last word. thank you, all. i'll see you next time. this is "cnn tonight." i'm don lemon. it is 11:00 p.m. on the east coast. and we're live with new developments tonight. the ambush in niger that killed four u.s. troops has turned into an unseemly fight about politics, but what really happened on the ground, and why didn't those four americans know the extent of the danger they faced? and back to the ideals that made this country. >> why are we deliberately trying to misunderstand each other and be cruel to each other and put each other down? that's not who we are.