tv CNN Newsroom With Fredricka Whitfield CNN October 21, 2017 9:00am-10:00am PDT
regrettable headline that followed johnson's tragic death, the politization of his widow's grief. insulting the congresswoman who mentored johnson. just hours before the funeral, the president saying this, i hope the fake news media keeps talking about wacky congresswoman wilson in that she as a representative is killing the democrat party. we'll have more, but first, let's get the latest details on the niger ambush investigation. cnn diplomatic correspondent michelle kosinski joining us now. is the pentagon any closer to figure out what went wrong? >> that's the question. it seems like much of what we're learning that is new is about the investigation itself and not necessarily about what happened that night. now nearly -- or two weeks ago. i mean, we know that the fbi's assisting the investigation. we know that u.s. intelligence is involved. so are all branches of the military.
we know now that all of the members of this team have been interviewed. what we don't know are details that many, including people like senator john mccain who is a chairman of the senate armed service also committee, details like were these soldiers, while they were attacked in their unarmored vehicles, or were they outside of them? i mean, he's been vocal about it. other sls rais have raised ques about, you know, why aren't these very basic details of that night readily available to the public and sources have told cnn that even the secretary of state himself has been dismayed by the lack of information. but he also made it a point to tell reporters forcefully on thursday that, you know, don't try to confuse your wanting more information with the pentagon's ability to provide it. that, you know, they very well may know many more details thanner there making public at this time. what we are learning, though,
today, we're hearing from the state department. after there's been some reporting out there from the "los angeles times" that the u.s. ambassador in niger allegedly pushed back, was resisting the military's desire to expand support for troops there. that they wanted things like drones, additional medical support, and that the ambassador was resistant, but the state department is saying there was no denial of any support. what they're not commenting on, though, is was there any pushback at all. so what they told us was the embassy and u.s. africa com continuously engaged. this close cooperation. the president directs disagreements, while rare, are quickly referred to the secretary of defense and secretary of state for immediate resolution. again, the state department is
telling us today that there was no denial of the additional support there in niger that the military had wanted. fredricka. >> all right, michelle coskkosk, thanks so much, in d.c. senator lindsey graham issuing a stark warning. graham not only says the war on terror is heading to africa, the u.s. also needs to beef up forces there or face a potential 9/11-style attack. >> i think most americans want to do the following. with us and our allies dealing with it. we don't want the next 9/11 to come from niger. >> lieutenant general mark hertling. senator graham warning of that potential 9/11 attack originating potentially from niger. do you see that as plausible, a legitimate concern? >> i don't, fred, this is a lot of hyperbole.
let me back off a little bit because as the commander in europe, i supporting africa command, which has headquarters in stuttgart. u.s. forces have been in niger and mali and chad and nigeria in various other countries for the last ten-plus years doing these kinds of operations. there were over 1,200 operations of this nature last year alone supported by afri-com. this is an area that has seen a transformation of various terrorist groups starting with boko haram, going to al qaeda in the islamic maghreb, aqam, and now it's the atlantic state. all these really cool name these terrorist groups are naming themselves are basically the same people with in-flow and out-flow of different terrorists. the special forces working with the various africa troops like the forces from niger and from chad have been very good in
terms of tamping these elements down. but all the questions, it surprises me hearing various congressmen and senator questioning these because they've been receiving the reports now for several years in terms of their posture but also their intelligence requirements. and they know that there are either special forces or national guard forces in many of these countries. >> okay, so as it pertains to, now, the ongoing investigation about what happened in niger in these four green berets who where killed and now, based on some earlier reporting, it appears that johnson, la david johnson's body was found nearly a mile away from the site of the ambush. what are the answers that you want to know that would better explain the circumstances surrounding the ambush? the purpose of these green berets being there? and, you know, how this perhaps can be prevented, what can be learned from this investigation. >> yes, that's the key.
immediately after this failed mission or this mission that went often the rails a little bit, africa command did, in fact, start an inquiry and then an investigation. here's what they're looking for. i think everybody's jumping on the fact that it was bad intelligence. that certainly could be an element of this. but it could also be potential problems with command and control. did they have the right cooperation with the african countries they were dealing with? was there notification of the people in the embassy and state department, exactly what they were doing? had they been in that area multiple times before and had the enemy in this case, it was probably either a combination of boko haram or the islamic state in the sehel, had they postured to the point they knew what they would be doing because they had patrolled in that area and knew their routine? was there the right kind of support in terms of medical evacuation or overhead cover? had the right kind of coordination been done with the french government in terms of air support? all of these things are going to
be part of an investigation and the investigating officer will be asked to answer a list of questions. so if you hear anyone, fred, coming out immediately saying it was an intelligence failure, dismiss that. that could possibly be a part of it. but i got to tell you, having done these kind of investigations before, there were probably many, many factors that contributed to the unfortunate death of these four american soldiers. >> all right. general, let me also ask you about the u.s. ambassador to the u.n., nikki haley, with her op-ed on cnn.com, talking about why the president is sending her to africa. she'll meet with leaders from the democratic republic of congo and south sudan. she's writing that, quote, while we'll take a critical look at what the u.n. is doing on the ground, we'll also meet drc, congo, and south sudanese leaders to deliver a strong message that their governments needs to stop making the work of workers and peacekeepers more
difficult. this administration's effort to stop terror from spreading in africa, how influential, potentially influential can she be on this front? >> she'll be influential as any diplomat can. what i say, fred, the couple of nations you mentioned are important and the issues that she's going to address are important. but let me state this. there are 54 different countries in africa. each one of them has their own challenges. if you were to take a map of the united states, you could overlay it on africa three times. that's how large the continent is. and the various challenges that africa have venture all the way from terrorist operations to human trafficking, to female genitalia mutilation. all of these things are factors. and certainly the u.n. has a requirement to continue to try and pull the governments of africa together to address these issues. but that's also one of the challenges that afri-com has as they deal with these countries. one of the things that's
interesting, chad has been placed on the banned entry list. chad was one of the better partners for the united states in the center of west africa. and to ban their citizens from entering into the united states is having an effect as well. so, you know, ambassador hailly will certainly contribute to helping solve the problems but there are a lot of issues in africa that it would take days to discuss and have a con flens about it and see what kind of action to take to tamp some of these issues down. >> yes, it's a huge continent. lieutenant general mark hertling, thank you. still ahead, a war erupting within the gop. steve bannon, one of president trump's most controversial allies, now slamming a former republican president at a gop fund-raiser. >> i want to apologize up front to any of the bush folks outside and in this audience, okay, because there's not been a more destructive presidency than george bush's. >> all right, so what does this
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the bush folks outside, in this audience, okay. because there has not been a more destructive presidency than george bush's. the rise of china started with the clintons and bush. when they had this great theory that you let them into the world trade organization and give them most favored nations, that they're going to become a liberal democracy as they get better, okay, and they're going to become more free market capitalists. this is not a small mistake. this is a strategic mistake of inkcalculable problems. >> cnn's boris sanchez. was he outwardly promoting trump or more promoting his far right agenda? >> a bit of both. rather than promoting president trump, you could say he was defending him, as he vowed to do when he left his position as close adviser to the president
here at the white house. this is something that we've seen steve bannon do before. though to a different degree. he's gone after current republican lawmakers. those in the establishment. like mitch mcconnell and bob corker. but the degree of animosity here is certainly different. he questions a former president's intelligence, even suggesting that president bush didn't know what he was saying during that speech on thursday. where he talked about the dangers of nativism and protectionism. he also alluded to the idea that bigotry is emboldened in the united states and that our politics is now more susceptible to conspiracy theories. now, if you go deeper and read between the lines, he's obviously alluding to economic nationalism and things like bertherism, part of the track record of this administration. it's clear who the former president is talking about. but we've never seen steve bannon, someone who was in the
current administration, go after a former president using this language and in this way. he is, again, following up with what he vowed to do when he left the white house which is to attack anyone that stood in front of donald trump's agenda. >> and boris, meantime, what does the day look like for the president? >> yeah, there are no public events on the schedule for today, fred. he's currently at trump national golf course in steriling, virginia. now the 83rd day he's spent at a property bearing the trump name during his presidency. he was on twitter earlier today, though, tweeting about frederica wilson, as well as the stock market, and this tweet about john f. kennedy. he write, quote, subject to the receipt of further information, i will be allowing, as president, blocked and classified jfk files to be opened. the president has until october 23rd to determine whether or not these long classified fbi and
cia files pertaining to jfk would be released. of course, the president, no stranger to conspiracy theories about the 35th president. you'll recall that during the heated campaign trail during the republican primaries, he talked about this idea that ted cruz's father was somehow involved with lee harvey oswald and the assassination of former president kennedy, fred. >> all right, boris sanchez, at the white house, thanks so much. all right, let's talk more about all of this. with the national spokesman for the congress of racial equality. and the executive director of the tea party.net. also with me, basel smikle, he is the executive director of the new york state democratic party. welcome to both of you this saturday. >> thank you. >> all right, so niger, you first, pretty scathing words from steve bannon. he said there hasn't been a more destructive presidency than that of george w. bush's, even questioning bush's intelligence. so your thoughts, is he further
dividing the gop, is he taking the lead of something new about the gop? >> i think there's no doubt that there is a populous economic nationalist wing of the gop that has been strengthened by, you know, not just steve bannon and the rise of donald trump but quite frankly what came before it which was of course the tea party and there's no doubt that steve bannon is among those leaders. i actually saw him earlier this week at a book signing for laura ingraham, for her new book. i have to say even though i'm a firm part of the deplorable crowd, but i'm also a former supporter of president bush. i think he's a decent man. i think history is going to treat him a lot better thanclos of his administration. i think it's tragic that the republican party seems to be in a circular firing squad because this really should be a golden
age for the party. >> how potentially damaging do you think it is? >> i don't think so. i think if we can get out of our own way and realize we have more dominance with both houses of congress, the presidency, two-thirds of the state's legislatures. more dominance since the 1920s. we've got wages that are going up. we've got a stock market that is booming. jobless claims at a near half century low. this is a good time to be a republican and be a conservative. if the economic nationalists and the more establishment wing can get our act together and realize the enemy are socialist democrats. no offense to my friend basil. >> okay, the wages going up, that has been disputed, however. basil, do you see bannon as deepening the rift? should democrats be seizing on this moment? you know, devoting resources on combating bannon? >> well, you know, not only do i think he's deepening the rift, but i also think this dialogue
is dangerous for the country. what i think bannon and donald trump have been successful in is actually taking away the middle ground in our political discourse nationally and they seem to have done so with impunity. why that's dangerous is because there are folks that i think moderate voices that would like to be heard. what about those evangelicals that actually lifted george w. bush to the presidency? they've been largely silent. outside of senators mccain and corker, i want to hear more from republicans in this senate and in the house trying to moderate a lot of this language. but, you know, to me when i think about it, and, boris touched on it earlier in his reporting. when you combine the use of a lot of the dark money over the last ten years by republicans, the extraordinary gerrymandering that they've done across the country, the infusion of the narrative, the birther narrative and other sort of very harsh messaging, they've created this.
and they cannot control what they've wrought. and i think the challenge there, again, is that moderate voices need to be more prominent in this dialogue. and my fear is that they won't be. and i do think that that's dangerous for our country. >> and niger this all comes ahead of tonight's hurricane release concert. all five living presidents will be in attendance. if the past week is any indication, there may be somehow an expression of some dissension about the kind of messaging coming out of the white house. how important is it in your view to see all of these presidents in this forum trying to advocate relief for hurricane victims and with the absence, however, of the sitting president? does that send a particular message in your view, niger? >> no, i don't think so. i think the speeches earlier
this week by former president obama and bush was a much more powerful message. tonight's effort is a very positive message to relieve those in puerto rico, virgin islands, houston and florida. and that's a very good thing. i always enjoy seeing our former presidents, regardless of the partisan rancor that might have occurred during their administrations, coming together. i think it's symbolic of the strength of our republican and our democratic process. i think, though, that these -- many of the political media elites don't recognize that the economic populous rage that's taking place not just in the united states but in our neighbors and kois pond, britain, in germany, and other parts of europe, even in spain, you've got this populous economic surge that's taking place. and i think the more that they attack president trump, ironically, the stronger he's going to get. >> basil, real quick, what about
this unifying message or does it send a message of unity when you see these five living presidents, even though the sitting president, you know, may not be present on stage with them in texas tonight. >> i actually agree. there is a unifying message to that. that across political party lines the most powerful leaders that our country has produced will come together to support the people in this country. that is powerful because no matter what party you belong to, the president i, the executive office does demand respect. the scary part about what we're seeing is the con natiflation o economic nationalism. i don't think played into as much as we're seeing done now. so it will be great to see them
all together. i hope a tremendous amount of good will come from it. >> all right, let's leave there for now. thanks so much, gentlemen. ♪ do you want clean, stain free dentures? try polident. the four in one cleaning system kills 99.99% of odor causing bacteria, cleans where brushing may miss. helps remove stains and prevent stain build up. use polident daily.
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this without ever uttering trump's name. take a listen. >> our young people need positive role models. bullying and prejudice in our public life sets a national tone. providing permission for cruelty and bigotry and compromises the moral education of children. the only way to pass along civic values is to first live up to them. >> some of the politics we see, now we thought we put that to bed. i mean, that's looking 50 years back. it's the 21st century. not the 19th century. if you have to win a campaign by dividing people, you're not going to be able to govern them. you won't be able to unite them later if that's how you start. >> all right, joining me now to
discuss, cnn presidential historian douglas brinkley. so how unprecedented is this for trump's predecessors to criticize him and in this fashion, even though his name was not uttered? >> well, you know, there's almost an unwritten rule that you try not to criticize a sitting president if you're an ex-president. there have been times when of course this didn't hold up. theodore roosevelt famously in 1909 left office and he was republican and he beat up on william howard taft. his hand-chosen successor. but in modern times, we haven't seen anything like this and it tells you the level of frustration these five presidents have about what's going on with donald trump right now. it's going to be quite an evening at texas a&m to see all five of those presidents together kind of unified in a spirit of talking about what's right in america, the volunteerism, first response and remembering that these
hurricanes don't happen in a day. we've got a lot of work ahead of us in the coming year to get those states and territories back. >> so it says something, too, about, say, the patience or even the urgency that, for example, presidents obama and george wflt bush, you know, were weighing before they decided to make their very calculated statements. >> well, even though both of those speeches by bush and obama are being morphed together, they're two different circumstances. barack obama, left office, really doesn't want to have to constantly respond to donald trump. but trump keeps bringing obama into the news. he claims that president obama had created a felony by wiretapping him. previously, claimed barack obama wasn't born in the united states, that he was a fake president. so it's a constant drumbeat of criticism of obama from trump. by and large, obama's stayed out of it. but we're now in a political
season. barack obama was -- gave that speech, speeches, in new jersey and virginia. and he's willing now to kind of square off at least against trumpism, if not donald trump by name. >> do you see that potentially the weight of george w. bush's or even obama's words could impact upcoming elections? >> i don't think obama's but george w. bush reminds me of a warning call. it's a lot like dwight eisenhower when he give his fare well address. bush is warning our country what happens when you think what is friendly nationalism suddenly turns into a kind of malignant, you know, nativism. and that speech is going to live for a long time. and already we saw steve bannon, last evening, squaring off on george w. bush, saying you are one of the most disastrous presidents in american history. so george w. bush, who's wanted to stay out of politics, now finds himself a bull's-eye of
the bannon alt right movement. >> i wonder if one has to believe he had a level of expectation of that. because whenever anyone comes out, even when they were, you know, went into political office, maybe especially when they went in political office if they speak against this president or is critical, then, you know, there's an unleashing so to speak of unleashing on that individual. >> well, there is. that's one of the reasons you know george w. bush said i want out of washington. his hero is harry truman. who went back to independence. george w. bush went back to dallas. built his library. works with wounded warriors. he wasn't looking forward to entering the pray. but after charlottesville, you have a president of the united states not seeming unable to denounce neo-nazis and anti-semites. it started a real worry within serious members of the republican party. we saw bob corker.
we saw john mccain. there are more that are saying that this doesn't represent us. donald trump, we have to not be a republican first, we have to be an american first. and trump is doing damage to the united states. thought it was a courageous speech by george w. bush in new york. >> sounding like bush and obama thinking out loud that the necessity far outweighed any risk that comes with verbal criticism. all right. douglas brinkley, thank you so much. still ahead, residents in one louisiana town are convinced that toxic chemicals from a nearby factory are putting their health at risk. >> husband and wife die from cancer across the street. husband over here died from cancer. both of his sons got cancer. where all this cancer coming from? >> state regulators say there is no imminent threat but the community does not believe it. how they're fighting back, next. a heart attack doesn't care what you eat or how healthy you look. no matter who you are,
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people in a small louisiana community say that on some days it is literally sickening to be outside. the environmental protection agency says a local factory is releasing a chemical that's putting them at the highest risk in the country of developing cancer from air toxins. state regulators say the threat is not imminent but local people say cases of cancer are common. they're afraid and they're begging for help. victor blackwell has this cnn investigation. >> the air is so foul. the water's so messed up. and so many people are ill and dying of cancer. >> reporter: jar ral dean watkins is afreight. her family has lived in st. john the baptist parish, louisiana, for almost 40 years. she loves the people. recently she learned that she and more than 20,000 others who live nearby have the highest risk in the country of developing cancer from air toxins. the toxin in this case is
chloropreen. according to data from the air tockic assessment, the risk for people who live in this area, highlighted in red, ranges from roughly 5 to more than 20 times the national average. >> i was outraged. because i'm trying to figure out why people hadn't been informed of this earlier. >> reporter: the source is this plant, owned by denka, the japanese company bought it from dupont in late 2015. capit the company makes a synthetic rubber found in common products. the plan has admitted chloropreen as part of the process for more than 40 years. we asked the epa for an interview. the epa tells us 99% of the color ra preen that's admitted by facilities across the country comes from this plant. in 2010, the epa determined it
likely causes cancer in humans. the epa says there are many other health problems associated with exposure. >> i grew up with a chronic kidney disease. >> reporter: robert taylor iii says he grew up near the plant and he was in and out of hospitals for most of his childhood. he moved away after high school and had no problems for more than 20 years. than, just six months after moving back, taylor says his kidnap ki kidneys failed and he says cancer diagnosis are common in his neighborhood. >> husband and wife. husband over here. both his sons got cancer. where all this cancer coming from? these people filling us up with this poison. >> reporter: in the spring of 2016, the epa installed six canisters in the neighborhood surrounding this plant. they're collecting air samples. they're tested every three days to find out just how much of this toxic chemical is in the air. and for more than a year now, the e pa has repeatedly found
concentrations of clara preen that are 10, 50, 100 times and in one case more than 700 times the amount it says is at the upper limit of acceptable for cancer risk. and for more than a year, the epa's testing found average chloropreen concentrations that exceeded that amount. at one site, more than 49 times the recommended amount. >> they say it's t10 times or 2 times or some order magnitude times higher than what a standard is. well, there is no standard. >> reporter: chuck is louisiana's secretary of environmental quality. he's right about those spikes. the epa has not set a legal limit for chloropreen emissions. according to this may 2016 eternal memo obtained by cnn, federal regulators have set a recommendation based on cancer risk. an annual average of .2 micro grams of chloropreen per cubic meter is what it calls the upper
limit of acceptable. just remember the number. .2. it's represented by the red line on this graph. now, look at the average cle chloropreen concentration found in the air at those test sites between may 2016 and august of 2017. one of those testing sites is here, near 5th ward elementary school, just a few hundred yards from the plant. we found that the average concentration in the air near the school over 17 months was more than 34 times the epa's cancer risk recommendation of what's acceptable. the state's top environmental regulator who says part of his mission is to protect human health, also says this. >> .2 doesn't mean anything to me. i want to get to as close to zero as i possibly can. to artificially target a number that you can't -- you can't legally enforce absolutely makes
no sense. >> reporter: this is an executive officer of the company and the manager of the plant. so this company doesn't believe that chloropreen causes cancer? >> correct. >> reporter: this sum, he asked the epa for a correction. commissioned a study which argued the chloropreen classification should be changed to likely scarcinogenic to possibly carcinogenic. and .2 should be 31.2, more than 150 times the epa's risk. >> you look at the study and how they came up with that .2 and we have found gaps in the science of it. >> reporter: the epa stands by its findings. and despite its skepticism, the company promised the state to install control technologies at the plant to reduce chloropreen emissions. >> that includes four projects that reducinged our emissions. we're investing $20 million on this projects. it's going to be hundreds of thousands of dollars of operating expenses when those are in.
very aggressive schedule. and it's our number one priority. >> reporter: however, equipment that was supposed to have been installed by september is now slated for the end of the year. secretary brown says there's nothing to worry about. >> there's available control technology as an acceptable protocol. >> reporter: why now start with the risk to the people? why not start with that number? >> that's exactly what i'm doing. >> reporter: every time i've brought up the .2 number, you say it's not enforceable, it's not a standard. you go back to the technology of an enforceable standard there from whatever the company installs. >> and that's how you scientifically -- >> reporter: -- what the rick is to the people? >> we've got a protocol in place that our data shows us there's no imminent threat. >> you got to live here to try and breathe the air. drink the water. see the children so sick. watch your people die. if you don't live in the area, you can say anything. and everybody's supposed to belief that.
if they can't cut the emissions down, shut 'em down until they can repair 'em. then bring the plant back up. i don't want anybody to lose their job. but we can no longer live in these emissions. >> we're not just going to sit around and let them push us around. >> reporter: taylor is part of a class action lawsuit to force the company to meet the cancer risk emissions. he's filed on behalf of his 10-year-old daughter. he said she develops asthma and needs to use an oxygen machine several times per week. he blames the emissions. >> they don't have any compassion for human life. my little girl, 10 years old, she innocent. >> reporter: at 76 years old, watkins hopes that federal regulators, state regulators, someone will force danka to adhere to the cancer risk recommendation for her sake and the sake of her family. >> let me live. whatever time i have left.
let it be decent. we need clean air. we need help to get this done. >> reporter: now, of course, an important question here is, are there more actual cases of cancer in those communities with the highest risk of developing cancer? well, the state does not know. here's why. because cancer rates are measured at the parish level, not at the smaller level like the epa toxin study. right now, there's no way to know if just that part of the parish around the plant has a disproportionate amount of cancer cases. but that's going to change soon. a new law requires the tumor residency which keeps track of cancer numbers to publish cancer stats at the smaller census track level. and then will be able to compare the epa's estimated cancer risk to the actual number of cancer diagnosis. fred, back to you. >> thank you so much, victor blackwell. all right, still head, terror in tampa, florida. police urging residents in one
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welcome back. plice in tampa, florida, are offering a reward for information on a series of three sniper-style murders. the bodies were found within a half mile of each other over a ten-day span, making police think they could all be linked. the surveillance footage shows a person walking around the area during the time of the first
murder when a mans what shot at a bus stop. four days later, the body of monica hoffa was found a few days a way in a vacant lot. the most recent victim is 20-year-old anthony maboa. anthony who had autism, was killed thursday night after riding the wrong bus home from work. tampa police are urging people in the area to travel in large groups and be aware of their surroundings. so much more straight ahead in the "newsroom." first, meet this week's cnn hero. a woman spreading literacy to children living in poverty. >> for a child, the library can be a magical place. >> i'm officially the most awesome girl in the world. >> it can transform you academically but it can also nurture you emotionally. what people don't realize is that school libraries are sometimes not funded at all. we provide libraries for underserved communities and schools. our whole goal is to spread
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i went from being a cpa to a tax attorney because our clients needed more. call us, and let us put our 30 years of tax experience to work for you. hello, again, welcome back. good afternoon now. i'm fredricka whitfield. thank you so much for being with me. we begin this hour with a growing rift within the republican party and the controversial face who may be spearheading the divide, steve bannon, is fiercely defending president trump's ideals. while delivering a searing attack against former president george w. bush. bush made headlines this week for a speech in which he
rejected trump-era nationalism. listen to just some of bannon's remarks last night. >> president bush to me embarrassed himself. speechwriter wrote a hi high-falooting speech. it's clear he didn't understand anything he was talking about. he equates the industrial revolution, the agricultural revolution, globalization, he has no earthly idea whether he's coming or going. just like it was when he was president of the united states. i want to apologize up front to any of the bush folks outside, in this audience, okay. because there's not been a more destructive presidency than george bush's. the rise of china started with the clintons and bush. when they had this great theory that you let them in to the world trade organization and give them most favored nations, they're going to become a liberal democracy as they get bigger, okay, a