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Larry King Live

Who Won the Presidential Election?

Aired November 9, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, who won it? The nation chews its nails as the presidential cliffhanger rolls on. Joining us in Washington, the senior adviser to the Gore campaign, Jack Quinn. In Augusta, Georgia, the former Secretary of State George Shultz, a top adviser to George W. Bush. Back in D.C., Pat Buchanan, the Reform Party's presidential candidate for election 2000.

Also, a top-flight roundtable. In New York, renowned constitutional lawyer Floyd Abrams. In Los Angeles, veteran political journalist Sander Vanocur. And in Atlanta, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider. All that and more next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Let's begin with the latest on the counting going on in Florida, and we'll go to our correspondent on the scene, Mike Boettcher. What's up, Mike? What's the latest?

MIKE BOETTCHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Larry, so close and yet so far. The count continues. We thought it would be over today. When we arrived here early yesterday morning, we were told that by end of business today they had hoped to have a recount. Well, it's not completely done yet.

There are two counts -- and we'll try to be very clear about this -- 53 counties being counted by the state of Florida reporting here at the division of elections. They show a gap of 1,784 between Governor Bush and Vice President Gore, with, of course, Governor Bush in the lead. Now, there is a second count, done by the Associated Press. They are ahead of the state counts, and we'll try to explain what's going on there. They are reporting 65 of 67 counties, and only a gap of 225 votes between Governor Bush and Vice President Gore with, of course, Governor Bush in the lead.

Now, why the gap? Well, I talked to someone earlier today about an hour ago on the phone, who's worked up here in the State Capitol, who still does, who says he believes that the discrepancy is because the counties that are still out there, not reported to the state, have some mistakes in them, and they want to make sure that those figures are right. So they're holding back. They're trying to make sure that these big discrepancies that they haven't reported yet are -- are indeed big discrepancies.

So they haven't reported it to the state yet, and I guess that's what's going on, Larry. That's what they believe is going on here between the two figures. KING: Thanks, Mike. Well-reported. Mike Boettcher -- he's been on top of the scene all day in Tallahassee.

Now, let's go to Washington and Jack Quinn, well-known name, former White House counsel, Gore campaign senior adviser. The campaign has made a decision today.

There are definitely going to be lawsuits, Jack?

JACK QUINN, GORE CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: Larry, I can't say whether there are going to be lawsuits or whether they're not going to be lawsuits. What I can tell you is that we are absolutely committed to make sure that the most sacred right of the American people, to be able to cast a vote freely and have it count, will be vindicated in this election.

KING: If you feel that Palm Beach -- and many, many voters were -- many voters had double votes, they voted for two presidents because of confusion. Some voted for the wrong person, it's said. Are you going to challenge that particular county?

QUINN: Let me tell you what I believe, Larry. I believe with all my heart that more people in the state of Florida left their homes and their workplaces on Tuesday, went to the polls intending to vote for Al Gore, than those who intended to vote for George Bush. I think Al Gore won the vote in the state of Florida. I think that he, therefore, should have been elected president on Tuesday.

I think that Governor Bush has an extraordinary opportunity and obligation right now to understand what's going on, to appreciate that if he were to do anything that would in any way denigrate the right of these people to have their votes counted, that he would assume the presidency with a cloud that would just be horrible for him and for the country.

KING: What do you want to happen if those people were denied their right to, that we all have, to express it because of an error or stupidity or a ballot done poorly? What do you want? You want it redone?

QUINN: Well...

KING: What do you want to happen? What's the solution?

QUINN: I want us to go through a dignified, respectful, careful, and expeditious process to make sure that the will of the people who went to the polls on election day in Florida is reflected in the outcome.

KING: Is the only way to do that have them go again? What's another way to do it?

QUINN: It might be. Well, there are any number of solutions to this. I mean, this is not entirely new territory. You have had situations where ballots, like the 19,000 we're concerned about -- and I trust that the viewers know what we're talking about, why we're concerned about this, why we believe they were Gore ballots. But let's assume for the moment that we've got 19,000 votes that we think were ours that were not counted.

But there are -- there have been any number situations in which this sort of thing has happened. Some courts, some have decided that those votes ought to be apportioned in the same proportion as the other votes that were in fact counted.

The most important thing to get across today, I think, is that the recount is not the end of this process, because it is a simply a recount of the votes that were counted on election day. We have, we believe, 19,000 votes that were unlawfully put aside and not counted.

And the other thing, Larry, I want to make one very important point here. This is not about Al Gore. This is not about George Bush. This is about the right of those 19,000 Americans and the 200,000 million Americans who voted with them to vote, to engage in, again, the most sacred trust and obligation we have in this country, the right to vote in our elections.

KING: Do you think you will prevail?

QUINN: Yes, I do, because I believe...

KING: You think that the courts are going to come to your aid? It's going to have to be the courts.

QUINN: I -- you know what, Larry, I believe today to the bottom of my heart that more people went out in the state of Florida to vote for Al Gore than to vote for George Bush. I believe we won the state of Florida. I know we won the popular vote from east to west, north to south, across this country. I know the American people on election day in the year 2000 chose Albert Gore to be the next president of the United States.

KING: And do you think he will be?

QUINN: Yes, because we have had 200-plus years of people doing everything they could to preserve and sanctify this extraordinary democracy that we've got. It is inconceivable to me that either judges or Governor Bush or anyone else would do anything to thwart the will of the American people. And I do believe that in the coming days, it's going to be abundantly clear that Al Gore won the state of Florida, and therefore, won the presidency of the United States.

And I believe that on January 20th, he is going to be the man to raise his right hand and take the oath of office.

KING: Thanks, Jack. Jack Quinn, former White House counsel and Gore campaign senior adviser. When we come back, former secretary of state, the Honorable George Shultz might have different thoughts. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON EVANS, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: The Democrats who are politicizing and distorting these events risk are doing so at the expense of our democracy. One of the options that they seem to be looking at is new elections. Our democratic process calls for vote on election day. It does not call for us to continue voting until someone likes the outcome.

Throughout this process, it's important that no party to this election act in a precipitous manner or distort an existing voting pattern in an effort to misinform the public.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: This will have many more days to go, by the way. We have absentee ballots, ballots coming from across the sea, people out of country, certification. This could go right through next week. It could go longer with lawsuits.

And we now go to Augusta, Georgia, George Shultz, Secretary of State under Ronald Reagan, held other cabinet posts as well. Adviser to George W. Bush and the bush campaign.

You heard, Mr. Secretary, what Jack Quinn said. He says he's convinced that more people left their homes in Florida to vote for Gore. Somebody is disenfranchised. What are your thoughts?

GEORGE SHULTZ, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, my thoughts are that we have a constitutional process. And we have in the state of Florida a set of rules that they've established about the conduct of elections. So far as I can see, they are conscientiously trying to follow their procedures. And we ought to respect them, and to be ready and prepared to accept the results as they announce them.

KING: One of the procedures in the constitutional government is the right to go to court. Do you respect their right, the other side's right to challenge this?

SHULTZ: Anyone can go to court and challenge. But I don't quite see what they're going to challenge. And I do think that people ought to take a look and remember what Richard Nixon did in 1960. You remember, the vote was very close then. And as distinct from Florida, where there are no allegations of fraud, there were real allegations of fraud in Illinois. And Nixon was urged to file a suit, and he said no, the election stands, and we don't want to put the country through that.

Personally, it seems to me that Florida has its procedures, people have been -- ballots have been disqualified before. In the '96 election, a lot of ballots were disqualified for voting twice for a given office, and that is their rule. So, they follow that rule and they have a process that is going on. They have a recount because that's what their law calls for.

And so we should respectfully wait and see what that brings. Obviously, since it is so close, you have to wait for the absentee ballots because there's no reason why people overseas, people serving in the military should be deprived of a vote.

KING: Are you, therefore, asking Vice President Gore tonight to do what Richard Nixon did and if he loses in that vote, not challenge in Palm Beach and give it up?

SHULTZ: I'm just saying that there is a process for establishing the victor in Florida. And the people of Florida, their officials, are conducting that process and when they get through doing it. Then, it seems to me, that is the result and we should accept that result.

KING: What did you think of the ballot itself? Did you have any problems with it?

SHULTZ: Well, I'm not that close to it. Apparently, it was somewhat confusing, although at least people say that. Although I have seen tests when people are given it and they vote and they don't seem to have any troubles doing that. I might say that, as I understand it, the Reform Party and Pat Buchanan have quite a few registered voters in Palm Beach. And so it isn't surprising that some people would vote for him.

KING: You've been around a long time. You've served your country well. In this instance, whoever goes into that office in January 20th, obviously has no mandate. Will it be a difficult presidency?

SHULTZ: I think that whoever goes into the office does have a mandate. He will have won and it's up to him to be president of all the people, and I have been encouraged all along during the campaign by the way Governor Bush has conducted himself, and his constant refrain of having a more civilized Washington, of reaching across party lines and trying to find consensus, and it seems to me very clear that that's what a new president will have to do.

KING: Do you think that President-elect Bush might put a Democrat or two on the Cabinet?

SHULTZ: Well, that's up to him, of course. There are some good Democrats. And so he will have to decide on his Cabinet. I don't want to try to prejudge that. But there is going to be a process of reaching across, and Governor Bush has said that long before it turned out that the election was so close. That comes natural to him. He is a healer. He is a leader. He'll bring people together.

KING: Mr. Secretary, do you think this is going to be resolved without a crisis?

SHULTZ: Well, I hope that it will be resolved by the officials of the state of Florida as they count these votes, including the absentee ballots. And that's the way it ought to be resolved.

KING: Thank you so much. Always good seeing you, George.

SHULTZ: Thank you.

KING: The former secretary of state, George Shultz speaking as an adviser as well to Governor Bush. When we come back, the man in question, Pat Buchanan. Don't go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: I believe that their actions to try to presumptively crown themselves victors, to try to put in place a transition, run the risk of dividing the American people, and creating a sense of confusion. Let the legal system run its course. Let the true and accurate rule of the people prevail. And if at the end of the process, George Bush is the victor, we will honor, and obviously respect those results.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Pat Buchanan joins us from Washington. You got 3,407 vote ins Palm Beach County. You didn't campaign there or spend money there. What do you make of it, Pat.

PATRICK BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, certainly I think we got some votes in Palm Beach County, but I don't doubt the number of those ballots that those votes cast for me, probably were intended for Vice President Gore. I do know that by sort of from extrapolation and by comparison with other counties in the state.

But as matter of fact, Larry, those ballots were cast for me. And my name was the one that they registered, and I think those votes have to go to me, and I don't see how you can take that back even though folks are saying they intended to vote for someone else. I think it stands.

KING: Does it make you feel funny?

BUCHANAN: No, it does not. I did nothing wrong. And I looked at ballot, and I do believe the ballot is somewhat confusing. You've got Mr. Bush's name first on the left column, Mr. Gore's name second, but if you vote the second button, it votes for me. So I think someone who went in there very quickly and didn't look at it could fairly easily vote by mistake for me.

But I don't have any fault here. I do believe this, Larry, that in the last analysis, they've got to take a look at who got the ballots. They have to count them. They have to recount them, and count the absentees, and when that is done, Florida ought to certify the winner of the Florida vote, and that's next president of the United States. And I hope and pray Al Gore, if it is not him, has the sense of honor and dignity that Richard Nixon had when he simply out- and-out refused to challenge in any way the returns from Illinois and Texas.

KING: So even though he -- what you're saying here is even though he may be right, even though those votes may have wanted for him, he should back off if he loses Florida with all other votes counted?

BUCHANAN: He didn't get the votes. The votes went for me. And so when all the votes are counted, if he's got a plurality or a majority, he wins the state we all ought to rally behind him. Conversely, if Governor Bush and Mr. Cheney win, I think Mr. Gore ought to give it up.

I hope he will not drag this through courts all the way up until the inaugural. I think that would be terribly divisive, and I think would tear the country apart. Let's let the people in Florida certify the winner of that state, and if it's Mr. Bush, let's get on with the transition.

KING: How about the statement that Jack Quinn made? If they're right, more people in Florida went out on Tuesday to vote for Gore.

BUCHANAN: Well, you know, look...

KING: If they're right

BUCHANAN: I don't know the truth to that. Well, maybe they did but how does Jack know that for certain? And, I mean, and there's a probability that some people voted for me, Larry that intended to vote for Gore. I can see that outright and openly, but if they voted for -- if they voted for me, how do you decide?

You can't have a revote in all of West Palm Beach County. You know, that is grossly unfair to Mr. Bush because all the Nader people would immediately vote for Mr. Gore there, and moreover, the electorate has been totally contaminated by 48 hours of all this media being poured into it. So, I think the vote has got to...

KING: So, you can't do it over?

BUCHANAN: You cannot do it over in one county. It's grossly unjust to Mr. Bush. This is a heavily Democratic county, and as I say, all Nader's votes would automatically just about go to Mr. Gore.

KING: What do you think this is going to do? What -- there's no mandate for the next president, is there?

BUCHANAN: I disagree. Jack Kennedy won by 100,000 votes and that was questionable whether it was legal or not. And he went and set country off in a direction in foreign policy and domestic policy. It was a dramatic time from Dwight Eisenhower. If Mr. Bush wins this, the best thing for him to do is to run a Republican -- strong, Republican administration, a conservative administration, a compassionate conservatism and then in two years let the voters decide if that's what they wanted.

KING: Thanks, Pat. Pat Buchanan.

BUCHANAN: Thank you.

KING: In the news whether he wants to be or not. Pat Buchanan from Washington.

When we come back, we're going to meet an attorney who is filing a lawsuit. The thing Pat didn't want to happen is going to happen and we'll meet the man he's representing right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Joining us now in West Palm Beach, Florida is Howard Weiss, one of the attorneys representing Andre Fladell. Mr. Fladell is one of the voters who is representing that he was disenfranchised and he is suing for a revote.

Andre, what happened to you on Tuesday?

ANDRE FLADELL, PALM BEACH COUNTY VOTER: Well, for the 22 years I've lived in Palm Beach County, on every ballot I've ever seen, on every ballot I've ever voted, on every page I've ever voted, they always have the name on one side and the punch holes on the other. This has been going on for 22 years. I've never seen a ballot in any other way. In every ballot I've ever seen for 22 years, the Republican and Democrat were next to each other, first and second. There was never anything between them.

When I went to vote, I gave them my license, my identification, my voters registration. They said, do you have any questions? I said no, I've voted many times before. I went in, I flipped page. I saw the first name, which was Bush-Cheney, the first hole. I saw second name, which was Gore-Lieberman, and the second punch hole and I proceeded punched the second punch hole.

I then turned to next page, and you know, in this county we only have five minutes to vote. This isn't a freebie where you stay as long as you want, and we have referendum questions. So I punched the next, as I always did. I finished my voting and I left.

When I then went to beach later that day, many of friends were there. We were at restaurant, Boston's on the Beach, and they said that the ballot was difficult and they had great difficulty with president vote. I thought they were pretty silly because I vote a lot.

I figured they don't know how to vote and they said, well, how did you vote. And I said just go down the list and match up hole. They said it's not like that on that page. I said sure it is. We went and got a copy of ballot we found out at that point that you had to look diagonally, zig-zag, across in some fashion I had never anticipated.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Now Howard Weiss, what are you contending then in the lawsuit representing Mr. Fladell? What are you asking them to do?

HOWARD WEISS, ATTORNEY: We're asking them to invalidate the election results of Palm Beach County because there's a reasonable doubt as to whether or not those results reflect a will of the people and the basis of that lawsuit is the following: that they violated the Florida statutes. The Florida statutes require that the name be on the left side and the punch hole be on the right side. That was not done here. Rather than doing so, with respect on the Democrats and Republicans, the Democrats following the Republicans, the punch hole was on right-hand side.

However, the punch hole with respect to the Reform Party Buchanan and the minor political parties were on the left side in a direct pattern vertical with punch holes for the Republican and Democratic parties. In addition, to that, there was confusion.

As a result of that, there were not just the 3,000 votes in question as to Mr. Buchanan, but there were 19,000 votes that were invalidated. Nineteen thousand ballots were invalidated because people reasonably thought that they were voting -- there were two punch holes next to Gore-Lieberman, and they punched both.

KING: I got you, yes. And what redress of grievance are you asking? How does the state make this up to your client?

FLADELL: I would like to vote for who I want to vote for. I would like to vote for Gore, and I would like to vote for Lieberman. I don't want to vote for Pat Buchanan. He may be nice person, but he's not for my vote.

This country is looking at a ballot on this television that looks like this. That's not what we see when we vote. This is what we see when we vote. This country looking at which black mark is higher. Why don't they try seeing which one is further.

The punch hole isn't a black mark looking at a television screen (UNINTELLIGIBLE) about 1/16 of an inch apart looking at direction on this level. When the country thinks we can't identify which dot is higher, I can identify a higher dot.

But you can't identify dots laying across a plain on a right angle. That dot that I punched was right next to the name of Gore and Lieberman. I punched the right dot. I had no idea that in this country you have to read zig-zag and diagonal to know who you're voting for.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Weren't there arrows, Andre, telling where you to go?

FLADELL: No, there were arrows on both sides pointing to the middle that. Look, I read the dictionary. I read encyclopedias. I read textbooks. I've never read in our language anything of any type that was a puzzle. I didn't go in there to take a test. I went in to vote for president of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Howard, do you think you have a chance here?

WEISS: Yes, absolutely. I think that the ballot was definitely violative of the Florida statutes. I think that the second name should have been, as required, since the Democrats came in second in the group gubernatorial election, their name should be in the second position. In terms of the punch holes, the Reform Party was placed in second position. That placed a reasonable doubt as to whether the election represents a will of people. The Florida statutes were indeed violated. The punch holes were not placed to the right of candidates, and I feel that both as to 3,000 votes which Buchanan obtained, and more importantly, the 19,000 ballots that were invalidated because people thought they were punching for Gore and Lieberman rather than just one single vote, and they followed the election...

KING: All right...

WEISS: ... in the instructions it said, go to the right and punch the hole to the right. If they did so, they voted for Gore- Lieberman.

KING: Howard Weiss and Andre Gladel, and they're bringing it to court.

When we come back, two congressmen for a brief couple of moments to discuss this, and then our panel, which will include Floyd Abrams, Sandra Vanocur and Bill Schneider. We'll meet our two congressmen quickly right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: The voices and noise that you hear in the background are the protesters. They are outside the courthouse in West Palm Beach, where lots of goings-on are taking place over this hullabaloo over this incredible election.

We go to Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart. He's a Republican of Florida and he is co-chairman of the George W. Bush campaign. With him is Congressman Robert Wexler, Democrat of Florida. He was with us last night as well. We'll have a few moments with these gentlemen.

Congressman Diaz-Balart, what do you say to the gentleman we just had on who went to vote for Gore, voted for the wrong thing because he had been voting for years, he punched it wrong? How do we redress this grievance?

REP. LINCOLN DIAZ-BALART (R), FLORIDA: Bill, I'm really sorry that that happened. I looked at that ballot. It was the same ballot that was used in 1996 and in the primary this year. There was never a challenge before.

A number of people, by the way, contacted our offices after the election, especially some elderly people, because they were confused here in Miami-Dade County. Unfortunately, some confusion inevitably exists in any election...

KING: So just...

DIAZ-BALART: But we have a -- we have a procedure, which is the Florida law establishes it when the -- any election is won by less than half of a percent there's an automatic recount.

And the ballot -- you saw Jeanne Moos on CNN. I was watching earlier this evening. And she showed it to a lot of people, and almost everybody got it right.

The reality of the matter is that the Florida law says if you vote for more than one candidate for one position, that vote, unfortunately, has to be invalidated.

KING: Congressman Wexler, what Congressman Diaz-Balart is saying it's unfortunate, it's sad, but it's the breaks of the game. You have no way out.

REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: No, that's not the full story. The facts speak for themselves here, Larry: 19,000 people had their votes invalidated because of an illegal ballot that was extremely confusing.

And with all due respect to my friend Lincoln Diaz-Balart, the ballot that was used this past Tuesday in Palm Beach County was not used four years ago. This was the first time it's been used in at least 10 years, and the supervisor herself issued a warning, Larry, on the day of the election, late in the day, to the poll workers, saying that people had complained before the ballots had closed, that there was mass confusion, and that poll workers should warn the voters not to vote for two candidates.

KING: And that was -- that was late in the day?

WEXLER: That was about 4:30, about 4:30.

KING: OK. Hold on. All right, hold it right there. Congressman Diaz-Balart, what do you make of that?

DIAZ-BALART: Larry, four years ago, when the turnout was a lot less, 15,000 votes were invalidated in Palm Beach County.

KING: So something's wrong in Palm Beach then, right?

DIAZ-BALART: This year -- this year, 19,000 votes were invalidated.

KING: But isn't something wrong then?

DIAZ-BALART: Unfortunately...

WEXLER: Larry...

KING: Hold it, Bob. Don't interrupt.

DIAZ-BALART: Unfortunately, people make mistakes. But is it better to have people be able to vote for both candidates? Is that what the opposition is saying?

Now, I think the key here...

KING: In other words, Congressman Diaz, you're not concerned that in two straight elections 15,000, 19,000 votes were invalidated with people voting for two people? Why didn't they change the ballot? DIAZ-BALART: Unfortunately, people make mistakes, but what the law is clear on is that you don't vote for more than one candidate for one position.

KING: I know that.

DIAZ-BALART: And when they do that, unfortunately, we don't know which of the two candidates they meant to vote for, and so Florida law is clear. The key here is that Florida law has to be followed, and it's being followed.

KING: All right, Congressman -- Congressman Wexler.

WEXLER: Yes. Congressman Diaz-Balart is repeating the numbers that the Republican Party has been spewing. They are false. In 1996, there was not in Palm Beach County 15,000 votes that were disqualified because people voted for two candidates for president. In fact, the number was about half of that.

But let's not lose sight of the primary issue. The election of the president of the United States hinges on the couple of hundred votes in the state of Florida, and in just the Palm Beach County region 23,000 votes were effectively invalidated.

This is not about Al Gore or George Bush. This is about democracy. This is about protecting Americans' right to vote and have their vote be counted.

KING: And Congressman Diaz-Balart, how would you respond to that?

DIAZ-BALART: I agree exactly. That's why we have procedures and we have the law. And the law says that a recount occurs if the loser asks for it when the winner wins by less than one-half of 1 percent. The state is going through that procedure. It's going through it with tremendous seriousness and with dignity. And we have to follow this procedure and not make it now one where, like I heard Mr. Daley said, they're going to court.

That is the judicialization of our democracy. That's extremely dangerous.

And these allegations that -- like Florida statute says, Florida law says that if it's a paper ballot, names have to be on the left. No, not on computerized ballots. They're even misstating the law. And this judicialization of our democracy...

KING: But shouldn't...

DIAZ-BALART: .... is an extreme threat to our country.

KING: I've got a whole bunch of guests. Congressman -- Congressman Diaz-Balart, why not let the judge decide it then?

DIAZ-BALART: Oh, no. Obviously, anyone can go to court. What I'm saying is that the law is clear, that misstatements were made before with regard to statements such as you have to vote -- all names have to be on one side of the ballot. That's a misstatement of the law.

We're following the law. The state is following the law.

KING: Congressman Wexler, you think they're not?

WEXLER: Larry, my friend, Lincoln Diaz-Balart, knows this better than anybody. This is the United States of America. This is not Cuba. In America, we go to vote and we expect our votes to be counted, and when that count is illegitimate a court of law must address the issue.

And to elect a president of the United States on anything less than that would shake the foundation of democracy in America.

DIAZ-BALART: Precisely...

KING: We will do more tomorrow night.

DIAZ-BALART: Precisely, since we're in America...

KING: We thank you both very much. We want to get to our panel.

DIAZ-BALART: ... whoever gets more votes wins. And it's very serious when...

WEXLER: Yes.

DIAZ-BALART: ... instead of following the tradition of American democracy, the opposition, like in this case the Gore campaign, starts judicializing the elections in the United States. That's extremely dangerous.

KING: Thank you both very much.

WEXLER: Al Gore...

KING: Congressman Lincoln Diaz-Balart and Congressman Robert Wexler. When we come back, Floyd Abrams, Sander Vanocur and Bill Schneider. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Let's welcome our panel. They are the renowned constitutional attorney Floyd Abrams. He joins us from New York. Here in Los Angeles is Sander Vanocur, who's reported politics for NBC and ABC and early on, on CBS, "New York Times," "Washington Post," and he hosts "Movies in Time" on the History Channel. And a very familiar place -- face around these parts, Bill Schneider, senior political analyst, syndicated columnist.

We now, I see up on the board, have 66 counties, right, Bill?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: We have 66 counties in Florida. Florida has 67 altogether. So there's only one county out. And according to the Associated Press, Bush now leads Al Gore in the recount by 229 votes.

KING: And that is, of course, unofficial, but it's an AP tab.

SCHNEIDER: It's an AP tab.

KING: OK. Floyd Abrams, we've heard the arguments through the night. We heard the congressmen. Who's right?

FLOYD ABRAMS, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: Well, my reaction, Larry, is this is precisely the sort of thing that may have to be decided by a court. When the argument's made that this is a judicialization of our political process, I think that's really inside out. I think the reality is here in an election in which the vice president carried the popular vote in the country and has at least a very plausible claim that things have been done which prevented, probably in good faith, but prevented a significant number of people in Florida from voting as they wanted to, I don't think that it is a bad thing for somebody to go to court and say in substance, look, I wanted to vote this way, I was misled.

Maybe he'll lose. You know, these cases are hard to win. They're supposed to be hard to win. It's an uphill battle for the vice if he or one of these voters go to court. But he may win or they may win. And it seems to me that our country is not as fragile as a lot of people think. I think we can take it, because we want to know -- we want to know the truth about who really won this election.

KING: What's your read on it, Sander?

SANDER VANOCUR, JOURNALIST: I agree with Floyd. I think that -- I've been thinking all day about John Findley Dunn (ph) and Mr. Dooley (ph). And Mr. Dooley said, "Politics ain't bean bag."

This is a very tough call, but again to quote somebody, other person, Bismarck, who said of governance, "It's like sausage: You better not watch it being made if you want to eat it."

KING: Would you, if you were a citizen who voted Tuesday and you were like the gentleman we had on, felt that you had voted incorrectly through the fault of the ballot, would you do as he is doing?

VANOCUR: Of course I would.

KING: You would sue.

All right, that's two, Bill. Bill Schneider, I know you have to analyze these things. Do you think we're going to go to court? Do you think there will be a court case somehow resolved before January 20th?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I think that someone -- certainly, there will be a case brought to court, and I frankly hope the judge would throw it out, because once you start going into court, look, you open up the floodgates. You're going to find confusing ballots all over the country. Believe me, there are a lot of states that Al Gore carried, Iowa, Wisconsin, maybe Oregon -- it hasn't been declared yet; New Hampshire was carried by Bush -- but states carried by very tiny margins. I'm sure the Bush campaign can find people who say, look, the ballot here was confusing, I think that I was misled. And this can go on and on and on.

It is a misfortune, but nobody has charged that it was fraudulent. Or it's been debated whether it was illegal. If you can show it's illegal, that's something else.

KING: So if it had happened to you, you would not sue?

SCHNEIDER: I would say the ballot was confusing. I voted the wrong way. But that is a misfortune.

KING: Floyd, that's the other aspect of it, isn't it?

ABRAMS: Yes, it is. It is, and I...

KING: Breaks of the game?

ABRAMS: I respected that of you. And look, I don't think that presidential candidates ought lightly to go to court, because it does have the potential for not only slowing things down, but for delegitimizing the system.

Here I think it's the opposite. I think in this case you almost need a judge to say, look, this was basically fair. Sure, some people got taken advantage of. That's life.

But I think without that, I mean, if we are left in a situation in this country where the vice president has carried the day broadly across the country in the court of public opinion by votes, where he has a really strong case, and more importantly, where voters have a really strong case that they were taken advantage of, in good faith, but taken advantage of, the idea of having a judge say, one way or the other, look, this is either tolerable or intolerable in our country, I think it's a good idea.

SCHNEIDER: Well, I'd like to add...

KING: Sander, that makes -- Bill, hold it one second, Sander. That makes the governing easier if the judge has said it.

VANOCUR: We have to legitimize this presidential election. I am not optimistic we are going to be able to do it. But we've got to legitimize it somehow.

KING: Bill, what's wrong with legitimize it? How else could it be legitimized without a court?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it would be nice if the court said that, you know, there is no legal redress, but I'm wondering -- I'm wondering a question if Mr. Abrams knows. If the judge decides that the ballot was somehow unfair, what's he going to do? Is he going to order the county to revote?

And then the circumstances of that revote trouble me greatly. You're going to have a revote among a small group of voters who know that they are choosing in Palm Beach County the next president of the United States, something that voters nowhere knew on November 7th all by themselves. And also, they will know something that nobody else knew on November 7th: namely, how the rest of the country voted.

Is that a fair process? I'm not sure.

ABRAMS: Well, I think what you have to do is to balance that against the loss to the voters and the loss to all of us as a country in having a result which may well be inconsistent with what the country and the people of Florida wanted. I think that's -- that's very heavy-duty. And...

KING: It's a very interesting aspect. It pauses one to think, and we'll have Vanocur do that for us when we come back, right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Before we have a question for Bill and Floyd, I think Sander has a thought on the media's role here.

VANOCUR: Well, I think we'd be a lot better off today if the media on Tuesday night had not gone into that classic case of premature exaggeration, going back and forth.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a good line.

VANOCUR: And I think that the networks have a lot on this show, and they're admitting it today, for having created the kind of climate we are going to have to deal with.

KING: But we still have this voting machine. We still have the closeness of the vote. Everything would be the same.

VANOCUR: Yes, but what was so exacerbating about the other night is it kept going back and forth, creating...

KING: But that doesn't change this vote total?

VANOCUR: No, no. But it creates the kind atmosphere in which we are going to have to proceed.

KING: It led to this?

VANOCUR: Yes.

KING: OK. Bill Schneider, who could end it if a judge couldn't end it?

SCHNEIDER: If the vote in Florida is announced, even if it's extremely close -- they've done a count, they've done a recount, they've counted the overseas ballots -- no matter how close it is, there's one guy who I think could put an end to it, and that's the president of the United States. We haven't heard from him yet.

He's there as the protector of the Constitution. That's what he's for, when he was inaugurated back in 1997. And I think if he spoke out and said, look, we can quarrel with these results, they can be debated forever, there is a shadow of legitimacy over this. But you know, we have to respect the electoral college process, and I think this process should come to an end. President Clinton could do that.

KING: That integrity also could mean some electors could vote differently, right, Bill? That's part of the Constitution, too? They don't have to.

SCHNEIDER: They don't have to. That's right. And if they choose, they could decide that they want to abide by the will of the people. After all, the electoral college is sovereign in this process.

The popular vote has moral and political standing. Gore is leading in the popular vote right now. It hasn't been completed. So some electors could decide to abide by the will of the people and to vote for Al Gore for president.

(CROSSTALK)

KING: And that would be constitutional as well. Floyd and Bill and Sander, how do you think the founding fathers would have dealt with this?

SCHNEIDER: Oh, I know. They would have had a duel. They would have had a duel. They had it. Alexander Hamilton wrote the Constitution. He was killed in a duel.

KING: Same case.

ABRAMS: Also, the founding fathers, for all their greatness, didn't exactly think awfully well of the masses.

KING: True.

ABRAMS: And, you know, the Founding Fathers would have been very happy to have this decided in the House of Representatives, and take it away from the people. One of the reasons that I'm, what shall I say, sympathetic or at least not unsympathetic to the idea of at least having a judge pass upon lawsuits brought in this area is that I think that it is part of the process to assure that the people who are in fact serving as the electors deserve to be there.

I mean, what could be more inconsistent with the whole theory of our system than to have 25 people from Florida who really got less votes or for whom the people of Florida wanted not to vote, to go to attend this convening of cardinals as it were. KING: Hold it right there. Let me get a break and when we come back, we'll ask each of the gentlemen to tell us what they think will happen. They've been around a while. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Floyd Abrams, what's going to happen?

ABRAMS: Well, let me answer this way. First, what I don't think is going to happen is that we're going to have problems starting December 18th of legitimacy. that is to say, I think one way or the other, one candidate or another will, even if this is in court, if this isn't resolved by the time the electors are supposed to meet, I think it's more likely than not that one or the other will withdraw. One or the other will allow the other person to become president.

That said, though, I think we will have a judicial look at this. I view this as a very close case. You heard the congressmen arguing about what Florida law is, about where the names have to be on the left side or not. I mean, that's a strict issue of law for a judge to decide. You heard them arguing about whether there's confusion of a sort that should lead to a new election. I think that's an issue of law.

I think we're going to have a judge in Florida, maybe some appellate judges also on a super-expedited basis make a decision about whether this was sufficiently unfair that a new election is required, and I think the vice president's chances are pretty decent about getting a new election in Florida.

KING: Sander?

VANOCUR: All I wish for is no rush to judgment. Everybody was saying today we'll know by the end of today. We won't know squat by the end of today. We may know something when the absentee ballots are in and counted an I'd like to leave it to the good officials of the state of Florida for them to come a conclusion before we go anywhere else.

KING: In other words, they come to a conclusion. Then a lawsuit, if there's a lawsuit?

VANOCUR: Let them decide. It's their state. And let them decide it in all deliberate speed, but deliberate speed.

KING: Bill, what do you think?

SCHNEIDER: I think there'd better be a rush to judgment because the people of the United States and of the entire world are waiting to see what the outcome of this is. My guess is in the end, a judge will look at this and decide this is a political matter and the courts really ought not be involved here.

What's important here is to realize what the people did on Tuesday. I mean, it's amazing. They split the Congress down the middle. They were divide in the electoral vote. They were closely divided in the popular vote. Does this mean Americans are deeply polarized? I don't think so. I think this is an electorate that really simply said, we can't make up our minds. We have things we like about each. Things we don't like about each candidate.

KING: Sander wants to say something in response to that.

SCHNEIDER: Period, you know, I don't think we're deeply polarized.

VANOCUR: Bill, we don't have to rush. We do not have a crisis and I do not think that the election was as close as people say it was. I think I heard you before, you're absolutely right but what we need is some time and I don't think the people in this country think we have a crisis yet unless we in the media create it, which we often do.

SCHNEIDER: We had an election and we don't know who the winner is. I'm not saying that there should be a hysterical rush. I think the results should be announced exactly on the timetable of the people of Florida. The procedures should be followed, and then they have to be abided by. You can take it to court, but my guess the courts will be reluctant to get involved in what is really a political question.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS: I'm sorry, Bill. I think that may well be true, but it seems to me, one thing is sure, the courts will handle this on a super-expedited basis. They will attend it with the greatest amount of seriousness that is possible, and I think one way or the other, that it will add more, not less.

KING: We're running out of time. Sander, quickly.

VANOCUR: If they decide it quickly, what are we going to do for a living?

SCHNEIDER: I'd like to go home.

KING: Floyd Abrams, Sander Vanocur, Bill Schneider, you may go home.

SCHNEIDER: Thank you.

KING: Stay tuned, a special town meeting in Palm Beach. We'll hear from the people themselves right on the spot itself. We'll be back tomorrow night with more of the same on LARRY KING LIVE. Thanks for joining us and good night.

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