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Larry King Live Weekend

Who Will Be the Nation's 43rd President?

Aired November 11, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

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

ANNOUNCER: Tonight, the nation's 43rd president still undecided. In Florida, the Bush team goes to court as a Gore-requested recount gets under way by hand.

CNN's Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno sits in for Larry King. Joining him, Republican National Committee Jim Nicholson and the general chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Ed Rendell. Plus renowned constitutional attorney Floyd Abrams and CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

All that and more next on LARRY KING LIVE.

FRANK SESNO, GUEST HOST: And hello to you.

We are joined by a host of fascinating people tonight at a fascinating time in this nation's history. We're going to take you right away to West Palm Beach for Tucker Eskew, Bush campaign spokesman. You hear a lot of noise behind Tucker. That's where some of the recounting and all is taking place.

Start right off Tucker, what's wrong with this process? Why does your campaign have such a problem with it?

TUCKER ESKEW, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, Frank, the confusion and chaos on display in the room next to me are ample evidence of the kind of inconsistencies that this process has given rise to; and they give rise to fundamental concerns no matter what the outcome, no matter whether Governor Bush benefits from this recount or not. And that chaos argues against a county-wide recount.

SESNO: James Baker, the other day, went before the nation and he said, don't go to court, let's not take this into the courts or we may start a spiral from which we cannot return. Yet your campaign -- George W. Bush is going to court to stop the recount. Why?

ESKEW: Well, there's a fundamental difference. The Gore- Lieberman campaign gave aid and comfort to at least eight separate lawsuits filed which were designed to delay and extend this process. What Secretary Baker did today on behalf of Governor Bush is designed to eliminate those delays, to bring this process to a speedy and expeditious conclusion.

The fact is, there's been a vote and there's been a recount; and it would appear that our opponents just want to keep recounting until they get the result they want.

SESNO: If there are ballots that have not been counted in a state where 6 million people voted and the two candidates are apart by a mere handful -- just hundreds of votes -- and this will determine the next president of the United States, why would your campaign, why would the nation, not want to be sure that all the ballots are counted? We're talking about uncounted ballots here.

ESKEW: We are, indeed. But we're talking about overseas uncounted ballots. Those absentee ballots which don't come in until next Friday and which, overwhelmingly, historically, come in favoring Republicans.

The ballots being looked at here today have been counted. They've been recounted, Frank; and this process of, once again, recounting is prone to human error, it's prone to mischief, it's the sort of process which gives rise to chaos.

The fact is, in this room next to me counters -- official counters for Palm Beach County have turned to the observers for either party and asked for instruction in how to handle the ballot. We've had the judge, who leads this panel -- which, by the way, all three of the members of this canvassing board here are Democrats in this overwhelmingly Democratic county -- we've had that judge turn to our observer and say, you know, we got off to a bad start, but we've gotten our act together now.

That's simply not good enough. It's unsettling and it doesn't inspire the kind of confidence Americans should have in this process.

SESNO: Tucker Eskew, you have an observer in that room, correct?

ESKEW: We do.

SESNO: Has your observer reported to you anything inappropriate or anything that would amount to questionable behavior?

ESKEW: Yes; in fact, he has strenuously objected to the change in procedure. They began this night, Frank, by changing the established procedure for handling under-voted ballots and over-voted ballots. He objected strenuously as they held these up, one by one, to the light, trying to discern minor nicks in the paper, trying to discern the intent -- in effect, read the minds of voters.

How absurd is that? Yes, we've objected, and objected strenuously.

SESNO: Are you saying they're trying to steal the election right out from under your noses in that room?

ESKEW: Mischief is the word I've uses; and we are concerned that this process lends itself to it, whether it results in that or not; but it certainly raises question.

SESNO: Let's be clear. You're saying it may lend itself to mischief, but you're not reporting any mischief to this point, are you?

ESKEW: I'm awaiting further reports from our person in the room, but I can tell you we have serious concerns about this process, serious concerns that lead us to believe that a county-wide recount would absolutely serve no purpose whatsoever, only serve to delay a process which needs to be handled expeditiously.

SESNO: I want to come back to something you said a moment ago. You said the point is that these ballots have all been counted before.

Isn't the point here that, in these perforated ballots, some of them have not been counted before and this process is about counting uncounted ballots?

ESKEW: Let's not forget, Frank, this nation moved toward machine vote counting and vote tabulation for a reason. These precise machines, precision equipment are designed to count ballots appropriately with greater accuracy, greater speed than hand counting can do.

Hand counting is going on in there; and let's not forget another thing. In the state of Florida there is no consistent process for handling this procedure. County by county it varies. We've seen tonight it varies within one county. There's confusion here as they change their rules on the recount midway through the process. Their newly hired spokesman was incapable of describing it to reporters -- how do you think they're describing it to the counters in the room?

SESNO: Tucker Eskew, your campaign will go before a judge on Monday morning and say, stop the recounting, we shouldn't be doing this. If the judge says, forget it, it's OK, the counting proceeds, what will the Bush campaign do?

ESKEW: Well, bear in mind, we've acted consistently throughout. Unlike this procedure here tonight, we've set forth procedures and policies and principles which we've followed very closely. Governor Bush has very high standards. The American people have high standards and we will act in full accord with the principles we've laid out, which are for a fair, free, quick and expeditious handling of this most important vote.

SESNO: OK, but if the judge doesn't rule for you, then what?

ESKEW: Well, we'll have to see what happens after that. I assure you that capable lawyers -- and it is regrettable that this had to go to court, it is. Secretary Baker has made that point and made it effectively, but we would consider our next step after such an action were taken.

Bear in mind we, meanwhile, are watching carefully as actions are underway in other counties. The Gore campaign has requested ballot recounts in democratically controlled counties such as this one, not in more balanced or Republican counties.

SESNO: Let me move you from Florida to Texas for just a minute, that's where George W. Bush is. We've seen him pretty much every day, in some cases looking really rather presidential in those photo ops, talking with Andy Card and Dick Cheney and Condaleeza Rice and others around him. There's been some criticism that he's jumping the gun here and trying to look more presidential before there's a concession or anything like that. You dialing him back? Any second thoughts about that?

ESKEW: None whatsoever. Governor Bush looks presidential because he is.

SESNO: So as far as you're concerned, this is over and in terms of any kind of photo ops, questions, that sort of thing, totally in bounds?

ESKEW: Well, totally in bounds. Over? Well, there's been a vote, there's been a recount and, of course, we have these overseas ballots left to count which go overwhelmingly Republican.

SESNO: Tucker Eskew, appreciate your time tonight, thanks very much, we'll be talking to you again soon.

Take a quick break here. When we come back, we're going to hear from the Gore side of things.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: The recount is underway in Palm Beach County. We want to take you there where spokesman Bob Nichols is talking right now, giving a briefing.

BOB NICHOLS, PALM BEACH COUNTY SPOKESMAN: It will be completed as prescribed under law. They will then take though ballots that have been pulled out, those four precincts, take them over to the machine counter, put them in the machine counter, then count them; and they will be made part of the third recount overall.

As you understand the situation, those ballots will now go back to the machine room, they will be counted there. That process will take probably another hour or two. The only other thing that I have been told by our experts here in the supervisor's office is that the machine must be tested after. That process, from my understanding, runs approximately 45 minutes. So, from the things that I have given you and the timings that I'm giving you, you can kind of adjust and decide on where we're looking at later.

I cannot give you a definitive time as to when we will have the chairman of the canvassing board out here to give you a report on the hand count and the machine count, but we will do it tonight. Whenever it happens we will -- just a moment please...

QUESTION: Could you lower that microphone in front of you, right in front of you there? It's getting right up in the middle of your face.

NICHOLS: How's that?

We will do it tonight. It will be done tonight and you will get the report tonight. What time, I cannot tell you.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: How many questionable ballots?

NICHOLS: I don't know. I have not been told that number.

QUESTION: Is it an estimate of two to three hours that you're saying?

NICHOLS: I think adding up what I was talking about, it's close to that, yes. But I can't be held to a definitive time, please.

QUESTION: How many have they gone through?

NICHOLS: As I've mentioned, they went through -- they've counted all four of the precincts that were selected under the law for a 1 percent on the hand count. They have counted all four, set aside the questionables and they're looking at those now.

I can't tell you how many those are, but they do believe that process will last at least another hour.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: How many questionables?

NICHOLS: I answered that before. I don't know.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: How many questionable ballots?

NICHOLS: I don't have an estimate I'm sorry. We'll have another meeting as soon -- and the next briefing will be -- the next time we'll give you a heads up ahead of time. The next briefing you get here, and that means that we'll have it done. And we're going to be coming out with a report for you. That'll be the next briefing. Thank you all very much.

SESNO: Bob Nichols speaking from Palm Beach County. He's a spokesman there, saying there will be some results from that recount effort. It's a sampling recount effort in that county. So stay tuned for that throughout the night.

Let's go to Doug Hattaway, Gore campaign spokesman. I want to start by asking you to react to some of what you heard from your counterpart over in the Bush campaign. He says he's not alleging that any mischief has happened in that room where that recounting is going on, but there's the potential for it and there are no real standards, consistent standards, which raises questions of fairness, equity all the rest. Your response?

DOUG HATTAWAY, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, I think this whole process is being carried out according to the laws established here in Florida. The hand recount is part of the procedures outlined under Florida law. Interestingly, it's also the same way under Texas law. Texas Governor George W. Bush himself signed a law himself mandating that hand recounts take precedence over machine recounts in situations like this.

I think it's unfortunate that the Bush campaign is bad-mouthing the local officials in Palm Beach, who are clearly, as we just heard, trying to see this moves forward quickly and expeditiously, that it's fair to all sides. That's the bottom line here. We have to see that the people's votes are counted, that there's a full, fair and accurate count of the vote here in Florida so that the people know that the candidate they picked becomes president. That's what it's all about.

I don't think it's helpful for people to be bad-mouthing the local officials. I think it's interesting that while the Bush campaign was saying they didn't this to go to court, they went to court, and to federal court, no less, to stop these local officials from counting their own citizen's votes.

(CROSSTALK)

SESNO: But we saw pictures earlier today through that glass window of the officials there holding up the cards one-by-one, trying to look through the perforations to see if they could see the light. And you see them all sort of clustered around looking, and you wonder whether -- isn't there something to what James Baker said that this process, manual counting, in his words is subject to human error and individual subjectivity?

HATTAWAY: Well, I think the law actually provides for hand counts because people have good judgment. I think Governor Bush talked in his campaign about trusting the people. Now would be a good time to do that. The fact that the machines did not count so many people's votes is why we are doing this right now. People came to vote on Tuesday. They came with a full faith that their vote would be counted toward the result of this election.

(CROSSTALK)

SESNO: And while you're talking there...

HATTAWAY: And I think it is wrong that some of those people's votes weren't counted.

SESNO: Now let me just let me point out that this video we're showing you here. This is some of the recount effort. You see people actually visually looking at these things one at a time.

Doug Hattaway let me ask you this, there's a story that's going to be posted -- it's already posted online in "Roll Call," that says the Gore campaign has hit these K Street lobbyists for up to $3 million to underwrite this legal effort that you're engaged in down there in Florida. Your candidate called for some degree of campaign finance reform. Are you going to disclose who's giving this money and for what purpose?

HATTAWAY: I'm not familiar with the story you're talking about. There's is a legal entity set up for the recount committee that's established under federal laws and obviously it will all be done according those laws. I'm not familiar with the laws myself. I think the bottom line...

SESNO: Has the campaign solicited money?

HATTAWAY: We obviously have to fund the effort to do a recount, and that is underway. I don't have specifics on what's going on in that area. I'm not a lawyer so I can't tell you the federal law in this situation. What I can tell you is that the whole purpose is to insure a full, fair and accurate count.

That's -- we believe that the local authorities are doing their best to move it along quickly. It's part of the process. We've got time to work it out. We've got to let the process work out here so that the voters are assured their votes count. That's what it's all about. And that's what a recount committee is for. Both sides will be establishing committees just like this.

SESNO: There's been some criticism from the Democratic side of George W. Bush's looking presidential, talking in passing about a transition team. He says it's to reassure the nation, that anybody would be doing this. It's only prudent and if he gets there, he has to make some preparations. Isn't that really fairly reasonable after all?

HATTAWAY: I think it's reasonable to assume that both sides will be prepared for a quick and smooth transition when the time comes. Let all remember we have a president. He's doing his job. The Founding Fathers set in a time frame after elections for situations to be worked out like this, for transitions to occur. That's exactly the process we're seeing now. I think it's best for people on both sides to let the process work out.

I think the American people first and foremost want to see that it's done fairly and thoroughly and completely and they're willing to wait to get it right. And Governor Bush, you know, should proceed as he deems appropriate. I think Al Gore believes that it's appropriate not to be rushing forward to judgment, that we should let the process play out. He's obviously ready to be president and he's got structure in place for a quick transition.

SESNO: I asked your counterpart a moment ago what they would do if the judge rules against them on Monday. Let me ask you the same question. What happens to you in your effort if the judge rules against you and the recount has to stop according to the judge on Monday?

HATTAWAY: I think it's a small likelihood that the judge would rule in favor of the Bush campaign's lawsuit here because there is really no reason why a federal court would stop these local officials from counting their own citizens votes. We'll have to wait and see what the judge says and we'll decide based on that decision.

I really don't see it happening because it's clear under Florida law these counts are part of the process. The local officials are carrying it out according to process. The Bush campaign, for some reason, is trying to stop them. We don't think the federal judge is going to allow that.

SESNO: Are we going to hear from Al Gore anytime soon?

HATTAWAY: He's been updated on the situation. He met with Secretary Christopher and Secretary Daley today. He may have, you know, things to say. We'll see as things unfold.

SESNO: All right, Doug Hattaway. Thanks very much. Maybe you'll get some sleep. Appreciate your time.

HATTAWY: Thank you.

SESNO: Thanks very much. We're going to take a quick break and when we come back, we're going to hear from two elected representatives who are pretty much right at ground zero in Florida. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: We've heard from the campaigns. Let's hear from the elected representatives. Congressman Alcee Hastings joins us now. He represents part of Broward County. Joins us from Florida, where it's temperate this evening. Also, Congresswoman Tillie Fowler, representing parts of Jacksonville. and joins us now from Jacksonville, Florida.

To both of you now, Congressman Hastings first, what are people saying in your district? How are they watching this whole thing? What do they make of it?

REP. ALCEE HASTINGS (D), FLORIDA: Frank. I'm in the epicenter. And just to correct you momentarily, I also represent Palm Beach and one of the precincts that's being counted as we speak is actually in the district I'm privileged to represent. What the people are saying is that there was an egregious error on behalf of the supervisor of elections in the formation and design of the ballot that misled a substantial number of people -- 22,000 plus -- in casting their ballots. People feel that that has affected the sanctity and the integrity of the process and that the will of the people has not been expressed.

SESNO: Congresswoman Fowler?

REP. TILLIE FOWLER (R), FLORIDA: Well, people are very concerned. You know, what we're doing has broad historic implications. It's not just our country that's watching. The whole world is watching as we determine the election of the leader of the free world and is it coming down to whether you punched out one corner or four corners of something called a chad in a ballot?

I mean, I look back on last Tuesday, November the 7th, over a hundred million voters went to the polls and cast their ballots on Election Day and there have been no substantial claims of fraud or illegality. We have a great system and it works. Most voters read their ballots, they figured what to do, they went to the polls and they cast their vote. And a claim of voter error is not a reason to set aside a presidential election. We all know that our Constitutional right is one vote, one person. No do-overs. You don't get to vote again.

HASTINGS: But Frank...

SESNO: Go ahead.

HASTINGS: The fact remains that those errors came about as a result of the gross negligence on the behalf of the supervisor of elections, not fraud, and Florida law speaks to that particular issue. But my good friend and colleague, Tillie Fowler, spoke about the fact that the whole world is watching and she's absolutely correct. I happen to serve an a officer of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and I can tell you that I've been to Burundi and Bosnia and Bombay and Beijing lecturing people on the rule of law. The fact of the matter is our system works. There are no tanks out in the street.

SESNO: But what do you say to people, Congressman, who are saying that you're just going to recount until you get the result you want?

HASTINGS: Oh, absolutely not. This particular manual recount is pursuant to law. Anyone can file a protest of the original count after 72 hours and then you proceed apace. Once that's done, and the absentees are done, if these particular voters were disenfranchised, would anybody, would Tillie, if there were 22,000 voters in her district as there are in mine, who feel that their will was not expressed, would she be willing to say, oops, that's OK?

FOWLER: I want to tell him. Here, my county, 22,000 were thrown out...

(CROSSTALK)

HASTINGS: Not with an erroneous ballot, Tillie.

FOWLER: But these are people who made mistakes...

SESNO: Go ahead.

FOWLER: ... in Duval County with erroneous ballots. That's their problem. They made a mistake. We cannot throw out a presidential election because of voter error. And Alcee's a good friend. We work closely together in the Congress, but I've got say we cannot let a presidential election hinge on a few voters who made mistakes. If they didn't take the time to do it right...

HASTINGS: They made mistakes because the supervisor of elections made mistakes.

SESNO: Now wait a minute. Wait a minute. Let me jump in.

(CROSSTALK) FOWLER: Can I just say one thing here? The ballot was published ahead of time. People read it. They knew what was on it. It's their responsibility and under Florida case law, voter confusion is not grounds to throw out an election.

SESNO: We're talking about a couple of different kinds of ballots here. Let's be clear about that. Now, I want to ask you, Congresswoman Fowler, about exactly what we're discussing. In that ballot -- and we saw the video just a moment ago. People looking through it, holding it up. If there is the little punch hole and a voter punched through the hole but it didn't go all the way through and the little chad didn't come out so that the machine doesn't read it, is that voter error?

FOWLER: Well, right now what they're saying -- it's so confusing down in Palm Beach County because first today they were using something called a light test. Then mid-afternoon they changed that and said, well, if there's one corner

SESNO: Yes, but I'm not talking about -- I understand...

FOWLER: ... punched out of four. This is getting really difficult as to what they're going to use to determine how someone voted. And I've got to say in my district -- Volusia County is one of the four counties that the Democrats have picked to recount.

In Volusia County, the recount confirmed the original count. There was no error. So why the did the Democratic Party decide they wanted to recount Volusia County? Because it's a Democratic county. But there were no errors in that county. It's very interesting that they've picked that as one of the counties now to manually recount.

SESNO: I want to come back to the question I asked you, though. If a voter goes into the voting booth and punches through a hole, but the chad does not pop out and then the machine doesn't read it, but it's kind of swing swinging there or whatever the terminology is you want to use, is that voter error? Is that the voter's responsibility? Should that ballot be counted?

FOWLER: No, but -- In Duval County, when those went back through again, those who had done that, the chad then dropped out and they were counted.

So normally if you have punched it enough for one or two corners to be loose, then it's going to drop out. But we are talking about here are ones where people, you know, they say, oh, well, is it indented a little bit or not? Where does this end? We have got at some point -- I was very disappointed today when the Gore campaign would not commit to at the end of this next week, on November the 17th, when all the absentee ballots are counted, when all these recounts are finished, if Mr. Bush has won Florida, as we know he will, will they concede? They will not say they will.

(CROSSTALK)

HASTINGS: Frank, you've permitted Tillie to go forward with her soliloquy, I was disappointed today when a lawsuit was filed, and I stood and watched James Baker say that there should not be litigation. I hear a campaign that says they believe in the local communities' control, and here we have the law being pursued. I'm confused as to what the Republican Party really means when it says, trust the people.

FOWLER: Mr. Baker made it very clear that he would withdraw that lawsuit if the Democrats would withdraw there's. There were eight Democrat lawsuits filed by ...

(CROSSTALK)

HASTINGS: None by Al Gore. None by Al Gore.

FOWLER: Funded by the Gore people.

HASTINGS: Absolutely not. Tillie, please don't say that. There's no evidence of any funding by Al Gore.

FOWLER: There are. There will be, Alcee. There will be. They've been raising the money starting Wednesday morning.

SESNO: Before we go, before we go, I want to ask you both this very serious question. At what point does this kind of debate and discussion that you're having hear and that Americans are presumably are having like this all across the country, really start doing some damage and some harm to the institution, the faith in the way this whole process is conducted?

FOWLER: Well, that's a good point, Frank. I mean, I'm concerned that we're endangering the fundamental respect for our government and our political system here if this continues. We're going down a very slippery slope, and where does it stop? I mean, at some point in time some people have got to say that we're patriots. We're going to be statesmen and the good of this country matters more than some political gamesmanship. I'm concerned about that.

SESNO: Alcee Hastings, last word to you.

HASTINGS: Frank, I think that the residual from this will be a real study of the Electoral College process, a universal, electronic voting system, better methodologies for you in the media making your calls, perhaps a 24 universal voting day without you being able to make that call.

I think among other things, that there is no fear that the republic is secure and I do have faith in the judiciary. As a matter of fact, that may be the only place that we can get an objective determination. It may very well end up at the United States Supreme Court.

SESNO: Well, that leaves us a good jumping off point and something to continue our conversation the rest of the hour. Tillie Fowler, Alcee Hastings, thanks to you both very much. Good luck to you both. We'll be back. We're going to hear from the parties right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: And how do the parties view all this?

Joined now by Jim Nicholson, the chairman of the Republican National Committee and, from Philadelphia, general chairman of the Democratic National Committee Ed Rendell.

Mr. Rendell, let's start with you then, if we may, in your fair city there. At what point does the Democratic Party, does Al Gore accept the Florida results? Is it Friday when the absentee ballots and the recounts are done? Is that the end of this?

ED RENDELL, DNC GENERAL CHAIRMAN: Well, surely we believe the lawsuit that was filed by the Bush campaign is going to be denied. We're going to look at the counts and see if these counts go county- wide. At the end of those counts, at the end of the tabulation of the absentee ballots, then it will be a question of whether we're going to pursue the voters who clearly wanted to vote for Al Gore and double- counted because of the confusion over an illegal ballot -- that ballot violated Florida law -- and the additional 3,400 who, even according to Pat Buchanan, didn't vote for him, intended to vote for Al Gore.

SESNO: So you can't really say when this is going to end?

RENDELL: No, but Mr. Christopher said, at that point we'll take a look at it and a decision will be made. And the decision will take into account what's good for the country and what's good for the voters who went to the polls thinking that they were casting a vote for president that was going to count.

SESNO: Jim Nicholson.

JIM NICHOLSON, RNC CHAIRMAN: Well, they could say when it's going to be over, but they won't. And they won't want it because they don't want to say it until they know that they're going to win. To them the only legitimate outcome of this is for them to win. Bill Daley has said that, Ed Rendell just said that.

RENDELL: No, I didn't say that.

NICHOLSON: Indeed you did.

RENDELL: No I did not.

NICHOLSON: In fact, he also said this ballot was illegal. This ballot was just adjudicated as a legal ballot. This was a legal election. It's been counted and it's now been recounted; and Governor Bush won the count, he won the recount and all we need to wait on are the other ballots coming into the state that haven't been counted to know the outcome of this. And I don't see why they can't stipulate to that.

SESNO: Jim Nicholson, how do you respond to this notion that this is not really a recount because you're not counting ballots that have been counted before, in principle, at least some of these -- that these are ballots that the machines didn't count and in an election this tight, why not count everything?

NICHOLSON: Because you have to have certain rules in a system that's this large. There have been over a 100 million ballots cast in this country.

SESNO: But we're talking about mere hundreds of votes.

NICHOLSON: But the ballots in Florida that were cast and cast properly were counted and then they were recounted; and Governor Bush has lead in both of those counts. And that's the law, that's the rule, and that's fair.

And we have to think about the fairness of this. There are elections in other parts of Florida and all over this country and there's due procession and equal protection involved here for all voters because they all have a say in the outcome of who is going to be our president.

SESNO: Jim Nicholson, Ed Rendell, we're going to take a quick break.

We're going to be right back to continue our conversation with these two gentlemen right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: We're continuing our conversation on LARRY KING LIVE here; Frank Sesno sitting in for Larry this evening with Jim Nicholson of the Republican Party and Ed Rendell of the Democratic Party.

Ed Rendell, let me ask you this next question. A poll we took shows that, when the public is asked who do they think will be the next president, 69 percent say George W. Bush, 19 percent say Al Gore. How do you explain that and what's the significance of it, given the moment we're in right now?

RENDELL: I don't think George Bush is ahead and I don't think it has any significance; but I'd like to respond to what Jim said.

I think the American people should know that the manual count, the hand count that is going on in Florida is allowed for by Florida law. We did what Florida law requires us. And when Mr. Baker, this morning, came and attacked the hand count process as being unreliable, what hypocrisy that was Frank because, not only did George Bush sign a law that says: When you have a recount, a manual count should be preferred over an electronic count; but, secondly, if you log on, if our viewers log on to the Texas secretary of state Web site they will find the language that a manual count takes preference over an electronic count.

And that's all we're doing here. We're trying to validate, not the double-votes, not the Buchanan votes -- just what you said: We're trying to make sure that voters who thought they voted for president, who made that indentation and they didn't push the chad all the way through, that if they left a clear enough mark that their vote is counted. What's wrong with that? Why are the Republicans afraid?

NICHOLSON: He's talking about apples and oranges; and the secretary, this morning, was absolutely right -- Baker -- when he said these machines are not Republican, they're not Democrat, they're objective and this should be an objective exercise.

RENDELL: Then why did Governor Bush sign that law, Jim?

NICHOLSON: Because it was an omnibus election reform bill and it's...

RENDELL: I assume he read it!

NICHOLSON: Just a second -- it's an apple and an orange. What it says is that those ballots are cast optically and you're using, in Florida, a paper-punch ballot, and that's the difference between day and night. And so it's non-applicable to say which is more accurate because you're talking about very different systems.

SESNO: Jim Nicholson let me ask you the same question I asked Tillie Fowler: If you're a voter in the state of Florida and you go into a polling place and you take out whatever little pen or whatever you use to punch through where you have to on your ballot and it doesn't punch through all the way -- you voted for somebody, the man in the moon -- but it doesn't punch through all the way, and the machine reads that and doesn't read it, and it's a close election.

Would you not want that read some way or another? To weigh in when there are literally 320-odd votes unofficially separating these two candidates?

NICHOLSON: Well it got read. It got read again. It got another chance to be read.

RENDELL: But it got read by the same machine that didn't read it the first time, Jim.

What we're trying to do -- there are over 15,000 votes in this category -- we're trying to validate the will of the people. What's wrong with that?

NICHOLSON: Here's what's wrong with it, because you can't divine the will of the people, Ed.

RENDELL: Sure you can...

NICHOLSON: No you can't, they're human beings.

We found this out this afternoon. They started out, I mean, it was a fire drill. They held some up to the light, they said, well, I can't tell for sure; and they turned to ask some of the observers, they said, what do you think? This is totally subjective and it's unfortunate if a few people do lose their vote because they mistakenly voted.

RENDELL: Fifteen thousand!

NICHOLSON: Six million people in that state; 100 million people in the country, Ed, there are going to be mistakes...

RENDELL: But you're ahead by 350 votes, Jim.

NICHOLSON: ... and they balance each other out. Enough is enough; you can't interject people's subjective opinions and, especially, you've chosen these Democrat franchises to hold this manual recount.

RENDELL: You could have chosen as well, you had the right to choose as well. What are you guys afraid of?

SESNO: Ed Rendell, let me ask you, let me just pick up on something that the chairman said here. He said enough is enough. When is enough enough? At what point do you say, we're behind, there are going to be irregularities in any election, it's just a matter of the percentages, but this is the will of the people. When does that get stated?

RENDELL: Again, when the manual counts are done, when the absentee ballots are in; I think at that point the campaign looks and decides whether we should continue to support these individual lawsuits that have been filed,

But understand, Frank, these people filed individually. They're not being supported financially by us. They filed on their own because there were ticked off. Their lawsuits are going to go forward unless the vice president, I assume, if he asks them to stop they will stop. That will be a decision made after the hands counts which the Texas law and the Florida law prefer.

SESNO: Gentlemen, the hand counts continue and so does the stand-off and so does the debate.

Ed Rendell from Philadelphia, thanks very much; Jim Nicholson, appreciate your time; both of you.

We'll be back. We're going to take a bigger-picture look with several very smart people right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: I'm Frank Sesno, sitting in for Larry King this evening.

The United States does not have, at least not officially, a president-elect by concession or otherwise. The recounting continues in Florida and a court case is pending on Monday.

We are joined now by Floyd Abrams, constitutional lawyer. He joins us this evening, sharing his time on a Saturday night. Bill Schneider, our senior political analyst right here in Washington; and David Cardwell, Florida election law expert and former director of the Florida state division of elections. David Cardwell, let me start with you. We've heard an awful lot of discussion and disagreement here this evening. Are these read ballots, unread ballots; is a chad, when it's pushed through, a legitimate vote, is it not? Put this in perspective for us.

DAVID CARDWELL, FORMER FLORIDA ELECTIONS DIRECTOR: Well, very often when you have, particularly, a punch-card type of ballot as used in Palm Beach County, these problems do arise from time to time.

There is a process under Florida law for doing recounts. One was completed with the machine count. There's also a process for the manual recount. The manual recount, particularly in the case of ballots such as this, can very often find that there were ballots that were not counted by the machines due to either the so-called hanging chad or due the fact that there may have been an indentation and then a punch; which, when you go to a manual recount and you go through the process with the counting teams, that the intent of the voter can be determined.

It may appear that there is some subjectivity there, but it does provide an opportunity for the counting teams and then, ultimately, the canvassing board, to be able to determine if a voter's intent can be reflected from the ballot card.

SESNO: All right now, as we've heard this flurry of assertions and counter-assertions, give us some perspective,a little history here: How often in Florida, in your time and knowledge, have we gone to manual recounts? How subject to error -- 1 percent, 2 percent, 10 percent are, these punch ballots?

CARDWELL: Well, it varies depending on the election. We've had some manual recounts which have been right on target with the machine counts. We've had also some manual recounts which showed that there were some discrepancies from the machine counts. It depends on a variety of factors; the race that may be run, how the ballot was laid out, et cetera.

SESNO: But it's not uncommon to actually end up with a manual count of some sort?

CARDWELL: Certainly, no. Not at all. We've had several manual recounts.

SESNO: Floyd Abrams, to you: what do you expect, in terms of the prospects for this continued recounting on Monday when this all ends up before the judge?

FLOYD ABRAMS, CONSTITUTIONAL LAWYER: Gee, I think it's awfully unlikely that a federal judge will step in and say that a state, and a state canvassing board, can't use one of the methods set forth in state statute. I mean, it is allowed under Florida law to count ballots by hand.

The complaint which I've read claims it's a 1st Amendment claim, but I don't think the 1st Amendment has any preference at all between hand counting and machine counting. I mean, I think it's really unlikely that the federal judge is going to do much with this case other than dismiss it.

There's another reason, I mean, there's a real question about whether it belongs in federal court. But whatever the reason is, it just seems to me a very weak case and I think it's very unlikely that that case will last very long in federal court.

SESNO: Seeking perspective, always turning to Bill Schneider with a smile, Bill. What do you make of all of this? Where is this headed and at what price?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well I think both candidates have run the risk of looking like sore winners, sore losers, desperate to win and grasping at anything they can to get the advantage.

I thought Gore made a mistake after his quite impressive statement just after the vote when he said he would abide by the results of the Electoral College, that's the Constitution. And then Bill Daley comes out and starts threatening all kinds of court cases in Palm Beach County. I thought that was unfortunate.

And I thought it was equally unfortunate for Governor Bush to authorize this federal court -- ask for a federal court injunction against a hand recount. There are some questions that I'm still puzzled about the hand recount, but to say he doesn't want any hand recounting of the ballots when, clearly, a few hundred votes are at stake, that, I think, was very unfortunate.

SESNO: And our polling today shows that people think that this additional counting is warranted.

SCHNEIDER: People think it's warranted, that you should look -- what's wrong with recounting the ballots and trying to discern the intent of the voters? There may be some questions, which I'd like to put to Mr. Cardwell...

SESNO: We'll do it in a minute.

SCHNEIDER: Let's do it in a minute.

SESNO: Perfect time to break; we're going to do it -- be right back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: You are back with LARRY KING LIVE, but I'm not Larry King -- Frank Sesno sitting in for Larry.

Bill Schneider's not Larry King either, but let's open this up into more of a roundtable discussion now. I know you have some questions for David Cardwell, our Florida election law expert here, so take off.

SCHNEIDER: Yes, very simple question, Mr. Cardwell: We've heard the chairman of -- the Palm Beach County spokesman talk about indented chads and pregnant chads on these punch cards -- I'd like to know who got Chad pregnant, but that's another story -- my question is this: Are there established rules for manual recount in determining how you sense the intent of the voter? Are these rules established or are they making them up as they go along?

CARDWELL: There are rules on the procedure to be followed, but the only standard that's been established by the Florida courts has been that it's within the discretion of the canvassing board to do its best to determine the intent of the voter. Therefore, since we have a very decentralized system in Florida, it's up to each of the 67 county canvassing boards to really apply that standard in the way that they deem most appropriate.

So in the case of, for example, in Palm Beach County, it's possible the canvassing board there could determine that an indent and a punch gives them an indication of the voter's intent, while in another county that may not be the case. But let me just mention that if someone disagrees with the exercise of that discretion by the canvassing board, they always have the right to then contest that decision in a contest of the election in circuit court after the fact.

SCHNEIDER: OK, one other simple question: there's been some complaints from the Bush campaign that the ballots are being manually recounted in democratic-inclined counties. Can't the Bush campaign request manual recounts in other counties?

CARDWELL: They could have. The deadline for a party or a candidate to have requested a manual recount was midnight, last night, Thursday night. At this point it would be solely within the discretion of the canvassing board or they would have to find a judge who would order a manual recount in the counties in which they would like to have a manual recount done.

(CROSSTALK)

SESNO: Go ahead, go ahead.

ABRAMS: Yes, I was just going to say that, you know, I think the Republicans had a very difficult tactical decision to make. They could have gone and sought a manual recount in some of their districts, but if they had then they'd be saying that they thought there was something wrong in the count, and the basic position they've been taking is that the count is just fine with them. So they had a real serious, difficult choice to make and the one -- the way they came out was to make it in favor of not seeking any manual recount at all.

SESNO: Floyd, the other day on this show I believe you said you thought that ultimately we may need a judge. We may need a court to say, look, this is fair or this is not fair, sort of rule inbounds, out of bounds.

But the danger, it seems, of getting the courts involved in this is you could end up with a protracted process in the courts that runs right up against the clock because on the eighteenth of December, those electors have to be certified by the governor of the state of Florida, and if they cannot be certified, it's quite conceivable that the process and the Congress -- the Electoral College count goes ahead without them. Isn't that a real problem when you get the courts going on something like this?

ABRAMS: Look, I think that would be a disaster. I think that would be a Constitutional problem of enormous dimensions. And I don't believe that either candidate is going to let that happen.

I mean, as far as I'm concerned, this is my judgment, not the candidates. As far as I'm concerned it is inconceivable that either candidate would allow this topping beyond December 18th, and I think it's likely that both candidates will let it end not very long after November 17th.

So I don't think the courts are likely to be used, but if they are, I think it very likely that the public pressure would be such, if nothing else, as to cause this to come to an end.

SESNO: OK, Floyd, we're going to take a quick break. Back with all of you after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SESNO: Back with the final few minutes of LARRY KING LIVE, here. I'm Frank Sesno sitting in Larry this Saturday night. Bill Schneider, to you on something we haven't talked about. There was no victory celebration Tuesday night. That's kind of a ceremonial loss, it seems. Interesting thought. Has the nation lost something? Did the process lose closure really in a way?

SCHNEIDER: I think they did lose closure, and that's one of the reasons why some people resent Governor Bush's presumption that he's the winner to make Gore look like the sore loser. Everyone's sort of jockeying for political advantage in this. People want to see the process concluded. Our own polling shows that if the Florida official result is announced, let's say next Friday, most Americans say if Gore is behind in that, he should simply concede that he's lost the election and he can claim the moral high ground.

If he continues to contest it he's going to look like a sore loser and that's a very great political advantage -- a disadvantage for him. He wants that moral high ground because he can argue, I really won that election and he can contest Governor Bush again four years from now with a certain standing.

SESNO: You know, Floyd, the other thing we lost the other night we didn't have that, we didn't have the loser coming out saying -- delivering the usual speech. Saying, all right, now it's time to join together, to hold hands. We're all supportive. We're all in the same country. Let's work together to build a better nation.

ABRAMS: I was thinking frank about what's going happen when we do have a president. This is going to end. We're going to have one or the other as the president. And I think we're never going to have what we almost had if one or the other had won on election night itself. We're never going to have big rallies in the streets. Happy, cheerful people. We're going to be an exhausted public, I think, rather than a public that is half celebrating and half bemoaning what happened. And even the...

(CROSSTALK)

SESNO: The republic has survived much worse, though.

ABRAMS: Oh, sure, sure. I mean, we can take it, and I think the public has behaved superbly, admirably throughout all this and I think they're going to keep on doing just that.

SESNO: David Cardwell of Florida certainly is being torn and taxed and pulled through this.

SCHNEIDER: Yes.

SESNO: David?

CARDWELL: It certainly has been. I was in West Palm Beach last night and today and while you could say that you were kind of at ground zero or the epicenter what was going on, one of the things I also observed was that when you got away from the immediate area where there were protest going on, there were, you know, citizens of West Palm Beach going ton doing their jobs, doing what they customarily would do. There was a Veterans Day parade there today. There were people doing what they customarily do.

So, while I think the public is very interested in this and while Florida certainly is being sort of the battle ground of this -- is very concerned about making sure this turns out correctly. At the same time we're going on and doing that that we do every day and as much as I think the election officials are trying to do what they do.

This is a process that has been done in numerous occasions with municipal elections, county commissioners, sheriffs and others, and it never got much attention. But this time, it's a much bigger office, and as a result it gets a lot more attention.

SESNO: A lot more attention, and it's not over yet, but calmer heads will prevail.

David Cardwell thanks so much for your time this evening. Floyd Abrams, always great to see you and Bill Schneider, smart people as always, as promised. Thanks a lot.

I'm Frank Sesno sitting in for Larry King this evening.

Up next, a special report with Andria Hall and Stephen Frazier on the very latest. The recount and we will give you all from that scene and from the campaigns as well all around the country.

Stay with CNN.

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