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Larry King Live
Florida Recount Continues, Along With Legal ManeuveringAired November 14, 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, a full week after Americans cast their votes for president, the outcome still a question mark. Central to the Bush versus Gore fight, rulings and recounts in Florida.
Joining us, the newest member of the Gore recount team, attorney David Boies. Also in Tallahassee, the lead attorney for the Bush campaign, Ted Olson. Plus, perspective from former Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole, The GOP presidential candidate in 1996. We'll also hear from Democrat George Mitchell, who served as Senate majority leader. All that and more next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Before we get into the meat of our guests, let's get you up to date on the situation. As we go to Washington, Bill Schneider is standing by. Mr. Schneider is our senior political analyst as is Roger Cossack, CNN legal analyst and the co-host of CNN's "BURDEN OF PROOF."
All right, Bill, we know what happened today. They got all the votes in, certified by 5:00. The secretary of state announces that she'll listen to the arguments of the three counties by 2:00 tomorrow and make a decision if their extra votes can be counted. What do you make of it?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, what she announced was that Governor Bush has a 300-vote margin out of 6 million cast in the state of Florida. That amounts to one vote out of every 20,000 cast.
Now, what the Gore campaign is betting is that those manual recounts, which are under way in three counties, or Broward County, considering starting it tomorrow, those manual recounts will give him, he hopes, enough of a lead to overcome those 300 votes, and the Gore campaign hopes that the secretary of state, who is a Bush partisan and campaigned actively for Governor Bush, can be persuaded to accept those manual recounts in those three counties.
Then the question is, well if, the recounts in these counties show Bush gaining -- show Gore gaining on Bush, why not recount the entire state of Florida? Can she accept recounts in those three counties and not the rest of the state of Florida? That would be the next question, if she decides to accept those recounts and the judge today says that is in her discretion.
There's one more element to this puzzle, and that is those mysterious overseas ballots that have to come in by Friday at midnight. Once they come in, they will be included in the count, they have to be. And the question is, who's going to carry those ballots? The Bush campaign is betting that they'll do well in those ballots, but that, too, is unknown.
KING: Roger, is she between a rock and hard place here? As an obvious, confirmed Republican, supported Bush, co-chaired him in Florida, rumored running for the Senate and activist Republican, does she look weird if she goes with that's it, she shuts it off, it's going to say she's pro. If she goes against, the Bush people are going to be mad at her. Is she up against it?
ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: She is between a rock and hard spot, but what's going to eventually get her out from under all of this is the court of appeals, because no matter what she does, Larry, the side is going to come back and say, well, just a minute, you know, we don't like what her decision is.
Let's suppose that the Gore people find enough votes to get themselves ahead, and she decides that she won't accept them. And remember what the court decided today was not that she had the unfettered discretion, she couldn't abuse her discretion.
Well, the minute she says, I won't accept these votes, assuming they come in, in a reasonable time, there's going to be appeal. And if it goes at the way, the other side is going to appeal. So you have this situation, where yes, she is between rock and hard spot, but whatever decision she makes, there's going to be another court that's going to take look at it.
KING: All right, Bill, but what will happen here, Bill, if she rules tomorrow that's it, no cutoff, we wait until Friday next week, and next week we've declared Bush the president, the electors are going to read, and next week the Dade County poll says, we did all polls and Gore won?
SCHNEIDER: Well, presumably, they wouldn't count, although I'm sure that the Gore campaign would take it to court.
KING: Yes, but you'd have an uproar, wouldn't you?
SCHNEIDER: You would have an uproar. There's likely to be an uproar no matter what she declares with the margin this narrow. I mean, it's hard for me to believe with a 300 vote margin that it's likely to be a decisive result.
At some point, the process just has to stop. And while the polls are showing that the American people are pretty patient about this, and they want a fair and reasonable outcome, once the vote is announced in Florida they believe that should be it. They don't want this thing appealed in court, forever.
KING: Roger, can she stop them from counting? Can she say no, that's it? I don't buy your reasoning. Stop counting?
COSSACK: No, I don't think she can stop them from counting, Larry, but what she can do is say, I just refuse to accept the votes -- accept the tally that you've come up with. It's within my discretion and we've decided that we're going to do it on a case-by- case basis.
Let's assume that there's all these votes and let's just assume it takes then two, three weeks to get them counted. Well, then she could come through say, look, you know, enough is enough. Time has gone by. We need certainty here. I just will refuse to accept the tally.
But let's assume that these votes get counted by Friday night. And they come back and let's assume that Gore is the leader, and she doesn't want to take those votes. Then she's going to have a difficult time explaining what her discretion is, and why she has decided not to accept them and that's when you're going to hear these cries of partisanship and that's when her political baggage is going to come to the front.
SCHNEIDER: But Larry, let me stress something here. Those are three counties, three counties -- Palm Beach County, Miami-Dade and Broward, which if they have a recount by hand in Broward County, that's a very Democratic county. Let's say that Gore gets a 500-vote lead in those three counties from the manual recount and overcomes his deficit right now. I believe that most people would say, why is it fair to have manual recounts in those three heavily pro-Gore counties? Then we really would be pressured to have a recount in the entire state. That would seem to be fair.
COSSACK: Well, see the problem is that there should have been -- if the Bush people wanted a recount, they should have been asking for it by now, and there's going to be time limits that have gone by which they have missed.
And let's not forget this, Larry, there's another lawsuit out there by people who are claiming that these butterfly ballots of West Palm Beech were so difficult to understand that people were -- didn't -- weren't allowed to really cast their votes and that has yet to be decided.
KING: And there's also an appeal by Bush to 11th Circuit -- 11th Court of Appeals -- 11th District Court of Appeals to throw out the decision yesterday that these extra votes should count at all.
COSSACK: That's right.
KING: Bill Schneider and Roger Cossack, we've got to move along. Thanks, fellows, we'll be calling on you a lot. David Boies, one of the more famous attorneys in the city of Washington, D.C. -- he successfully took on Microsoft. He's now with the gore campaign and he's with us next right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) KATHERINE HARRIS, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: As of 5 p.m. today, the director of the division of elections reported receiving certified returns from all 67 counties as required by law. In the race for the president of the United States, these certified results from Florida's 67 counties for the top two candidates are as follows: Governor George Bush, 2,910,492; Vice President Al Gore, 2,910,192.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Joining us now from Tallahassee, the latest edition to the Gore legal staff, David Boies.
All right, what are you -- you've got your wish, didn't you?
DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Hi.
KING: Hi. The secretary of state -- hi. The secretary of state says that she'll consider the requests of the three counties in question by 2 o'clock tomorrow. Isn't that what you wanted?
BOIES: I think so. I think that obviously the 2 o'clock deadline is something that is not called for in the court's order. It burdens the canvassing boards just at the time they're trying to get this work done. I think it's unfortunate and a little bit inexplicable as to why she would step out and say, after having been told by a court today you can't have a 5 o'clock deadline, she would impose even an informational deadline of 2 o'clock tomorrow.
But I think the key thing is that the vote counting is going on. The main point is that the court's opinion has now encouraged the counties to finish the vote count. And that's all we've been looking for: just let the vote count get finished, find out what the voters have said.
KING: But what if tomorrow she says, I don't buy the reasoning, after the other ballots are in Friday I will certify all of this, and you can carry on your count for weeks? What do you do then?
BOIES: I would hope she -- I would hope she wouldn't say that. The judge has told her not to say that. The judge has told her that would be an abuse of discretion. And I want to think that she is going to try to do the right thing now. I want to think that having been informed by the judge of the right away to do things, that she is going to not only let this go on, but hopefully, as secretary of state, she would put aside her partisan feelings and encourage the counties to get this done as fast as possible.
And one of the things that's troubling is that everybody talks about finality and everybody talks about getting this over. But everything that the secretary of state of Florida is doing and everything the Bush campaign is doing is to try to delay this recount. And I think that does not serve the people and the voters of Florida well. I don't think it serves the people of the United States well.
I think this should be over with, and the best way to get it over with is to let the recount finish.
KING: Are you taking any other legal action before 2 o'clock tomorrow?
BOIES: No. No, we're not. I think that right now we're hopeful that the recount in Florida will show what the results did in the rest of the nation.
Remember, that it's undisputed that no matter what happens in this recount the Gore-Lieberman ticket won the popular vote, and they're leading in the electoral vote outside of Florida. So what we expect to see happen in Florida is what happened in the rest of the country. And all we want to do is see that recount proceed so that we get it over with.
KING: Do you expect that to be the resolution? I know lawyers don't like to forecast. But do you expect her to let the count go on?
BOIES: I -- I would hope so, Larry. I can't predict what she'll do, particularly after some of the steps that she's taken. But I would -- I would certainly hope that she would recognize that in the long run the voters of Florida, the courts of this state, are not going to permit her to arbitrarily cut off the process. That's exactly what the court ruled today, that she cannot arbitrarily refuse to look at these recounted votes. And I would hope she would listen to that and act accordingly.
KING: By the way, David, I'm just told that CNN has been told that Dade County has chosen not to recount.
BOIES: What we know is that Dade County did the initial sample recount. That is of three precincts and 1 percent. Now, we would have thought and we hoped that Dade County has not been discouraged by the secretary of state's comments today. But certainly, under the law, since the change in votes, if carried out to all the precincts, would have been enough just in Dade County alone to change the results of the election, under Florida law, there should have been a count of all of the ballots, a manual recount of all of the ballots in Dade County.
KING: Why -- do you think they've stopped waiting -- do you think they're waiting for 2 o'clock tomorrow?
BOIES: Larry, I don't know. I think that is one of the unfortunate kinds of mischief that this kind of announcement by the secretary of state could possibly cause. I certainly think under Florida law, since the results of the recount of the three precincts show that there was enough change in those votes so that if you had the same change in all of the precincts it would change the election -- in fact, if you just had the same change in the precincts in Dade County, that alone would put Gore ahead. Under state law, it is very clear that under those circumstances you've got to recount all the ballots. And I -- I would hope that they haven't been discouraged by this 2 o'clock deadline from stopping that recount.
KING: David, thank you. We'll be seeing you... BOIES: I think that would be very difficult.
KING: We'll be seeing a lot more of you.
BOIES: Thanks a lot.
KING: David Boies, one of the chief attorneys now for Al Gore.
We'll meet the lead attorney for the Bush campaign, a return visit with Ted Olson right after this.
KING: We're joined now, second night in a row, by Ted Olson, the lead attorney for the Bush campaign. What do you make of what the secretary of state decided tonight?
TED OLSON, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Oh, I think that it was quite reasonable. The judge today suggested that the secretary of state should exercise her discretion, to consider all of the factors with respect to the recount votes. The secretary of state apparently announced that she expected the counties that wanted to do recounts to supply her with, by 2 o'clock tomorrow, with the reasons why they thought that was a good idea. I think it's a perfectly responsible and very sensible thing.
It's amazing that the Gore campaign is in such a dudgeon of fury over this that she's asked for reasons why they -- these counties are going to do something like that.
KING: Are you...
KING: Are you therefore saying, Ted...
OLSON: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
KING: Are you therefore saying, Ted, if she decides to hear them and say, go ahead with the recount, you are fully expected to accept that?
OLSON: Well, no. We have -- we have said right from the beginning that this recount process is crazy, it's irrational, it's uncertain. I puts the hands of -- the deciding on how to count the votes in the hands of partisan officials. But what you heard from Mr. Boies, who's a superb lawyer and the Gore campaign is very lucky to have him aboard -- and you know, every time another plane arrives in Florida another boatload or trainload of Gore lawyers gets off and another bunch of lawsuits gets filed. And that's exactly what's going to happen.
They don't like the decision by one county not to proceed. You just announced that Dade County is not to proceed with a recount. I'm sure they'll file another lawsuit there. I'm sure they're going to file a lawsuit against the secretary of state. That is the strategy. I wish I had, had them a couple years ago when I bet on this horse in the Kentucky Derby, and the horse lost the race by a nose. And instead of just giving up the money, I could have had a few recounts and a couple of lawsuits.
KING: In all fairness, wouldn't you be doing the same for your client if positions were reversed and your client were telling you, the client is the boss, your client telling you, I want to play this out? You've got do what you've got to do, don't you? Don't you?
OLSON: Well, I'm not blaming the lawyers. They are -- their -- absolutely, their lawyers are filing lawsuits, and I'm sure they are -- there's no doubt in my mind that they're following the instructions of the Gore-Lieberman campaign. It's the same sort of tactics that the Clinton-Gore campaign has followed for, and it has been a campaign for eight years. It's the same thing. So I'm not surprised. They are giving the orders and their lawyers are just following orders.
KING: OK. When it's this close, Ted, what about when Mr. Daley says, wouldn't you like to know how everyone in Florida really voted? If we had a whole -- wouldn't that be -- suffice to all of America to know who got the most votes, which is all that counts?
OLSON: Larry, I listened to Mr. Daley a few minutes ago on the television, and I had to laugh. Mr. Daley said it's not about politics. That's like a clown saying it's not about the circus. It's very, very amazing.
All of the votes in Florida were counted. All of the votes in Florida were counted again by a system that is regular, reliable, and it's the first and second choice of Floridians for counting the votes. And the machines that count those votes don't have a stake in the outcome.
That -- what the Gore campaign wants, is perfectly revealed by what they did in Broward County. They selected three precincts for recounting, two of those precincts voted 20 to one for Mr. Gore, the third precinct, voted 50 to one for Mr. Gore. It wasn't an accident that they selected those precincts. They expected a few more votes to come out of those precincts. So, when Mr. Daley says it is not about politics, guess what it is about.
KING: What do you think is going to have happen, Ted? You got a prediction on all of this or don't lawyers predict?
OLSON: Lawyers are reluctant to make predictions because they are so often wrong, I'm sure. But I certainly don't make predictions about politics, or political elections, especially not this one.
KING: Always good seeing you, Ted, probably see you again tomorrow night. And I like the look against the tree. It's steadfast.
OLSON: Thank you. I'll try that again, although it better be warmer.
KING: Ted Olson, lead attorney for the Bush campaign.
When we come back, a man who has been a round or two in politics, Bob Dole. Don't go away.
KING: Senator Bob Dole joins us now from Washington. In a little while, Senator George Mitchell will follow him. Both these gentlemen are in the same law firm in Washington. Democrats and Republicans can get along.
First, what do you make of all of this at this minute, Bob?
BOB DOLE (R), FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, you know, I have felt good and I have felt bad over the last few days. Tonight I feel a little better but I know this is not the end. I think what we have now is sort of a public relations battle on who can capture the people. Will it be fairness or let's get this done or whatever argument may be?
But I think the secretary of state made a pretty good statement tonight. She did require these counties to give some reason they want to have a recount, another recount. They have already had one recount, a machine recount.
And so, I think we wait for the absentees from overseas and Saturday night she certifies the winner and then see what happens after that. But I don't think that will be the end. But I feel that George Bush will be the winner on Saturday night.
KING: But you are not sure he will take office. Do you think there will be lawsuits?
DOLE: I think -- it may eventually, but there will be other lawsuits filed. I think the very things happening the American people did not want to happen, where the lawyers take over and the courts take over. And the people are sort of on the sidelines. And it is -- it is -- difficult I don't fault the attorneys. They are following the advice of their principals. But, you know, I think the American people would like to think we could settle this in a way that would not be in a court.
KING: Isn't our settled point the court?
I mean we are a nation of laws. The court usually settles things.
DOLE: A nation of laws -- right, but again, to anybody say there is not politics involved with this, you know, this is not rocket science. I mean, we had a Democrat judge yesterday turn down the Bush campaign's effort for an injunction. We had a Republican secretary of state. We've got 47 of the 67 counties in Florida controlled by Democrats, the election apparatus. And, we've got the circuit attorney Dade, the state judge is a Democrat, so, politics are involved. Let's face it. I'm not saying any of these people would intentionally do anything wrong, but the stakes are very high, and there has got to be some partisanship.
KING: Wouldn't the independent person be a judge? Would you think?
DOLE: Well, you would hope. But, again, you know, let's take the secretary of state. She was elected by the people of Florida. The state judge was appointed by a Democratic governor, the federal judge was appointed by President Clinton. They, you know, they weren't elected. They were appointed by one person. I don't suggest that that somehow taints them.
But you ask the average voter -- if every -- if the apparatus is controlled by one party or the other, who is going to have advantage? And it is pretty clear. And in America, we don't have power sharing. You can't -- you know, some people say we ought to mediate this. What do you mediate? How are we going to resolve it? And I think sooner or later somebody is going to have to say we have had enough and let's get together.
KING: How does the next president, given the tie in the Senate, the closeness in the House and the closeness of this election, how does he govern?
DOLE: It is going to take a lot of cooperation. The winner and loser are going to have to work with each other. And however that turns out, they are going to have to support each other, I think, early on. And they are going to have to sit down with leaders in Congress and both parties and maybe other people across the country who have interests in what, you know -- you can't sit down with everybody in America, but representatives of every group -- and then not only talk about bipartisanship but, you know, practice real bipartisanship. You don't get all you want, I don't get all I want. There is something here in the middle that perhaps would help the American people. And we ought to do it and we ought to do it in a bipartisan way.
KING: Since there is no mandate, obviously. what -- and you were with us on Election Night when this was all beginning to kick in -- what does this say? Where are we politically in this country? Are we very divided? or are we one right -- a little right of center, a little left of center? Where are we?
DOLE: I think we are probably in the middle. I mean, I think there are people on the left; there are people on right; but I think most Americans are in that broad middle. Now, I don't know where -- how you define that. But if you look at polls, I saw one today, how is each candidate handling himself in this, 47 percent for Vice President Gore, 47 percent for Governor Bush. So it is right down the middle.
And it tells you that -- but I think we have to go back and you can't have these selective counts. You can't go into heavily Democratic counties where it is 50 to one or 20 to one. It is pretty obvious that you want to count until you win. And then you want to say it is over and we have won. And I don't fault the Bush people, obviously, for trying to stop that. We have already had Election Night count and we have had a machine recount. Today we've had the certification. Saturday night we'll have the total certification with the absentees.
And I think that gives the governor a little P.R. advantage. That will be four times he can say that he has been declared the winner.
KING: You still think, though, that no matter what happens Saturday night, the other side is going to court.
DOLE: I think so. I mean I'm -- I don't know that to be the fact. Maybe -- and again I don't think the American people -- obviously they don't see any crisis. I mean nothing else is going on. They are getting ready for the holidays. So, they can tolerate this for a while. But I think day after day after day with all the media attention, all the focus, before long, the American people are going to say, you know, enough is enough.
KING: Always good to get your thoughts, Senator. And congratulations on the World War II Memorial.
DOLE: We had great day. I want to thank you for all your help directly and indirectly.
KING: I was happy to be involved.
DOLE: Thank you.
KING: Bob Dole served his country well and they dedicated that memorial, the ground-breaking of it, last Saturday on Veterans' Day.
Senator George Mitchell, former majority leader, law partner of Bob Dole, may have some different thoughts. He is next.
KING: By the way, program note, Bill Daley will be with us tomorrow and tomorrow night, exclusive, the first thoughts of former president Jimmy Carter on this issues. He has been around an election or two in the country and around the world. Jimmy Carter, tomorrow night.
We welcome former United States Senator and Senate Majority leader George Mitchell to LARRY KING LIVE. We asked Bob Dole his assessment. What's yours?
GEORGE MITCHELL (D), FORMER SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, obviously, no one can predict what's going to occur, Larry. There isn't a person on Earth who seven days ago would have accurately predicted where we are today. I's like to make one point that I think has been lost in this discussion about hand recounts.
Included in the totals that the secretary of state of Florida announced today were the results of seven counties in Florida in which there were partial hand recounts. In one such county, half the votes were counted by hand. In others, the officials counted those ballots which were rejected by the machines. In those counties on a net basis, Governor Bush made very substantial gains.
So it is not the correct the impression that has been created by some that the only hand recounting is occurring in Democratic counties. Six of those seven counties were Republican and Governor Bush made very substantial gains there. So I think that ought to be on the record, just to make clear the balance in this. There are hand recountings going on in more than one area.
KING: What do you think the secretary of state is going to do tomorrow?
MITCHELL: Oh, I have no idea. One of the things that we all should have acquired as a result of the events of the past week is a little humility in our ability to predict the future.
KING: Do you think that is the positions were reversed, both sides would still be acting the same?
MITCHELL: It's very likely that the lawyers involved would be making the other side's arguments, I think that's fair to say.
KING: We have no -- you're an attorney of note. We have no precedent, do we?
MITCHELL: None, really, in terms of the national picture, but there's plenty of precedent in Florida. Every state has a law that deals with election counts and recounts and every state has a process by which these are dealt with, and what is happening in Florida is that the law is being implemented, albeit with the stakes much greater and a lot more involved in terms of scrutiny and back and forth on the two sides.
KING: Bob Dole has said that both sides have together -- I think he almost said maybe Gore and Bush ought to sit down after this is over and key members of the Senate sit down and everybody gather together. Do you think when the mood gets this partisan and this vituperative that can happen?
MITCHELL: I believe that both Vice President Gore and Governor Bush must now begin to consider, indeed perhaps already have, what will happen when he is elected. It's going be very difficult and I think the next president is going to need the support of not just his opponent, but all Americans, to govern in a very, very difficult circumstance.
KING: When you have obviously no mandate. When you have a split country, where as Bob Dole think 47 percent think Bush is doing right, 47 percent think Gore is doing right, how do you promote any kind of programs that are far-reaching?
MITCHELL: Well, I don't think you do if you define far-reaching as those which do not enjoy broad bipartisan support. I think both of them are intelligent enough and experienced enough to know that whoever takes office is going to have to reach out to the other side, is going to have to begin at least with a very limited agenda and one that does enjoy some bipartisan support. I believe it would be a profound error for either one to say, I've gotten elected and I'm going ahead with my full program whether any of you other guys like it or not. I don't think that will be the right way to proceed and I doubt either of them will adopt that strategy.
KING: Are we on the way to the end of the electoral system?
MITCHELL: I don't, know, Larry. It's been a long and enduring system. It's sustained a lot of stresses and strains before, although of course the media age brings it home to people with an intensity and immediacy that didn't previously exist.
There are valid arguments on both sides, I do think we're in for a long argument about it, but changing the American Constitution is a very difficult thing to do and I think it's going to be a long time before the Constitution is changed in this or any respect and I might sat think that's good thing in terms of the difficulty in changing the Constitution.
KING: We are fortunate, are we not, to not have any -- major world tragedy on the scene?
MITCHELL: I think that's right. There is no international crisis. There's no crisis at home. I thought Jim Baker deserved an Oscar today for making his statement with a straight face about the problems in the world and the stock market, and then, of course, the stock market went up 165 points.
There isn't any crisis. I don't mean criticism of Jim, personally. He's doing his job as a lawyer for his client, but there's not a crisis. Larry, let me say there are two valid and important principles at stake here. On the one hand, the need for speed and finality in decisions involving elections. In the other, the need for accuracy and fairness and the question is can they be accommodated? I think the two can. I don't think we should sacrifice either one.
KING: Always good seeing you, George. We'll probably see you again tomorrow.
MITCHELL: Thanks, Larry.
KING: Senator George Mitchell. He solved Ireland and England. This is tough. We'll come right back with Ed Rollins and Paul Begala, two outstanding spokesmen for the parties they support. We'll go wing-dinging with them right after this.
KING: There is the White House on a glittering, autumn night. That's what they're both fighting for and we now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE in San Francisco, Ed Rollins, long-time Republican strategist. He served in the administrations of presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan and in Washington, Paul Begala, Democratic strategist, former counselor to President Clinton, author of "Is Our Children Learning: The Case Against George W. Bush" and the co-host of MSNBC's "Equal Time."
All right, we've got all the legal aspects here, Ed. Let's get into politics of this and the public relations aspect of this.
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well, first of all...
KING: What's the public thinking?
ROLLINS: I think the public doesn't know, yet. I think the public obviously in first rounds, George W. Bush has won this election. He won the recount and obviously was certified today...
KING: Not certified yet.
ROLLINS: Not quite. I mean, you still have the votes still to come as a guy who's ahead by 300 votes. There's been a lot of distractions. I think the bottom line here is a question of fairness. Are we going to fight this on the playing field, meaning who got the most votes? So far, under the system we've used to count these votes, George W. Bush has.
If for some reason the courts or anybody else or the secretary of state determine we need to have recount again and reopen it, then it has to be a fair system and everyplace has to be recounted. If there's not evidence that more votes are out there for either candidate, than obviously, George W. Bush will win this.
KING: Paul, what is your read?
PAUL BEGALA, MSNBC "EQUAL TIME": Well, I think the Republicans, Larry, run the risk of looking like Banana Republicans. Generalissimo Jim Baker down there needs just his sunglasses cigar. It's ridiculous. There is a process in the law that says in a close election in the state of Florida, you have recount, a manual recount. The Democrats have asked that four counties be recounted and I heard Mr. Olson -- he's a terrific lawyer for his side, for the side of George W. Bush, called a manual recount "crazy and irrational."
Earlier in this program, as Senator Mitchell points out -- let me give you a list of six Republican counties where George W. Bush has picked up 400 votes, more than his entire lead, because of partial or complete hand recounts in Franklin County, Hamilton, Lafayette, Taylor, Washington, and Seminole, all Republican counties overwhelmingly. Bush has picked up 400 votes by a manual recount, so it's not fair to say, we want a manual recount in six Republican counties, but not in four Democratic counties.
KING: All right, Ed, how do you respond to that?
ROLLINS: Well, how I respond to that is -- and Paul is a first- rate operative and I have been up against him before, and I have the greatest respect in the world for him -- but the bottom line here is that what are the rules? Are the rules going to get changed as we move forward? You have been involved in recounts, I have been involved in recounts, I have never been involved in a recount, whether it's a congressional race, or an assembly race, in which you only take certain precincts and you recount them. The state, by its laws, basically has already had one recount. If for some reason there is a determination there is still votes out there that haven't been counted, then I would argue let's recount everything in the state again and move forward.
KING: Why not do that?
ROLLINS: My issue here is there is a lot of rhetoric going on -- I watched Allen Dershowitz, one of the great ambulance chasers of all times, call the secretary of state a crook on a CNN show a little while ago -- she has done nothing to date except live up to the law that she is basically elected by the voters to move forward on. If she does something in the future, you can go to court and challenge it, but to date she has done nothing but tell the voters to -- tell the canvass boards to come up with the votes. So far, the votes that have been counted legally and fairly have given Governor Bush the lead and...
KING: Paul, will you favor a complete recount, a hand recount in the state? It takes a while, but we still have a president, we don't need a new one until January 20 -- would you favor the whole state recounted by hand?
BEGALA: Sure, why not? I think it would be fine, but that's not what Florida law calls for. It's a county-by-county system just like we have in my home state of Texas. If there is a problem in a county and if a campaign can show by demonstration that there is a problem in a particular county, then that county calls for a manual recount, it's not a statewide manual recount -- I wouldn't be opposed to it, but what the secretary of state ought to do, this Ms. Harris down there, she should recuse herself, she is the co-chairman of the Bush campaign.
Now, the chairman of the Bush campaign is the governor, Jeb Bush, and in a act of high integrity, Governor Jeb Bush recused himself from his role in this, because everybody knows he is too partisan, he's too committed to his brother to be fair and non-partial. I thought that was a wonderful move on Jeb's part.
But now the secretary of state has to do the same thing, because she's just as biased, she -- my goodness, she's the co-chairman, she's a Republican delegate, she had said she is passionately interested in getting a job from Bush, she's been -- according to the papers down there -- traveling around the world at taxpayer expense to burnish her ambassadorial credentials. So, I mean, this is not a woman who anybody, I think, is going to have confidence to be fair and impartial.
KING: Ed, three judges have done it already, why not -- don't you think, Ed, it would be better if she recused herself?
ROLLINS: Well, first of all, she probably has made some mistakes. I would argue a secretary of state should be an independent role, and I guess it's going to be in the future in Florida. This is -- she serves this term as the end of her term. But she has done nothing wrong to date and I think the bottom line -- what bothers me is I spent all day today watching TV, I'm so fascinated by it, as I know Paul is -- I mean, we're both guys who've spent our lives in this business, both fathers of young children, we believe in the system -- I have watched really good people today struggle, these canvass boards, these judges, good innocent people struggling to try and make the system legal and fair and effective.
I've heard a lot of rhetoric about the cheating and this and that, and there has been no cheating. No one can step forward and say today that the Democrats have cheated or that we have cheated, and I think until Ms. Harris does something incorrect, she shouldn't be basically painted. Her job as the elected secretary of state is to run elections fairly and effectively, if she has not done that, then someone come forward with the charges. They are making charges against her of things that she hasn't done.
BEGALA: No, no, my charge is bias, just as Jeb Bush had a bias, and again, I can't praise him enough for having the class and the integrity to step aside, and he is going about his business -- we don't see Jeb Bush out there everyday trying to manipulate this count, and I just don't think it's -- anybody can expect the American people to think a system is fair if the person who decides whose votes are counted and whose aren't, which is the authority she's now been given by this, I think, ridiculous court ruling is a partisan, bias, Republican, a Bush contributor, a Bush delegate.
KING: Go ahead, Ed.
ROLLINS: Everybody in this game, whether it's a judge, whether it's a county commissioner, whether it's an election official, they are all partisan, they are either Republicans or Democrats. They put that aside when they try and do this job, and I think to date they all ought to be congratulated. They didn't want the spotlight.
Obviously, Al Gore didn't want to lose by 300 votes, and George W. Bush didn't want to win by 300 votes in Florida, but that's what this election is coming down to. And I think we have to be very careful with our rhetoric and make sure that this thing gets carried out in a way that we don't damage the process anymore than it already is.
KING: All right, let me get a break, and we'll pick up with Paul. We'll also include some phone calls, with Ed Rollins and Paul Begala.
Don't forget, Jimmy Carter tomorrow night, the first time he's speaking out on this, and Bill Daley will be with us, too.
At the top of the hour, Bernie, Judy, Jeff and Bill come back with a special. We're covering it around the clock here on CNN.
We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAREN HUGHES, BUSH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The votes in Florida have now been counted and Governor Bush won. They have been recounted and Governor Bush won. The counties have now certified their votes to the secretary of state and, again, Governor Bush won. Yet it appears we now have a deadline that may not be respected as a deadline at all. Several selective counties in Florida controlled by Democrats have said they may continue a manual count.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Paul Begala, what do you think of Leon Panetta's suggestion today in "The New York Times" that both of these guys, Gore and Bush, should sit down in a room together by themselves and try to work this out?
BEGALA: I love Leon, I thought he was a terrific chief of staff for the president. But I hate to agree with a Republican, I think Bob Dole is right, the Constitution doesn't anticipate power sharing, and I don't think that would work out. I think we have to have a winner and we have to have a loser. I also agree with Ed Rollins that the manual recounts we've all seen on TV have been slow and painstaking and scrupulously fair. Why don't they just both agree, as they seem to have done -- well, as Gore has done -- to abide by this recount however it turns out. It seems that Bush, again, using these "banana Republican" tactics is trying to stop the count. But why is he so hell bent on stopping a manual count when he's picked up 400 votes?
KING: Because it's in counties where he thinks he is going to lose.
BEGALA: Sure, but he's already picked up 400 votes...
KING: He thinks there are going to be more...
BEGALA: ... in the counties where he is ahead, in the Republican counties he's already got 400 votes in, he only leads by 300, now he wants to call the game. That's not fair.
ROLLINS: Well, I would have disagreed strategic, it's really just a second guess after the fact, and I've had many people second guess campaigns that I've run, including why did I lose Minnesota when I was running Ronald Reagan's campaign in 1984?
But the bottom line is the Bush people thought they had won, they went and they basically were prepared to move on. Obviously, the Gore people were better prepared for a close election and got into these important Democrat precincts and started demanding recounts. I think the Bush people should have demanded recounts everywhere, too. And collectively, if you're going to have a recount, it would've, should've been statewide, and that's my argument today. Don't let it be decided in the courts. Everybody who voted in this election ought to be entitled to make sure their votes are heard. I'm sure there are thousands of voters out there, Democrats and Republicans, that still aren't -- haven't been counted yet. And I would argue that if you're going to go again, you're going to recount anywhere, you do it statewide. I still think George W., but I think to a certain extent it takes some of the tarnish away.
KING: Paul, what's in it -- in the next four years, no matter who's president, is this just a stalemated government with the other person waiting for 2004?
BEGALA: It may well be. That's what's most troubling about this, is that the winner might envy the loser, Larry. I want to know -- I would be perfectly willing if at the end of an honest, manual recount -- either in the four counties, four Democratic counties and six Republican counties, or the whole state, as Ed suggests -- if Bush wins that fair and square, I would salute that victory, I would applaud our new president, and pledge my allegiance to his leadership.
I've never very many Republicans stand up and say that if Al Gore wins that recount honestly and fairly, that they'll recognize his presidency as legitimate, but I think that's where we're heading. I think Gore's going to win the recount. I think he's going to be our next president. I think the Republicans are just going to carry on this politics of personal destruction they did against Clinton.
KING: Ed, are you saying the Republicans wouldn't cooperate if Gore is the president?
ROLLINS: Well, I think -- I think -- no, I think Republicans would cooperate if Gore...
KING: I mean, Paul is saying they wouldn't.
ROLLINS: Listen, well, listen. I mean, if 2,000 votes come in from the voters abroad and Al Gore wins this election, you know, basically, it will be sad, but life moves on.
You know, the truth of the matter is whoever's the next president is going to have a difficult enough task, and we're all Americans. No matter how partisan we are, we're all Americans.
And I remember the day after I ran Reagan's campaign in 1984. We won 525 electoral votes, 49 states, we got 59 percent of the vote. The speaker of the House and the whip of the House stood up and said Ronald Reagan didn't get mandate because they didn't win the House of Representatives. And Jim Baker, to my chagrin -- he was the chief of staff and I was the campaign manager -- agreed with him.
Ronald Reagan still had a mandate because the people were behind him. Whoever wins this election, I think the country will come back together if he leads the country well and if he tries to bring both sides back together. And that's going to be a very, very important task. KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments and maybe some forecasts, if that's possible in all of this, from Rollins and Begala after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Secretary Harris' effort to cut off the vote counting in Florida by imposing a new requirement on counties in Florida, which are still counting votes, is both unfortunate and inexplicable. We continue to believe that a full and a fair and accurate count of votes by the bipartisan county of board of canvassers is the best way to determine what was the true will of the people of Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: This may be impossible but we'll try. Ed Rollins, can you forecast anything here?
ROLLINS: I think that George W. Bush is going to win this election. I think he's going to gain with the foreign elections, and I think before the recounts of these four, three Democratic counties, there will be lots of court fights. But I think ultimately Bush is going to win this thing.
BEGALA: Well, you'll be surprised here. I disagree. I think Gore's going to win on an honest, fair recount. The question will be will the secretary of state count those votes, and my prediction is she won't unless the courts order her to, because I think she's a partisan Republican hack. She should have recused herself. But Gore wins this fairly and squarely. The question is will these banana Republicans try to steal it from him.
KING: And Ed, do you think -- do you think the other side is, too? Do you think they're trying to steal it from you? Do you think that's going on?
ROLLINS: No, I don't think -- I don't think they're trying to steal it. I'm not trying to make any accusation toward them stealing it. I would be in the same position they were. I think the Florida laws aren't fair, and I think the idea of a recount ought to be, if there is -- if there's evidence that voters' votes weren't counted, then we should do a statewide recount and by hand by hand, county by county, precinct by precinct. And when that's done, whether it's two weeks from now or three weeks from now, then whoever wins will basically -- the country will feel that the other side didn't cheat, and that's the most important part of this.
BEGALA: I think Ed's right, but we're not the Florida legislature. The Florida legislature passed a law that said it's county by county, and only in counties where you can show that there's been some problem. The Gore campaign has shown some problems in four counties. The Bush campaign's already gotten hand recounts in six counties.
KING: Ed, do you think the mood...
ROLLINS: Well, the Bush -- the Bush...
KING: I'm sorry. Go ahead, Ed.
ROLLINS: The Bush campaign screwed up by missing the deadlines, and obviously, in hindsight, they may do something totally different. But I don't think you ought to call them a banana republic or anything else the fact that they're fighting to maintain the victory under the present rules, which was the machine counting.
If you're going to change it now and go to a different system, that's something else. But I think George W. will win no matter what.
BEGALA: The statute understands. The Florida -- the people of Florida, like in my state of Texas where we use those same punchcards, they understand that machines have mechanical errors and that they have a 2 to 5 percent error rate, which is far to high in a race that's going to be decided by 300 votes out of 6 million. So the law says what you do is you get out these manual recounts.
I think it's a real disservice to see a great attorney like Ted Olson or a good spokeswoman like Karen Hughes to stand up and try to tell people that hand recounts are not valid when they're the law of the land in Texas, Florida and most other states.
ROLLINS: I don't argue with you at all, Paul. I've been in the same kinds of races you have and I know that people's votes don't got counted.
My whole point again, if you get go hand count some of yours, we ought to get to hand count ours, and then we can decide who's really won this thing.
KING: Thank you both very much for a spirited, lively, intelligent discussion. Ed Rollins and Paul Begala. Stay tuned now. Bernie, Judy, Jeff, and Bill are going to come right back at you with a special to look at the day's events and what might happen tomorrow. And tomorrow night, when we're with you, again, we'll have an exclusive interview with former President Jimmy Carter, a man who has monitored elections around the world. He might have some interesting thoughts. Bill Daley will be here, too, and of course, representatives of the Bush side in all of this.
Thanks for joining us. I'm Larry King. For all of our guests and our crew, good night.
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