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Capital Gang

William Bennett Discusses the Florida Recount

Aired November 18, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET

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

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, and Margaret Carlson.

Our guests is former Secretary of Education William Bennett.

It's good to have you back, Bill.

WILLIAM BENNETT, FORMER SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: Thank you Mark.

SHIELDS: A count of overseas ballots gave George W. Bush a 930 vote lead over Al Gore for Florida's 25 electoral votes and for the presidency. But that edge could be wiped out by hand recounts now going on about in three heavily Democratic counties.

Yesterday, state circuit Judge Terry Lewis in Tallahassee ruled in favor of Secretary of State Katherine Harris' decision not to accept manual recounts.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BAKER, BUSH CAMPAIGN OBSERVER: The rule of law has rule of law has prevailed. We now look forward to the prompt counting and reporting of the limited number of overseas absentee ballots so that the process of achieving a final result to the election in Florida is not subject to further delays.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Does that mean the Gore campaign would accept Secretary Harris' certification after Bush victory?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WARREN CHRISTOPHER, GORE CAMPAIGN OBSERVER: Absolutely not. The votes going upon in these two large counties I think that would be quite a mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: But last evening the Florida Supreme Court barred any certification of the scheduled oral arguments from both campaigns.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The citizens of Florida surely want the date who received the most votes in Florida to be to be the winner of that state. That is why the...

(AUDIO GAP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Sorry for that brief interruption of our digestive system. But Al Hunt, is vice president gore now clearly in the drivers seat?

AL HUNT, "WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mark he's not. If Bush wins either before the Florida Supreme Court or if he loses there and wins a recount then he wins. Gore has -- so he has to win either of those two -- Gore has to win both.

But I'll tell you this: if Al Gore wins the presidency because he emerges ahead in selective recounts in Florida or if George Bush wins it because his Florida co-chairman, the now infamous Mrs. Harris is able to determine who does and doesn't countdown there, it's going to be an illegitimate prize.

And I think what the Florida Supreme Court may try to do is insist on some sort of statewide recount, which would give it a little more legitimacy.

ROBERT NOVAK, "CHICAGO SUN TIMES": Let me be frank. There's no need for another recount. They've had one recount as required by law and the problem for the Gore people was that Bush came out ahead. So what they're trying to do is milk as many extra votes out of these Democratic counties as they can.

And even today, even as we speak right now, they are not getting quite enough votes to overcome the overseas absentee ballots, and so they are changing the ground rules for how they judge the counting and the hand ballots in Broward County -- they weren't getting enough in.

Now, I have some faith in the Florida Supreme Court, not faith, hope rather than faith, that this non-Republican court, what is it 7 Democrats and one independent, will take a look at this say, this cannot pass and will certify the original vote.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, Bob Novak speaks about George Bush's lead going into the absentee ballots yesterday. One third of that lead, of course, came from a hand count in Seminole County.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME": Right.

SHIELDS: Which I don't think the Gore people turned down. They had a 300 vote lead, one third of that total came from a hand count recount. So you tell me, who is the winner?

CARLSON: They didn't turn it down. But what should happen is what Mark alluded to, -- you're Al. Hi, Al. Nice to meet you -- is that there are two things that could happen to add to the legitimacy of the administration of whoever wins.

Al Gore should have insisted and somehow convinced the Bush campaign to recount all counties because if you do only the Democrats and the Seminole, which happened to get in there, which is a Republican county, it's not going to seem legitimate.

And the Bush campaign should have insisted and begged, Katherine Harris to recuse herself, to have the co-chair of the Bush campaign in the position of trying to call who won the election, so brazenly what hurt the Bush campaign and if they had certified the election today on the basis of her say so, the legitimacy would have been undercut from the outset of any Bush presidency.

SHIELDS: Last time we saw Katherine Harris politically she was in New Hampshire campaigning for George W. Bush.

BENNETT: You run for secretary of state and she won the election. And Republicans and Democrats run. And if a Republican runs, she has the authority of the office; if a Democrat runs, he or she has the authority of the office. Her decision was so arbitrary, it was backed by a Democratic judge.

Let me be frank, even franker than Bob. This may be the worse thing I've ever seen. I think you know that I praised This may be the worst thing I've ever seen. I praise Democrats when I think they do the right thing criticize Republicans they do the wrong thing. Al Gore is trying to steal this election.

Wednesday morning, Bill Daley stood up and said the campaign goes on. And that's what is going on -- it's got all the earmarks, not just of Al Gore but of Clinton-Gore -- personal assassination. You want to talk about Katherine Harris, Chip Reed (ph) on NBC reports that a high-ranking member of the Gore campaign said if Harris' certification goes ahead, our case against her will make Whitewater look like a picnic.

I know you guys don't like Bush, I know you guys don't want Republicans to win, but you have got to call these thug tactics. You can laugh about it. You can say it's illegitimate if George Bush becomes president, I think it's illegitimate if Al Gore becomes president because of what he has done. But if you don't call the kind the thuggish tactics that the Gore campaign is doing right now for what they are, I think the notion of objectivity in the media is gone.

SHIELDS: Bill, I just cannot disagree more strenuously. First place, Al Gore as we sit here leads in the nation, popular vote. Al Gore has more electoral votes than George W. Bush. There is no question that hand counting is more accurate than machine counting. There's no question about that.

BENNETT: I'm sorry. Is that just dogmatic?

SHIELDS: You can sit there from your Olympian perch and issue your moral thunderbolts, but the fact of the matter is you and I vote in the same precinct. Do you think the people there are corrupt? Is that what you think they are? Do you think they're corrupt? BENNETT: Your arguments are ad hominum.

SHIELDS: They're not ad hominum.

BENNETT: To attack me be Olympian -- absolutely, based on the evidence and based on the facts. The issue isn't the popular vote, Mark. Maybe it sounds Olympian to you. The issue is electoral votes. That's the Constitution. That's the way it works. It's not finished because they won't let them finish.

George Bush won that election in flat. He won it on the recount. Now we are going through the multiple hand counting in different districts and you know what the chaos that that has created, but don't insult me personally.

HUNT: Listen, Bill Bennett puts on his virtue hat whether there's not a political election and puts on his partisan hat when we have an election, Bill. You have your talking points (OFF-MIKE) on this.

BENNETT: I don't.

HUNT: Basically, for you to talk about Mark being ad hominum. Wait Bob I'm going to finish.

NOVAK: Let's not insult people.

BENNETT: I can fend for myself.

HUNT: I'm going to basically say that both these guys have exhibited a win at any cost mindset. And there's no difference and to try to make moral distinctions here is really hypocritical.

BENNETT: Let me ask you about that. Where is the character assassination on the part of the Bush campaign? Where is the character assassination?

HUNT: Stealing the election -- thugs stealing election. If that's not a character assassination I don't know what it is.

BENNETT: Who has personally been attacked in the way Katherine Harris has been attacked?

NOVAK: Let me say I don't think it is an equal opportunity thing. I don't think that one side is as bad as the other, because I believe, I was told -- I said this on this show last week and I'll stay it again, I was told at the very beginning that the way they were going win this election was they had were going examine these punch cards in Broward County and find people who weren't able to put the punch card all the way through and call that a vote for Al Gore.

Now, there has been chaos in the counting in Broward County, but particularly in Palm Beach County. I've talked to people counting there and this looks very much like a bogus attempt to win the election. You can't give the presidency on the basis of these bogus counts. CARLSON: Mark, can I say something. That ballot, that very ballot in Texas could be counseled as a vote for the person that had that indentation. Hand counting is considered by industry experts and laws in many of the states, including Florida and Texas, to be preferable and more accurate than machine counts. So there's not a dispute there.

BENNETT: Why did we go machines? Why did we go to machines?

CARLSON: For speed.

BENNETT: There's no bias in the machines? All the bias is random.

CARLSON: And one more thing. The character assassination that's going on towards the Democrats and from the Republicans is that these people sworn in to count the votes are considered to be stealing it by, you know, they're thugs, they're fraudulent, they're stacking the deck.

There are more video cameras in that room than in a Las Vegas casino. You can't cheat.

BENNETT: And there are now lots of affidavits testifying to the stuff that's going on using the ballots as fans. People punching them out with their fingernails, but let's talk about the military ballots. Can we talk about the military ballots?

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: We'll talk about that. Bill Bennett and the gang will be back to look at charges from both sides of a stolen election.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

Both Republicans and Democrats have been crying foul in the vote counting process.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHRISTOPHER SHAYS (R), CONNECTICUT: The vice president's people are trying to undo that election. Really, what they're trying to do is steal the election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D), MINORITY LEADER: You have this problem, this perception problem of the -- of a high level Bush official running this entire effort.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, is this just political rhetoric or is this really a tainted election?

NOVAK: It is tainted. I have talked to people in the counting room in Palm Beach. They're putting things in wrong piles. They're changing the rules in the middle. There's chads all over the floor. It is a mess.

These are degraded ballots, but the worst thing is what they have done to the overseas service men today. Out 2,200 service ballots from the service men and service women, 1,400 have been rejected on technicalities. In Broward County, 92 ballots accepted, 304 rejected. And in Dade, Miami-Dade County, 110 ballots rejected, three accepted. What they are doing is they are saying that if a sailor, Mark, on a ship has sent in his ballot and he doesn't have a postmark on it, we throw it out on a technicality. You talk about the intent. We're talking now about a thousand votes.

SHIELDS: Margaret.

CARLSON: Bob, I think you have a point. With the military ballots they should be given every benefit of the doubt. Hey, maybe they're on a ship. Who knows? You can't get to the post office, whatever it is, but there are some rules everybody needs to abide by and what's happened on the absentee ballots from overseas is that there's no standard again from county to county.

Some need postmarks, some need to be signed. Escamdia County accepted a whole bunch ballots that wouldn't be accepted in another county. That needs to be regularize in some way so that there is a standard for the ones you accept. Putting the military aside and having a special exception for them or especially on the postmark business.

SHIELDS: Bill Bennett.

BENNETT: Well, I agree with that. I agree with both, nice to agree. But it's interesting in those heavily Democratic counties we're seeing the throwing away -- not throwing away, the discounting or not counting of these military ballots.

General Schwartzkopf has made a statement about this, which I think has been on the news, pointing out these folks ballots their intention certainly counts as the quote intent of people who we've been talking about there the counties. We also found out today that 39 felons have voted in the state of Florida. Their votes counted but soldier's votes did not.

NOVAK: I think that was just in Miami.

BENNETT: Just in Miami. That's right.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Look, I think you basically ought to have as liberal an attitude as can you toward the franchise, and I think I agree absolutely with Margaret that many of those disqualified ballots ought to count, but I also think, you know, citizens who go the ballot, if we can basically demonstrate their intent -- of that's possible to do, as they do in Texas law right they're, the manual count signed by George Bush, then I think we ought to do it in Florida, too.

I don't think we should be selective. I agree, the Democrats have committed some outrage. What I found so extraordinary, though, is that my friend, Mr. Bennett and Mr. Novak try to say it's all one- sided. And for instance Mrs. Harris, the fact that she's been in consultation with top Republicans, the guy who's the acting general counsel for to Governor Jeb Bush says he's on leave. I mean, that, somehow is fine.

BENNETT: For God's sakes.

HUNT: For God's sake, that is the same thing.

BENNETT: If you talk to people in the world in which you live you're likely to talk to Republicans or Democrats. The law firm that she hired to represent her is a Democrat law firm, but you said you don't want to be selective about recounts. The what about the Beverly Green situation? You know who she is. She's the woman who ran from Palm Beach, eight weeks ago she was in a runoff. She lost by 11 votes. She asked for a manual recount. She was told by Carol Roberts and Theresa LePore, no manual recount unless there's evidenced of fraud or machine failure. There's no evidence of fraud or machine failure, tough, lady. That's selectivity. They cut her out.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: They gave her wrong advice. If you read the Florida law, what it says is fraud or if it affects the outcome of the election. That's what Florida law says, Bill, so therefore that woman was aggrieved.

BENNETT: That's right. She was aggrieved.

NOVAK: Let me say something about this taking away of the service people's votes. Let's not pretend that this is just a bunch of local, hard-nosed ballot counters. There was a letter written by a Democratic lawyer, Mark Heron, five-page letter, I have a copy of it, to Democratic lawyers around the state showing how they should be tough on the service personnel's vote, how they could apply all the rules. This is a calculated, Democratic plot to prevent the service people's votes from being counted. That's the truth.

SHIELDS: Bob, I have one question. Where'd you get the letter?

NOVAK: I got it from the Republicans, but it's a legitimate letter.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: You asked me a question.

SHIELDS: I asked you a question just like we asked where did George Bush's driving record come from? Same thing. Was that a dirty trick? I'm not saying it's dirty trick... (CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Just a minute, Mark. Just a minute. It is not a phony letter. Mark Heron has admitted he sent the letter.

SHIELDS: I'm not saying it's a phony letter. I'm saying this is the Republican argument. The reality is for those who have been in politics, and I have been and I'm happy and proud of it, that people don't, don't fix elections. People who work in counting places are honest, good citizens. They don't do it for the money. They do it -- when you show up at Election Day, they're happy to see you. And all of the rest of it. That's how it works.

NOVAK: As an ex-service man, do you countenance this?

SHIELDS: Of courser I don't. I'm not talking about that, Bob. I'm talking about the reality that when somebody can sit here and say it's an absolute assurance that George Bush carried Florida, they're blowing smoke. They're kidding themselves. It's self delusion.

(CROSSTALK)

BENNETT: That's what the machine said.

HUNT: Let me tell you something about machines. In 1993 a special election in Wisconsin for Les Aspen's seat. It was the only thing on the ballot. Only one thing one the ballot. No referendum, no other elections and 4.5 percent of the people's votes -- they said they didn't vote. The machine didn't count the vote. Now I'm sorry, they are not perfect so therefore that's why you have manual recounts in most states like Florida.

SHIELDS: That is -- that's the last word, Al Hunt and I would certainly hope that we'd try to show a little bit more energy and passions in the forth coming.

Next on "CAPITAL GANG," what does the public think?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back.

"The Washington Post" poll shows that, when asked which is most important, 57 percent of the people support ending the election count quickly, while 40 percent favor a full hearing in court. The same survey showed that 54 percent consider a machine recount more accurate, while 41 percent favor a hand recount -- which I have no idea what that means.

Margaret, what do you think the public wants?

CARLSON: There was fuzzy math there. What the public wants is for me to get a word in edgewise here. There's one thing I want to say before we leave this one topic, which is those people sworn in in the room counting the votes take an oath. They're there as if they're on jury duty. They're taking it very seriously. I mean, you cannot say there's wholesale fraud going on in the public that's volunteered to do this. It's just not right.

NOVAK: You think the people I have talked to who have been in the voting room, who see the Gore ballot -- I mean the Bush ballot put in the Gore pile of things dropped on the floor. Do you think they're lying to me?

CARLSON: I do. I think they're misreading what...

SHIELDS: I think they're misreading what's happening. And the fact that they know it was put in that pile is because it was correct.

NOVAK: It's a sloppy business, it's much sloppier than a machine recount.

CARLSON: There are as many babysitters in that room as at a day care center. There's the nothing going on that's not being watched.

What does the public want? The public, you know, does want it to be done a certain way. Each week you see that come sooner. But what's happened is that the Republicans have warned against delay, but brought about the very delay that's actually going to disturb the public in the end with litigation and delaying the hand count. So the very thing they predict with dire consequences, they're bringing about so that maybe the public will get impatient.

But at the beginning they weren't. They said, listen: We would rather have an accurate count -- they would rather have an accurate count of all the counties. They're not going to get that at the moment, but they do want what they can get.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, I'm sorry for your sake you predicted the market would tank this week, it didn't. But cheer up, eventually things will get worse.

Bob, what's the story here?

NOVAK: You know, I think that the public is starting to get a snootfull of what's going on because they're not as dumb as you think, Mark.

CARLSON: We don't think they're dumb.

NOVAK: What they know is that they have these political hacks, you call them public-spirited citizens, I call them political hacks, changing the rules as they go and keeping out service ballots. And I think the public eventually, slowly gets disaffected with that.

SHIELDS: I think Margaret and Al and I would join right now and urge that all those military ballots -- they should be exempt from postmarks.

CARLSON: Mark Heron (ph) made a mistake in that letter. And if he's speaking for the Gore campaign, they should disavow it right now.

BENNETT: I think that's great, and that's progress. I'm glad to hear you say that.

I would say, in terms of the public, they don't agree with you. They think the machines are more accurate because they do understand the machines aren't biased. If there are mistakes, they are random mistakes. You know, I don't assume there are large numbers of people going in to, you know, mark the wrong thing and count the wrong thing, but I do believe there is a partiality.

And I think in these counties and these particular boards, Mark, when you've got a Republican saying no and a Democrat saying yes and then it goes to a third person to decide, you're going to have more Democrats than Republicans and that puts those people in -- you know what we call it in the church: an occasion of sin, a temptation -- and I think more of those Democrats, Mark are going to say yes for Gore than yes for Bush.

SHIELDS: I disagree, but I'd say this -- it just flies right in the face of what Bob Novak told us in the beginning is that Democrats weren't picking up enough votes so if they were doing it, they should be doing it better.

BENNETT: It's not over.

HUNT: And did that occur in Seminole County, where George Bush picked up 98 votes, and did Bill Bennett and Bob Novak complain about it? But one thing, listen, I think they both say very persuasively that there will be a number of GOP rank and file who won't accept it if Gore wins it the way they think he may win it. But let me tell you guys something, there will be a number of Democrats, millions, who also -- I flew back from Los Angeles and this flight attendant happened to be African American, said they're trying to steal this election. On both sides that's the case.

BENNETT: Well, I understand that, but there were people who thought that Ronald Reagan's presidency was illegitimate simply because he wag Ronald Reagan. We're Republicans, we understand this, we accept this.

SHIELDS: We aggrieved, we're martyred, we're picked on. Come on, Bill; you're bigger than that, Bill.

We'll be back with a forecast on how this will end, OK.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. In what forum when this whole event finally end? Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Not this one. We're not deciding anything. The Electoral College.

SHIELDS: Bill Bennett.

BENNETT: Well, the courts will have a big say. Finally, it will be the courts that, I think, will make a decision about what's counted and where and how it's counted and that will be the end. SHIELDS: Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Could be the Florida Supreme Court, but I got a hunch it's going end up in the Congress of the United States with two sets of rival electors from the state of Florida being chosen from.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Either side doesn't follow whatever the Florida Supreme Court does on Monday or Tuesday, the prize will not be worth it.

SHIELDS: The Florida Supreme Court will have the final word, unless the sore loser there tries an end run around the Constitution by sending two sets of electors.

This special, one hour edition of THE CAPITAL GANG will be back to look at how the two presidential candidates have performed this past week with our outrage of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's national correspondent Martin Savidge has been monitoring the latest events in Florida. He joins us live from West Palm Beach with an update. Marty?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good evening to you Bernie.

Behind us in the emergency operation center behind walls that are built to withstand 200 mile-per-hour winds. They are now in the 11th- hour of the third day of the recount manually here of Palm Beach County.

The last report we had several hours ago they had counted through about 110,000 ballots that would roughly indicate that they are about a quarter of the way through their task that sounds relatively optimistic. But amidst that ballots is a growing stack of what are referred to as questionable ballots.

These are the ones that have been challenged by the counters and the observers that now fall into the hands of the canvass elections board. They must review those individually and very carefully because it could make a determination one way or the other if a vote was cast and who it was for. The problem is that stack is so high it is delaying greatly the efforts to continue the count here.

In fact, at one point the chairman of the elections canvassing board issued a plea asking that everyone in the room try to set partisan politics aside and not to object simply to object. Otherwise he quipped we'll be here until Christmas. Outside, there's been a lot of political spinning and criticism by both parties.

The Republicans say here despite criticism the boards worried it's going too slow, the Republicans think it's going too fast. This was a Republican attorney Mark Wallace talking about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARK WALLACE, REPUBLICAN BALLOT OBSERVER: The process is happening so quickly with the lack of integrity we're concerned that these questionable ballots aren't actually getting to us.

QUESTION: What do you think ought to be done about it?

WALLACE: I think the pace needs to be slowed down and needs to be done in a much more thoughtful way.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: The Democrats have complaints of their own. Specifically they say that the dimpled ballots the ones with the dents, but not a perforation are not being count properly. They believe they would go for Vice President Al Gore. This is their complaint.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DENNIS NEWMAN, FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY ATTORNEY: The dimples are not being counted as votes and we have protested -- in the last precinct we have protested approximately 150. There are clear denting on number 5 chad but they were ruled as an undervote.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAVIDGE: Last week the Democrats went to court in Palm Beach County the judge ruled the canvass elections board had wide discrepancy -- they could not disallow arbitrarily the indentations or so-called pregnant chads. But they didn't necessarily have to count each and every one of them and the canvassing board says it's making a decision as it sees them. A lot of contention today, clearly as there was not a lot of activity inside the legal courtrooms. A lot of activity in the courtroom of public opinion. Bernie.

SHAW: Martin Savidge with the latest from West Palm Beach.

SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of our special CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields, with Al Hunt, Robert Novak, Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: I'm Margaret.

SHIELDS: And our guest former secretary of education Bill Bennett.

BENNETT: Still here.

SHIELDS: I tell you -- you talk about perseverance and endurance. And we just established -- I think on the first part of this show that Teddy Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Jackson, Woodrow Wilson all are legitimate presidents. Why? Because they were elected by hand counted ballots. Al Gore went on television Wednesday night with a proposal to end the electoral deadlock with a manual recount of the entire state of Florida.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) GORE: I would also be willing to abide by that result and not to take any legal action to challenge that result. I propose that Governor Bush and I meet personally one on one, as soon as possible, before the vote count is finished not no negotiate, but to improve the tone of our dialogue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: On the next morning the vice president talked to a radio talk show.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

GORE: The choice really is whether the voters are going to decide this election by having every vote count or whether that process is going to be short circuited.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, how did the vice president objectively, putting on your objective, analytical hat. How did he handle himself this week?

NOVAK: Putting on my dispassionate hat, the answer is badly. He is still playing the permanent campaign. He is bursting out every six hours or so to make a comment, this clip we showed was from the Tom Joyner Show. Tom Joyner is one of the African-American disc jockeys, or talk show hosts, I should say in America, trying to build up the African-American vote. He's trying to give the idea that he's making a compromise. He is giving nothing at all to the Republicans and this phony offer to sit down and talk it over with George W. Bush. I thought it was a performance about him keeping with his campaign.

SHIELDS: Margaret?

CARLSON: How can you build up the vote when we've had the vote?

(LAUGHTER)

NOVAK: Working on it.

CARLSON: Work it up. OK.

NOVAK: The recount, Margaret.

HUNT: The recount.

CARLSON: Al Gore -- I think it reminded the 49 percent of the people who didn't vote for him why they didn't vote for him. And why with the prosperity that we have, that he didn't walk away with the election. There he is with the backdrop the family pictures in the background, the vice presidential mansion. A very short speech, very pedantic and lectury, but a teleprompter took like three minutes or four minutes. And you say wait, do you have this teleprompter in your house when you give after-dinner toasts? It just seemed so wrong that he couldn't come out there and just speak from the heart or, you know, or at least his brain without the teleprompter. It's like a car chase. These principles come out every so often to kind of give us a little something in this bad movie and they should just stay indoors.

SHIELDS: Bill Bennett, say a good word about Al Gore.

BENNETT: I will in a second. We ended that segment, but you brought it back up, the hand counts. Let me get a comment back. No, those elections you talked about weren't illegitimate, but despite your claims of knowing about the real world, I will tell you something, Mark. There is corruption in politics. There are elections that people have tried to steal. There was a corruption in the Johnson election, as I think you will concede.

SHIELDS: Lyndon.

BENNETT: LBJ, Lyndon Johnson and there's been corruption in other elections I believe the evidence will show when this is all over that there was a hell of a lot of corruption in this in Florida on the Democratic side. I think those affidavits will be proved true.

Now as far as Al Gore, he had a better week, I think, than Bob said. He had a fair public relations week. He hired all these lawyers, these high paid types and, you know, they made their case out there. Obviously, they had a pretty good week because of what the Florida Supreme Court did. And, you know, they're on offense. They're using all the methods that Al Gore has learned from his master, Mr. Clinton.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Well, first of all, I just could not disagree more that there was there any kind of pervasive corruption in the state of Florida. The Sunshine Sate has always been a good government state. To be sure, there's always a little bit of corruption in politics on both sides, Bill, on both sides.

BENNETT: Not equal. The evidence will show that.

HUNT: I would remind you -- well, to you it's not equal. To some Democrats, it's not equal the other way. So you know, all I can say is from a partisan point of view, nether partisans think it is equal. On Al Gore this week, I think Margaret's right. I think he sort of looked silly there with the family shot in the background.

I will say this, Bob, I don't think there's anything really wrong about going on an African-American radio talk show. I mean, they are Americans, too, Bob and I don't think he comes out every six hours. I think he's come out four or five times. I don't think he was particularly eloquent. But I don't think there's anything wrong with going on a radio talk show, African-American or otherwise.

NOVAK: I'll tell you what bothered me about because there is such an effort to gin up his base. The labor unions are raising money for this recount. Sweeney, John Sweeney, president of the AFL-CIO is getting his people out. There's rallies going on. I think this -- the idea this is an honest recount, they're trying the play the public relations game. And just one small correction, Margaret. I'm sorry, 52 percent of the people voted against him, not 49.

CARLSON: Christ, I forgot that Nader aspect there.

SHIELDS: Tom Joyner is the hottest talk show in America. The fact that you don't listen to him and you'd prefer that he'd go on Rush Limbaugh, who vilifies him every hour...

NOVAK: I wouldn't prefer to go on any talk show.

SHIELDS: He has a right to make.

BENNETT: Joyner's actually got more people than Rush Limbaugh.

SHIELDS: He is the hottest talk show -- he's the hottest new talk show in America. There's no question about it. But you're not going to send a guy onto an unfriendly venue like Rush Limbaugh.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Why did he go on a talk show?

SHIELDS: Why'd he go on? I'm sure because he was asked to, but stirring up the base Bob. This makes it sound like some sort of a revolution is going on.

NOVAK: Yes, it is.

(CROSSTALK)

HUNT: Mark, you're absolutely right and I think that's nausea. I will say one thing that I think is outrageous that I think the Gore people are doing and I give the Bush people credit for this, they both have to raise money. I mean, I'm sorry, you can blame John Sweeney, but both have to raise money. The Bush people have put a limit on it and are disclosing it. And the Gore people are not having a disclosure. I think they're wrong on that.

SHIELDS: You're absolutely. You're absolutely right there and Gore should and you he should limit and he should disclose and he should be held accountable and criticized for it as you've just done. I will say this, I didn't think Al Gore had a good week. I thought he had a good proposal. I thought it was a fair proposal, a full count. I mean, stop all court actions. Never any more. David Boies, everybody else.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: He doesn't -- that's the difference between you and me, I mean he doesn't think that he's ahead and he doesn't know.

NOVAK: He thinks he can take enough votes away in these counties with these Democratic counties and therefore what kind of fair deal is this?

CARLSON: Bob, you can't say going to court is such a terrible thing and then when Al Gore say he's going to give it up say it's nothing.

SHIELD: Yes. I mean, you can't have it both ways, Bob. And I agree, Al Gore has hired a lot of lawyers, but hasn't George Bush, too?

BENNETT: The only way to fight lawyers is hire lawyers.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: George Bush doesn't have any lawyers that didn't work for his father. That's the problem. Bill Bennett and the gang will be back to critiques the performance of the Republican candidate.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: Welcome back. On Wednesday night, George W. Bush went on TV in prime time to respond to Vice President Gore's proposal.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: What the vice president proposed is exactly what he's been proposing all along, continuing with selective hand recounts that are neither fair nor accurate Or compounding the error by extending a flawed process statewide.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BUSH: Once this election is over, I would be glad to meet with Vice President Gore.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, how would you grade Governor Bush this week?

HUNT: I was disappointed he didn't go on the Tom Joyner Show, Mark. I really thought that would have helped him a lot.

SHIELDS: Bob would have criticized him if he had.

HUNT: Look, as Ted Koppel said, he sort of appears confused. I don't think either one of these guys has acquitted himself very well over the past whatever it's been, 11 or 12 days. I think he made a very difficult task anyway even harder and that's about all I have to say.

SHIELDS: Bob, did you think - what'd you give him? I know you grade him on a curve, but which grade would give him?

NOVAK: I'd give him an A on that. I thought he looked good. I thought it was a dignified presidential appearance. He had to respond to the proposal by the proposal by the vice president and he did. It's the only time he has been out. I thought -- I said last week I thought that premature transition was a mistake. They dropped that. You don't start making you administration up until the vote is in. But I think he was fine this week. He kept out of sight and that's what he should be doing. That's what Gore should be doing.

SHIELDS: Do you like the windbreaker with his name on it? Do you like that? Margaret.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: I bet they'll give you one. Remember the Elian tape? This was a candidate held hostage. He did not look comfortable. He looked like, you know, the words were handed to him and he missed an opportunity. Listen, everyone knows that a hand count in all of Florida is the way to give legitimacy to whomever wins. And he should have taken that and getting it out of the courts is something that the Bush side seems to want. So that would have been -- he missed an opportunity.

Then you know, on Friday, after Ms. Harris decided to certify the election today, they apparently, you know, got the champagne, rented the Four Seasons ball room for some premature exuberance over this. And she should recuse herself and that way we can get on with this and Bush would get more legitimacy if they could talk Miss Harris into recusing herself. The Bush co-chair should not be deciding the election.

SHIELDS: Nor should Al Gore's co-chair, Bob Butterworth should.

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Bob Butterworth should not either, but he doesn't seem to have the power that she has to call this.

SHIELDS: But he still should recuse himself.

CARLSON: Yes, he should.

SHIELDS: I would say this. I would have -- Al Gore's proposal would have been more effective and persuasive if he had proposed that Jerry Ford and Howard Baker and I don't care who else, I mean, a couple of leading Republicans be in charge of the recount. I mean ask them to oversee and ask them to oversee it and ask for full authority of federal marshals to. Go ahead what kind of week do you have, Bill.

BENNETT: Well, since this may be my last appearance on THE CAPITAL GANG...

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: We have the envelope please.

BENNETT: Personal privilege. Al, I didn't say the corruption was rampant in the state of Florida, the Sunshine State, I said I expect the corruption is pretty rampant in the circus that's called the hand ballot counting that's going on in a couple of those counties and I think the evidence will prove that. I've said that three times. I won't say it again. And I did criticize George Bush once he was a candidate. In fact, on the very eve of the election I criticized him for not disclosing the DUI. I do try to play it straight on that.

I think he had a pretty good week. I thought his statement was pretty good. But he is at an disadvantage. I mean, he's in a street fight now, and I think they were trying to be above the fray and I don't think they quite got just how intense the Gore campaign would go at them.

And they are at a disadvantage because I think they have a greater sense of standards. I think they will not stoop as low as the Gore campaign, and that is a problem when you're in a street fight, but we shall see what we shall see.

SHIELDS: Well, let me just say if Gore is using all this artillery at his disposal he's running in the state -- this is a recount being conducted in the state where his opponent's brother is the governor. Where his opponent's co-chair -- I mean, it's not exactly a friendly political climate.

NOVAK: What about the Supreme Court?

SHIELDS: No -- but it's not a place -- and I'll tell you this, I mean, I will stand here tonight, whatever the Florida Supreme Court does on Monday and whatever decision they make it will not be a political decision.

NOVAK: How can you say that?

HUNT: If you think they're both tough-minded, they're both tough-minded; if you think they're both unscrupulous, they're both unscrupulous. But to draw some kind of a moral distinction -- there's really nothing but -- it's a partisan pitch.

BENNETT: Can I make a point of unity, because everybody here, around the table agreed, tonight, on those military votes. And if we could get everybody to agree that all those military votes should count, you might have resolution, whatever...

NOVAK: I just got to say a word against the Florida Supreme Court: They've been an activist court that has knocked down Governor Bush -- Jeb Bush. It's a democratic court and for you to say that you can count on them -- I don't think you can count on them for anything. I said I hope that they will read the law and say that this recount -- this hand recount is a tragedy.

HUNT: Read the law. The law specifically says you have a manual recount. If they read the law, Bob, they won't go your way.

CARLSON: They've gone through a peer and academic review. These judges are not partisan.

NOVAK: How can you say that?

CARLSON: They're chosen by a democratic governor when...

NOVAK: But they've been knocking down Jeb Bush's legislation.

HUNT: Well that doesn't make them...

CARLSON: No, no.

BENNETT: They're not partisan if they're Democrats, only partisan if they're Republicans.

(CROSSTALK)

SHIELDS: By every measurement, by every single measurement...

NOVAK: The Republicans don't think so, the Democrats think so.

SHIELDS: Now, Bob, listen.

NOVAK: I mean, that is what drives me nuts about the media -- when they say it is superb just because it is a democratic court that knocks down Republican proposals and is taking the democratic line. That doesn't make is superb, it makes it partisan.

CARLSON: No, no, no. The ABA and peer review and academic review think this is a fine court.

SHIELDS: OK, well I'll just say, I'm sorry -- I looked -- have Teddy Roosevelt taken off of Mount Rushmore because he was elected by a hand count.

BENNETT: Petty, petty, petty.

NOVAK: I mean, that's ridiculous.

SHIELDS: Abraham Lincoln, for God's sakes! Hand counts, what are we going to do!

Bill Bennett, thanks for being with us; and I know it's been a treat for you, Bill. The gang will be back with the outrage of the week.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SHIELDS: And now for the outrage of the week.

Is it not now past time for all good Gore backers to stop trying to turn Ralph Nader into the third Menendez brother. Let's look at the record: If Al Gore carried his own home state of Tennessee, we would have been spared Alan Dershowitz and Ted Olson uninvited into our living rooms. Gore also lost Arkansas and West Virginia. What do these three states have in common? None of the three is filled with tree-hugging, backpacking, Starbuck-guzzling Greenies -- the allegedly stereotypical Nader constituency. And Gore carried Washington and Oregon. Give Ralph a break -- Bob Novak.

NOVAK: Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris has been ridiculed as a Republican partisan by democratic spin doctors and their friends in the news media. But what about state Attorney General Bob Butterworth, who shows no restraint in issuing advisory opinions and otherwise interfering in vote counting. He is seldom identified as a Democrat or a strong Gore backer.

But what is never reported is that Attorney General Butterworth is actually up for election as a Gore elector. Most presidential electors are nameless hack, Bob Butterworth is a well-known hack.

CARLSON: I'll take a nameless hack.

SHIELDS: Margaret, I think that was raised on this show earlier, wasn't it? But go ahead -- Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Let's give it some emphasis here.

Network executives should be sent to the woodshed for all the mistakes they made election night. Who decided, anyway, that our election should be called by Dan and Tom and Peter on flawed exit polls. But let's not go too far. "The New York Times" reported today that producers anxious to make up for their election night overreaching and to keep congressional oversight at bay, are going to drop putting a running tally on the screen. Please don't punish us, the viewers, for your sins. Keeping score is so American.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, there are legitimate criticisms of election night TV coverage, but a few are phony. Congressman Billy Tauzin, angling for commerce committee chairman, ludicrously asserts that the 7:49 p.m. initial call Florida for Gore costs thousands of Republicans listening to their transistor radios or TVs to leave the voting lines and go home.

Democrats unfairly attacked John Ellis, a Fox TV political editor. He displayed poor judgment in talking to his cousin George W. Bush throughout the night, but I've known Ellis for 22 years and nothing would compromise his professionalism and his integrity.

CARLSON: I agree.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG.

Coming up next on CNN, an election 2000 special report.

TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com

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