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CNN Late Edition
The Florida Recount: Election 2000 Heads to Florida Supreme CourtAired November 19, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9:00 a.m. in Los Angeles, 5:00 p.m. in London, and midnight in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Wherever you are watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special two-hour LATE EDITION: The Florida Recount.
We'll get to our interview with Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman shortly, but, first, let's check in with CNN reporters covering this still very undecided presidential race.
BLITZER: And earlier today, I spoke with Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman about all this presidential uncertainty.
Senator Lieberman, welcome back to LATE EDITION.
Almost two weeks after the election, we still don't know who won. I assume you never in your wildest dreams thought this would unfold as it has.
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, no way. It's been much beyond our expectations, but an important period; we got to get it right. This is a question of whether everybody's vote will be counted, and whether the person who takes office next January 20th as our new president will take office with a real sense of confidence that the process that brought him there was fair.
BLITZER: Well, getting every vote counted brings me to the point that a lot of U.S. military personnel serving around the world, sometimes in dangerous situations like Bosnia and elsewhere, their votes were not counted.
The Associated Press says, 2,200 or so overseas absentee ballots were counted, but 1,400 were discarded, many from U.S. military personnel, for technical reasons; postmarks were not used. Shouldn't those military overseas absentee ballots, all of them be counted, even if there were some technical problems?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I think the benefit of the doubt has to be given to every voter here, who went to the trouble either to go to the polls, as they did in the three counties that are hand counting, or to send in an absentee ballot, but of course, it's got to be done by law.
My understanding is that these decisions on the absentee ballots were made by the local election officials. A lot of them, maybe most of them, in Florida, are Republicans, and it's possible that they made these decisions and disqualified the ballots because they know the whole world is watching, and they felt they wanted to really apply the law as the law specifically is read.
But again, Al Gore and I want everybody who voted to have the maximum chance to have their vote counted. We would never countenance or approve or tolerate a policy that in any measure discriminated against our military personnel abroad when they try to vote.
BLITZER: Well, listen to what Montana's Republican Governor Marc Racicot said. Only yesterday, he's brought in by the Bush campaign to help them deal with this problem of overseas's military ballots. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MARC RACICOT (R), MONTANA: We learned how far the vice president's campaign will go to win this election, and I am very sorry to say, but the vice president's lawyers have gone to war, in my judgment, against the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. In an effort to win at any cost, the Democrats have launched a statewide effort to throw out as many military ballots as they can.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, you're a member of the Armed Services committee in the U.S. Senate. Those are strong words suggesting that you suspected, as obviously was the case, a disproportionately larger number of those overseas military ballots would go for George W. Bush rather than Al Gore.
LIEBERMAN: Yes, with all respect to the governor, those are strong words, but from all that I know of the situation, they are very unfair.
They're unfair both to our campaign, which would never have a policy aimed at disqualifying military voters, but they are also unfair to the local election officials in the counties around Florida, most of whom I think are Republicans, who made the decision to disqualify those ballots.
BLITZER: But you know there are memoranda that were circulated from Democratic party officials stipulating what you have to look for before that ballot could count.
LIEBERMAN: You know, I asked that question, because I heard that story last night, to folks who are campaign officials for us, and they told me that the memo just stated what the law on absentee ballots is. Apparently there was a similar memo sent from the Bush campaign or the Florida Republican Party to the Republicans who are monitoring here. So look, we are for counting every vote. We want every vote to be counted that possibly can be counted among the absentee ballots, and we want to do the same for those votes that are being hand counted in the three counties in Florida. And if I must say so, it is the Republicans who -- and the Bush campaign -- that have been working so very hard to try to stop the hand counting of ballots.
I think we all ought to agree that every ballot that can possibly be counted, the ones that were voted, and the three counties, or absentee ballots, ought to be counted. We don't want one ballot unfairly, but we don't want one ballot that should be counted not to be counted.
BLITZER: You know, in Sanford, Florida, in one county, Seminole County, there is an effort by some local Democrats to discard several thousand votes because the absentee ballot applications -- apparently there was some technical problem there, but a Republican local official accepted them in any case.
Are you supporting that effort to throw away those thousands of ballots that were counted, because of some supposed technical problem on the application, not on the ballot itself, but on the application for the absentee ballot?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, Wolf, I just heard about that case, within the last day or two, through the media -- probably CNN. To the best of my knowledge, that's a local lawsuit that will be handled by the courts as the courts see fit, and that our campaign has nothing to do with that.
But you know, the courts are there -- here is why we are where we are. We just have had the closest presidential election in American history, both at the national level, where Al Gore and I are only 200,000 ahead of Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney, and about 100 million votes cast. In Florida, almost six million cast, and Governor Bush is about 900 ahead of us, which is about, I don't know, one- fiftieth or a hundredth of one percentage point difference. And therefore every vote counts. Therefore people who are unhappy and think that their right to vote was abused in the Florida election, are going to the courts. The courts are the place to settle that.
There is no crisis have here. I find that the American people generally want to get it right, rather than getting it done quickly, because they know that is test of our democracy. And the world is watching. We want to have it end up right.
BLITZER: You know, right now you are behind by less than a thousand votes, almost a thousand votes.
BLITZER: And some people are suggesting that even if the full manual recounts go forward, and are allowed in those three South Florida counties -- Broward, Palm Beach county, Miami-Dade -- it's still an uphill struggle for you to get almost a thousand votes to defeat George W. Bush. LIEBERMAN: Well, we'll see. I mean the important point to say, you know the Bush campaign has done everything possible to stop the hand counting of those ballots, I suppose because they think if they are counted, we will win. The truth is nobody knows how it will turn out.
The point here -- of course, we want to win -- but the point is the principle. There are voters -- tens of thousands in Florida -- who feel that their intention, what they tried to do when they went to vote, was not registered, either because the machines didn't pick up their vote, or because in Palm Beach County there was a confusing, and, we say, illegal ballot.
So let's try to count those votes, and, therefore, not leave anybody in Florida or anybody around the country feeling on January 20th, when the next president takes office, that somehow that president takes office in an election that was not fair. This is all about the right of every American to have their vote counted. Why?
LIEBERMAN: Because we want the president to take office with authority, so that we can unite around him.
BLITZER: On that specific point, The Washington Post did an editorial yesterday, wrote this. I want to read to you from The Washington Post: "A selective recount might move Mr. Gore marginally ahead, But many Americans will no more accept him as rightful president under those circumstances than partisans on the other side would accept Mr. Bush if he were too hastily anointed."
The Washington Post going on saying, "Have a recount, a manual recount, throughout the entire state."
Now I know Vice President Gore proposed that.
LIEBERMAN: I'm for that, right.
BLITZER: Is that proposal still on the table, a recount in all 67 counties of Florida?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I suppose it is. I mean unfortunately Governor Bush rejected it, and even though you know a lot of those 67 counties are Republican-leaning counties. But the point is to end this in a way that we can unite, and that'll only be so if people feel that every vote that was cast had a fair chance to be counted. And that is what we are seeking tomorrow, in the Florida Supreme Court.
I'm very grateful to the court that it stopped Secretary of State Harris from declaring a winner yesterday, because I think we would have had a very disconcerting situation. You can see it on a split screen on television, where on one side of the screen Secretary of State Harris declaring a winner in the Florida election, and on the other half of the screen, people are still counting votes in those three counties. That would make people around the country angry and would embarrass us, I think, within the world.
Look, I want this to end in a way that all of us can say it ended fairly. If Governor Bush wins, I'm going to congratulate him. I'm going to wish him well. And then as member of United States Senate, I'm going to look for every opportunity I can to work across party lines with him to help the country.
And I'm sure that Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney will do the same if, and I hope when, Al Gore and I are elected. That's why we ought to finish this right, so nobody is angry, or feeling that they were robbed, when the new president takes office.
BLITZER: Well, your Democratic colleague from Louisiana, Senator John Breaux, was on "Fox News Sunday" earlier today. He made the point that this process should end with the Florida Supreme Court. Listen to what John Breaux said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: It's called the Supreme Court for a reason. It's the supreme law of the land of Florida. States really rule their election laws. I think that the court, whatever it says, ought to be the final word. I think if it went to the House of Representatives, it would make the impeachment process look like a piece of cake.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Are you ready at this point to say whatever the final ruling of the Florida Supreme Court is, that ends it, once and for all? Accept those manual recounts or don't accept them, but with the Florida Supreme Court, it's "game"?
LIEBERMAN: It's really not for me to make that kind of declaration now as events are going on, and citizens in Florida have grievances that they feel they have to go to courts to get relief and justice for.
But I will say that Vice President Gore just said just two days ago very clearly that the final arbiter of this all-important election in Florida will not be Governor Bush, or himself, Vice President Gore, or Secretary of State Harris. It will be the Florida Supreme Court, which at this point is the body that is applying the rule of law to protect the right of every citizen to vote.
So I think if that happens, then the prospect of further litigation is diminished. But, at this point, because Governor Bush surprised us and rejected all the offers that -- excuse me, because Governor Bush rejected all the offers that Vice President Gore made to try to settle this without excessive litigation, all options remain on the table for now.
BLITZER: So it could continue even after the Supreme Court rules one way or another?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I hope not. I hope that this brings us to a point where every vote -- every voter has the right to have his or her vote counted. And we can all feel that the result, whatever it is, is fair. And we can then reunite, as Americans always have when our democracy has been tested, to go on for the betterment of this country.
The people of the country were almost evenly divided in the election, but I honestly don't think this is a divided country in an intense and deep way, and I'm confident about that.
And so I think our democracy can stand this test. We're doing well at it. The American people are -- I passed a man on the street the other day who said, came over and shook my hand and he said three words: "We are patient." And I believe that's true. The American people want it to come out right, whoever wins.
BLITZER: Senator Lieberman, thank you so much for joining us once again on LATE EDITION.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: And just ahead, we'll get the Bush perspective from a prominent Republican. We'll talk live with former Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole when LATE EDITION continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The citizens of Florida surely want the candidate who received the most votes in Florida to be determined the winner of that state. That is why I'm very pleased that the hand counts are continuing. They are proceeding despite efforts to obstruct them.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Vice President Al Gore, speaking Friday after Florida's Supreme Court delayed certification of a presidential winner until arguments can be heard on whether to accept a manual recount.
Welcome back to this special two-hour LATE EDITION.
Joining us now to talk about this presidential deadlock is the former Republican presidential candidate, Bob Dole.
Senator Dole, thanks for joining us once again.
BOB DOLE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you.
BLITZER: Always good to have you on our program. I know you are very concerned about some of these overseas military ballots not being counted. But I guess you could ask the question, should they be treated -- military personnel -- differently in a vote than civilians? Aren't all votes, all people, all citizens supposed to be equal?
DOLE: Yes, and I think we need to make that determination. How far are they going on the votes that were cast in, say, Palm Beach County or some vote that comes from Saudi Arabia or some American GI overseas? And, as I understand, they sign their ballot but they're not postmarked. It seems to be a technicality, but I think every effort -- and I agree with Senator Lieberman, who is my friend and a good person -- that you ought to lean over backward to count these military ballots.
Should they receive preferential treatment? No. But I'm not there, so I don't know what's happening -- looking up into the light, seeing whether or not the punch was a dimple or pimple, whatever -- I don't think that's the case with the military ballots. And we have a letter, as you're aware of, from some commander that's saying that sometimes they can't be postmarked.
But, you know, with the president in Vietnam talking about reconciliation, with Vice President Gore very proud of his record in Vietnam, and with all the talk about servicemen, we are going to disenfranchise about half of them. And that is not happening anywhere else in Florida.
BLITZER: You heard the Democratic vice presidential candidate say that Gore's proposal to have a recount statewide is still on the table. A lot of people are saying, including editorial writers, why not -- if you don't like the recount in those three Democratic counties, heavily Democratic counties in South Florida, why not just have a recount throughout the whole state and end it with that?
DOLE: That sounds very reasonable just to throw it out there, but you've got to add that the Democrats control 47 of the 67 counties when it comes to the electoral process. And if you look at what has happened in the three counties right now where the Democrats have reversed themselves: Miami-Dade, they've been on again-off again; in Palm Beach County, Broward County, they're thinking about changing their system; they have a two-to-one margin, two Democrats, one Republican, and one county is 3-0.
I mean, on its face -- I mean, you know, both sides made offers they knew the other side would reject, and they know why they rejected, and why, in large, what I think is a misinterpretation of the law. In any event, we shouldn't choose selective counties. That doesn't mean that Bush has to jump at a chance to select other counties where the Democrats control the apparatus
BLITZER: You also heard Senator Lieberman say that even if the Florida Supreme Court rules one way or another, he is not ruling out that that will end it, as far as Gore campaign is concerned, despite what Senator John Breaux said earlier today. Do you think that the Supreme Court of Florida should be the final word on this issue, or do you think the Bush campaign should continue legal options if they don't like what the final adjudication is?
DOLE: Well, I think Joe is right. He's a principal -- I mean, John Breaux is in the Senate, I'm an outsider, so it's not up for me to say what they ought to accept.
BLITZER: But you're an important outsider.
DOLE: Well, I'm not important, but I -- you know, my view is that if the Supreme -- I think the facts are overwhelming. If they follow the law, Bush will be the president-elect. If they decide something else, I don't know, but that is going to be a call by Jim Baker and others, not -- they won't consult with Bob Dole on that.
BLITZER: I guess that question is do you have confidence in this seven-member Florida Supreme Court, six of whom were nominated -- appointed are supposedly Democrats, and one is an independent.
DOLE: Appointed by a Democrat.
Well, you'd like to hope that everything, you know, you have confidence in the justice system. The Supreme Court is the Supreme Court, it should be removed from politics. But I think I'll just wait to pass judgment until I hear what the decision is.
BLITZER: You know, there's a lot of the language, a lot of rhetoric, on both sides at times seems to be getting ugly, questioning motives, raising all sorts of worst-case fears. Vice President Gore spoke out about this earlier in the week. I want you to listen to what he said and get your response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: I would also like to urge all of those speaking for either of us to do their part to lift up this discourse, to refrain from using inflammatory language, and to avoid statements that could make it harder for our country to come together once the counting is over.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, he spoke before Governor Marc Racicot of Montana made those very serious accusations yesterday about in effect the legitimacy of this hand recount. Is it appropriate to raise questions about the legitimacy of this election at this point?
DOLE: Well, you know, I understand what vice president -- he was out there laying the premise that we shouldn't do this, while some of his people are doing it. I think Alan Dershowitz should apologize to the secretary of state, saying she's a crook. I don't know that she's a crook. I mean, it's totally irresponsible for a Harvard professor to go out and lash out at someone, but he did it.
BLITZER: But he's not officially part of the Gore campaign.
DOLE: Oh, he's down there helping all he can.
BLITZER: But he says he's representing private individuals.
DOLE: Oh sure, I'll bet. Well in any event, I mean, I think obviously the question is to get the votes counted, and of course the Bush people want the Bush votes counted and the Gore people want to keep counting until they're ahead -- with Gore votes. That's certainly understandable, but it seems to me -- I think the law is clear and the Supreme Court says it's clear. If not, then you're going to have the experts get together, go back to the 11th Circuit with equal protection argument that some -- you pick selective counties, Democratic counties, but that's a little above my pay grade, I'm not going to be involved in that. BLITZER: All right, well give us your perspective, you know, you're elder statesman here in Washington. How much longer can this go on?
DOLE: Not much longer.
BLITZER: When you say not much longer, give us a -- days, weeks?
DOLE: I mean, everywhere you go -- I attended a wedding yesterday, and it's even part of the -- you know, the recount, talking about we may have a recount before we're married. I mean, everywhere you go, they're talking about it. People know about it, it's way up on the Richter scale -- what? -- 85 percent of the people know about it.
And I would hope that it would be resolved by Thanksgiving -- seems like a pretty good day to do it -- or maybe even before.
BLITZER: But you would agree that you would want to make sure that whatever way it's resolved, it's resolved with the will of the majority of Florida voters being represented.
DOLE: With the will of majority Florida voters, and again, I'm not -- I can't sit and tell you how you're going to reach that, and it's got to be so the loser understands that "I lost." And he's got to be a magnanimous, gracious loser to help bring the country together. Congress is divided 50-50; the electorate's divided 50-50. It's going to be an uphill climb for the president-elect.
BLITZER: You never imagined you'd ever see anything like this, did you?
DOLE: No, not -- you know, any time I didn't -- '96, it wasn't that close, and we thought -- this time I thought Bush would win by four or five points. He didn't.
But the important thing now is to get this behind us. And again, you know, election night Bush was at 18 points. They had a recount, he was still ahead 400 points. Now, they've counted the absentees, he's ahead 930 votes. So he's consistently been ahead even after the machine count.
BLITZER: But on that machine count -- we don't have a lot of time -- every time they did a machine count, the numbers changed, a small number changed, and sometimes to Governor Bush's advantage. So the machine counts are by no means perfect either.
DOLE: Nothing is perfect.
Certainly the manual count is not -- you talk about not being perfect, then it becomes subjective. Somebody who has never even seen the voter determines what the voter meant by what may appear on that ballot. And the ballots have been misplaced, or have been Bush votes stacked with Gore votes and other things.
But, you know, elections, they have a little -- we make mistakes. We make mistakes in Kansas. Probably my hometown of Russell, Kansas, some people's votes are cast out.
BLITZER: I don't think that ever happened in Russell, Kansas.
Senator Dole, unfortunately we are all out of time. I think all of us will agree, we've got to find better way to come up with these ballots at some point in time.
DOLE: If they can't work it out, I'm available.
BLITZER: All right. I'm sure they will come to you.
Senator Dole, thank you so much for joining us.
And up next: To some, this tight presidential election suggests a nation divided. Will the next president, whoever he is, be able to bring the country and the Congress together? We will ask journalist and author Bob Woodward of The Washington Post; and get some perspective from two senators: Texas Republican and Bush supporter Kay Bailey Hutchison and Nebraska Democrat and Gore supporter Bob Kerrey.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The vote was cast and they should follow the vote that was cast.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not opposed to allowing -- waiting for it to take as long as it needs to, to be sure that we have an accurate count.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it's really a pity because it seems to prolong this tension that we've already had for so many years.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: A sampling of what voters across the United States are saying about this undecided presidential race.
Welcome back to this special two-hour LATE EDITION.
Joining us now with their perspective on the extraordinary events of the past several days, and where things might be heading in the days ahead, three guests: in Dallas, Texas Republican senator and Bush supporter, Kay Bailey Hutchison; in Omaha, Nebraska's retiring Democratic senator and Gore supporter Bob Kerrey; and here in Washington, Bob Woodward of The Washington Post. He's also the author of an excellent new book about the Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan, entitled "Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom."
It's good to have all three of you on LATE EDITION.
I will begin with you, Senator Kerrey.
A lot of commotion now about those overseas absentee military ballots. You're a decorated veteran. Don't you agree with Bob Dole that if there is any problem with postmarks or some technical questions, you've got to err on the side of letting the military vote count?
SEN. BOB KERREY (D), NEBRASKA: Well, I think that is right, Wolf, but the problem is you also have to allow Florida law to be determined by the people in Florida. So, if there is a legal case that's going to be made here, it should be brought to a Florida court.
Fortunately the Supreme Court is going to hear all of these cases and all these situations, and they are the final determinant. And there has been subjective and other disputes that have been aired over the last couple of weeks, and it seems to me that the court's the only one that can adjudicate those differences and provide remedy to the parties that are in dispute.
BLITZER: What about that, Senator Hutchison? The law is the law, and if there are problems, technical problems, you got to honor the letter of the law, and if civilian irregularities are discounted, why not the military as well?
SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Well, I think we should look to the people who certified those ballots, or the people who were on a ship who sent them in. I think we should bend over backyards to have our military ballots counted. And to throw out as much as a third of those ballots, I think, is -- it just doesn't seem right.
BLITZER: It sounds, Bob Woodward, as if on this particular issue, it could be a public relations hit or loss for the Gore team, to try to discredit or discard those military ballots.
BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Yes, and there's one way they could resolve this, at least on the public relations end, maybe not the legal end, and that is for Gore or Senator Lieberman to just say, yes, we agree, all the military ballots should be counted and we hope the Bush side will agree with that and let's let the authorities make exceptions if that is possible.
Because we are in the crazy position -- I served in the Navy during Vietnam, out on a ship in fact, at a time when I voted for Richard Nixon in 1968. And I remember that the process is complicated, and the mail and all kinds of delays and so forth, and the idea that you wouldn't count those votes is crazy.
KERREY: I think it's wrong. You know, you've got suggestions going on since the election on the 7th that we ought to do this, that and the other thing, that we ought to have grand deals and arrangements between the candidates.
You've got a law in Florida, and you've got a process to provide remedy for people that have disputes. And if there is a dispute in this case, they should bring it to a court in Florida, let the Supreme Court of Florida hear the argument, and if they feel some unfairness has occurred, then let them make the determination.
Once you open the door and say, "Gee, this wasn't unfair. We've decided in Washington, or we have decided in Omaha, or we've decided in Dallas that we don't like what's going on," you just open the door to do that sort of thing all the way down the line.
WOODWARD: Yes, but, you see -- if I may interrupt, Senator Kerrey -- the problem in this is this kind of nitpicky, legalistic, let's-follow-the-rules. It's like if you are going to the hospital with a woman who is going to have a baby and you break the speed limit and you get stopped by the officer, he's probably going to say "Yes, look, go ahead, we will not literally and absurdly apply the law at this time."
KERREY: Yes, but if he doesn't say that, if he literally and absurdly applies the law, you've got a remedy. You can go to the court and you can appeal it, and that's the way we ought to do this.
I mean, I've just heard so many things since the election. Gee, this wasn't fair in Seminole County. This wasn't fair in Broward. Let's do this, that or the other thing. How about some sort of grand deal between the two candidates?
In every single case, in civil law where you have a vague or an ambiguous law or where you think it's been applied improperly, you go to court and you seek a remedy. And that's exactly what's gone on in Florida, and we ought to let it go forward.
WOODWARD: But in my analogy, you would get to go to the hospital before you went to court. And I think that...
BLITZER: All right.
KERREY: But Bob, in every single one of these cases, they're nitpicking. There are votes and ballots being thrown out all the time. And if we do this -- if we stand back from a man on the moon and say, gee, this doesn't look fair. I was in the military and I've experienced this thing, and isn't this awful. We're on a slippery slope, where we're going to be doing this sort of thing outside of the court.
BLITZER: All right. Senator...
HUTCHISON: Well, let me just say, if they don't have a postmark on a ship, then I think we need to at least look at that.
KERREY: Well, the court will have a...
KERREY: Kay, the court will have a chance to look at it. If they want to bring a legal case, bring it. And the court will have a chance to make that decision.
BLITZER: All right.
HUTCHISON: Well, I think after we have these hearings and these recounts that may be warranted.
BLITZER: All right. Senators and Bob Woodward, stand by. We have to take a quick break. We'll continue our conversation with Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison and Bob Kerrey and Bob Woodward in a moment. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
We're talking about the undecided presidential race with Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Nebraska Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey, and Bob Woodward of The Washington Post.
I want to begin with Senator Hutchison. As you know -- as everyone by now knows -- in 1997, Governor Bush signed into law a statute saying that if there is a problem in Texas, vote counting, the manual recount is preferable over another machine recount.
And, in fact, that Texas election code says, "Votes, when they're hand counted, will be included if, one, at least two corners of the chad are detached; two, light is visible through the hole; three, an indentation on the chad from the stylus or other object is present and indicates a clearly ascertainable intent of the voter to vote; or, four, the chad reflects by other means a clearly ascertainable intent of the voter to vote" -- all of which Democrats say sound very much like what's going on in Palm Beach County right now.
HUTCHISON: Well, Wolf, in Florida, there are no standards in the law, and I think that's the differentiation that the Bush campaign is making. We do set a doubt in the law, so the standards are clear and they're uniform. I think the concern has been that there weren't standards, that different views were being held in different counties, and now the integrity of the ballots are also in question.
So, I think there are certainly arguments on both sides, but I certainly think that the integrity-of-the-ballot issue, after they've been counted twice, now, and are in a third iteration with chad on the floor, is an issue that is a good one.
BLITZER: Senator Kerrey, does that make sense? Is that a good argument, as far as you're concerned?
KERREY: Well, there is no question that, yes, I think it's a good argument, but it's not an argument against doing hand counts. It's an argument that you're going to have disputes and you're going to have to have remedies. And, again, it's the court that's going to provide that remedy.
The Florida law is very vague. It's ambiguous in many cases, and, in some instances, it's actually in conflict. One part of the law is in conflict -- the language will say "may," and the other part of the language says "shall." There's a long distance between those two words.
And, again, the only place that can provide a remedy is in the court. And thank goodness that the Supreme Court of Florida has taken it up. You asked Bob Dole earlier -- I don't think there's any question, as well, that either one of these campaigns, if on the losing side, given the closeness of this thing and all the variables that are there, you've got to give them the right to go to the U.S. Supreme Court, to see if the U.S. Supreme Court agrees with the state Supreme Court of Florida.
BLITZER: You know, Bob Woodward, there's no guarantee that Al Gore can make up that thousand votes -- nearly a thousand-vote differential -- if this hand count goes forward in these three counties. That's a pretty up-hill struggle.
WOODWARD: It looks like it is, and, again, there are only partial results in. But if it turns out that Gore gets his method, namely a recount in these Democratic counties in Florida, and does not go ahead of Bush, even if you include those votes, to a certain extent this is over, because you have Bush winning under that scenario with Gore's hand recount. It's kind of the only way to get out of this.
I also agree with Senator Kerrey that this probably will and should go to the U.S. Supreme Court. A lot of legal scholars are saying, oh, no, there are technical reasons why the Supreme Court of the United States would stay out of this. But if it was only to bless in maybe a very simple decision, unanimous decision, by the U.S. Supreme Court, what the Florida Supreme Court decided in this, whatever that is, that would add to finality and credibility and help get everyone on the road to resolving this.
BLITZER: All right. We are going to take another quick break. We want to continue and pursue that thought with Senators Hutchison and Kerrey, but stand by. Just ahead, more of our conversation with the two senators and Bob Woodward. LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
We're talking with Texas Republican Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Nebraska Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey, and journalist and author Bob Woodward.
Senator Hutchison, Senator Breaux earlier today said end this with the Florida Supreme Court, whatever the decision is. Don't move on beyond that. You heard Bob Woodward say earlier, it's probably going to go to the U.S. Supreme Court. What is your sense?
HUTCHISON: I think it is not going to the U.S. Supreme Court. I think it's going to stop in the state. I brought my pocket Constitution with me. And it's very clear that each state has the right to determine how its electors are selected. So I think this is going to the Florida legislature before it's going to the Supreme Court of the United States, because I think it is a state issue and it is state law that's going to prevail.
BLITZER: And Bob Kerrey, I'll give you one more chance to respond to that point.
KERREY: Well, I -- that may be the case, but in fact, Governor Bush went to the federal district court in Miami with a 14th Amendment -- First Amendment issue. Appealed it to the 11th Circuit in Atlanta, or joined the National Right to Life in that appeal. And I just think it's likely there's still going to be some uncertainty.
I think it would actually be helpful for the federal court to do exactly what Senator Hutchison is saying. I agree with her. Article 2 of the Constitution is very clear. But as with all things that appear to be clear, it doesn't hurt to get it settled. That'll force, in my view, the states to create some uniformity and minimum standards in these federal elections.
BLITZER: You know, Bob Woodward, I want you to listen, and our senators to listen as well, to what James Baker, the former secretary of state, who is advising Governor Bush on these legal matters in Florida, what he said earlier in the week about the potential impact of what's unfolding right now. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES BAKER, BUSH CAMPAIGN OBSERVER: More and more we see uncertainty in financial markets and we see uncertainty abroad. I believe that most observers, whether at home or abroad, are troubled by the prospect of seemingly endless counts and recounts until a candidate achieves the result he seeks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, I ask you this question, because you've just written a book about Alan Greenspan and the impact of the financial markets, the economic situation, his relationship with Bill Clinton. Is that concern that James Baker is expressing, is that real that the whole world is getting nervous and the financial markets could be upset as a result of this delay in certifying a winner?
WOODWARD: I was surprised Jim Baker said that. Greenspan, as head of the Federal Reserve, has the most important position in the global financial world that we now live in, probably is the most important economic player in the United States. He's there. He's got credibility, probably got more credibility than either Bush or Gore, and certainly the news media. And I don't really think there's really been a flicker in this area.
I thought -- as I say, I was surprised.
BLITZER: Well, what about that, Senator Hutchison? Your fellow Texan, James Baker, did he go too far in raising that alarm bell?
HUTCHISON: Well, I think that he is concerned, and many people are concerned, with the amount of time this is taking. But I think Americans, and I think people abroad, see that there is an order here. And I think they are going to be patient and let things proceed. And I don't think we have a financial crisis. I think we've seen a lot of volatility in the market, but that's because Hewlett Packard didn't meet expectations. It's purely financial in nature.
BLITZER: Bob Kerrey, you're getting ready to move on to a new career outside of the U.S. Senate after many years here in Washington. Is there going to be any way at all, whoever is the next president of the United States, is going to be able to deal with this very evenly divided Senate and House of Representatives?
KERREY: Well, I think the answer is emphatically yes. I -- my advice would be, to either one of them, don't take the advice and counsel of people who are telling you to be timid. I do think humility is going to be called for, because you're not going to have a -- you're not going to have a clear majority. In either case, you're not going to be able to lay claim to a mandate.
But, being humble does not require you to be timid, to sit there and calculate based on polling data and all that sort of thing. For example, that may so, don't do Social Security, don't do Medicare, don't do anything big with education.
I think the American people want all three. And if you call the American people out and say, we want to do something big and great, I think that is the way the next president's likely to build a larger consensus than they're going to have coming into their first inaugural address in February.
BLITZER: What about that Bob Woodward? Is there going to be some real cooperation, potentially surprising a lot of pundits? Or is there going to be gridlock as we have never seen before, irrespective of who wins?
WOODWARD: I think Senator Kerrey's got a good idea there, and that is that the new president really has to raise the bar for every one and say, "Let's do something important, let's band together, let's kind of define what the next stage of good is for majority of people in the country," and then very aggressively move there.
I think we get into these discussions of chad and hanging chad and all of this, and I think probably next week, we're going to see the Florida Supreme Court issue a ruling that may not have the word "chad" in it. They may talk about principles.
BLITZER: Let's hope that's the case, Bob Woodward.
HUTCHISON: I think we're all ready for have that.
BLITZER: Thank you. Kay Bailey Hutchison, Bob Kerrey, good luck to you in your new endeavors in New York City...
WOODWARD: Thank you Wolf.
BLITZER: ... president of the new school. We'll be talking to you from there as well.
Thanks to all of you for joining us.
HUTCHISON: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up next, we have to take a quick break, but we still have another 60 minutes to go. We'll check the hour's top stories with Gene Randall, and then hear from President Clinton about this election stalemate.
Plus former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh on the legal issues surrounding the presidential deadlock.
Also, our LATE EDITION round table and Bruce Morton's "Last Word." It's all ahead in the next hour of LATE EDITION.
BLITZER: This is the second hour of LATE EDITION: the Florida recount.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is not a crisis of the American system of government, because it will come to an end. It will come to an end in plenty of time for the new president to take the oath of office.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: President Bill Clinton's perspective on who will succeed him in the White House, an exclusive interview from Vietnam.
Also, former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh preview tomorrow's hearing before the Florida Supreme Court.
Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Rich Lowry.
And Bruce Morton has the last word on presidential elections past and present: a pattern of democracy, despite the current confusion.
BLITZER: Welcome back. We'll get to CNN's exclusive interview with President Clinton, in just a moment. But first, let's go to Gene Randall at the CNN center in Atlanta for a check of the hour's top stories.
BLITZER: Before leaving Vietnam, CNN senior White House correspondent John King had the chance to talk with President Clinton about the contested race to succeed him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CLINTON: As close as this is, now it appears that when all the votes are counted that Vice President Gore will have won a plurality of the popular vote. It appears that -- that -- unless he wins Florida, he will be three -- three votes short in the Electoral College. Therefore, everything is on Florida.
And Mr. Bush has a narrow -- the narrowest of leads out of six million votes, far less than a tenth of 1 percent, one-sixth of one- tenth of 1 percent, or something like that.
Now in an environment like that, you have to assume that either side will try to, you know, make the best argument they can, because you only have a whisker of difference.
I think the important thing is that there is a process underway and it is being shepherded by the parties. They are both very well represented by articulate, able people, and they have recourse to the courts in Florida.
And the Supreme Court seems to have been willing to be prompt in its decision-making.
So I think the American people should just let it play out and should understand that with so much at stake, both sides are going to make the strongest case they can.
And the only thing that I hope that all of us will keep in mind here is that we don't know who won, but we do know that when people vote, they deserve to have their votes counted, if they can be. And so we ought to just respect the process and respect the fact that the advocacy will take place and they should take place. You can't blame either one of them for making the strongest case they can.
This is not a crisis in the American system of government because it will come to an end. It will come to an end in plenty of time for the new president to take the oath of office.
And there is a way of resolving these things, and all these cases are in the courts. And as I said, it appears to me that they are being handled in a fairly prompt way. Some of the decisions have gone one way, some have gone another way. And we will have to see what happens.
But I think the American people ought to let this -- it seems to me the American people are letting this play out in an appropriate way, and that's what I think should be done.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look around the corner, though. You have considerable experience, in your own right, trying to govern in a very difficult environment. Relations with the Republican Congress not terribly good during most of the latter half of your administrations. And now you have research being done on both sides about, well, maybe this will get thrown to the Congress, and can we, you know, disqualify electors. Do you see, A, with the election being so close, and then, B, with the very difficult fight over who wins, can whoever gets this job reasonably govern, in your view?
CLINTON: Well, I'd make two points. First of all, it is true that I faced an unusually partisan group of Republicans. But it's also true that we got a lot done. I mean, I've noticed with some pleasure, I confess, that students of American history, several of them have come out in the last few weeks saying that I had kept a higher percentage of my campaign promises than any president in modern history.
We've gotten a lot done with this Republican Congress in spite of all the partisanship in the last six years. We got a balanced budget agreement, we got a welfare reform, we got, just this year, a sweeping measure on debt relief for the world's poorest nations, and any number of other things. I don't want to go through all that.
But the point I want to make is, that even in a difficult atmosphere, where the Congress is closely divided, and the president is elected by a narrow margin, you should not assume that they won't be able to get something done. If they're willing to work hard, fight for their positions, and then in the end make principled compromises, quite a lot can be done. That's the first thing I want to say.
The second thing is, if you look at American history, it is not inevitable that the person who wins the White House under these circumstances will have a deeply divided country.
Now, you know, in 1876, when President Hayes won, he promised to only serve one term, so we don't know whether he could have been reelected or not, when he lost the popular vote and won the Electoral College.
In 1824, John Quincy Adams won in the House of Representatives when he lost the popular vote, and he was voted out, although he came back and had a wonderful career opposing slavery.
But when Thomas Jefferson was forced to go for many, many ballots in the House of Representatives, he came out of it as a more unifying figure, with a commitment to be more unifying. And in effect, he was so successful that he got two terms, and the opposition party, the Federalist Party, disappeared.
And then two members of his party, James Madison and James Monroe, succeeded him, and they both had two terms. And arguably, that 24-year period was the biggest period of political stability in the whole history of the republic until you had the dominance of the Republicans after the Civil War, and then the Roosevelt-Truman years and the depression and World War II.
So I think you -- I wouldn't -- I don't think we should have all these hand-wringing, dire predictions. We've got a system that's underway, and, you know, yes, these guys are, you know -- the advocates for either side are under enormous pressure. And of course they're being pretty snippy with each other from time to time. But, look, you'd expect it. I mean, 100 million people voted, and there's 1,000 votes, more or less, at stake in Florida.
So everybody ought to just relax, let the process play out. But don't assume that no matter who wins and no matter what happens, it's going to be bad for America. It might be quite good, because it might be sobering for the country to realize we're in a completely new era, nobody's got a lock on the truth, we're all trying to understand the future.
It's still clear that about two-thirds of the American people want a dynamic center that pulls the people together and moves us forward, and I think we still have a fair chance to achieve that.
KING: We are short on time -- indeed, out of time. But I just -- in a sentence or two, you have been at this eight years, and I think you have eight weeks. What runs through your head when you get up to go to the office every day?
CLINTON: I want to get everything done I can possibly do while I'm here. And for the rest, I just feel grateful.
America is in much better shape than it was eight years ago. We got to implement the ideas and the policies that I ran on in '92 and '96. I didn't do everything I wanted to do, but the overwhelming majority of things I wanted to do, I was able to accomplish, and I'm grateful that it worked out for the country.
And a lot of other things came up along the way which were good for the country. So I'm happy now, and I'm grateful.
And, of course, I'm thrilled about Hillary's election to the Senate. And I just feel enormous gratitude. But there's still a lot of things I'd like to do, and so I'll work right up to the end.
KING: Mr. President, we thank you very much for your time.
CLINTON: Thank you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And this programming note: Later today on CNN and CNN International, you can see John King's entire interview with President Clinton. It airs at 5:30 p.m. Eastern, 2:30 Pacific -- about four and a half hours from now.
And just ahead: The Bush and Gore campaigns are running a full court press in an effort to claim victory. We'll sort through the legal maneuverings with former Clinton White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.
LATE EDITION continues right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think this is a time to simply get on with counting the votes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What the Gore campaign wants to do is to continue to count and count and count and count until it finds a favorable result. (END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
The legal battles intensified this past week as each campaign challenged the other in court. Here to explain what happened and what we should expect tomorrow are two legal veterans who have often appeared on this program: Lanny Davis, former White House Special Counsel; and Dick Thornburgh, the former Bush attorney general, former governor of Pennsylvania, we have to remind our viewers as well.
And I want to begin with you, Governor. What is the biggest legal challenge facing these two campaigns right now?
DICK THORNBURGH, FORMER ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, I think for the Gore campaign, the answer to the question of why is there a recount going on is the central one. There's been no allegation of fraud, no allegation of malfunction in the electoral process. What they have really been using as a basis for these recounts is mistakes made by voters, a failure to follow directions, or a flawed ballot. And the legal sufficiency of that as a basis for carrying out these manual recounts is very much in question.
BLITZER: That's -- the Supreme Court in Florida will have to decide that. Do you agree with that, Lanny?
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: I agree partly. But the governor doesn't mention one other ground, which is what really drove the recount, which are uncounted ballots that went through the machine, had punctured holes, or at least a sufficient indentation so that there was voter extent expressed, but the machines didn't count. The recount word is wrong. These are a ballot that have never been counted once. And I believe that's what drove this recount process.
THORNBURGH: Well, you've got two categories of votes here, and I think I mentioned this before. I've done a lot of election monitoring in this country and in other countries around the world. And there's universal agreement on the fact that if someone votes for two candidates for the same office on one ballot, that's thrown out.
BLITZER: Whatever the reason.
THORNBURGH: Whatever the reason. And the second, I think, universal agreement, is if somebody says, gee, you know, I'm not sure I cast my vote for the candidate that I intended, that there ought to be some mechanism to accommodate that person's mistaken action.
So what you're down to here is a very slim category of votes that are alleged to express a voter's intent, and that is a very difficult thing to do.
BLITZER: That's very murky. And the other point, Lanny Davis, is that in the circuit court in Florida this week, Judge Terry Lewis agreed with the secretary of state of Florida, Katherine Harris, that she did have this discretion to decide that she could certify it. He saw nothing untoward that she had done, that she had acted in a deliberate, thoughtful way.
Isn't that the issue now before the Supreme Court in Florida? Did she go beyond here discretionary rights? Isn't that the only issue they really have to consider?
DAVIS: Well, we'll see what the Supreme Court says. In my opinion, she doesn't have the legal right to prevent hand counting of ballots that have never been counted because they went through the machine uncounted.
Let me read you a law that is exactly the same language that you'll find in Florida, but it's from a different state. In this particular state, hand counting, under 127.130, occurs when there are, quote, "at least two corners of the chad detached..."
BLITZER: This is from Texas.
DAVIS: It's the law of Texas.
BLITZER: We did this earlier today.
DAVIS: "... light is visible through the hole." And listen to this one, Governor: "an indentation" -- "an indentation on the chad from the stylus or other object is present and indicates a clearly ascertainable result."
BLITZER: We asked Senator Kay...
DAVIS: Now, if it's good in Florida -- if it's good in Texas, why isn't it good in Florida to have a recount based upon those judgments of voter intent?
THORNBURGH: It's too bad you're not doing your recount in Texas. That's really what it amounts to. The law is different. One of the real problems in Florida is there are no standards whatsoever.
BLITZER: No statewide standards.
THORNBURGH: No statewide standards. And the standards that are being adopted at the county level vary substantially. They sometimes change. Even within a particular counting room, the authorities will change the -- and what you end up with is almost chaos.
I feel sorry for the folks who have to make these counts. Don't get me wrong. I don't mean to criticize them. They're in a very difficult spot. But they have no guidance, and that kind of out-of- control situation doesn't bode well for a kind of count -- we got away from hand counts when we went to machine counts. It seems to me to go back to that now is self-defeating.
DAVIS: But Governor, I agree with you that there is some difficulty in hand counting.
DAVIS: But I'm talking about a double standard here. If it works in Texas, we've been counting by hand for many years in this country, then it should work in Florida to be able to discern voter intention by looking at a card to see whether there's a punctured hole. That's all we're talking about.
Standards in Texas and Florida are the same. They're imperfect, I agree with you, Governor, but we can't have a double standard here. I don't hear Karen Hughes criticizing Governor Bush for signing this law because of imperfect standards. It's a double standard.
THORNBURGH: But, there's no such law in Florida; there's no such law in Florida.
DAVIS: The law is very similar in Florida that these chads should be counted if they show voter intent, and that's all we're talking about.
BLITZER: But the point he's making is that each county in Florida can come up with their own criteria.
THORNBURGH: And they have.
DAVIS: Well, same thing in Texas. How do you determine whether an indentation of the chad in Texas is sufficient to discern voter intent?
That's a judgment somebody has to make. It's not perfect. That is the law.
BLITZER: All right. Let's move on and talk about what some are suggesting should be the endgame right now. Senator John Breaux earlier today said: End it with the Florida Supreme Court and don't go to the 11th Circuit again, you know, go to the U.S. Supreme Court, don't go to any legislatures, don't go to the U.S. Congress. Whatever the Florida Supreme Court decides, that should be it.
THORNBURGH: Well, I think one thing has to be said at the outset. I know there's a lot of rumbling out there about these seven justices of the Florida Supreme Court having been nominated and named by Democratic governors. I would discount that altogether. I think this court's going to do the right thing. They're going to apply the law. They have a very narrow question to decide, as you pointed out, the propriety of the secretary of state's action in not extending the deadline, and we'll get a fair shake there.
I think to -- and I agree with both candidates that to forgo any further action at this time would be totally premature, because, as Lanny Davis knows full well, a lot of the devil is in the details, and this court will issue an opinion that we hope will be sound and will be right, but it still has to be appealable.
BLITZER: But Lanny Davis, I don't hear either campaign say -- we heard Joe Lieberman on this program earlier; he didn't rule out further legal challenges after the Florida Supreme Court. I don't hear the Bush campaign saying, "That's it, we're just going to leave it with the Florida Supreme Court."
DAVIS: Well, Vice President Gore did come out -- and you remember last week, I thought it would be fair to count all 67 countries, not just cherry pick the Democratic counties. I think Vice President Gore made that proposal.
I would add: And then we should drop everything if after those 67 countries are counted, Governor Bush has won.
I would also add: You had Bob Dole on your program. We have elder statespeople in this country like Bob Dole and George Mitchell, President Ford and President Carter, ought to come together, maybe preside over a neutral way of counting those 67 counties, with both candidates absolutely committing that they won't appeal the result. That may be the best way to move on.
BLITZER: Dick Thornburgh, he could be on a blue ribbon panel like that, too, but he's shaking...
THORNBURGH: No thanks.
BLITZER: ... but you're shaking your head.
THORNBURGH: Well, the logical extension of that argument is that we abolish machine counts across the country and go back to hand counts. That just simply doesn't make any sense.
And the vice president's proposal is simply that if a process is bad and flawed in three counties, it somehow improves if you extend it to 67 counties, and that's an inadmissible proposition as well.
DAVIS: But to be fair, Governor, the only reason that we're here today is because you had six million votes counted in Florida, and there was an original separation of less than .5 percent.
DAVIS: In those situations, I'm sure you wouldn't say, you should never hand count. I would certainly never say, You should always hand count.
When the election is so close as it is in Florida, that a handful of votes can make a difference, that's when in Texas and in Florida, hand counting is not only permitted, it's required under the law.
THORNBURGH: You hand count when you have fraud, or you have malfunction of the machines, and you have ...
DAVIS: Or the margin of difference...
THORNBURGH: ... real standards to govern that hand counting, none of them present here.
BLITZER: Stand by. We have a lot more to talk about.
We have to take another quick break. Up next, your phone calls for Lanny Davis and Dick Thornburgh. Our special two-hour LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
BLITZER: Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
We are talking about the legal battles of this presidential race with former White House special counsel Lanny Davis, and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh. Let's take a quick caller from Georgia. Please go ahead with your question.
QUESTION: Yes, Attorney General Thornburgh, what scenario would send the presidential election into the House of Representatives, and if this happened, would this not favor Governor Bush, since the Republicans control the House of Representatives?
THORNBURGH: Well, the most obvious scenario would be one where the Electoral College was unable to dissolve any deadlock. Another would be if there was some disagreement about the make-up of the electors sent from Florida, where the Congress would have to judge the validity of competing delegations that might have been dispatched. But both of those are a long way off from where we are now. And while it is always good to make preparations for these kind of eventualities, it seems pretty remote.
BLITZER: And you know, on that point, Lanny Davis, the rules of the game, the timetable, is that the Electoral College meets December 18th, but by December 12th all of the states and the District of Columbia have to certify who they are voting for. If it is still in legal limbo by December 12th, won't the Electoral College meet and make a decision, without Florida being included, and the winner is the one who gets the majority of the 49 states plus the District of Columbia?
DAVIS: It's conceivable, but I really believe that the Supreme Court and the rule of law have prevailed, as Secretary Baker said, perhaps prematurely in the morning, using that as something to exult about. We ought to look to the Supreme Court. I agree with Governor Thornburgh. These are seven distinguished jurists. One of them was appointed under Governor Jeb Bush. And I think we ought to allow the rule of law to prevail, and by December 12th, we'll have an answer, in my opinion.
THORNBURGH: You know there's another hooker in there, too, as well, Wolf. As you realize, that even if there is no delegation certified by the secretary of state as being elected from Florida, the Florida legislature arguably has a residual power to adopt alternate rules so that in fact another delegation can go. Then you might have a collision course set up.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller from Pine Cove, California. Go ahead with your question, please.
QUESTION: Yes, I think that all of us can assume that this is not the last time we are going run into a similar type of predicament with the elections. I wonder what the panel members think of letting this process play itself out via the recounts and the courts, because it will do two things, I think. It will test existing process and set precedent for future similar events, and also provide data for possible changes in the election process.
BLITZER: That is a very thoughtful question, Governor Thornburgh.
THORNBURGH: I think the existing process has been tested and found wanting. It would seem to me a wise first item on the agenda for the next Congress would be to undertake a searching study of what technology is available to deal with the defects that we have seen crop up, and that ought to be done in a bipartisan basis with expert advice from our marvelous computer industries, and from folks who have had experience in this area.
DAVIS: The caller does make a good point, Governor, that the allegations that we heard yesterday about all the irregularities in the hand counting process, and the allegations of some systematic effort to deprive armed services people of the absentee ballots, which we completely categorically deny.
I think these have to be tested in courts, not by spinners. And I think we need to allow anybody making a complaint; we need to investigate the complaints. But, remember, everybody watching, these are unsubstantiated allegations. That is what courts are all about. That is why the Supreme Court is so important here, as the endgame of this process.
THORNBURGH: I'm perplexed by the picture that was in the paper this morning of a plastic bag with 283 of these so-called chads in them. Where did they come from? How are you ever going to determine that? That is a flaw in the system that is not going to be cured by a court hearing.
DAVIS: Can I quickly address that, because this is one of these visuals that is so misleading. The chads that are dropping off the cards are the chads from cards that have not been counted, where they were partially hanging.
THORNBURGH: You don't know that.
DAVIS: That's -- well, they're not -- they're certainly not under the glare of world publicity, people puncturing -- trying to puncture the chads to cheat. Nobody has even slightly suggested that. These are -- these are these hanging chads that haven't been counted that are falling off all over the place.
Holding those bags up only proves our point, Dick, that we need these uncounted ballots to be counted before this is final.
THORNBURGH: One would hope they're legitimate.
BLITZER: You know, we only have a few seconds, but speaking about legitimate. Either man, whoever becomes the next president, is going to have an enormous problem having that legitimacy, because a lot of people are going to think he just doesn't have it.
THORNBURGH: I hope both of them have framed an agenda for early action, when, as, and if we determine a winner, to immediately reestablish the confidence of the American people in the system. And that shouldn't be too hard.
BLITZER: Unfortunately, we have to leave it right there, Lanny Davis and Dick Thornburgh. You know, I didn't think you'd be back this weekend after last weekend, but you never know in this -- in this story what's going to happen next weekend. Thanks.
DAVIS: Thank you, Wolf.
THORNBURGH: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thanks for joining us once again on LATE EDITION. Thank you.
And just ahead, after a week of legal wrangling in Florida, does either candidate look like a winner. We'll go round the table with Roberts, Page and Lowry, when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me: Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report"; and pinch-hitting this week for Tucker Carlson, Rich Lowry, editor of the "National Review."
Thanks to all of you for joining us.
Let's look at this new Newsweek poll, Steve. It asked the question about the fairness of a hand count. Is it more fair than a machine? 43 percent say yes. Is it less fair than a machine? 44 percent say no. So the American public is not only equally divided on these candidates, they're equally divided on a manual recount.
STEVE ROBERTS, CNN COMMENTATOR: You know, one of the odd ironies here is that the election didn't generate anything like this emotion before the election. I think a lot of people didn't have a strong feeling between Bush or Gore -- people did not -- and neither one of them generated much enthusiasm, even within their own parties. And suddenly this has turned into nuclear warfare after the election.
And I think that, in addition to that, the other thing you could say that's equal here is the hypocrisy. Here, a Democrat saying, count all the Democratic votes, but don't count the military votes. Republicans are saying, count the military votes but not the Democratic votes. You've got Democrats saying, Secretary of State Harris is illegitimate because she's a Republican. You've got Republicans saying the county commissioners are illegitimate because they're Democrats. There is really a lot of hypocrisy here, far more than we need.
BLITZER: Well, hypocrisy and politics almost sort of go hand in hand sometimes.
RICH LOWRY, CNN COMMENTATOR: Of course they do. I do think the military vote is a bit of a problem for the Democrats, because it really muddies their argument. Because their message for two weeks has just been, we want every vote fairly counted, and then to have to come back and say, well, you know what? Actually, there's some 20- year-old kid on an aircraft carrier who cast a vote that may not have been postmarked in the correct way. We don't want to count his vote. I think that's a real problem, and we saw Lieberman this morning, I think, being very defensive and apologetic, trying to defend it.
BLITZER: It is a public relations potential nightmare for the Democrats, isn't it?
SUSAN PAGE, CNN COMMENTATOR: It's true. And I think the Democrats have to be careful to not look as though they're trying to keep the votes of servicemen out of the count. Now, what they say they're trying to do is to make sure the law is applied in a fair way, the same kind of argument that both sides are making when it comes to the count, generally. But I do think it's one of the difficult things to argue about.
And of course, you know, none of us have ever -- at least, I don't think any of us around this table -- ever looked with such care at all the rules that surround the way some of these votes are cast, either the absentee or these punch-ballot ballots. But the only thing I hope is that we get away from these silly ballots where you're punching things out...
BLITZER: I think all of us agree.
PAGE: ... and get some system that is possible to count in a way that everybody thinks is fair.
BLITZER: And, Steve, I think everybody can agree that this system is terrible.
ROBERTS: Well, I think so. In fact, I think there are several things we can agree on as a -- that could change, as a result of this election. One is people are going to realize that every vote does count. I don't know whether that's going to have an impact on the voting, but it certainly has demonstrated that.
It's also demonstrated that small states can make a difference in the outcome. You know, if Al Gore had won his home state of Tennessee or if he wins in New Mexico -- Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas, we wouldn't be talking about this. So people might rethink their strategies, and I also think they've got to rethink having standards, because that is a problem in the recount.
PAGE: You could have reforms, such as setting national standards for the kind of ballot system you use, the kind of error rate that's acceptable. That's something that you might see.
I wonder if it also makes people rethink a little bit about their knee-jerk reaction to the Electoral College. Can you imagine where we'd be if this had been a national popular election, and there were less than 200,000 votes out of 100 million cast, dividing them -- the sort of recounts we'd be seeing in every place from Alaska to Key Largo?
LOWRY: In every country in America, you'd have these sort of Monty Python skits we're seeing, with all these people sitting close together, peering over each others' shoulders at those ballots.
BLITZER: Except 200,000 votes is a small number compared to 100 million cast, but it's still a significant number. 200,000: Americans can understand Al Gore won the popular vote by 200,000. So, I don't think there necessarily, if there had been no Electoral College, would have been such a huge uproar.
LOWRY: Sure there would. I mean, 200,000 in a country this large is not that big a margin, and you would -- you also would have seen the campaign run in an entirely different way. I mean, to be fair, the popular vote, in some sense, is irrelevant, because both these guys were running Electoral College races.
LOWRY: George Bush never would have gone to Morgantown, West Virginia, a couple days before the election if he weren't running an Electoral College race. He would have been running ads in Texas, and he would have been in New York all the time.
So in some ways, it's unfair to talk about the popular vote.
ROBERTS: And that turned out to be very smart strategy. As I say, if he had lost, that's another state that if Gore had won -- now, you can go an infinite number of what-ifs here -- but a traditional Democratic state, Gore wins West Virginia, he'd have 272 votes.f
PAGE: But you're right, it's more than 970 votes. And if this election is determined by 900 or 400 or 27 votes, I mean, that really is going to leave a question in people's minds about the count so close, can we count on it to have been accurate and fair.
BLITZER: In the public relations battle, court of public opinion, which right now -- who is ahead?
LOWRY: It's a little -- it's a little hard to say. You know, I think the foremost value in the public's mind in considering this controversy is not necessarily timeliness. It's not even necessarily the rule of law. It's fairness, and whoever gets on the right side of the fairness argument is going to win.
And I do think the Bush people are beginning to make some progress in their case against these hand recounts. I mean, chads are falling out in Broward County. Why are they falling out? Because the more you count these things, the more you handle them, the more likely the ballots are to degrade and change. So you might not just be finding legitimate Gore votes; you might be creating, purposely or not, new Gore votes.
And also -- and the idea that we might count dimpled chads, I mean, there's no way to know whether someone might have just started to vote and then stopped and thought better of it. So that's another way you're creating new votes. And finally, Steven, in Palm Beach County, you're having a ton of contested and challenged ballots, where you'll have the Democratic- dominated board there voting, in effect, whether or not to make Al Gore president.
ROBERTS: Look, there clearly are problems with this system. And the Gore -- and the Bush people have tried very hard to undermine the credibility of the system, which I think is not a helpful tactic, because it's only going to make that much harder the acceptance of the legitimate winner.
But the other argument is, in effect though, what the Bush people have to say is, we're not going to count the votes of people who went to the polls and tried very hard to register their opinions. And I think, from a public relations point of view, Gore has the better of that argument, simply to say, we're trying hard to count legitimate...
LOWRY: But Steve...
ROBERTS: ... not the illegitimate votes, not the double count, not the ones for Buchanan, and none of that. We're just talking about the ones that were fairly cast on Election Day.
LOWRY: Steve, the fact is, the votes have been counted, and they've been recounted, and in some cases, recounted again, by a method that everyone agreed to beforehand, the machine count, in keeping with the law that everyone agreed to beforehand, which is that there would be a deadline, an end point to this thing. And...
ROBERTS: The question was, who's winning the public relations battle. And I think that in terms of Gore, he still has the advantage of arguing let's count more, rather than less. I think that's a better argument.
PAGE: I think that...
BLITZER: Susan, hold your thought...
PAGE: All right.
BLITZER: ... because we're going to start with you. But we're going to take a quick break. A lot more of our roundtable when LATE EDITION returns.
BLITZER: Welcome back to our roundtable. Susan, we were talking about the public relations aspect. Who's up, who's down, Bush, Gore, what's going on?
PAGE: I think that the real test of the public relations battle we're going to see this week. When the Supreme Court in Florida hears arguments tomorrow about whether to include these hand recount tallies -- which may well determine the outcome of the election, maybe not -- I think then the test will be, will you abide by the decision of the Florida Supreme Court, or will all these other legal actions continue. And I think there's going to be a lot of pressure on the person -- on the side that losses that decision, to abide by it and accept it, because otherwise we're going down a road, we don't know where it would end with the Florida State legislature, with a House of Representatives decision. So, I do think that the big test is going to come this week.
BLITZER: Well, do you think, Rich, that either side is ready to blink if the Florida Supreme Court rules against them, or will they continue fighting to the legislatures, to the U.S. Supreme Court, elsewhere?
LOWRY: No, I think that they're both ready to carry on, at least for the moment. We'll see the Bush team obviously, if the decision goes against them, appealing in the federal courts, and possibly laying the predicate to a challenge in the Florida legislature or Congress. I think that's why they've upped, turned up the temperature on their attack on those hand recounts.
And the Gore people, if they lose, I think you'll see them going to the federal courts as well, and possibly going back to these other options that were initially floated in this controversy, suing over that butterfly ballot, maybe going back to some of these civil rights claims ginned up by the NAACP.
But I think if Gore loses that Supreme Court decision, the heat's going to be on him a little bit more, and you might eventually begin to see some Democrats peel off and tell him it's time to stand down.
BLITZER: Well, you've already seen some Democrats like John Breaux earlier today say, leave it with the Florida Supreme Court.
ROBERTS: Actually, there are significantly more Democrats who are counseling caution than there are Republicans. With the possible exception of Howard Baker, there have been very few Republicans saying the same kind of thing.
But I agree with you, I think this is -- both sides are committed to a scorched-earth policy. They're committed to all-out warfare here. I said earlier, one of the ironies was we had none of this kind of emotion and heat before the election. The other irony is, in a way it really doesn't matter to the country very much who wins, because both candidates ran as centrist. Both are going to have be dealing -- whoever wins -- is going to have to be dealing with a Congress that's going to be very evenly divided.
It's not as if we're in a situation where these parties are ideologically very different, where they would -- it would be a significant lurch back and forth in terms of the national agenda, depending on who won. This is not a parliamentary system; this is not England where you're choosing between a Conservative Party and a Labour Party or Socialist. You're talking about two centrist parties, by and large.
PAGE: And you know, it's not as though we're in the period of Vietnam War, those great civil right struggles, where the party that wins is going to make a big difference. And in fact, the way in which these two candidates were different during the campaign will get muted by whoever wins, because given the outcome of this election and the muddiness of it, they're not going to be able to do the most dramatic things they talked about.
There's not going to be a $1.3 trillion tax cut if George Bush wins, and there's not going to be Al Gore's version of a prescription drug plan if he wins. You're going to see both of them forced to the middle, so maybe it makes less difference than it did if we had had a clear outcome.
LOWRY: Well, but you will see differences at the margin, and American politics is all about differences at the margin, and that's why we see both sides still clawing so desperately for this prize.
Going back to the PR question, I think one disappointment for the Gore folks has to be that these recounts aren't producing the new numbers as rapidly as they would like. And the real PR advantage the Bush people have had for so long here is just that number on the screen: you know, plus 300, now plus 930. Obviously, as long as that number stays on the screen in that way, the more it hammers home the perception that Bush won Florida.
ROBERTS: I believed all along that it was entirely possible that Gore will win all of the legal challenges, and then not get enough votes in the recount to change the outcome.
And in a certain way, that might be the best outcome for the country, because that's the only scenario I can see where the loser would not have grounds to charge that the election was stolen. If Gore wins all of his legal battles and he sets the process and then he loses, in some ways, that could be the best outcome in terms of national unity.
BLITZER: How determined is the Gore team right now -- the political team, the legal team -- how determined are they to go beyond the Supreme Court in Florida and just keep on fighting and fighting and fighting?
PAGE: Well, the forces...
BLITZER: Does there seem to be some dissension within the team itself?
PAGE: Of course, they're prepared to battle all the way, and they very carefully, even Senator Lieberman, has carefully left all their options open. But I do not think that that's the sentiment of the people who have Gore's ear, and I'm not sure that's even Gore's sentiment.
I know he's a fiercely competitive person; we know that. But he's also someone who's a creature of this town, someone who was born here, is part of this larger system, has been a public servant his whole life, and if it comes down to it, I guess I do not think he will follow a scorched-earth policy. I think there is a point where he will say, "This is enough. We have had our day. I concede," if he loses.
BLITZER: All right. Susan Page, Rich Lowry, thanks for joining us. Steve, always a pleasure. Steve Roberts, thanks for joining us, all of us. And just ahead, Bruce Morton's Last Word.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The facts are that the U.S. has a pretty good record. Held a presidential election in the middle of the Civil War, for one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Even with the current confusion, Bruce reminds us that democracy is alive and well in the United States.
BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on elections worldwide. How does America stack up?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PROTESTERS: What do we want? Democracy. When do we want it? Now.
MORTON (voice-over): Well, I'm confused. There's a story quoting a Japanese reporter as saying that Japan is very orderly, it's people very quiet. You would never see this in Japan.
But haven't Americans been quiet, orderly? I mean, a few folks waving signs and chanting slogans. But has this Japanese reporter ever been to a British soccer match, say, or pro wrestling here in the U.S.?
Then, "The New York Times" quoted a man named Robert Pasteur, who had worked for the Carter Center, named after the former president, as saying the U.S. was below Nicaragua and Haiti in this electoral stuff.
Well, in Haiti, the losers often get killed or escape to the Dominican Republic. Both George W. Bush and Al Gore are still here and well, as far as I know.
Nicaragua is a closer call. The left-wing Sandinistas, after overthrowing a U.S.-backed, right-wing dictatorship years ago, actually held elections. And when they lost, allowed the winner, Violeta Chamorro, to take office. They're getting even better at democracy. They just elected a Sandinista mayor in Managua.
Still, the facts are that the U.S. has a pretty good record. Held a presidential election in the middle of a civil war, for one. And the Electoral College, while odd, reflects the distrust the men who wrote the Constitution had for direct democracy and their desire to place power with the states.
Sure, we could require the states to appoint presumably impartial election officials, but lots of places like electing their judges and secretaries of state and so on. And if those people are seen as acting in an unfairly partisan way, they know they probably won't get re-elected.
And there's no grand plot here. Who knew Florida would be key? Who knew Gore would lose his home state and Bill Clinton's home state and make Florida so decisive? Anybody smart enough to call all those right would be making zillions in the new economy, not messing around with elections.
So take heart. Nothing awful has happened. Politicians are arguing.
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Neither Governor Bush nor the Florida secretary of state nor I will be the arbiter of this election.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Unfortunately, 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.
MORTON: And lawyers are suing and making money. What could be more American than that?
I do concede all the Mickey Mouse jokes have a point. The big mouse does live in the state. But the U.S., for all the fussing, is about to elect a president peacefully again, and pretty honestly again.
Elections, like most other things, are seldom perfect. And it'll be over in time for the inauguration and the Super Bowl, the really big stuff.
I'm Bruce Morton.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.
Up next, we'll reveal what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States.
Stay with us.
BLITZER: Now a look at what's on the cover of this week's major news magazines in the United States. The presidential election makes a clean sweep.
"Time" magazine calls it unprecedented -- "Is this anyway to run an election?" -- with George W. Bush and Al Gore peering over the presidential podium on the cover.
"Newsweek" announces "The Florida Thriller," a fight to the finish, with Bush and Gore in the boxing ring on the cover.
And on the cover of "U.S. News & World Report," "The Endgame: Gore and Bush Battle in the Courts," as the vote count ticks down.
And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, November 19. Be sure to join us again next Sunday, and every Sunday, at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
And later today, CNN's coverage of the Florida recount continues, with a special report on election 2000 at 6:00 p.m. Eastern.
I'll be back at 7:00 p.m. for a special LATE EDITION on the Florida recount, followed by "INSIDE POLITICS," with Judy Woodruff at 8.
And at 9:00 Eastern, Jeff Greenfield hosts a special report called "AND THE WINNER IS," which will be followed by a one-hour "CROSSFIRE," with Bill Press and Rich Lowry of "National Review."
Please join me again tomorrow night for a special edition of "THE WORLD TODAY." That's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.
For now, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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