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Larry King Live
Does the Florida Supreme Court Hold the Keys to the White House?Aired November 20, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye.
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LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Election Day plus 13, showdown in Florida Supreme Court with the keys to the White House at stake, as controversial hand counts continue. Would be-Presidents Bush and Gore stick close to home.
Joining us, a spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court, Craig Waters; in Washington, Gore campaign senior adviser, attorney Jack Quinn; back in Tallahassee, lead Florida trial counsel for the Bush campaign, Barry Richard.
And then a partisan perspective, Republican Governor Marc Racicot of Montana will join us from Austin. We'll also hear from Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island.
Plus, a dialogue between Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia, Democratic Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa.
All that and more, next, on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin in Tallahassee with Craig Waters, he is director of public information for the Florida Supreme Court, he speaks for the court. And in Washington, Roger Cossack, CNN's legal analyst and the co-host of CNN's "BURDEN OF PROOF."
Roger, did anything in that two and a half hour session today surprise you?
ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know what surprised me, Larry, was what -- how the Supreme Court made it so clear that whatever they did they were going to make sure that the process in Florida was such that the Florida votes counted, that December 12 was this deadline that they had in their mind, that they knew that was the cutoff date and that whatever happened, the people of Florida were going to be represented in the presidential electorate count.
KING: Craig, did they give you any indication of how far away they are from decision? CRAIG WATERS, SPOKESMAN, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT: Larry, they did not. The chief justice did permit me to come out today to inform everybody that there would be no decision today or tonight, but beyond that we just don't know when there may be an opinion.
KING: Now, you've never had a case like this, have you, Craig, where you were the -- everybody seems to be hanging on, or has there been any state of Florida cases where you have -- they need a decision right away?
WATERS: We've had some -- well, we have had some very notorious cases that got a lot of attention. Of course, Florida is a death penalty state, and there frequently are cases where a person is literally about to be executed and pleadings are filed. Those, of course, are handled very, very expeditiously, within minutes in many cases. But of course, this is somewhat different than the situation we're facing here.
But this case is...
KING: Craig, if they were...
Yes, go ahead, finish, I'm sorry.
WATERS: I'm sorry?
KING: Go ahead.
WATERS: This case is unusual in so many ways, and it literally was a live worldwide case being broadcast to the entire nation, and I can tell you, judging from the 8,000 e-mails in my e-mail box and the enormous number of phone calls I have received from all over the United States, there is tremendous interest, and that's unprecedented in our court.
KING: Roger, was this a very activist court to you today?
COSSACK: Well, it was very active in its questioning of the lawyers, Larry. I have been an observer and a participant in the United States Supreme Court and in other supreme courts, and rarely do you see that kind of activism shown by the justices as you saw today. It was clear they had read the briefs. It was clear that they were involved. It was clear that their questions were thought out. And these lawyers did not have an easy time of it. They were pressed to come up with good answers to tough questions.
I was very proud of the court today, and you know I want to just warn people who watched it today, never think you can tell which way it's going by the questioning. That is a fool's paradise, it just doesn't work that way. Just when you think you can figure it out because they are being tougher on one side, that's the side that wins.
KING: By the way, do justices frequently interrupt as they did today?
COSSACK: Sometimes, Larry, and you see some kinds of spirited conversations and spirited arguments, but oftentimes -- I have been to the Supreme Court, like I say, once as a participant and oftentimes just as an observer, and I have oftentimes not seen the kind of participation that you saw today between the justices of the Florida Supreme Court. It's clear that they obviously recognize what Mr. Waters just said, this is not just a case about Florida, this is a case about the United States of America.
And they know very well that the whole world is watching, so they came out today to show the American people and to show the world how in a real American supreme court works, prepared, tough questions, ready to go, and back those lawyers up sometimes right against the wall and force them to have good answers. I thought the lawyers did a great job and I thought the justices did a great job.
KING: Now, Craig, when they arrive at a decision, all decisions are written?
WATERS: Yes, all decisions are written, Larry.
KING: In other words, they don't call the people back into court and say, we have voted thusly?
WATERS: No. Unlike the U.S. Supreme Court, the Florida Supreme Court does not actually read summaries or portions of the opinions. They are issued as written opinions.
KING: OK, let's say, just this hypothetical, they decide tomorrow, will they tell you first we have voted 7 to -- 5-2 this way, or 7-0, or 6-1, and then the written follows? In other words, will we know before the written comes through?
WATERS: We are going to follow an unusual procedure in this case, because of the unusual nature of this case. Normally, opinions are issued on Thursdays at 10:00 a.m. without any warning as to which opinions are going to be issued. In this case, however, because we have the United States waiting for a decision, we are going to tell the press 30 minutes in advance before we actually release an opinion. Then, after the 30 minutes is ended, the press has a chance to set up -- I'm going to walk out and read a brief summary of what the bottom line of the opinion is. At the same time, we will post the opinion on the World Wide Web on both of our Web sites, and then we will open the doors for the people to come in to get paper copies.
KING: And will you announce the vote as well?
WATERS: Yes, I will announce the vote.
KING: And when they get the paper copies, there will be both a majority opinion and a minority opinion, correct?
WATERS: We don't know that at this point. There can be dissenting opinions, there can be separate opinions, where a judge concurs, which simply means, they agree with the majority opinion, but they want to add something else to it. So, there are any number of variations we could have with this. KING: And your announcement will be a half hour before -- and this will be daytime, right? This is not going to happen at 11:30 at night?
WATERS: Larry, I certainly hope not. I put in some long hours, I'll tell you that.
KING: Roger, do you have a guess -- you don't have any idea, Craig, when this might happen -- Roger, do you have a guess, or is that also inopportune to even try?
COSSACK: Well, it's -- it would be nothing more than a guess. One can only imagine from the importance of this case that the -- and I would say, Larry, the justices seeming to hone in on the notion of time as an important issue in this case; you know, they kept going over that issue that they got to have this thing in by December 12 and they kept hinting at the fact that if they did extend it so that the vote could go on, when they could get that vote in, so that the second part, if somebody wanted to contest it, under another statute they would have time to do that and know it's done by December 12. So, you would think it's going to be sooner than later, Larry, and I would say within a day or two.
KING: Craig, how long did they meet for today?
WATERS: I don't know exactly, Larry. I do know they met for quite some time after the session itself. I had to actually go out to tell the press that we were not releasing an opinion and I got mobbed, so I didn't get a chance to get back in to find out how long they were deliberating.
KING: You didn't say good night to any of them, Craig?
WATERS: I said good night to the chief justice.
KING: We'll be seeing you, Craig, we know that for sure. Your face will be seen around the world 30 minutes after you tell us it's going to happen.
Craig Waters and Roger Cossack -- Roger will be back later in the show.
When we come back, Jack Quinn, Gore's campaign senior adviser, and Barry Richard, you saw him, he was one of the arguers for George Bush today.
Don't go away.
KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE.
In Washington is Jack Quinn, the Gore campaign senior adviser and former White House counsel -- we've seen a lot of him in the last two weeks. And in Tallahassee, another gentleman, a frequent guest, is Barry Richard, the lead Florida trial counsel for the Bush campaign, the firm of Greenberg and Trowig in Tallahassee.
Barry, I know you've argued before the Florida Supreme Court before. Do they often interrupt as they did today?
BARRY RICHARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: They were more active today than usual. This court tends to be pretty courteous. I think the reason for the interruptions today is they had lots of questions, limited time, and I think they wanted the lawyers to get to the nut of the issues that concerned them.
KING: Anything surprise you, Barry?
RICHARD: No, I think this court was determined to vigorously explore the issues and to do it even-handedly. I think they accomplished that. I think their purpose was -- you know, this is an adversary system. And the way it works is that the judges test the arguments, they test the theories of the lawyers. They do it by asking difficult questions and listening to the answers. And it helps them, I think, to formulate the proper answers.
They did that today. I think they fulfilled their proper function.
KING: Jack Quinn in Washington, anything surprise you?
JACK QUINN, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: No, it honestly didn't. I must say, Larry, that I think that the important thing that happened today was that the American people had their day in court. And frankly I would like to compliment Barry Richard and David Boies and everyone who else participated in this process, not the least by the way the Florida Supreme Court, which was, I think, extraordinarily well prepared and did a terrific job in, as Barry says, getting to the core of the dispute in front of them.
I think that, you know, we've got a country that is -- that just went through a very narrowly divided election. People all across this country are deeply interested in these issues and the outcome of this election, obviously. In some cases, passions are running high. I think it was an enormous service to our democracy to have the cameras in that courtroom and to let the American people see Barry Richard, David Boies and the Florida Supreme Court hard at work trying to get to a resolution of this that makes sense for this democracy.
KING: Barry, every lawyer guesses -- and I know you can go wrong with supreme courts, and I know you generally won't reveal it -- but in your head do you think you know how they're going to come out on this?
RICHARD: No, I don't. I think any experienced trial lawyer or appellate lawyer who attempts to guess what a court is going to do is making a big mistake. You leave a courtroom often -- not often, fortunately -- but you leave a courtroom from time to time with a bad feeling if the questions tend to go -- you know, it's not so much how many questions the court asks as to the nature of the questions. And it's only the lawyers who are arguing that have a sense of the significance of where the court is going. And sometimes you will leave an oral argument and know that the court was not going in the direction that you were hoping they were going to go.
That was not the case today. I was pleased with the fact that the court appeared to me to have a keen sense of understanding of what I thought were the critical issues. I think that they were receptive to the arguments, to the issues that I thought were important. That doesn't mean that I think they're going to rule with me. I don't know that the court itself knows where it's going. I think they're going to explore this in the depth that it deserves.
And I have no idea where we'll end up, but I left there with a good feeling that we had -- we had had our argument heard well.
KING: We'll ask Jack Quinn the same question. We'll take a quick break and we'll come right back with Jack Quinn and Barry Richard right after this.
KING: Jack Quinn, do you have any tea leaves?
QUINN: No, sir. I agree entirely with Barry. I think it's both dangerous and a fool's errand to try to predict how an appellate court is going to come out simply on the basis of oral argument. If you force me to make one prediction, I guess it would be that this court just might try very hard not to have a sharp division within the court itself and to try to find a way to...
KING: To have it unanimous?
QUINN: Well, you know, oftentimes in matters of great consequence before these appellate courts they at least make an effort do that so that they can help in the unifying process. And it wouldn't surprise me if they tried to do that in this instance.
I mean, I do think that the overall -- the thrust of the Florida law and the tone and case law in the state of Florida and the tenor of a great many of the questions today are all in the direction of wanting to ensure the people participating in elections in Florida...
QUINN: ... have their votes counted. And...
KING: Do we -- do you -- do either of you have an idea, Barry or Jack, as to when this may come about? Before Thanksgiving or after, Barry?
RICHARD: I don't know. I think that the court is going to do it as rapidly as they can because they recognize the importance of it.
I don't -- you know, ordinarily I think what the court does is they have an initial conference, they take a vote, they determine where they are on it, and then it goes into the queue of opinions, that they have. Well this has obviously been moved to the front of the queue. And I think that it will be released as soon as they reach the point where they have an opinion they're satisfied with.
By the way, I agree entirely. And matter of fact, earlier this evening I said the same thing. I think the court probably will attempt to get as much unanimity as they can. I think both the U.S. Supreme Court, which doesn't accomplish it that often, and the Florida Supreme Court attempt to do that on issues of great public importance where they want to develop public confidence. But they have to agree, obviously, as to the basic -- the fundamentals of the opinion. They're not going to all sign off of if they don't agree with each other.
KING: Jack, you think it will be sooner than later?
QUINN: Look, I think a great many of the questions -- and Barry certainly knows this better than I -- but a great many of the questions evidenced a very real concern on the part of individual members of the court about the time pressure that this whole process has imposed on them and on the people engaged in this recount. So it would quite surprise me if they took very long to issue an opinion.
KING: Yes. Thank you both very much. As always, we'll be seeing you again, probably tomorrow.
QUINN: You bet.
KING: Jack Quinn and Barry Richard on the scene, Jack in Washington, Barry in Tallahassee.
When we come back, Governor Mark Racicot of Montana will discuss some shenanigans he says are going on. And then we'll get the other side from Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island.
We'll be right back. Don't go away.
KING: Let's go to Austin, Texas, Governor Marc Racicot is standing by. He's the governor of the state of Montana and he has been kind of the point guy on the allegations about manual recounting.
Since you are not in Florida, what are the allegations, Governor? What, in a nutshell, are they telling you there?
GOV. MARC RACICOT (R), MONTANA: Well, they are not allegations. We actually have physical evidence of all of these things, things we have been worried about from the very beginning with this process a very slippery slope indeed. There are people there, of course, who are exhausted, some are inadvertent, some are making mistakes, dropping ballots. We have people that are trying to read ballots at 1:00 in the morning. Some of them elderly, using flashlights. There are no standards that have been utilized statewide or even county- wide.
And as a consequence of all of these people exercising discretion on a number of different occasions and making mistakes, we have been concerned about the competency of this process from the very beginning. That is why we warned from the very beginning, that the requirements of the law were in place, that deadlines are there for a reason. The requirements of the law are there for a reason. And that is what has been revealed day after day after day.
KING: Are you -- are you -- are you saying anything that there is -- because all things you listed could have benefited either candidate. Maybe some of those that spilled on the ground would have gone to Gore and didn't go to him because they got spilled.
You don't know who it favored.
RACICOT: That is precisely correct. What we have said from the beginning is that the law needs to be enforced as it is. We can't simply make exceptions as we choose. It is to apply for a reason and that is to make certain that principle is vindicated.
KING: All right, any chicanery that you have charged, in other words, deliberate, fraudulent acts.
RACICOT: There have been allegations that in fact there is purposeful or knowing conduct to mark ballots or alter ballots or manipulate ballots or in some fashion to change them. A lot of these acts of course are inadvertent. Some of them are just mistakes. Some of them are negligence, sometimes gross negligence.
But the fact is all of them ultimately impact the integrity of the process. And, when we are talking about selecting a president of United States of America, I think the American people would be flabbergasted to see how we are going about that in some of these instances.
KING: And what do you do with the allegations? Are there going to be charges made? Are you going to try to upend it? Or are you waiting for the Supreme Court decision? What?
RACICOT: Well, you have to wait for each particular part of the process to unfold, as was mentioned earlier. When the court rules, that will obviously draw the landscape for everyone to react to. And you can't hypothesize with precision about exactly what might take place. So, we'll have to see what the court says and then we'll have to take appropriate steps in response to that after the consultation with the lawyers takes place.
KING: How did you get in this post, Governor, to be -- as a Montana governor -- to be in Austin and covering this aspect of it?
RACICOT: Well, I can't speak for everyone. The chairman of the campaign, Don Evans, knows that I have been engaged for a long period of time. I believe wholeheartedly in the candidate and have great affection for him as well. And, I have had experience in the courtroom and before the appellate courts of this land, tried a lot of cases, also happen to have been an attorney general, and have some exposure to this electoral process. I think I just happen to have been conveniently available. KING: What did you think of the proceeding today?
RACICOT: I thought that the Florida Supreme Court was very well prepared. Quite obviously, I think that the lawyers presented their cases succinctly. It's gravely important. They recognized that from the very beginning. I think the court recognized the quagmire that confronts virtually everyone and how difficult it will be to fashion a judicial remedy. So, I think on the whole, this court did a fine job, and I expect that the ruling will live up to expectations as well.
KING: Thank you, Governor.
Governor Marc Racicot, the Republican of Montana.
Now let's go to Boston, standing by is Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island.
What do you make, Jack, of what the governor had to say?
SEN. JACK REED (D), RHODE ISLAND: Well, I'm not surprised, Larry. The Bush campaign has tried to legally stop a manual count of the ballots and now I believe they are trying to discredit this manual recount.
What they don't point out is that every one of these individuals are duly elected Floridians. They're trying to do their job conscientiously. Some Republicans, some are Democrats. In addition to that they are surrounded by observers, both Republican and Democrats. I suspect many of them are lawyers. All of them are watching every move that is being made.
This is the most open process one can imagine and it is also a process that allows people on both sides, Republicans and Democrats, to weigh in, make objections, and if there are discrepancies to report those discrepancies appropriately.
So, this is an unusual situation in a presidential race, but is commonplace in every state in the country where there are manual counts of ballots. In fact, Governor Bush signed a law in 1997 in Texas, which the preferred method counting is not the machine but in a contested race, manual counting.
So, I'm bemused that they would now think that manual counting is fraught with inherent flaws.
KING: So, you are saying, Senator, that this is a deliberate machination on their part to throw or slow down the progress of this.
REED: Oh, I think...
REED: It is an attempt to display this manual counting as inherently flawed, when, in fact, many states, Texas being one, has a statutory preference to manual counting over machine counting in contested races. So, they are trying to turn around what is commonplace in so many parts of the country and which is the much more superior to machines, particularly the machines that were used in Florida, which many states abandoned years ago because of their inherent inaccuracies.
KING: The Governor said -- I asked what plans they were going to do -- what do they do with these allegations. And of course, they are waiting for the Supreme Court decision. If that decision comes down on your side, that is, the counting continues, do you expect them to take legal action on this front?
REED: Well, I expect they will take any legal opportunity they have to try to thwart this counting. But I can't think, at this point, when you have thousands of contested ballots because of the machine inaccuracies, the only way to resolve them is this way. Elected officials from Florida, not members of either campaign, doing it but doing it surrounded by very bright and presumably many lawyers from both sides, looking at their every move. It is the only way we do it in most states, and it is the way it probably should be done here in Florida.
KING: By the way, whatever happened to those 4,000 or so votes that went to Buchanan in Palm Beach. Are they going to be looked at in this process or is that just a vote for Buchanan that stands?
REED: Well, I'm not aware of how the Buchanan votes will be handled.
KING: We don't know how are they dealing with that.
REED: Don't know how are they dealing with that.
KING: Are you surprised that thus far the totals, while Gore has had some increase unofficially, they have not been great?
REED: Well, regardless of the totals, the real issue here is whether the votes of Floridians will be properly counted. And that is a principle that the vice president is trying to vindicate. Whether the votes of Floridians, whether for Al Gore or George Bush, will be duly counted. That is what this whole manual count is about. I would like to see, frankly, more votes for Al Gore, obviously. But the bottom line principle here, will we have an election that reflects the true votes of people of Florida?
KING: And quickly, what you thought of the hearing today.
REED: I thought the hearing went very well. I thought the justices were superbly prepared. Both sides, both the Republican, the Bush campaign, the Gore campaign were well represented. Serious issues were raised. I would expect there would be a very quick judgment. The court understands the timetable. But it is hard to predict which way it will go. I hope, though, that, having set in motion manual counting of these ballots, that they won't stop suddenly now, that they will continue the count.
KING: Thank you, Jack. Senator Jack Reed, Democrat of Rhode Island. REED: Thanks Larry.
KING: When we come back, two prominent members of the United States Senate, John Warner and Tom Harkin will go at it and then our panel.
Don't go away.
KING: This is a shot of the Florida Supreme Court, where a decision will be reached tomorrow, the next day, or sometime soon. It could affect who lives at this other place -- that place. Both these shots are live, it's an autumnal night in Washington, D.C., and hopefully we're going to know pretty soon who is going to be living there.
We welcome now to LARRY KING LIVE, Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, he's in Des Moines; and Senator John Warner, Republican of Virginia, at our bureau in Washington.
Senator Harkin, what did you make of the session this morning?
SEN. TOM HARKIN (D), IOWA: Well, I was unable to watch it. I was at the University of Iowa doing some work this afternoon, today, and so I did not -- I was not able to watch the arguments. I read about them. I have heard about them, so I can't comment on it firsthand.
KING: All right, fair enough.
Senator Warner, what did you think? Did you see them?
SEN. JOHN WARNER (R), VIRGINIA: I watched it on and off this afternoon, and having practiced law myself and once been a law clerk to a federal judge, I was impressed with these jurists.
But my job this afternoon, Larry, was to fight on this crusade which I started last Friday, with a letter to the secretary of defense, please, Mr. Secretary, please, Mr. President, please, Mr. Vice President Gore, let the men and women in uniform and their families -- give them the benefit of the doubt that these absentee ballots were filed correctly.
KING: Well, apparently, the attorney general has said that, and as long as there is a signature and a date on them without the postmark, they will allow it. If there is no signature, no date, and no postmark, they are not going to allow it nor -- they never have.
WARNER: But, Larry, here we are days after this issue was raised. You know, I'm a George W. Bush man, leave no doubt about that, but Al Gore and I served on the Armed Services Committee. Joe Lieberman, now on the Armed Services Committee. I'm surprised at the two of these persons didn't step forward and lead in this fight to enable the men and women of the armed forces to have their absentee ballots considered. I just -- I can't understand it. I think when you look at the crossfire, who has done what's right and wrong, this is a clear example where the Democrats made serious, serious errors.
KING: You agree, Senator Harkin?
HARKIN: Well, I disagree with my friend, John Warner. You see, John, I served five years on active duty in the U.S. Navy and...
WARNER: I know that.
HARKIN: I take a back...
WARNER: I served before you in the Navy.
HARKIN: And Al Gore -- I want you to know that Al Gore volunteered and served in the Army and served in Vietnam. So, I just want to set the record straight on that. Secondly...
WARNER: Tom, I'm not...
HARKIN: John, I didn't interrupt you.
WARNER: Yes, I understand that.
HARKIN: The Florida law is very clear. Certainly, my friend John Warner would not want to vote a ballot that was not even signed. Plus, in Miami-Dade County, two out of every three overseas ballots were rejected because the person was not a resident of the county. Surely, John, you would not want to vote ballots in a county of which a person was not a resident.
If it just simply comes down to an FPO, a fleet post office, or an APO postmark, I believe, yes, they should be voted, but if there is no signature on it and there is not a witness signature on it, surely, John -- or if the person did not reside in that county -- surely, you would not go so far as to say that regardless of all that, they should be voted, John.
WARNER: Tom, my answer to you is very simple: I brought this to the attention of the secretary of defense on Friday, General Schwarzkopf spoke out on it, the head of the American Legion spoke out on it, and then why did the attorney general today finally have to peek out and...
KING: But he did...
WARNER: Yes, he did, he did.
KING: He did...
WARNER: But why wait all this time?
KING: I know, Senator, but he said that it has to be signed. Do you agree with what Senator Harkin just said, that it has to be signed and dated when it was signed?
WARNER: There is certain minimum requirements, but these folks were taking the envelopes without even opening them, toss them into the pile and discard. And my point is simply this, I wouldn't impugn Al Gore's record, you know that, Tom. He is a friend of mine.
But I'm telling you right now, if I'd have been in his place and wanted to be commander-in-chief of the armed forces, I would have stepped up way before this attorney general did, and Joe Lieberman likewise had a chance over the weekend in these various shows to say clearly, hey, let's give them the benefit of the doubt before we just toss it in the pile.
HARKIN: Well, as I understand, John -- again, we are all observers, we are apart from it -- this is where you have to trust the local officials and let them decide whether or not there is a signature on the ballot, and all of those things. As I said, two out of the three ballots in Miami-Dade County were thrown out because they didn't even reside in the county, surely, you would not want to count those.
KING: All right, let me...
HARKIN: And lastly -- let me just say this, Larry, I think we've got to tone down the sort of vitriolic language. Governor Racicot of Montana was quoted as saying that Al Gore's attorneys have declared war on our men and women in uniform; you know, we don't need that kind of language right now, let's tone it down.
KING: Let me get a break.
WARNER: And, Tom -- I agree with you on that, Tom. I do.
KING: All right, let me get a break and come back, and we'll discuss where they think they are going to go with this counting, and then we'll meet our panel. We'll be back with Senators Harkin and Warner on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: Senator Warner, they are saying that the winner here will be the loser -- are you folks going to be able to get together? We have seen all this vituperativeness that is -- I mean, it's rampant. Are you guys going to get together when this is over no matter who is president?
WARNER: Quite frankly, Larry, we have no other alternative. This is a great nation, this republic is a strong nation because of its people, and those of us who are privileged to be elected representatives or serve in the executive branch have to get together and make it work, and I hope this thing can be brought to a conclusion as quickly as possible, because it is undermining the confidence in whoever is elected, the next president.
But I will count myself in, as I'm sure my friend Tom Harkin will also, to do our very best to make our great government work and function. We, as public servants, serve the people and can do no less.
KING: Senator Harkin.
HARKIN: Well, John Warner is my friend, he knows that, he is a great American, and quite frankly, if the Republicans control the Senate, I want John Warner to be majority leader, because he is a great guy and he is a fair man. I think we can work together. I really believe one of the silver linings that may come out of this, Larry, is the desire both in Congress and among the American people for us to put aside this bitter partisanship and to work together, and I really think there's a warning...
KING: Do you see any signs of that, though?
HARKIN: Well, the first test is going to come when we get back on December 5, we have a pending education bill that was originally signed off on by a number of Republicans and Democrats and the White House that's been stalled. We should get that through.
Secondly, I really think that, you know, what you're going to see next year perhaps is more and more coming together in the committees and hopefully on the floor of the Senate. I would issue kind of a warning, I think, to either party in the Senate that tries to use the 60-vote filibuster to get their way. I don't think the American people are going to put up with that. I think they want us to have our debates and have our arguments. But let's have the votes. And if it's 51-49, well, that's where the American people are rather than trying to stand for some super majority kind of vote and to filibuster these bills. I don't think the American people will put up with that. I think...
KING: Senator Warner, are the people telling you something in this, that they are down the road split and, therefore, they want you to be carefully measured too?
WARNER: Listen, Larry, what the people are telling me, John, let's get it over. Let's get it over in accordance with law and a sense of fairness, but by all means get it over. Look at the stock market today. I'm not a big follower of the market, but I certainly indicate to you that it's going down and that's a sign there's some trouble out there and some foment, the rest of the world watching us.
WARNER: This great nation that's got the lead throughout the world, particularly in times of crisis, cannot be perceived as not handling expeditiously and within the rule of law a problem like this. So let's hope the hand of providence reaches down and touches and guides us through.
KING: John, you were saying no to that?
HARKIN: Well, look, I've been out here in my state of Iowa, you know? And people are getting up and going to work every day, kids are going to school, people are planning their Thanksgiving dinners together with their families. The country is going on. There's no crisis out there. This sort of idea of a crisis is built up by the media and people like that.
The country's doing just fine. The Electoral College does not meet until December 18th, we don't swear in the president until January 20th. There's no need to rush this. Let's make sure every vote is counted as accurately and fairly as possible.
KING: Senator, would you say amen to that, Senator Warner?
WARNER: Well, Tom, we can't have recount after recount to continue going on. And, yes, I know the people are getting ready for Thanksgiving. I'm going to be privileged to join my family and good friends, but I do tell you, Tom, that there are others watching this country. And if they perceive weakness, they could strike at us. We know that every day, those of us -- and you're involved in national security as I am...
HARKIN: That's right.
WARNER: ... and it's terribly important that this country proceed, to get back on track and resume -- it hasn't lost it. We have a president operating right now.
HARKIN: That's right.
WARNER: But the point is, we cannot leave this thing in doubt.
And also, both sides. I went through a transition myself one time, worked in a transition. Both of these candidate have got to begin to lay their plans for those individuals they're going to bring into government. And you know we have several hundred confirmation processes in the United States Senate pursuant to the Constitution of the United States. All this has got to be taken together and done in an orderly and timely way.
HARKIN: Well I believe the signal we're sending to the rest of the world, John, is that our Constitution lives, it's strong. We don't take to the streets, we do this in an orderly and a legally fair way in this country. If nothing else, that sends the strongest possible signal about what kind of country we really are.
KING: Thanks to Senator Tom Harkin and Senator John Warner. Thank you both.
When we come back, Hugh Sidey, one of the veterans of the game, from "Time" magazine, Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, and Roger Cossack comes back.
And we'll all be right back right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hear ye, hear ye, hear ye, the Supreme Court of the great state of Florida is now in session. All who have cause to plea, draw near, give attention and you shall be heard. (END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We now welcome Hugh Sidey of "Time" magazine -- they're all in Washington, our panel -- Washington contributing editor and author of the presidency column -- He covered the president for more than three decades. He's president of the White House Historical Society -- Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar of the American Enterprise Institute; and Roger Cossack returns earlier. He was with us earlier in the show, the co-host of CNN's "BURDEN OF PROOF."
Hugh, a doctor friend of mine suggested today, could there be a way to certify each voter as they vote, to say, my ballot is complete and they get a little stamp and we know their vote counts? With all modern engineering, couldn't we do that?
HUGH SIDEY, "TIME": With all due respect, you know, I don't -- is this a medical doctor or somebody that gave you this idea? No, I don't think that will work.
KING: Why don't you like it? You leave the booth knowing your vote counted.
SIDEY: Well, it's kind of like going into a dance, you know? They put a stamp on your arm. No, no.
KING: That works.
SIDEY: I don't know. No, I...
KING: What did you make of today's session, Hugh?
SIDEY: Well I'm not a lawyer, Larry. That's not my world, and it got a little dense in that. But it looked to me like there was an obvious point of view by the Supreme Court, and I suspect that they probably want the county to go on, at least it seems that way to me. But then, as somebody said -- I think Roger said earlier -- to try to call what a court is going to do is ridiculous. But there was competence on both sides, intensity. A good exercise, as the senators said before, in America at work.
KING: Norm Ornstein, what did you think of today?
NORM ORNSTEIN, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE: You know, unlike the O.J. trial, Larry, this is one good example where televising court proceedings can have some real salutary values.
I don't think anybody could look at that today and argue, as a couple of people suggested when the court took this up, that this is a bunch of hacks. These are serious judges grappling with a couple of very significant legal questions. How much discretion do they give secretary of state? How much time do they have to resolve all of these disputes? They pushed both sides. Whatever judgment they come up with now I think will be viewed in a much better light without the notion that it's got political spin on it than it would have been before people actually saw them in action.
KING: Do you agree, Roger, now that those who were pre-critical will be less so no matter what the verdict?
COSSACK: You know, Larry, I do agree. And I -- there was a time today -- you know, I watched this very closely. And I thought, you know, the chief justice should have a sign, that sign that Harry Truman had when he was the president right up in front of the chief justice's seat today that said the buck stops here. Because this is -- these -- this is the men and women who are going to make this very, very, very tough decision. But once it's made, we'll go on.
And as Norm points out, you know, no one can accuse these people of being hacks. This was a prepared court, this was a court that was interested, and this is a court that should give confidence to Americans in our legal system.
KING: And, Hugh Sidey, you've covered more presidents than this panel combined. What kind of presidency is this going to be, no matter who wins?
SIDEY: Well, Larry, let's not be apocalyptic about this. I've listened to all of the scared scenarios, and I don't believe it. It depends on the person. And if he comes in, if it's a kind of a -- you know, it's in doubt or at least there's some turmoil about it the fact of the matter is if this man can rise up to principle, let's say, then he could make a great mark. Great presidencies in the history of this country have come out of trauma: Civil War, Depression, those times, the Cold War. This is a different kind of crisis. It's a political crisis, not a constitutional crisis, but it seems to me that both these men are capable of rising and trying to heal this wound and bring people together. And that would be a tremendous record for either one of them.
KING: Norm, same question for you.
ORNSTEIN: Well, I -- Hugh is right. We shouldn't get apocalyptic yet. We still don't know how this will play out. But there's no question, Larry, that even if we'd had a clean victory election eve, this is a daunting task for the next president, facing the Congress where the margins are probably going to be just about identical to what they were in 1953, '54, the last time we had anything like this. But it was a different environment. Dwight Eisenhower won a big presidential victory. He was a great national hero. There was a stronger sense of mandate. The partisanship and the ideological divisions were not nearly as great or as corrosive. The leaders were stronger.
This is tough. Making it work in a fashion where you are the clear leader, especially in international affairs, where, Frankly, not very many members of Congress are as interested or as involved as senators Warner and Harkin, is going to be difficult to do.
The country I think is going to demand it, and that's the best thing we've got going for us after going through this trauma.
KING: And Roger...
COSSACK: And you know, Larry, if I just might jump in here a second and say that, you know, the crisis that these two gentlemen talk about is a crisis in politics, not in a crisis in Constitution -- with our Constitution and not a crisis in our law. That we see working very, very well.
If you ever want to step back and think for a second about the genius of our founding fathers, see how well this process is working. Yes, it's close; yes, it's law layered with politics. But there's a process. We had a court work today. A decision will be made, and we'll have a president.
KING: And we'll be right back, pick right up there with Hugh Sidey and more of our discussion. I know -- it's commercial television.
We'll be right back. Don't go away.
KING: OK, Hugh Sidey, you were going to say?
SIDEY: Well, I was going to say that, Larry, this is not a time in our national life when we really are looking for a heroic president like Lincoln or Roosevelt. All these guys come in, and of course, think they're going to be that.
I remember Bill Clinton's or one of his speeches where he compared himself to Lincoln and Roosevelt and Kennedy and Truman, and they all that had that desire. But let's just look at what the times are: We have no Cold War, we have no hot war, we have no great depression. And for the moment, we can almost function without a president.
Now I say that somewhat facetiously, but the fact of the matter is that idea of this strong overwhelming executive authority really isn't necessary now.
ORNSTEIN: Larry, I take...
KING: I lost hearing the end of you -- Norm.
ORNSTEIN: I take only slight issue with that. There are some significant problems out there. We require leadership and presidential leadership is there.
But I think Roger said an important point. I was talking with some Europeans who were ridiculing this process, and I said we're at this impasse is we had an election that was as dead even as it could be and we're resolving this not by going to the streets. The public has been remarkably placid here. We're doing it through the rule of the law.
We've had people make some intemperate statements on both sides, some of them right here. But you know, we're going to get through this.
There's a challenge to leadership, though, and we're going to have to respond and we're going to have respond as well by making sure there is a transition and it's a workable one and it's a quick one. And that's where Trent Lott and Tom Daschle -- Lott especially as the majority leader -- are going to have to step up to the plate and make sure we expedite these confirmations.
KING: Roger, does it annoy you when people say we're a nation of laws but they don't want the courts to handle this?
COSSACK: Yes, it does annoy me, Larry, and I'm also a guy that gets annoyed at lawyer jokes. You know, I've been a lawyer my whole live, my whole working live, and I'm proud of the fact. And so when I see these kinds of moments and I see that Americans turn to our revered system of law and a great Supreme Court like we saw today, it makes me feel good and it makes me feel proud of what I do.
Look, this is why it works. There is a dispute. And who do you run, too? You know, we make fun of the lawyers, but the clients go into the lawyers and the lawyers went to the court, and there will be a decision, and we will follow that decision. And that's the beauty here.
SIDEY: Now, Roger, I might say also that this -- in the end, the qualities of the new president will depend more on things that you can't define by the law or put in a boxscore. It will be boldness, it will be courage, it will be sensitivity, it will be understanding. And if we get too involved in this legal process, we forget those things, and those in this age I believe are more important to leadership than almost anything.
COSSACK: Well, what the law will do is give that opportunity to that person to step up and do and show those qualities that you just talked about, and what we hope for is that after the law says that's the person and that's the person that we have, that that person then steps up and shows those kinds of qualities.
SIDEY: Let's you and I run.
KING: And Norm Ornstein do you -- Norm Ornstein, do you see qualities in both of these men that might lead you to be hopeful about that?
ORNSTEIN: I do see some qualities that would lead me to be hopeful. Frankly, I've been a little bit disappointed since the election ended in that...
KING: In both of them?
ORNSTEIN: In both of them, although, you know, Gore at least at one point offered ways of trying to move forward, including meeting together. Now, it came later in the process than it should have. Both of them should have stepped up to the plate right at the beginning to try and make this a little bit less harsh and political than it's been.
But that'll go -- we'll get past that, and you know, our attention span unfortunately doesn't last all that long. Other things will come along.
It's going to be a huge challenge, though. It would have been otherwise. It's going to be ever more so because of all this, whichever of these two does win.
KING: Hugh, do you think we'll have a decision from the court before Thanksgiving?
SIDEY: That's hard to say, but I would have a hunch that we would get one perhaps sooner than later, Larry. If it gets later, we are into some trouble.
But you know, these things can resolve themselves almost overnight. It could be quick. I just don't know. But the court -- I don't know. Roger knows more about the court than I do.
KING: Roger, we've only got 20 seconds. Do you think sooner than later?
COSSACK: I agree with you, sooner than later. We need a decision. The court seemed to be very interested in time and time limits today. I think we're going to get one really quickly, Larry.
KING: Norm, 10 seconds, quickly, yes?
ORNSTEIN: I think yes within a few days, and they'll probably set December 1st as a deadline for resolving most of this so that they can meet that December 12th deadline.
KING: Thank you all very much. Jeff Greenfield has a special coming up. Stay tuned for that. And we're back tomorrow night with more discussions, and who knows? Maybe a decision.
Thanks for joining us. I'm Larry King. Good night.
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