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Special Event

The Spin Room: Will the Candidate With the Best Lawyers Win the Presidency?

Aired November 20, 2000 - 11:00 p.m. ET

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

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: How many lawyers does it take to confuse the Florida Supreme Court?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Only one if it's a Gore lawyer. Attorney bashing time here on the THE SPIN ROOM.

PRESS: And good evening, everybody. THE SPIN ROOM is open. Thanks for joining us, and welcome, I'm Bill Press. Dr. Bill Press of "The Spin Doctors."

CARLSON: Ph.D., ASP. I'm Tucker Carlson, and let us know your spin on the court, the count and the candidates. You can call us toll-free no charge 1-800-310-4CNN. You can join our live online chat at cnn.com. You can send us an e-mail. Our address is spin@cnn.com. And stay tuned later, because later in the show Bill will -- and this is true -- sing this year's holiday favorite, "The 12 Days of Chad." Right here.

PRESS: You owe me for this one, Tucker.

CARLSON: Well, I do, Bill, and you're going to be excellent. A former choir boy...

PRESS: I lost the toss. But I have to tell you the sad news. I've been thinking about this over the entire weekend. I think I've got the solution to this Florida recount, the unending Florida recount.

CARLSON: Really?

PRESS: Yes.

CARLSON: You have the answer for America?

PRESS: I'm sad to say I think the answer is -- are you ready?

CARLSON: I'm ready.

PRESS: Let's just cut off Florida. I mean, look, they can't vote, they can't count. You know, their orange juice is sour. I hate Disney World. And they -- they can't make up their mind. Cut them off. CARLSON: You may feel differently depending on the result of the hand count, but I'm sort of with you. I don't think losing Disney World is going to be a major loss for America.

But you know what would be a loss? The longer this goes on, the more time people seem to have to come up with clever e-mails, many of which they send to us.

There's a whole industry of online joke writers. I just want to show you one of the best ones we got the other day.

PRESS: E-mails, the e-mails are already coming in.

CARLSON: Yes. This -- this just came in.

PRESS: Thank you, thank you for the e-mails. All right, let's get started.

CARLSON: Thank you, yes. This came in. This is directly from a viewer. As you can see -- I hope you can get it up there on the scene -- it's a parody of an ad for Mastercard. "A haircut at the mall: $10. Suit off the rack: $300. Losing the presidential election because 19,000 of your supporters are too damn stupid to follow the directions to fill out their ballots out their ballots properly: priceless."

Bill, I believe I'm preapproved for that card.

PRESS: That's pretty good. I must admit, that's pretty -- we enjoy spinmails no matter who they slam.

Another thought on Florida -- I hate to keep talking about Florida. The perfect solution is cut them off and make them part of Cuba. Annex Florida...

CARLSON: Fantastic.

PRESS: Annex Florida to Cuba. Don't you think it would serve...

CARLSON: It would be a neverending news story.

PRESS: It would serve those people in Miami -- you know who I'm talking about? Elian's relatives. Serve them right.

CARLSON: Oh, I think -- oh, are you kidding? I dig their relatives.

PRESS: All right, Stephen (ph), e-mail to THE SPIN ROOM. This is Dr. Seuss in the holiday season. "Can we count them with our nose? Can we count them with our toes? Should we count them with a band? Should we count them all by hand? If I do like the count, I will simply throw them out."

(LAUGHTER)

Very good, Stephen. I love that... CARLSON: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) here's a chad.

PRESS: OK.

CARLSON: Well, here's one from Barbara. Now, Bill, I want you to take this one very seriously. Barbara says: "It's obvious that Bill Press has a major problem with Katherine Harris because she's a woman in authority. Get over it, Bill. The days when women are totally submissive to men such as yourself are over. Try some therapy so you can deal with your unresolved issue."

Hit from the left. I like it.

PRESS: What's her name?

CARLSON: Barbara.

PRESS: Barbara.

CARLSON: Barbara, it's a cry for help. Thank you.

PRESS: Barbara, I just want you to know, Barbara, I like dominant women. You're wrong, Barbara. I like dominant woman.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Oh, that's -- that's very revealing, Bill.

PRESS: I like women in a superior position, Barbara.

(LAUGHTER)

All right, e-mail to THE SPIN ROOM, last one before we get serious here. Question -- this is from Randy, Phoenix, Arizona. "Question: How many Florida voters does it take to change a light bulb? Answer: The count has not yet been certified."

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Exactly.

PRESS: But you know, today, Tucker, it was again the lawyers. It was their turn today. I think every lawyer who could possibly cram into the Supreme Court chambers in Tallahassee was there, and before we go to our first guest, to our guest tonight, let's get just a glimpse of what the lawyers had to say. Here's a lawyer for each side, profound lawyering today in Tallahassee. Here it goes.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH KLOCK, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE COUNSEL: What we're trying to do is to deal with the problem of people who did not follow instructions. The instructions were to put the stylus through the hole in the ballot. They did not follow those instructions.

(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: I think the thing that's important for the court to understand is that this is a process that if people simply get out of the way and let it continue can be done in a matter of days.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Now, you know want to say about that is, we've been two weeks, right...

CARLSON: Yes.

PRESS: We have not moved a millimeter if you listen to those two lawyers. We haven't -- that's the same arguments they were making Wednesday morning after the election.

CARLSON: Yes, but I still like them. It's a deep point. Put the stylus through the ballot, Bill. If you can't do it and you can't vote, I'm all for it.

We have some expert legal opinion here. Let's go to that to help us make sense of all the legalese we're hearing.

We're joined by an actual lawyer, Laurie Levenson, who's a law professor at Loyola University Law School. Before that, she was a federal prosecutor in Los Angeles, handled some murder cases.

Laurie, welcome.

There's a fair amount of complaining about all the lawyering going on, and I want to show you a poll that came out today, commissioned in part by CNN. We asked the question "Is it a good idea that the courts are getting involved in the Florida recount?" Fifty- nine percent of people asked that question said resoundingly no.

Why are the people so bothered by the idea of the courts getting involved do you think?

PROFESSOR LAURIE LEVENSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Well, I think a lot of this is killing the messenger, going after the lawyers, but I think people are upset with the courts because they just want an end to it, and what they see as preventing the end of it is the courts, not realizing that it's part of the process actually to have the judges resolve any disputes regarding the elections and disputes regarding the law.

So they think that somehow once you put the stylus through the card, that's the end of an election, and now we know that's not true.

PRESS: Well, let me ask you this, a couple of quick questions, because you know the process so well. How soon do you think this Florida court is going to rule, having heard the arguments today?

LEVENSON: Very expeditiously. I mean, in the next day or two is what I would expect. I didn't expect them to decide today. No one would trust the decision that came out within hours. They'd wonder if they already had it written at the time of the argument.

But today, the court kept asking questions about how quickly do we need to move in order to make sure that Florida is counted come December 16th in the electoral college. So they know that they cannot really drag their feet on this.

PRESS: And however, they rule they're not going -- you can never make everybody happy. One side's bound to be unhappy. Can they take this case then to the U.S. Supreme Court and would that likely succeed?

LEVENSON: Well, it depends, and that was some of the questions today as well. Along the Republican side, what they were suggesting is that if the state Supreme Court allows these recounts in a certain way, they'll be disenfranchising other voters, and that might create a federal type issue regarding the federal statute. That's how something gets up to the Supreme Court.

But to be honest with your, I think right now the state Supreme Court is trying to fashion some type of remedy that doesn't create that federal issue, and this settles on the procedures right now for the state court.

CARLSON: Now, Laurie, you mentioned correctly that a lot of the questions the justices asked today concerned the deadline, when -- when the electors need to be formally chosen, et cetera. Those seemed like questions to which they should know the answers already. And I was really struck by the fact they didn't seem to have studied much about Florida election law. What was going on there?

LEVENSON: Well, I don't think there are answers in a lot of Florida election law. Right now, we have statutes that say contradictory things. There is discretion given to the secretary of state, but they're not too confident in how she'll exercise that discretion. And the only deadline they really have in mind is December 12th. Everything has to be ready to go by then.

But other than that, they were asking everybody, where do we go? Do we look up in the sky? How do we get these deadlines?

PRESS: Can I ask you this, Laurie? I know this is dangerous, and every time a lawyer is asked this question, they say, you know, I can't answer that. But I want to ask you anyhow: Could you read this court today? Could you tell which way they're likely to go, in your judgment?

LEVENSON: I could not read the entire court, because not all the court was participating in this. And sometimes you think justices are asking questions just to play devil's advocate. But there some telling remarks.

The chief justice kept emphasizing, all right, how do we allow for these manual recounts without hurting those who have already voted and had their votes counted with the machine counts? That's a suggestion that he's trying to balance, and if he had his way, he probably would allow the manual recounts.

But he's only one vote, and we don't know the rest of them would.

Likewise, I think the women justices were trying too push pretty hard on the Republican side to see why they thought the manual recounts weren't the better way to go.

CARLSON: Well, that doesn't surprise me at all, considering every single one of these justices, of course, was appointed by a Democrat. I mean, how is this a less political process than the political process itself?

LEVENSON: Well, actually, I think that judges are better at keeping out of the fray. They know their part in history. They've taken an oath. And they're not completely objective. No one believes that. But by and large, they try harder. They certainly try harder than some of the political spin doctors, as you point out, who are out there every day twisting that law. I mean...

(CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: ... it's not as straightforward, though. I mean, when a flak gets up there, you know he's a flak. When a justice of the Supreme Court says something, you don't take into account, at least instinctively, his political bias here. I mean, so it is more insidious, don't you think?

LEVENSON: Well, I think that it's more subconscious, if that's what you mean. I think what happens is that the justices are going to have to write an opinion. They're not just going to get up and say, you win, you lose. And that keeps them a bit honest as well.

But when I was listening to them today, frankly, they didn't want to hear a lot about the politics. They wanted to hear about the law, and you're right in making some of these close calls in the law, they might have in the back of their mind exactly what the chief justice started with the arguments with, by saying we know that the nation has their eyes and ears on us.

PRESS: OK, Laurie, hang in there. We've got some more questions for you about the Florida supreme. We're going to take a quick break here, Tucker, and we'll get "Spin of the Day" nominations.

CARLSON: And we will get your nominations for "Spin of the Day." So call us. You can toll-free 1-800-310-4CNN. You can join our live online chat at cnn.com, or you can send us an e-mail. Our address is spin@cnn.com. So do so.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: OK.

CARLSON: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. I'm Tucker Carlson here with Bill Press, lover of dominant women. We're batting around the news on a remarkable day of political news.

PRESS: Yes, dominatrices and others, we want your nomination for "Spin of the Day." Remember this is one comment you heard somebody say today. It doesn't matter if it was somebody from the left or the right or in the middle, a lawyer or whatever. If somebody said something that just made your head spin, you really thought that lightning was going to strike them dead for saying something outrageous, you can get in your nominations for "Spin of the Day" firstly by phone. Call us toll-free: 1-800-310-4CNN or you can join our live chat, ongoing all the time at cnn.com or e-mail us your nominations for "Spin of the Day at spin@cnn.com.

Speaking of e-mails, Tucker.

CARLSON: We have many, but before we get to them, I just -- I couldn't help but point out this one of the weirdest, of course, political news stories of the century.

PRESS: Yes, we decided that long time ago.

CARLSON: Yes, well, it's been a short century so far, but I have to say one of the weirdest twists in all of this came the other day when reported by Republican poll watchers that Democrats handling the ballots were, in fact, yes, eating chad, popping them like beer nuts. And it struck us here at "Spin Room" that this could be the inspiration for an amazingly popular new children's video game, The Chad Eater. Round and round he goes eating valuable chad along the way. I can imagine schoolchildren across America with their joysticks in hand eating chad. You see these in a mall near you, you will know where it came from.

There he goes Bill, the purple chad eater.

PRESS: I want to point out how desperate the Bush campaign could get when they accuse the Democrats of eating chad.

CARLSON: Not as desperate as the person who actually eats chad. That is desperate.

PRESS: Down to their last straw, in fact.

OK, are you ready?

CARLSON: I'm ready. This is the culture hour.

PRESS: This is the e-mail. I don't know who sent us this e- mail, but it is really is pretty clever and I will attempt to do my best. My reputation is just about to go to Hell in handbasket.

OK, 12th day of chad. Are you ready?

On the 12th day of chad, my country gave to me, twelve lawsuits pending, 11 counties counting, 10 pundits primping, nine lawyers filing, eight deadlines passing, seven votes outstanding, six judges judging, five pregnant chads, four spinning polls, three recounts, two candidates and a void in the presidency. CARLSON: Terrific. We got to take an instant poll, in fact.

PRESS: Thank you.

CARLSON: We have a caller on the line, Robin from Washington state and the first question I'm going to ask you, Robin, is how did Bill do?

CALLER: I thought it was really good, Bill.

PRESS: Oh, Robin.

CARLSON: Thank you, Robin.

CALLER: You're even on key.

PRESS: At this hour of the night.

What's your take on all this from Washington state?

CALLER: I think it is totally ridiculous. In fact, I was just sitting here telling the guy that I talked to on the phone, that I have two 11-year-old boys who have been watching this from the beginning and they were saying that mom, we need a revote. So, I thought that that was good of them to say that. I mean, that they've been following this.

And I just think it's been a waste of a lot of people's time. And I just feel that watching this and watching everybody and I just feel that for our country that we need to just do a revote. Even though, they said today that you can't, I feel that they really should. In order to see who the right candidate is.

PRESS: Thanks Robin, thank you for the call. I don't mean to be cruel now because you said nice things about me, but I do want to point out we still don't know who the U.S. Senator is from Washington state. So, I think for people from Washington state to be criticizing Florida is going kind of a little bit too far.

CARLSON: And nor can 11-year-olds vote.

PRESS: All right, Laurie Levenson is our guest. She is a law professor at USC. Laurie Levenson came to prominence, of course, like Greta Van Susteren, like Roger Cossack during the O.J. trial.

So, Laurie, my question to you is, this is maybe the greatest legal crisis the country has faced since the O.J. trial. What similarities do you see? Who's Johnnie Cochran and who's O.J.?

PROF. LAURIE LEVENSON, LOYOLA LAW SCHOOL: Oh, my goodness. I heard a lot of people talk about it that way and that makes my head spin. I thought we were done with that forever.

PRESS: Never.

LEVENSON: No, the similarities are that it is just the talk of the town and everybody is focused on it and frankly everybody has their say and it really doesn't matter how it comes out, they are going to be sure that they were right. So, the law doesn't have a lot to do with it in their minds.

But, obviously, there are a lot of dissimilarities. Frankly, I think the issue in this case, even though O.J. involved two terrible murders, this issue affects the entire nation. So, when people do get serious, they realize how sobering these issues are.

PRESS: As attorney practicing in front of the courts, is there ever a time when you know, you know you're done and you ought to just hang it up? and any advice you can give to the Gore or the Bush lawyers about when it's time to hang it up.

LEVENSON: You know you're done when the court issues a one line sentence and it basically means, you lose. I'm not sure they're going to get that quite yet. And frankly, these lawyers may just keep on trying. But, you know, it's not all their call. There are big clients behind these lawyers and until you quiet down those big clients, the lawyers are going to keep doing what they do.

And we had lawyers representing a lot of different clients today. We had people representing the different campaigns, the secretary of state and even one guy who had the audacity to say, I represent voters.

CARLSON: I know that you're a lawyer defender, one of the few and that's admirable in its own way, but I can't help but think that if we had fewer lawyers, this would be over in less time. Certainly a majority of Americans, as we saw from the poll, feel that way.

I just want to get back to this. Was there any option but to call in the lawyer paratroopers here?

LEVENSON: Well, frankly, if you had fewer lawyers, you would just have lesser lawyers arguing this case. As long there were two lawyers, you're going to have this argument.

There was the option, frankly, on the political side to avoid the whole legal contest and go with whatever the initial numbers were and just call it a day. But I think that this thing got started snowballing with such a close election and with so much confusion in the law, that that option just didn't look appealing. And, heck, why not? Since the law is not settled, why not make try to make the arguments to the court.

At worst, you might settle things or prompt some changes in the law for the next time around.

PRESS: One quick question before we let you go, the Republican side today argued to the court that they had to be very careful because they couldn't usurp the powers of the state legislature or they couldn't take over the powers of the secretary of state, that the court had to kind of watch out.

Did those arguments ever carry any weight with the court? I mean, the court can do whatever it wants, can't it?

LEVENSON: Well, you know, those arguments carry a lot more weight with a Republican court. Usually, what it means is don't be an activist court and don't rule against us. This court in particular, as you pointed earlier, has lot of Democrats on it. They've been fairly activist. I think they're going to tone it down in whatever this decision is, but I don't think they reacted well to their sort of stay-in-your-place argument.

CARLSON: That's too bad. It's an argument that I find appealing.

Laurie Levenson -- I can't help it.

Laurie Levenson, thank you. It's nice to see you back.

PRESS: Thanks, Laurie.

LEVENSON: My pleasure.

CARLSON: And we will be back in a moment. But first we hope that you will send us your nominations for "Spin of the Day." Again, as Bill said, that's the moment where your head spins, you hope the person who's saying it will drop dead.

And you can send us your "Spin of the Day" nominations. You can call toll-free: 1-800-4CNN. You can join our live online chat at CNN.com, or you can send us an e-mail. Our address is spin@cnn.com.

PRESS: Spin away -- right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: Yes, let them duke it out.

Welcome back to "The Spin Room," everybody. I'm Bill Press here with Tucker Carlson. This is the best part of the show, the "Spin of the Day," Tucker's, mine and yours. We start with another phone call, Jessica from Washington state.

Hello, Jessica your "Spin of the Day."

JESSICA: Hello.

PRESS: Hi.

CARLSON: Hello.

JESSICA: Clever lawyers and all jokes aside, every vote counts. Well we no longer live in a democracy.

PRESS: Jessica, a very sobering note, but how true.

CARLSON: Kind of a public service announcement. I agree with it.

PRESS: Every vote should count, military votes and non-military votes.

CARLSON: Amen.

PRESS: They should all count.

CARLSON: Democrats came to that conclusion today.

We have an e-mail here from Steve Finis -- or maybe Finis, this may be a clever pun that's going over my head.

PRESS: (OFF-MIKE)

CARLSON: "Spin of the Day" -- the "Spin of the Day" is, "The spin of this election has been and continues to be George W. repetitively stating, I trust the people." Nobody trusts the people. That's why we have lawyers here. That's the key, I would say.

PRESS: Yes, certainly he's trusting the courts, not the people.

Here is a "Spin of the Day." Bill from Brooklyn. The "Spin of the Day" must unquestionably go to Senator John Warner for his scare tactics, trying to convince people that, quote, 'our country is being watched and we may be attacked by our enemies because they perceive us as weak.'"

I mean, I do think that's true. I don't think Fidel is going to send the armies here across the Florida Strait...

CARLSON: No, it's Belgium. They're amassing troops on the border as we speak. I don's know, I don't know.

PRESS: "The Mouse that Roared."

CARLSON: But I have to say, it is annoying when India, as it did today, starts mocking our presidential candidates. I mean, that -- you know, that is unacceptable. Speaking of which...

PRESS: I think we asked for it -- your "Spin of the Day"?

CARLSON: I have a "Spin of the Day." And this comes, I'm proud to say, from Congressman Robert Wexler, representative of Florida...

PRESS: Are you picking on Wexler again?

CARLSON: I -- in fact -- in fact, I am. He's such a wonderful guy.

PRESS: You have a Wexler fixation.

CARLSON: He provides so much fodder. Listen to what he said today. This is maybe not his best, but it's close.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. ROBERT WEXLER (D), FLORIDA: I think the most important principle that we all keep in mind is that the intent of the voters of Florida is what needs to be realized, whether it favors Governor Bush or whether it favors Vice President Gore is irrelevant. We just have to make certain that it's the intent of the voters that governs.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: Now keep in mind, Bill, that Congressman Robert Wexler said this before 10:00 in the morning. You've got to get up pretty early to outspin Bob Wexler. I love this idea, it doesn't matter who wins or loses, it's how you count the votes. I mean, that's -- you know, if Gore loses, he will be declaring the will of the people undone, I can assure you.

PRESS: Robert Wexler, great American...

CARLSON: Oh, that is.

PRESS: ... twenty-four hour spinner.

All right, here's my nomination for "Spin of the Day." Here's a guy, by the way, I never heard of before, never saw during the campaign. Suddenly, he's the No. 1 attack dog for the Bush campaign.

CARLSON: I like him already. I like him already.

Here's Governor Marc Racicot of Montana.

Listen up, please.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. MARC RACICOT (R), MONTANA: I listened to Senator Lieberman yesterday and I listened to the vice president last week. There's a certain amount of arrogance associated with the notion that somehow the contestants in this particular election can simply get together and abrogate Florida law.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Now he says -- he talks about arrogance, I looked up today if -- in Montana, there are 882,000 people and one member of Congress. Florida has over 15 million people and 23 members of Congress.

CARLSON: Ooh.

PRESS: Wait, wait.

CARLSON: Weren't you just saying we ought to dump Florida into the ocean along with Disney World?

PRESS: He has got -- he has the arrogance from Montana to try to tell Florida how to do their business. I'd like to point out, at least there are not people in Florida living in log cabins.

CARLSON: Well I'd like to point out he was perhaps the most underappreciated governor of a small state, and now America's getting to appreciate him.

PRESS: I think it's impossible to underappreciate Marc Racicot. I think...

CARLSON: Oh, come on.

PRESS: I think he's asked for it in the last couple of days.

All right, well guess what? We're spun out for the night. That's too bad, but we'll be back tomorrow night. That's the good news.

CARLSON: And the night after that.

PRESS: And all of this week at 11:00 in "THE SPIN ROOM" here on CNN.

Good night, everybody. I'm Bill Press.

CARLSON: And I'm Tucker Carlson. We will see you tomorrow night.

Good night.

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

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