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Larry King Live
What Will the Florida's Supreme Court Ruling Mean for Bush and Gore?Aired November 21, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Election Day plus 14, as Americans wait for the court decision that could determine the 43rd president. The hand recount that may not count continues. One of these men is going to win the White House. Then what? Joining us Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey of Nebraska in West Palm Beach. In San Francisco, former secretary of state George Shultz and adviser to George W. Bush.
In Miami, lead Florida trial counsel for the Bush campaign Barry Richard. Facing off with him from Washington, Gore campaign senior adviser Jack Quinn. In Tallahassee, Florida, election official Bob Crawford. Plus, a discussion across the partisan aisle with Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida and a major panel. All that next on LARRY KING LIVE.
Good evening, day 14. By the way, on the panel later, David Gergen and Frank Rich and Ed Rollins will join us. We begin with Senator Bob Kerrey, Democrat of Nebraska. And as we go to him in West Palm Beach, the Florida courthouse is open tonight, and there you see it. The reporters awaiting. There may or may not be announcement tonight. We don't know. But we do know that when there is an announcement, we'll get a half hour warning, and there you there see the lectern set up for the warning. So if there is an announcement, there'll be a 30-minute announcement prior.
Let's go to Senator Bob Kerrey, Democrat of Nebraska, who has suddenly jumped into the fray. Now where do we stand on the military vote in your request today that if we count military, we count chads? Where are we?
SEN. ROBERT KERREY (D), NEBRASKA: Well, I'm not saying that they're equated. I'm just saying that if you're going to count military votes that were discarded by county officials on the basis of fairness and if you can prove to me that they were votes that should not have been -- should not have been ruled to be illegal, that I'm willing to allow them to be counted. So, I mean, I certainly understand why people are concerned about military votes.
But, you're coming in after the fact, after local people have made a decision to say that's not fair. You have other sorts of situations like that in Florida. So, it's a very slippery slope once you start down it.
KING: As a decorated hero, were you hurt at all by the Republican charges made the other day that you were deliberately preventing servicemen around the world from casting their ballot?
KERREY: That's simply isn't true. The vast majority of servicemen got their votes prior to the 7th of November. A very small number got their cast -- sent their votes in after, and most of those were allowed. I mean, what you've got is a situation where on both sides, Republicans and Democrats, they come in when the time comes.
I just came from the area where they're deciding whether or not votes are going to be included or not. Democrats object on one basis; Republicans object on another. And this case, Democrats objected because of a variety of things, including this postmark.
But as I said, I'm willing to look on the basis of fairness at anything that somebody suggests was done that was not correct, but Larry, it's a very slippery slope. Once you start down it, you've got a whole bunch people in Palm Beach, for example, that feel they were disenfranchised for a variety of reasons.
KING: You're leaving the Senate. Are you -- is that prospect happy to based on what's going to happen the next four years?
KERREY: Well, yes and no. I'm looking forward to going back to private life. In some ways I'd like to stay to help create the bipartisan middle that I think that you're going need in order for whoever it is -- whether it's Governor Bush as president or Al Gore as president -- they're going to need a significant amount of support in middle for foreign policy and domestic policy in order for the United States of America to do the things that our country needs to do.
KING: Will this be, in your opinion, senator, a tainted presidency no matter who assumes it? That for four years they're going to keep bringing up this night, these weeks?
KERREY: The answer is it entirely depends upon how both the candidates handle and their supporters handle it. It need not be. I mean, it will end up with -- the loser's always going to be able to say I won because this is that close. It's statistically insignificant -- 900 votes out of six million. That's one every 6,500. That's a narrow margin in the national popular vote.
So, it depends on what the people do afterwards. My own instincts tell me that there's going to be a lot of bitterness, and a lot of people heart-broken that their candidate didn't win. I do think coming out of this, the vast majority of people in the country and in the Congress would prefer to get things done and prefer to rally behind a president.
Now that president's not going to be able to sort of sit on their laurels. They're going to have to do things differently as well. But I think the American people prefer to have their president succeed.
KING: Do you think the Senate will come together?
KERREY: Well, I think the answer is yes, but it remains to be seen if significant division, real division on patients' bill of rights, minimum wage increase, prescription drug benefit, tax cuts -- there's a lot of -- Social Security -- there's a lot of differences. I think it's entirely possible that the middle can govern, but it is not easy to do, because oftentimes what happens is that you get criticized in your own party, both groups do, and it's very hard to hold it together.
My hope is, is that that's what happens.
KING: Good luck, senator. We'll be seeing a lot of you. Thanks very much.
KERREY: Thanks, Larry. OK.
KING: Senator Bob Kerrey in West Palm Beach. Now we go to San Francisco, George Shultz, secretary of state under Reagan, held other Cabinet posts as well, is an adviser to George W. Bush.
What do you make of all this tonight?
GEORGE SHULTZ, FORMER SECRETARY OF STATE: Well, we wait for the Florida Supreme Court and whatever they rule, but I think the attention, some of the attention anyway needs to go on what you said was the theme of your show: what happens next.
KING: The other day, on this program, you said -- in fact, November 9th -- we have a constitutional process, we have in the state of Florida a set of rules they've established about the conduct of elections, and so far as you could see, their conscientiously trying to follow their procedures. Do you still stand by that?
SHULTZ: Well, I felt that, and I still feel that way, and hope it turns out that way.
KING: Were your disturbed about this military issue? Senator Kerrey discussed it. I know you're a veteran as well. What did you make of that?
SHULTZ: Well, any time you disqualify military votes you should be very, very careful about it, because they certainly deserve to be counted.
I know when I was serving in the Pacific in World War II as a Marine I was there on an island that we had taken, a lot of bloodshed, and all of a sudden we heard Franklin Roosevelt was dead, the president's dead. He was our leader. And it really comes home to you how important that president is to you, because the decisions that he makes can have an effect on your life.
So you're entitled to vote, and I mean entitled.
KING: Governor Jeb Bush of Florida said today that he's not concerned about the effect on the nation. We have a president, we have -- we don't have a crisis. But he is concerned about it internationally, how other nations perceive us. Are you?
SHULTZ: Everything depends, or a lot depends -- it depends on how the new president and others conduct themselves. And I think that a new president can establish himself clearly and firmly, and this closeness of the election and the contention around it is not going to handicap him if he handles himself right.
KING: Does the loser also have to handle himself well?
SHULTZ: Yes, particularly at the beginning. But the loser then has lost, and he's out of there.
KING: Yes, but the first few days, the attention will stay focused on both, do you agree?
SHULTZ: At first, but then I think it will swing to whoever is the new president -- I certainly hope and expect it's going to be Governor Bush -- and what is doing, who is he going to appoint to his Cabinet, who is he going to appoint to the various deputy and the host of other jobs that are there. And that's going to start telling us what kind of an administration we're going to have. How does he go about engaging himself with the deadlock or the potential deadlock in the Congress?
KING: You were secretary of state and part of that job required diplomacy. Does the next president have to think in a bipartisan manner?
SHULTZ: Well, he has to think in terms of what are the opportunities for the United States and the people of the United States, what are our problems, whether it's domestic or whether it's foreign policy and security policy matters, and put that up front all the time, and let people see and feel that that's what he's there for, that's what he's working on.
And there will be all sorts of temptations to take a partisan shot about something or other that comes along, and I hope that he resists that and keeps the focus on solving the problems and creating opportunities for the American people.
KING: It's always great to see you, George, and always great to see you looking well.
SHULTZ: Feeling great, Larry.
KING: Senator -- former secretary of many posts -- Labor, State -- George Shultz, always good seeing him. When we come back, we'll talk with the Florida election canvassing commission chairman Bob Crawford. He's a member of the commission rather -- he replaced Jeb Bush -- and Roger Cossack. And lots more guests coming ahead. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now in Tallahassee, Bob Crawford, the Florida Election Canvassing Commission, the newest member of that commission replacing Jeb Bush who recused himself. And in Washington, Roger Cossack, CNN legal analyst and co-host of CNN's "BURDEN OF PROOF." Ten days ago, Bob Crawford, you said that this is a classic example. It is worth it because it is democracy in action, still stand by that?
BOB CRAWFORD, FLORIDA ELECTION OFFICIAL: I still do, Larry. Democracy is neither efficient or simple, but it is the greatest system in the world and that is what we are experiencing. And, in fact, there is a tremendous amount of excitement where I'm sitting here because we are all anticipating that the court is about to announce that there will be a ruling available in very short order. So, you can slice the tension in the air right now. It is getting pretty tense right here in Tallahassee.
KING: There's supposed to be a 30-minute warning, right? Are you saying you are expecting that any minute, the 30-minute warning?
CRAWFORD: I would expect the 30-minute warning very shortly. Our friends at the court that work there have told us that there is the copying machines are being worked strenuously. In fact, they have broken down twice. And I think we would probably have a ruling if it hadn't been for the copying machines breaking down.
Now that is what we are hearing. We don't know for sure. But I got a sense that this ruling is coming out tonight, and we are all looking forward to hearing what the court says.
KING: Roger Cossack, it looks fairly obvious now that we are going to know something tonight, right? It looks that way.
ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, from what Bob Crawford says -- and you know, clearly, this is the kind of thing that any court would be wanting to make a quick decision -- I think that's a wise thing to do. It is -- when we saw the argument, we saw how concerned they were with the time delineations. The first thing that we heard was the notice by the chief justice that everything had to be done by December 12th.
So, it is not unusual that we would get a quick, quick decision. And it looks like we are going to have it tonight.
KING: Now, when -- how this works, folks, is Wilson Barnes, he is the marshal of the Florida Supreme Court. He has been doing that a long time. He will come out and make some announcement probably that it is 30 minutes away.
When the 30-minute time is up, Craig Waters who was with us last night, director of public information for the Florida Supreme Court, he will come out give you an announcement. He is not going to read the whole decision, but he will give you in short fashion what that decision is and the vote of the Supreme Court.
So, Craig Waters will officially announce it. Wilson Barnes will give you the 30-minute warning. And we kind of feel it is coming because Craig Waters was due to be on this show tonight and called us shortly before, saying that he couldn't make it.
Bob, do you have any thought as to the way they are going to go?
CRAWFORD: Well, I have thought all day, that if they were able to conclude their deliberations sometime today, that that meant they took more of a straightforward approach, which would probably mean following the Florida law. Now, everybody has an opinion up here, but I am thinking that they are going to follow the law and it is going to be a fairly straightforward opinion. If that is the case, we the members of the...
KING: All right, let's go. I'm going to interrupt you Bob. Here is Wilson Barnes the Florida Supreme Court Marshal with an announcement.
WILSON BARNES, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT MARSHAL: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I'm Wilson Barnes, the marshal of the Florida Supreme Court.
The court, in approximately 30 minutes, will make a very important announcement, in 30 minutes.
KING: OK, as we told you, that is just the way they gave it to us. That was Wilson Barnes announcing we will have a decision in 30 minutes. And when we see that decision, which will be right in middle of us, Craig Waters will be making it. And we are going to ask people to hang around for their comments.
Bob Crawford, thank you very much for joining us.
Roger Cossack, you will be hanging close.
When we come back, we'll get the thoughts of Barry Richard and Jack Quinn. Again, we have a decision. We will know it in a half hour. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now in Miami is Barry Richard, who led the Florida trial counsel for the Bush campaign.
Barry, inside tonight. Good to see you more comfortable.
And Jack Quinn in our Washington bureau, the Gore campaign senior adviser, former White House counsel, and they both are with us almost every night.
Barry, are you -- you were involved directly in this. Are you nervous?
BARRY RICHARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: No, I been doing this for 30 years. I don't get nervous anymore. About the only time I get an anxiety attack is when I've finished a jury trial and the jury is walking in the room and everybody is waiting to see what they are going to say.
KING: So you are much more anxious with juries than with appellate courts. RICHARD: Well, this is a little different. Ordinarily what happens with an appellate court is you don't know the opinion's coming, you get your mail in the morning, you open envelope and there it is.
So, this one is a little closer to a jury trial when they have announced it. And it is sort of like the Supreme Court justices are working out like the jury and announcing the opinion. So, I may get an anxiety attack when the opinion comes out. It hasn't started yet.
KING: Jack Quinn, you have been involved from the get-go, nervous?
JACK QUINN, GORE CAMPAIGN SENIOR ADVISER: I'm sure everyone is going to have butterflies, right before a hearing, this decision. But, at the same time, I think all of as are like an awful lot of Americans, looking +forward to seeing the light at end of the tunnel.
KING: Barry, Bob Crawford said that with decision coming so quickly, he thinks that they may well affirm the circuit court by coming so fast. Do you share that view?
RICHARD: I just don't speculate. This is one of the favorite pastimes of trial lawyers, is to decide that what it means when an appellate court or a jury comes back early or late. And, I find that the batting average on that speculation is usually pretty poor. I just can't take a guess, at it.
KING: Jack, a lot of talk today about the military vote and Senator Kerrey was on earlier saying that he wants everything to count that is countable, that is correct. Is that the position of the Gore campaign?
QUINN: You bet. And I have made clear on this show before I think we ought to ensure, bend over backwards, make sure that every legally cast military ballot is counted. But one of the things that has at times amused and at times infuriated me is that the other side seems not to care very much about all these veterans, elderly people in Palm Beach, and the spouses of veterans, and people who paid taxes for years and years in this country whose votes haven't been counted either.
And I think that as Senator Kerrey has said, we've got to do everything possible to make sure every overseas military ballot is counted, but we've got to make sure that every vote that was legally cast in the state of Florida is counted, whether it was cast by an 82- year-old veteran or someone serving this nation overseas.
KING: Barry Richard, are you -- since you're part this team, do you plan for a negative decision your way? In other words, are legal wheels in motion thinking ahead?
RICHARD: Well, we have an obligation to our client to always be thinking ahead, particularly when we're dealing with an issue which is as fast-moving as this is. There has been no specific plan made for what we are going to do the morning after we receive the opinion if we don't like it, but we have made ourselves aware of what the options are and what the procedural steps are that we'll take depending upon which option we decide upon.
KING: And Jack, have you done the same thing?
QUINN: Yes, I'm sure there has been a lot of thought given to what ifs in various contexts, but much in the same vein as Barry's thinking has been, you really can't begin to know what you're going to do until you parse this very important decision by the Florida court.
This decision is going to set the course for how this election dispute is resolved, and there's simply no doubt about it.
KING: Barry Richard and Jack Quinn, thank you both very much. We've asked them both to stand by -- they've been so cooperative every night -- as when we get this decision, we'll be in the middle of our panel. We're going to go to them as well for their immediate reaction to it. We should be getting it in about 20 to 25 minutes, somewhere in that range.
When we come back, two distinguished members of the Senate, Bob Graham and Orrin Hatch. Don't go away.
KING: Again, if you joined us late, the marshal for the Florida Supreme Court has announced there will be a decision. He announced that about nine minutes ago. He said within around 30 minutes. So it's going to happen right in here in LARRY KING LIVE, and we're going to go to it as soon as it comes, and it will be delivered by Craig Waters, the director of public information for the Supreme Court.
We'll have a major panel coming of David Gergen and Frank Rich and Ed Rollins. Joining us now from Tallahassee, Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, and in Washington, Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah: just re-elected to a fifth term, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Senator Graham, has all of this been an embarrassment for your state or is it just one of those weird occurrences?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: No, Larry, I'm very proud of the way our state has handled this matter. The spotlight of the world has been on a few of our citizens who have been working very hard to see that this election is open and is credible and will result in a president of the United States who has the full authority of the office.
I'm also proud of our Supreme Court. I think the world had a chance to see them yesterday, and came away with a sense that this is a very talented, serious group of people who can handle the tremendous weight of decision that they are about to announce.
KING: Senator Hatch, you were impressed with the court yesterday? SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, I'm always impressed with courts, and have a lot of respect for them, but, you know, a lot depends on how they uphold the law. This is a classic separation of powers case. Both -- I think Barry Richards when he appeared before the court did a wonderful job of explaining that both constitutions, the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of Florida, place the electoral process in the hands of the state legislature, which passed this very definitive statute, and since there is no evidence of impropriety or fraud or even machine breakdown, the secretary of state exercised her discretion.
I think it's almost impossible for them to say that she abused her discretion. I think they're going to have to uphold her, but if they don't, then the light at end of the tunnel that Jack Quinn was talking about is going to be very dark because I think we're going to get into a morass like we've never seen before in this country.
KING: Senator Graham, Senator Hatch is saying that if the vote goes the way Gore likes, you're in trouble. Or the country is in trouble.
GRAHAM: I don't think so. Larry, I believe that our nation is strong enough to get through this process and reach the result that we all want, a person elected president that has legitimacy, and that the nation can rally behind and support. You know, 124 years ago, Florida was the last state to cast its ballot in a very political decision for Rutherford B. Hayes, who never recovered from that. He served one term under the cloud of illegitimacy. We do not want that to happen in the year 2000.
KING: Senator Hatch, is that going to happen no matter how Senator Graham wishes it, no matter who takes office, there will be a question?
HATCH: Well, that all depends how this handled and handled by both of these gentlemen. They're both fine people. I know them both very well. But I'll tell you, this court decision tonight has really a very historic important decision. If they come down -- if they come down and say that you have to the 12th to resolve these problems, the contest alone requires no less than 22 days. As many as 27 days. There's no way that you can get through that process. It might wind up with the Florida state legislature, electing the electors. That would be a tragedy, especially since there is no evidence of fraud, no evidence of machine breakdown, no evidence impropriety.
KING: But by questioning, you could you tell there were gray areas, Senator Hatch, in the law.
HATCH: Not really, not...
KING: Then all those questions didn't mean anything to you?
HATCH: Not -- well, of course they meant something to me, but not really. The statute was pretty clear. Yes, it said they could have manual recounts, but they were supposed to do them within a certain period of time so that they could have finality in this race. And frankly, you know, I -- I don't know how the Supreme Court is going to rule, but if it does intrude upon and usurp the powers of the executive branch of Florida, and the -- and I might add, the legislative branch of Florida, then I'm not sure that the Bush campaign would have any other thing they could do other than to move to the federal courts and prove that the separation of powers have been violated and that due process has not been accorded in these matters, because what they've done is they've come up with new rules, new standards, sometimes no standards at all. And I have to say, there is an 11th Circuit Court, actually, two of them right now, that say that are right in point that they cannot do these type of things retroactively.
KING: We'll take a break, come right back and get Senator Graham's thoughts on what Senator Hatch just said. Then we'll be meeting David Gergen, Frank Rich, Ed Rollins. We still have standing by the gentlemen with us earlier who will analyze what happened and we're going to bring you the announcement from the Florida Supreme Court. All that's ahead. Don't go away.
KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. Approximately 15 minutes from now or thereabouts, we will have an announcement from the Florida Supreme Court, delivered by Craig Waters, giving us their decision on the --yesterday's hearing that was held in regard to this Bush-Gore matter and the recount.
We're talking with Senator Bob Graham, Democrat of Florida, and Senator Orrin Hatch. Republican of Utah. In a couple of minutes, David Gergen, Frank Rich, and Ed Rollins, and by the way, both senators have agreed to stand by for their reaction to the verdict.
Senator Graham, do you want to comment on what Senator Hatch said?
GRAHAM: Well I have a great deal of respect for Orrin and his judicial knowledge, but this is a classic case in which the legislature has placed in the same statute two inconsistent provisions. They have one that says all votes are to be certified seven days after the election, then they have a provision that allows for a manual count.
In this case, there was an automatic machine recount ordered by law that took 72 hours, which meant that there were only four days left.
Larry, you're very familiar with the size of, for instance, Miami-Dade County with over 2 million people. The idea of being able to hand count all of those votes within a four-day period is ludicrous, and the idea that you would have the same standard...
KING: So how did they pass such a law?
GRAHAM: Legislation... KING: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) was the size of the county then?
GRAHAM: Legislatures do that, and courts have the responsibility then of trying to determine some way to make these different inconsistent provisions consistent, and the case of this, I think the logical thing to say is that the secretary of state has some discretion to exercise in order to allow those large counties that could not have complied with the only four days that were left to have a chance to do so.
She refused to exercise that discretion. That's what this whole case is about. Did she abuse her discretion by failing to do so?
KING: And she got a standing ovation today at the opening of the Florida legislature, and you don't want, Orrin, you hope that this doesn't go to the legislature to vote for the electors? Is that correct, Senator Hatch? You don't want it to come to that, even though the vote would probably be for electors committed to your man.
HATCH: Well, that certainly would be within the law. That certainly would be within the law. But I don't want it to come to that.
I think the Florida Supreme Court ought to abide by the law. Look, if this secretary of state had not done what she did, she would have been in danger of impeachment, because she would have directly violated a legislative act that both constitutions, the Constitution of the United States and the constitution of Florida, and the state legislature enacted. So she had no choice other than to do that.
It is not an abuse of discretion to, you know, to overturn the statute. Now if they had come up with real good reason...
GRAHAM: If I could say, there was a good reason, which the Florida Supreme Court has is recognized in other cases, and that is...
HATCH: What's that?
GRAHAM: ... it's an accepted fact that these types of machines have an error rate. Normally, that is...
HATCH: They've always had an error rate, Bob, and they factor that in...
KING: One at a time.
GRAHAM: Orrin, what's different -- what's different about this case is that normally the margin of victory is so great that it overwhelms the error rate? Here, we're talking about a margin of victory with almost 6 million votes cast of what could be well under a thousand votes. That's a classic case in which the machine is not sufficiently accurate to declare who is the victor, and therefore, all the experts have said the best way to handle that is to have a follow- up of a hand count to review these ballots to determine what the actual margin of victory is.
HATCH: Well, if I could answer, Bob, that's just not true. The fact of the matter is you had a formal vote count, then you had a formal recount, both of which were done...
GRAHAM: The machines -- the machines...
HATCH: Now, wait, let me just answer, Bob. If the machines had broken down, if there was a problem with those machines, yes, there might be some argument that you have, but they factor these matters in across the country. And when you start saying that, well, just because you don't have the result that you want that the machine's wrong, then there's something wrong with that.
GRAHAM: Orrin, could I ask this question?
GRAHAM: Probably the most definitive statute in this country that at least that I have seen, which sanctions a hand count to follow on after a machine count, particularly in close elections, and which lays out in great detail how all the types of chads -- dimpled, pregnant, et cetera -- will be handled is in the state of Texas. If...
HATCH: Well, what's that got to do with it? That was enacted by the Democratic State Senate.
GRAHAM: ... is that the state of Texas and the majority of states in this nation recognize the fact that there's an error rate in the machine, and therefore, provide for a manual count.
HATCH: Larry -- Larry, let me just answer that. We are in Florida. You are in Florida. It is your state legislature that set definitive terms here that ought to be abided by. There is nothing to indicate they're unconstitutional and everything to indicate that they're right. And that's why the court should uphold them.
KING: All right, we're getting redundant, but what will happen here is both our senators, good friends both, both good friends of mine, they're going to stand by to give you their reaction. The decision should be coming in about eight or so minutes. And when we come back, David Gergen, Frank Rich and Ed Rollins will chime in, and then we'll get comments from everybody. Don't go away.
KING: And now our panel assembles on what is now turning into a historic night -- we've had many. In Boston, David Gergen, editor at large, "U.S. News & World Report," author of "Eyewitness to Power," counselor to four presidents -- Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. In San Francisco, Frank Rich, the brilliant op-ed columnist of "The New York Times." He's on a book tour now for a brilliant memoir, "Ghost Light," which is also available on tape and is one terrific read, if I could throw that in the middle of all this. And in New York, Ed Rollins, longtime Republican strategist. He served in the administrations of Nixon, Ford and Reagan.
David, we're about six minutes away approximately. What are you expecting?
DAVID GERGEN, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": I'm not sure what to expect, Larry. There are two things I'm looking for: first of all, whether the court will say that Katherine Harris acted within her discretion in discounting these hand manual recounted votes. If they do that, it's over: George W. Bush will become president before midnight as proclaimed by Katherine Harris.
If they go the other way, then there is a second very, very critical issue here, and that is what the court will say about these dimpled ballots, because, Larry, even with the hand recount that's going on now in these counties, I think Gore is going to come up short unless the court or unless the counties are authorized to count those dimpled ballots, the contested ballots, and possibly there Gore will find it. Otherwise, gain, George W. Bush is going to emerge the winner out of Florida.
KING: Frank Rich, what do you think is going to happen? And all this is a guessing game.
FRANK RICH, "NEW YORK TIMES" COLUMNIST: I don't know what's going to happen. I'm certainly looking for the same things that David Gergen is.
I was very struck by Orrin Hatch's comments just before we came on, how combative they were if the decision doesn't go the way that the Bush camp wants. I wonder if that's a preview of politics to come should that happen.
KING: Do you think it is, Frank?
RICH: I don't know. If that's reflective of Republican thinking, it could be quite bloody down the road. After the American people have seen a court that seems to be behaving in a judicious manner deliberate about this, it's very interesting to me. It was such an angry, combative tone about this decision before it's even been hatched, if I may use that word.
KING: Good line. Ed Rollins, if this decision goes the Democratic way whatever that is, the obvious way that would please the Democrats, do the Republicans get into a kind of a fist fight over this with legislature involved?
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: I -- well, I don't know whether the legislature ends up involved. Obviously, if George W. Bush wins the recount, if they get away with a recount and its clarity and George W. Bush wins the recount, then it's over and he probably -- that's the best of all solutions in the sense that he'll be a viewed as a president who hasn't cheated his way.
The difficulty -- no matter what happens to Gore, partisan Republicans are always going to assume this is one more Clinton-Gore effort to deprive them of due justice. Whether that's right or wrong is indifferent. Partisan Republicans today really feel this election is being stolen from them, and I may argue one point or another, but the reality is that's the way most people feel out there. And I think to a certain extent they will go to the mattresses if this court goes against them tonight, and obviously, if Al Gore wins this election and they feel they've stolen the election, it's going to be a long hard battle.
KING: Do you agree, especially in the second area, Ed, that David mentioned, the area of the chads and the pregnant and the backs of the ballots?
ROLLINS: You know, my problem is I've been around politics so long I've seen it all. You know, I've seen people eat ballots to keep them from being counted.
Not chads, but the reality here is I really hope there's clarity, and the clarity means this is what -- this really is what a vote is. This is how to determine it so that all counties that are counting this. I hope the other part of it is they determine to go that way. In spite of the Bush objections, I would really like to see a statewide effort so when this thing is finished a week or two weeks or three weeks from now, we can all step back and say, to a certain point, that whoever really got the most votes won and deserves the presidency.
KING: David Gergen, we have no precedent for anything like this night. What do you think is going to be the reaction? I mean, how do you think the country is dealing with this?
GERGEN: I think, Larry, if the Florida court, a court appointed by Democratic governors, comes down on Bush's side, there will be a widespread feeling among Democrats at least that was a just result. But I would underscore what Ed Rollins said and I think Frank Rich picked up on it just right, and that is that the Republicans will feel if this decision goes for Gore on both issues, on both primary issues, the Republicans will react to that in the same way Democrats reacted to Katherine Harris.
They will see it as a partisan effort, as a misreading of the law and I think a lot of the passion you see in Orrin Hatch will erupt across all Republican Party and they will look for ways, either to go to the legislature or to go to other courts to overturn it because they will see it as unfair decision. I think -- I'm afraid that's what where we are.
GERGEN: So this decision tonight could be very divisive or we'll see.
KING: Frank, go ahead. RICH: What's interesting -- yes, what's interesting to me is that the Democrats -- I may be reading wrong and maybe the others will disagree with me -- are not necessarily going to go to the mattresses if they lose. That's the feeling I get. I think there's a certain resignation setting in among the and a lot of second-guessing now about the Gore campaign, and the fact he may have blown it. And I'm not sure that the Democrats would necessarily go to the mattresses if they lose in this decision. I wonder if others agree with that.
ROLLINS: I would agree with you on that. I think the bottom line here is that I go back to the point, I think Republicans felt that Bill Clinton cheated them out of the impeachment and all the rest of stuff and whether he did or not is irrelevant. But they've had this long six-year battle in which they think the Clinton-Gore team has always cut all the edges and has taken advantage of them.
I think in this particular case, where they thought they won on election night, they thought they had won on the recount, and now to basically have it taken away by dimples or whatever, I think today will really make my party very, very angry, and have great difficulty in putting it back together. I also think Gore has been blamed for running a lousy campaign, and I think a lot of Democrats felt he could have won this easily and obviously he didn't.
KING: Let me just say something here to viewers tuning in. Approximately 30 minutes ago, Wilson Barnes, the Florida Supreme Court marshal announced there would be an announcement within 30 minutes. There you see the lectern in front of the Florida Supreme Court. Approaching it shortly should be Craig Waters director of public of information, and we will get comments.
Here comes Craig Waters. Let's listen.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
CRAIG WATERS, SPOKESMAN, FLORIDA SUPREME COURT: ... spokesman for the Florida Supreme Court. I want to discuss some technical matters first.
The opinion will be posted on the Web site or duplicate Web sites immediately after I finish this statement. The doors will open for people to receive paper copies at that time as well.
I'm now going to read to you a statement that was authorized by the entire court.
The court has issued a 42-page opinion this evening in the presidential election cases. In its opinion, the court reversed the two orders of the trial court. It did so based on longstanding rules that governed how to interpret a general statute containing conflicting provisions as is the case with Florida's election code.
In dealing with similar conflicts in the past, the court has consistently held that the right of the people to cast their vote is the paramount concern overriding all others. To achieve this goal, the court holds that amended certifications from the county canvassing boards must be accepted by Election Canvassing Commission through 5:00 p.m. on November 26th if secretary of state's office is open for the special purpose of receiving amended certifications. If that office is not open for this purpose on that date, then Elections Canvassing Commission must accept amended certifications until 9:00 a.m. on November 27th.
The opinion of the court is unanimous.
Thank you and I will not be taking any questions.
KING: All right, now let's get an opinion on this.
Barry Richard, they got to have, as I understand it, I guess your side lost. But the time factor is only six days from now. Am I reading that correct, Barry?
RICHARD: That is what I heard. with obviously without the advantage of being able to read the opinion, that is what it sounded like to me.
KING: Jack Quinn, how did it sound to you?
QUINN: It sounded the same way. I think, you know, we have felt all along that Florida law clearly contemplates that hand recounts may be conducted if they are applied for in a timely fashion as they were here, and if there is a reason to let them go forward. In this case, there was a reason to do so, because there is clear evidence that thousands and thousands of ballots were in fact not counted by these machines.
KING: They didn't, though, say anything, Barry, they didn't say anything about the backs of the cards, the chads, and the like. Or did you read into that that they should be counted?
RICHARD: We just can't tell from the announcement. It is a 42- page opinion, so we don't know. There's obviously more in it than what was stated in the announcement. And, I just don't know what else they said. But he certainly didn't indicate that that was part of it.
KING: Jack Quinn, how are they going to do Miami-Dade in five days?
QUINN: I don't know the answer to that.
KING: Including Thanksgiving.
QUINN: Yes, I don't know the answer to that. That remains to be seen. As the clerk said it was a 42-page opinion. We don't know if there are instructions in there as to what may be counted and what may not be counted.
But, look, stepping back for a moment, Larry, this is, I think, a very significant victory for thousands and thousands of people who went to the polls in Florida. It is a great victory for the American people. It is not a victory for one campaign over the other. We all want to get to a point in this process where whoever wins this presidential election can enjoy the trust and confidence of the American people. I think this was a terribly important step in that direction.
KING: Senator Hatch, I know you may be disappointed. But they have only given them to the 27th. That doesn't seem possible. It seems like -- well, what's your thoughts?
HATCH: Well, I don't know. You know, you've got a 42-page opinion there and we'll have to read it. But I wonder how they are going to handle all these dimpled chads and these hanging chads and pregnant chads and so forth, because it is one of the most subjective ways of counting that you could have.
Plus, you've got every election board controlled by Democrats. So all the questionable ones are -- you know, Republicans are going to be afraid that they will just go for Gore and that this is a way of giving the election to Gore.
You know. I don't know. Well, I don't know. I'll have to look at the opinion, and I am disappointed that they did not uphold the separation of powers doctrine. I think that was a very big mistake, a constitutional error of great magnitude.
KING: Senator Graham, what are your thoughts?
SEN. BOB GRAHAM (D), FLORIDA: To me, it was what was expected. The court had already signaled when it authorized the hand counts to go forward in the four counties that it was inclined to see this as the fairest way to determine what the intent of the voters were. It would have been, I think, difficult then to have said, having authorized that you do counts, we are not going to allow the results of those counts to be part of the final vote totals.
So I think this was an expected decision. They apparently did not go beyond what they absolutely had to do to deal with the setting standards that would apply to how the ballots should be counted, nor did they do what many of us including myself would have hoped and that is that they would have said that all of the counties should have a manual hand count, so that there would be a feeling that all Floridians were treated equally.
KING: Obviously we are going to have to read the rest of the pages. And I thank all you for staying with us.
Hold on, panel, you stay with us.
Barry Richard, Jack Quinn, Senators Hatch and Graham, let's get an opinion now from our man Roger Cossack in Washington, our legal expert.
What do you make of this?
COSSACK: Well, Larry, you know, as everyone has said, we haven't seen the opinion yet, but there are some questions that seem to hang out there, one of which is, as we said, you know, apparently, are there any instructions on how they count these ballots?
No. 2, what happens if they don't get finished counting by November 27? What happens if there is only a partial count and you can't finish? The policy was that all the votes should be counted, but what happens if all votes shouldn't be counted?
Another thing they didn't talk about is apparently it is only the counties in question, or have they expanded that there should be a recount?
So what we really have to do is read the entire 42-page opinion for the details. You know, the devil is in details, and we've got to find out what all the details say and what the Supreme Court said. But I think the most interesting is there has been no indication of what the standards are for these recounts.
KING: David Gergen, thanks very much, Roger.
David, that was a very short statement on a 42-page opinion that was unanimous. We've got to read it.
GERGEN: Larry, the devil may be in details, but for the Bush campaign, the devil was also in the plain statement. This was a huge and potentially decisive victory for the Gore campaign. What it seemed to say is that by the 26th, when they recertify from these counties that Secretary Katherine Harris must accept the decision of the canvassing board and it seemed to leave it up to the canvassing boards themselves what standards to apply to the ballots.
Now, we'll have to see whether the opinion differs from the statement, but the clear implication was the canvassing boards would decide whether the dimpled ballots are to be counted. And those canvassing boards, which are controlled by Democrats, by and large, are -- and a couple of these counties, Broward and Palm Beach, are certainly inclined to count those dimpled ballots.
So, you know, this is potentially very, very important. The fact it was 7-0 I think going to leave a -- I think it helps the Gore campaign enormously. I think it is going to cause a storm among Republicans over time, especially, if those dimpled ballots are counted.
KING: Frank Rich in San Francisco, what about the time limit?
I'm sorry we can't go to Frank. We will go back to Frank. We will go to Ed Rollins in New York.
The 27th, that includes Thanksgiving, Ed.
ROLLINS: The time limit bothers me for this reason. It's going to be a rush to count. I think if you are going to recount, you want to make sure you count it accurately and not leave any place for misplay. I think every one of these counties is going to try to get it done and they are going to get it done any way shape or form they can. And any time you do that there is the potential of mischief. I'm not making any accusations, but the potential is there for mischief.
I still would have much rather have had them lengthen it out a little bit. If you are going to recount, recount the entire state. A state like California doesn't have to have its certification done until December 5th. It has 54 electoral votes. There is no reason Florida couldn't have gone a few more weeks.
KING: What do you make of it, Frank, on the face of it? Is it puzzling, the shortness of time?
RICH: It gives a new meaning to Cliff Notes, doesn't it? A 42- page decision in three sentences? So we really can't speculate easily about a lot of these things.
I think what everyone said is obviously right, it is a big victory for Gore. It puts the Republicans in a strange position, because they are in favor of local control and local rule, and here it is on television, local democracy in action. Can they really rail against a unanimous decision like this that turns power over to local organizations?
And it looks like, also, the Bush campaign may have made a Gore- like strategic error by not demanding recounts in other counties when they could have done that.
KING: But Frank, before we leave you and we are going to get final comments from Barry Richard, Jack Quinn and our two senators because we have left Mr. Gergen and Mr. Rollins. They will be back in nights ahead.
Frank, how could they do -- how can Miami-Dade count it by the 27th, including Thanksgiving?
RICH: Well, we should be grateful it is not during any Jewish holiday. But I think that people are going to -- I don't know. I don't know the answer to that. People are not going to be eating a lot of turkey. There is going to have to be citizenry in action, stepping up to the plate and going to work. I don't know if it is feasible at all.
KING: Barry Richard, do you expect it to be much clearer when you get the 42 pages?
RICHARD: Well, I don't know, but I will tell you, it may be of some comfort to Senator Hatch to know that the canvassing board in Palm Beach County has taken a reasonably conservative view of their counting the dimpled ballots, and as a matter of fact there has been a lawsuit, a motion filed in the existing lawsuit that was filed by the Democrats before the judge in that county, to force the canvassing board to take a more liberal view of votes that they will count that have dimpled ballots on it. It's scheduled for a hearing at 10:00 tomorrow morning, and I would expect them to argue.
KING: In the 42-page statement, might the court have addressed that? Might they have said count it or don't count it? RICHARD: Of course, they might have and I'm going to have to read it pretty quickly before the hearing at 10:00 tomorrow morning because it may affect it.
But I think that the important point here is that this is, as I understand it, a Democratic canvassing board. But they have taken a fairly conservative view of it, and if it is the opinion of the court, if this court's opinion, the Supreme Court's opinion indicates that it is within the discretion of the canvassing board to make that decision, then that should have an impact upon the judge tomorrow and he should allow them to do what they have been doing.
KING: Obviously, we have a lot more to learn, Jack Quinn. I guess you will be rushing to read your 42 pages, right?
QUINN: You bet. And I think as Barry just suggested it is important that we recognize that these are good, decent public servants trying to do a conscientious job, making sure that the votes of the people of Florida get counted, and it doesn't benefit the process, or the end result to impugn their integrity or the good job they are trying to do.
KING: You are not saying, Senator Hatch, you are not impugning their integrity are you?
HATCH: No, not at all, but I am concerned that every election board is controlled by Democrats. And, you know, we are talking about -- this is not just a local issue, to find fault with Mr. Rich. This is involving the president of the United States. This involves the future of our country. This involves the Constitution, and I'm really concerned about these matters.
I can live with whatever happens, just so it is fair and honest. But by gosh, there are a lot of constitutional issues involved and now new ones that are raised tonight, at least it seems to me by this 42- page opinion.
KING: I'm out of time.
Bob Graham, is your state going to work 24 hours a day on this?
GRAHAM: These good people are going to work very hard. They are going to have to work even harder in the next few days in order to meet these time schedules. But I can tell the people of America that Floridians are committed to conducting a fair, open election that will produce a credible president of the United States.
KING: Thank you all very much, Jeff Greenfield and Judy Woodruff host a special report on all of this next. I'm Larry King. Good night.
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