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Larry King Live
Can Al Gore Win His Contest of Florida's ElectionAired November 29, 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, Al Gore's running mate, Senator Joe Lieberman, joins us from Washington for a one-on-one, and then from Phoenix, George W. Bush's one-time rival for the White House, Senator John McCain.
We'll also talk with a 1988 Democratic standard-bearer, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, and with former House minority leader, Republican Bob Michel. Good seeing him again.
All that plus another provocative panel discussion. It's all next on LARRY KING LIVE.
We begin with Senator Joe Lieberman. He joins us from Washington. What's -- what's this been like really inside?
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, Larry, it's been a most unusual experience. Look what a year this has been. An extraordinary opportunity that Al Gore gave me to run for vice president. Had a -- just a great time in the campaign. People were wonderful all around America. I believe in Al Gore. I believe in the program to continue America's prosperity that we ran on. And that's why...
KING: Yes, but what's...
LIEBERMAN: What's this been like?
KING: What's the last four weeks been?
LIEBERMAN: Well, it's been a bit of a roller coaster. But the good news is that I've been home. I've been with my family. I've gotten a lot more sleep than I got during the campaign. And we feel all right, because we think what we're doing is right, and we just want a fair result, want all the votes to be counted.
KING: Have you ever, Senator, said to your -- doubted yourself in fighting this fight after the election? Have you ever said, "Maybe we should chuck it in"?
LIEBERMAN: I honestly have not. I mean, if we come to that moment, we will know it. But this is not about, you know, fighting on regardless, but a refusal to concede, if, in fact, we have lost. Let's go back to election night, Larry, and remember that Al Gore and I were ready to concede when we thought we had lost. And when the votes began to come in, in a little bit different way and we saw we hadn't, naturally we didn't concede.
But ever since that night and the next day, all that we have asked is that every vote that was cast be counted. And that's a simple, and I think very profound, American proposition. And it's not only important to the people who voted, but it's important to the next president so he takes office without that cloud over his head.
So, no. I feel very committed to what we're doing. I think it's fair. I think it's just. When you're treated unfairly by the government in the United States of America, what do you do? You go to the courts. And that's what we're doing. And we're not going to carry this on to a point where it will hurt this country.
KING: Are you saying, Senator, do you feel that if every vote -- every vote in Florida was counted, recounted, they went through everything hand, if they were able to do that, you would win this election?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I believe we would. And certainly that's part of why Al Gore and I are asking for this hand recount -- or joining the people in Florida who have asked for it.
Remember, we won the popular vote. We're just three electoral votes short of victory.
But on the hand count, honestly, we don't know how it will end, and that's why we say just count the votes that have not been counted. And by that, of course, we mean the votes that were put in the machine and nothing registered for president. We think a lot of those people intended to vote, and we just want people to look at them by hand and eye, and decide whether they did indeed vote, and if they did, they ought to be counted.
KING: Read somewhere that you feel deeply hurt because it's Miami, and because you spent so much time in Miami, especially among the elderly and there are a lot in Miami. Campaigned heavily and you thought you got that vote. You thought you got the vote in Palm Beach that went in one area to Pat Buchanan.
Do you feel personally disheartened because of that, because you spent so much time in that area?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I saw that in the paper and I don't know where that all came from. I mean what I'm really proud of is that Al Gore and I worked very hard all across America, carried our message of keeping the prosperity and progress going, got the 267 electoral votes, majority of the popular vote, and excruciatingly close in Florida. I'm really proud that we carried the Orlando area, the Tampa area. And I spent a lot of time in all of those places, including South Florida.
I did feel that that butterfly ballot in Palm Beach really confused a lot of people, and not just me feeling it. I have heard from them. I get e-mails. I get phone calls. They're just heartbroken that they went in intending to vote for Al Gore and me and ended up either voting for Buchanan or getting confused and thinking they had a vote because the way the butterfly ballot was for both us, for both Al Gore and me individually.
But that's not even what we're asking for now, as unfair as I think that was. We're just asking that the votes be counted and anybody's vote who didn't register on the machine.
I thought Al Gore had a great metaphor earlier tonight with John King. It's like when you go into the supermarket and the box cereal doesn't register on the scanner. So what do they do? They call somebody and look at it my hand and charge it up. And that's what we're asking here with people's votes.
KING: What's his mood? You spoke with him today.
LIEBERMAN: We've been together a lot. We've been friends for 15 years and -- as well as professional colleagues. But I've never been with him this much, this consistently, as we have in the last 22 days. And the good news is, I think even more of him today than I did before these last 22 days.
LIEBERMAN: He's been very strong, very balanced. He's got perspective. He's turned away from some legal recommendations that maybe a hard-edged person or just a lawyer would have said, "Do it because you can win," because he thought it was either too divisive or it would take too long. We want to have this end by December 12, which the Florida Supreme Court said.
And I just think Al has been thinking not just of fairness, and fairness for us and the 50 million people who voted for us, but doing the right thing for the country. He's not going to carry this too far. And I hope and believe that George Bush and Dick Cheney would do the same if and when -- as I believe -- we end up getting more votes than they do in Florida.
KING: You mean there were recommendations that you could have done other legal things to -- that would have been tougher and might have gotten you this victory?
LIEBERMAN: Yes, there were. And particularly in this stage of the appeal that began on Monday. But -- well, I don't want to speak about them in detail, because I keep all my conversations with the vice president private, I can tell you that he did turn away from some recommendations because he just thought they would be too divisive, and they might take too long, and he wants this to end in a reasonable time to allow a reasonable transition to go forward.
I tell you, Larry, I wish the Bush campaign would have the same attitude, because it seems to me in the court in Leon County, as well as in every attempt by the canvassing boards to count for the last two and a half weeks, the -- our opponents have done nothing but try to delay. And you know in America justice delayed is justice denied, and I think they're trying to run out the clock on us, which may be all right in football but is not right when you're talking about counting votes that people have cast. KING: If you would were to lose -- if you lose in court they don't -- the contest doesn't go through, they don't read it back, are you going to feel this will be a tainted victory? Are you going to have -- is this going to be a bitter four years?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I hope not. And that's why, in the best of all worlds, Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney would have joined us in this call for a full hand count, as Al Gore offered them do it statewide, because that's the way to put it to an end and to have most Americans feeling that it was fair and square. I'm afraid...
KING: But it didn't happen, right?
LIEBERMAN: Look, Al and I are committed to keeping America strong and united. We're not going to be bitter about this, we're going to do whatever we can to keep the country going forward.
But I bet there'll be millions of Americans, particularly those who supported us, who will feel bitter about the result and feel that it was unfair if it results from a kind of delay, delay, delay tactics that our opponents are following now in the courts of Florida that means that thousands of votes cast by people in Florida are not counted in this election.
KING: We'll be right back with some more of Senator Joe Lieberman and then Senator John McCain. We haven't heard much from him in all of this.
We'll be right back. Don't go away.
KING: Senator Lieberman, Vice President Gore told John King today that he thought there'd be a negative reaction if the Florida legislature got involved in this. Do you share that view?
LIEBERMAN: Oh, I sure do, Larry. I think that would be terrible. I tell you, one of the most disappointing moments of this whole experience post-election -- and we've all been tested here. It's not been easy for anybody involved -- was the night that the Florida Supreme Court gave it's decision saying that these hand counts of these counties should go forward and the secretary of state should count them. And folks from the Bush campaign immediately talked about going to the Florida legislature.
That's -- that would set a terrible precedent. I mean, this is all about the rule of law, established procedures. The courts can interpret statutes then reflect the votes of the people who took the time to go to the polls to vote.
I mean, when I say it would be a terrible precedent, if, in fact, as we expect, the Florida electors will be chosen and certified by December 12th, and let's say they're our electors because the counts have gone forward and show that we won the state, what an awful precedent it would be for the Florida legislature to go ahead and choose its own electors. Because it would set a precedent that would say in another state in the next election, if the legislature is controlled by one party, the presidential candidate of another party carries the state, the legislature could them come up with some reason to send its own electors to Washington and frustrate the will of the majority of voters in the state. That's not right.
KING: Is there a question about it being constitutional? Or would it be constitutional?
LIEBERMAN: Well, I think it's a question -- I think it would be a terrible precedent. I think you'd really have to have a situation where the -- where the process in the state had totally broken down. Not just that you didn't like the result of it, but that, in fact, the risk was that a state wouldn't have electors. And then -- I suppose that's why that provision was put in there for the state legislature to act. But we're not going to be in that situation here.
At least, Al Gore and I are not acting in a way to bring us there. If the Republicans in court keep delaying and slow walking, unfortunately we may be in that position. But I hope not. We can get this done in a matter of days if we cooperate.
KING: Do you think you have enough time, Senator Lieberman? If the courts go your way, do you have enough time?
LIEBERMAN: We have enough time. And Larry, as I look at this, we have the facts on our side. Which is to say that votes were not counted in just the way that I described earlier, they weren't registered on the machines, the deserve to have somebody look at them.
We have the law on our side because the law says that every effort should be made in Florida to find the intent of the voter, even if you have to look at the ballot by hand and eye, because that's what democracy is all about.
So we've got the facts and the law. But the time -- because we want to meet this December 12 deadline, in the interest of Florida being represented in the Electoral College, the time is not with us. And that's where we have to ask for, not only relief from the courts, but for hopefully some cooperation from our opponents, who right now are doing everything they can to delay and run out the clock.
Witness the request today to have the million or so ballots brought up from Tallahassee, which is another way of creating obstacles to getting this done on time and depriving us of our right to a fair and timely trial.
KING: Senator Lieberman, whether you are in the Senate or in the vice -- or chairing the Senate, or rapping the gavel to call them to order, what are the next four years going to be like?
LIEBERMAN: Well, look, this has become a very partisan city over the last decade, Washington has. But even in that time, we've had -- we've made some great progress working together.
We balanced the budget together. It required support from both parties. We're running a tremendous surplus. We reformed welfare. We passed a great anti-crime law. I can...
KING: Yes, but no -- not meaning to interrupt, Bill Clinton was elected with a majority of the electors. This will be questioned no matter who has it. What's the effect going to be?
LIEBERMAN: Well, the reason I cited those -- and you're right about the difference, Larry, -- is that even in a very partisan time, if the people demand it, and members of Congress and the president have common sense and understand that we came here not to fight each other but to get something done for the country, then I think we can achieve progress in the four years ahead. Certainly I believe that if Al Gore and I are fortunate enough to be elected.
Look, both tickets, we're talking about mostly the same issues: How do we improve our schools, provide prescription drugs for the elderly, keep Social Security and Medicare strong, and keep our national defense strong? So we ought to be able to figure out how to work together to achieve, if not everything each side wants, at least good part of that.
And I can tell you that, Al Gore and I, as we think about what our administration would look like, are very anxious to include Republicans, and independents in the administration, very anxious to work with members of both parties on the Hill to get something done. And I honestly believe we can.
KING: Thanks, senator. Always good seeing you.
LIEBERMAN: Larry, thank you. Have a good evening.
KING: You, too.
Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the vice presidential nominee of his party.
Another major senator joins us next. Senator John McCain will come to us from Phoenix. That's right after these words. Don't go away.
KING: Joining us now from Phoenix, Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona. We haven't heard much from the senator in the last three weeks.
What do you make of all of this?
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: If it was a book, we wouldn't read it.
KING: Bad fiction, right?
MCCAIN: It's too bizarre. Bad fiction, too bizarre. Nobody would believe the plot. It couldn't, wouldn't sell a thousand copies.
KING: What do you make of what your friend Senator Lieberman had to say?
MCCAIN: Well, I have the greatest affection and friendship with Joe Lieberman. I think he is one of the finest men that I've ever had the opportunity of serving with. I just don't agree with him.
I think that -- and by the way, I have great respect and admiration for the vice president. I've known him for 18 years. We were in the House together, we were in the Senate together, and we worked together on issues when he was vice president.
I just think that it's time we brought this process to a conclusion. I know it's tough. I think I know as well as most anyone having lost a campaign myself. But we've got to bring this to a close. The American people are very patient. This is no constitutional crisis, there's no panic. But the American people want it brought to a close. It's time we began this very difficult transition process, as we transfer power in the most powerful position in the world. And, I think it's got to come to end and I hope it's soon.
KING: If you were in the Gore-Lieberman position, though, might you have acted the way they are?
MCCAIN: Well, I hope not. I think that the ballots were counted, they were recounted. You know, Larry, we try to guarantee every citizen a free and fair election. But we don't guarantee a perfect election. There have been many, many elections where ballots were missing. There's famous stories about a certain state and city in the Midwest where it became an art form.
But, we do everything we can to make it as good and fair as possible. But if there are flaws in it, we try to correct those. But at the same time, we don't resort to litigation. Litigation, in my view, is not the way this drags out. We're looking at the way that we should approach it.
KING: How do you settle a dispute without a court?
MCCAIN: I think you recognize the verdict of the voters, and I think that if there is some blatant or egregious violation of law, obviously we go after that. But there have been other times in history where there have been incredibly close elections.
And I'm not -- not -- I am in sympathy with the vice president and Joe Lieberman. They won the majority of the popular vote. I can understand why they would be unhappy. But if -- there is so much on both sides, I've become confused at the number of lawsuits. I don't know what a pregnant chad is.
I think that Americans -- this is great fodder for the late shows and the comedians, but at a certain point it gets serious. We're looking at the date of December 12, when the electors will meet, and I'm afraid that litigation will not resolve this issue by that time.
KING: Do you know why, Senator, the partisan rhetoric on both sides has gotten so -- I mean, almost annoying to turn on the radio or watch television every day, to hear the screaming and the yelling and the invective?
MCCAIN: It's terribly disturbing and it's another reason why I think we need to bring this to a close. We're going to have to work together. The American people deserve better than what they've been getting, and they deserve a government and representatives who will work together. The longer this rhetoric -- words like stealing elections, and phrases like that I find very discomforting and I would hope that we would stop it.
And by the way, the people who have traveled down to Florida to demonstrate, I hope you can find something better to do.
KING: On both sides.
MCCAIN: On both sides.
KING: We'll be back with Senator John McCain, who always calls them as he sees them, and then, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis. Don't go away.
KING: By the way, Senator McCain, have you spoken with Governor Bush?
MCCAIN: Oh, yes, yes. Several times I've spoken to Governor Bush, and he's very calm and he's very confident. And I -- I did not early on think he should move forward with a transition, but I think the time is now of the essence and I think it's appropriate for him to move forward with his plans for the transition, and I think he's doing that.
KING: Do you think, in view of this, we'll not only see maybe campaign finance reform, but election reform?
MCCAIN: I do believe so. I think we're going to have hearings. I don't think we're going to change the fundamental electoral system that requires three-fourths of the states and small states are not going to agree to being excluded from the process.
But I do believe that we would eliminate this elector business. When I was elected to the Senate, the secretary of state certified the votes and sent it on. I think we could eliminate that, quote, "electoral portion," of it. But I would not change the system because I think small states need to have representation.
KING: How about standard kind of ballots?
MCCAIN: I think in Congress what we ought to look at is giving them money and funds to the poorer counties and cities and towns that can't afford or have a very low priority on their machines.
Out in California they had a touch screen technology, which they say works very well. So I think we in Congress can help these less wealthy areas of the country update and modernize their technology. I think we could do that and should. KING: Now what do you think it's going to be like the next four years? Let's say we have a 50-50 Senate.
MCCAIN: We will have a 50-50 Senate. We, in the Senate, have to do business differently than we have in the past. Our leadership has to change dramatically, in that we have to include the Democrats. We have to -- they have half of the votes. And we have to act in a bipartisan fashion and we can't exclude them from the process. And I think the Senate will be better off for the experience.
I think we can go two ways. We can either have gridlock and everybody march in place until elections two years or four years from now, or we can recognize that the American people's message is, "Yes, we are split but we expect you to work together."
I campaigned for the last four weeks for House candidates and some Senate candidates and others. The American people are tired of the partisan bickering.
They want us to work together on issues that lend themselves -- they don't understand why we don't have a HMO patients' bill of rights. They don't understand why we don't have prescription drug program for seniors. They don't understand why we don't start to reform Social Security. And I think the American people deserve better than what they've been getting. And I think that's one of the messages of this election.
KING: And from what we've seen, though, do you expect -- and Senator Lieberman said he might expect it -- an aftermath of bitterness here?
MCCAIN: Well, I pray not. And that's why -- I think, why we've got to wind this thing down as quickly as possible. Because the longer it drags out, the worse the invective, and the more exacerbated relations become. But I would hope that we could -- once this is resolved and Governor Bush is the president of the United States, that we can put this behind us.
But Governor Bush has a -- has a well-known tradition of reaching across party lines. That was the way he conducted himself as governor of state of Texas and I have every confidence he will do that as president of the United States.
KING: And the big what if. What if it were reversed? What if Gore is president, would you say the same thing?
MCCAIN: Absolutely. And I'm confident that from the statements that the vice president has made and Joe just made on your show, they would include Republicans in the candidate -- excuse me in the -- in the Cabinet. And I think that they would, obviously, reach across the aisle. It's a matter of political necessity, and it's also a matter of patriotism.
KING: We know you would favor Colin Powell as secretary of state. He's going to meet with Governor Bush tomorrow. Would you want to be secretary of defense? MCCAIN: No, I would not. Larry, I appreciate my name being mentioned. I feel I could be much more effective in the United States Senate. And I believe that the latitude that I'm allowed in the United States Senate, I can serve the country better. But I think the worst kept secret in America is Colin Powell as secretary of state.
KING: I guess it is. And Condoleezza Rice as national security adviser; what do you think of that?
MCCAIN: Oh, she'll do a marvelous job. She have has great credentials. She's articulate. She's well rounded. And I think that you'll have the strongest team with Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell that we've had on foreign policy issues in a long, long time.
KING: Good seeing you, Senator. You're feeling well, I hope.
MCCAIN: Just great. Thanks, Larry.
KING: Thanks. See you in Washington.
KING: Senator John McCain of Arizona, coming to us from Phoenix.
Next, from Boston, Michael Dukakis, the former nominee of his party. We'll get his thoughts on all of this. Don't go away.
KING: It's always good to welcome Governor Michael Dukakis to our program, the former Democratic presidential nominee.
What do you make of all of this? What do you make of what we've heard from two distinguished senators tonight?
MICHAEL DUKAKIS (D), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, they are both good people. I agree with a lot of what they have had to say, Larry.
All I can tell you is my view of this. I think Al Gore and Joe Lieberman have won this election. They won it nationally. And I think they have won it in Florida. And all we have to do is count the votes. And if you count the votes, they are going to be the next president and vice president of the United States. And what troubles me is that, as Joe Lieberman said, the Bush legal team seems to be determined to drag this thing out and drag it out so that it's impossible to get that. And I think that's regrettable.
KING: Might you do the same -- might you do the same were positions reversed?
DUKAKIS: No, I mean I think...
KING: Definitely, you would not?
DUKAKIS: The way to bring this to a close -- and I agree with John McCain on that -- is for both sides to say: Let's go ahead. Let's count those votes in Miami-Dade. And let's decide who the winner is. Now, that's not what about the Bush team is doing. They're doing everything they can to delay, to push the time ahead, to make it virtually impossible for this thing to be resolved.
KING: Do you think the Democrats can turn it around? Do you think they can win the legal battle?
DUKAKIS: I think, if there is a recount of the Miami-Dade County votes, Al Gore and Joe Lieberman are going to win. And the reason that the Bush team is doing everything it can to stop such a recount -- and by the way, they've been at this now since the day after the election -- is because they know they will win if that recount is held.
KING: What do you make of the public attitude, which for a long time was split, and now seems to about -- I know that has nothing to do with the court battle -- about 60-40 saying that Gore should give it up?
DUKAKIS: Well, Larry, you and I have talked about polls. I wish the national media would stop taking these polls. Who asked the question? What was the question? And how was it put to people? The fact of the matter is, we are electing a president of the United States. There are votes to be counted. Let's count them. And let's find out who the winner is.
KING: You're teaching political science, are you not, Governor?
DUKAKIS: I am.
KING: What's going on in class?
DUKAKIS: Kids love this. I must say, I was -- it's interesting Larry. I was out today at two high schools out in the western part of the Boston area. I must have spoken to 2,000 kids. I'm not sure they were in the election. But, boy, are they into this. And this is a great civics lesson. Now, of course...
KING: And what will we learn from it, do you think?
DUKAKIS: Well, my own view -- I disagree with John McCain on this, and I respect him enormously -- I think it's time to get rid of the Electoral College. What are we doing with this thing? You know where the Electoral College came from. The framers of the Constitution, great men though they were, didn't trust the common man. And they didn't trust average voters to elect a president.
As a matter of fact, Larry, they didn't trust them at the time to elect the United States Senate, right? We had indirect election of senators by legislatures until 1913.
KING: Yes. Right.
DUKAKIS: Well, that was 1787. It's now the year 2000. We strongly believe in this country that everybody counts for one. So what have we got this thing for? And here we are, a situation where Gore and Lieberman have won a majority of 340,000 votes nationwide. That's three times what Kennedy won by. And yet the question of whether or not they will be president and vice president is still in doubt.
What kind of system is this? It's time to get rid of it. And I don't buy this small-state thing. I think there are lots and lots of people in small states who recognize just how anachronistic this thing is.
KING: Governor, what's the next four years going to be like, no matter who holds that post?
DUKAKIS: That's up to all of us, Larry. And I hope and expect that the American people and the folks we elect to go to Congress will be mature and will accept the result, as long as it's fair.
KING: But isn't that going to be hard? Let's say, knowing -- feeling the way you feel, if George Bush is -- George W. Bush -- Governor Bush is inaugurated on January 20, you're going feel the wrong man is there.
DUKAKIS: Not if the process...
KING: And that's not going carry over?
DUKAKIS: Not if the process moves ahead and the recount is held. Look, if we have a...
KING: If it isn't held?
DUKAKIS: Well, then I think there's going to be a lot of bitterness. And I think Bush and the people around him ought to think about that. Because if there's a very strong sense in this country that votes weren't counted -- and we are talking about thousands of uncounted votes -- then I think we are going to have some problems.
But if it moves ahead -- and I hope it will -- then I hope we are all going to be good, patriotic, mature Americans. And we're going to go ahead and do everything we can to make this the best country we can.
KING: Can a lot be accomplished?
KING: No matter who is -- you think so.
DUKAKIS: Yes. Yes. There will have to be -- there will have to be a light of bipartisan, whoever is in the White House. I mean, Senator McCain said that. You are going to have a Senate that is split down the middle, a House that is effectively split down the middle. So there's going to have to be lots of bipartisanship. But I think people are ready for that. And I hope members of Congress are ready for that.
KING: It must be awfully tough to lose an election. And you lost a big one.
DUKAKIS: Larry, it's...
KING: It's got to be very hard for -- so what do you imagine it's like on both of these people?
DUKAKIS: Well, look, we all go into these knowing that somebody has got to win and somebody's got to lose. You fight as hard as you possibly can. It hurts to lose, believe me. I've had both experiences. And winning is a heck of a lot better than losing. But if, in the end, you lose, you accept that, you support the guy that beat you. And we move on.
KING: Always good seeing you, Governor.
DUKAKIS: Thanks for having me.
KING: Thank you. Governor Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee.
Next: an old friend. It's good to see him back -- the former minority leader of the House, who retired from Congress in 1995: Congressman Robert Michel of Illinois. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The only way to avoid having a cloud over the next president is to count all the votes, because the -- our country is based on the consent of the governed. And the consent of the governed can only come through a vote by the people. And all the people who vote legally have to have their votes counted. That's the basic principle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: He was one of the most respected public servants ever served on both sides of the aisle. He served in the Congress for 30 years. There's that familiar face, the former minority leader of the House: Robert Michel, Republican of Illinois.
How are you?
ROBERT MICHEL (R), FORMER HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Oh, fine, Larry. Good to be on your show again. Been quite some time...
KING: Quite some time.
MICHEL: ... since I've been kind of on the shelf, so to speak.
KING: Do you -- knowing what's going on, do you miss all of this? MICHEL: Oh, no, because I'm spending about 80, 85 percent of our time in Washington. So I'm close to a number of my colleagues. I get to see a number of them from time to time, go to lunch-ins, breakfasts, and, of course, still go back to Illinois, which is my home base. And so it's nice transition for me than -- rather than to have just dropped out of sight, you know, so to speak.
KING: All right -- long recognized as one of the more civil members. We have heard from Senator McCain. We have heard from Senator Lieberman. We've heard from Governor Dukakis. What are your thoughts on all of this? I know we would all be interested to hear it, based on your experiences.
MICHEL: Well, of course, I'm a Bush partisan. I supported him in the primary and also in the general election -- and his father and all the rest of the family through the years. I just happen to think that we've had this election now. And we've had not one count, two counts and several.
The thing that kind of disturbs me is this indication that some -- a big block of votes were never counted. Well, they went through the machine. You know, Larry, nobody talks about, for example, up in the state of Washington, that real hot Senate up there between Slade Gorton and former Congresswoman Cantwell, there were 176,000 more votes cast in that Senate race than there were for president, which indicates some people don't want to vote for president.
Maybe it's so close, and so -- and they don't -- can't make up their mind. When I've run myself, I've gone over precincts sometimes, and find out -- my own ego -- just: How did I fair with the other people on the ballot? Did I run ahead of the top of the ticket or was I a drag? And it's not unprecedented for a lot of people simply to not vote for president, go down and vote for some of the other offices.
KING: Do you understand, though, the Gore team's feelings, let's say? They win the popular vote. They're so close. They feel that the courts is the way to go and that the Florida law gives them the right to contest?
MICHEL: Well, that's true, and I'm thinking way back to the days of the Nixon-Kennedy hassle. I was a Nixon partisan, you know, in Illinois. We lost that election in Illinois...
MICHEL: ... less than half a vote a precinct and we were arguing, you've got to make a test of that thing, same thing down in parts of Texas. But I think it was former President Hoover and Eisenhower said, listen, don't contest a presidential election, bow out gracefully. Well, of course, Nixon came back to rise again.
But they've insisted -- this business about our dragging this thing out I think is wrong, too, because they were the ones who initially instituted, then we've got certainly an opportunity as Bush partisans to respond as best we can to whatever charges they're making.
KING: What do you make of the vituperativeness of all of it, though?
MICHEL: Well, that I can't -- I've always been one, you know, to try and...
KING: Keep it down.
MICHEL: ... put a good face on everything, keep the rhetoric down and the decibels down, and just be reserved about this whole thing. We have got to, in the end, talk like civil men and women, particularly in the legislative process and in a thing like this. Now, there is all the talk about the demonstrations, I guess I'm a little bit tired of demonstrations either way, but it's a part of Americana and it happens, and as long as it doesn't get out of hand and become riotous -- and I don't think they have.
KING: You know the Hill pretty well and stay close to it, what's it going to be like no matter who is in there? Is it going to be ornery? Is it going to be cooperative? What?
MICHEL: It need not be. Now, again, let me -- my Bush prejudice comes forward, because I think personality-wise George W. Bush -- and during the course of the campaign talked about bringing people together, not being divisive, but including people. He's had the experience as governor of Texas in working with the Democratic legislature. I just think it's going to be much more natural for George Bush in this very tight kind of situation to make something that normally would -- and to minimize the problems that would exist with a very tightly controlled Congress.
Al -- not taking anything away from Al Gore, but I just think personality-wise in view of what -- if he were to become president would be a completely turning around of everything we've been doing the last three or four weeks. That would have a bad effect, I'm sure. But...
KING: Are you worried that the -- I'm sorry go ahead.
MICHEL: Well, that's all right. But notwithstanding that, I just think you're going to have the leaders in the Congress, all of who are experienced and all who are going to be re-elected, and no reason why they can't get together. In my view, you know, if it's George W. Bush, he's going to propose things that -- education, Social Security revision, Medicare, of course, tax revision. We are strong for building up the defenses of the country again, and there will be those votes on the other side of the aisle to join in with that.
As a matter of fact, for example, Senator Breaux and Bill Thomas were asked by President Clinton to do something to get something moving with respect to Social Security and then President Clinton disbanded the whole business. Well, I think we can go back and start there and, you know...
KING: Do you think the public will handle it well? MICHEL: I think once the decision has been made and we get through a transition here and an inauguration, why, the general public will feel we've just got to pull together as a country, as we always have, to support the president and give him the test run and hopefully -- and I feel very confident with the kind of people that he's going attract to his administration. He's already begun with top drawer and it will continue that way of high -- of good experience and high moral fiber, and I...
KING: Would you join that administration if asked?
MICHEL: Well, I -- some of us older people -- they've got so many younger people around of great talent -- and our governors, we've got a great resource of governors. We've got to be careful on some. We can't give away the state's political advantage, if it's ours, to the opposition. The same thing happens with respect to several of the members of Congress or senators who would normally be inclined maybe to go to an administration. We've got to be very careful, particularly about senators, because of the tightness of that -- of the vote there in the Senate.
KING: That's right, well thought out. Thanks, Robert. Always good seeing you.
MICHEL: Thank you. Same here. Hope everything all works out well.
KING: To you, too. Congressman Robert Michel, former minority leader of the House.
We've got a great panel coming, we've got Gail Collins of "The New York Times," the longtime Republican strategist Ed Rollins, and Tamala Edwards, the staff writer for "Time" magazine. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DICK CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The fact is that the election has been and Florida has been counted, it's been recounted, it's been certified, and we've got to get on with the business of putting together a government. And what Vice President Gore chooses to do or not do, clearly, those are matters within his purview and I'm not going to spend a lot of time worrying about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We end each evening with an outstanding panel, tonight is no exception.
They're all in New York, Gail Collins of "The New York Times," she's been on special assignment for her op-ed pages -- covering elections in her column "Public Interest"; in New York as well, Ed Rollins, the longtime Republican strategist who served in the administrations of Nixon, Ford and Reagan; and Tamala Edwards, staff writer for "Time" magazine. All right, Gail, we've heard both sides presented pretty well here tonight, where do we stand in all of this, do you think?
GAIL COLLINS, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, about the same place we've always stood, I think. We -- the basic problem here -- you know, when you listen to everybody talk, the basic problem is that the Republicans will never give up, so even if Al Gore somehow gets a recount that works for him, they're never going to give up. They'll go to the state house. They'll go to Congress.
It's as if you've got a family with a bunch of kids and one of them is just difficult, very difficult, so you sort of plan your life around him in a way and you try not to be in a place where he's going to have a tantrum in the supermarket, and that's I think what they are doing right now -- what the American people are doing anyway, just sort of realizing that the only way this gets resolved without some kind of civil -- civic riot is if Al Gore gives in.
KING: Is she right, Ed? Will the Republicans do -- supposing the judge rules their way and there is a recount and supposing Gore wins the recount, let's say?
ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: They'll never give up.
KING: You agree.
ROLLINS: They'll never give up, and they -- no, and they will never accept Al Gore as a legitimate president. And I think equally as important, an awful lot of Democrats will never accept George W. Bush unless there is the recount.
KING: Well, then what are we going to be?
ROLLINS: Well, I think one of them is going to be inaugurated president on January 20, my assumption is it will be George W. Bush. He will put an all-star team behind him.
My concern, Larry, is there's so much rhetoric about the doomsday -- I mean, I heard a congressman today saying the six hot spots in the world getting worse. The truth of the matter is both of these men are perfectly equipped to go in. Dick Cheney gives nothing but confidence. I don't know of any man -- I've served 30 years in government, I don't know of any man more qualified to run the government than he is. They're going to put an all-star team together. They don't need a big long transition. It's a tedious process to put one through. They can't get into the offices until January 20th. They're putting an experienced team on either side. Whoever hits the ground running is going to make this country work.
The bigger problem is Republicans have to understand -- and I say this, and I'm a little out of sync with my party from time to time -- we did not have a great election. We have a 50/50 Senate, and I still hear Trent Lott and others talking about as the leadership we have to deal with Democrats. Well, you're darn right you've got to deal with Democrats when they have half the Congress. You know, Trent Lott is now the Republican leader of the Congress and Tom Daschle is now the Republican leader of the Senate...
KING: The Democratic...
ROLLINS: So we have to do things totally different than we ever had before. This thing has got to run two more weeks, and then obviously we'll see what happens.
KING: Tamala, are they both right?
TAMALA EDWARDS, "TIME": I think they both are right. I mean, I think sort of the rhetoric, or not the rhetoric, maybe the straight talk that we heard out of John McCain earlier this evening is exactly what Governor Bush and other Republicans might want to hew to, looking to be quick to compliment Democrats rather than to just necessarily insult the process down in Florida.
And I think it's a timeline thing. I mean, you're absolutely right: If the Republicans were to lose this, I think we'd just find ourselves back in court all over again, taking this back to the Supreme Court.
KING: Gail, therefore, is it hard to predict harmony?
COLLINS: Harmony? I find it hard to predict harmony, personally.
You know, the thing that was sort of sad almost tonight listening to, say, John McCain talking about his campaign finance bill, I cannot conceive of a campaign finance bill getting through the Senate and House and then getting signed if George Bush is the president. It's just -- all these sort of lovely ideas that people have, it's hard when you think about the actual human beings that are going to carrying through these mandates, how they're going to make it work out.
KING: We'll be right back with Gail Collins, Ed Rollins and Tamala Edwards on LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. Let's include a call. Ellijay, Georgia, hello.
CALLER: Yes, Larry. I would love to ask your outstanding panel all -- how could either -- with all the rancor, how could either Vice President Gore or Governor Bush implement their agenda, whatever it is?
KING: Well, Gail Collins views it as almost impossible, right?
COLLINS: I guess somebody else should answer.
KING: There is no agenda.
ED ROLLINS, can an agenda work here? ROLLINS: I've worked at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, in the White House and in the Congress, and I think what you'll find is the legislative agenda will be driven by calendars. There are authorization bills, there are appropriation bills. I mean, the president is not going to come forward in a hundred days, whoever the president is, with the campaign rhetoric that he put forth, because it's not going to pass.
The Congress has to learn to work together, and that's going take a while. And I promise you on the 22nd or 23rd of January, after this new president's had two days to get over the inaugural hangover, they're going to start running for 2002.
Both sides think -- both sides think they can win a majority and both sides are going feel a need to win a majority. So they're going to get back in the political arena, which is not where the country wants them to be.
KING: Tamala, can there be an agenda that works?
EDWARDS: You know, it's going to be odd to watch. I think Ed's right in many ways that the House essentially is going to be a mess. Everybody is going to be thinking about taking it back over, for the Democrats in 2002 and the Republicans trying to hold on.
But I think we should watch the Senate, because I think that's a group of people that from the outset will say, listen, there's 50 of us, 50 of you, we have to figure out a way to make this work. And it's a place where I think cooler heads can prevail, and you'll start to see legislation get tempered there, smarter legislation start there. And if George Bush were smart or Al Gore, I'd say that he'd immediately start working with the Senate.
KING: Gail Collins, we have never in our lifetime had a tainted presidency. This will be that, correct? The other side is going think the other guy don't deserve it?
COLLINS: It's true, but you know, every time the son or a grandson of a former president gets elected president, it's very weird and messy, and it doesn't work very well over the long run. So...
KING: And why is that, do you think, Gail?
COLLINS: Well, I don't know, but you know, the other two we've had, both wound up getting elected without winning the popular vote: Benjamin Harrison and then John Quincy Adams. And maybe it's the curse of history or maybe it's just bad luck for those two guys. We'll see how it goes instead.
ROLLINS: The bottom line, though, Larry is there's no asterisk put after the winner. He is the president, and he has all the powers of the president, and he can succeed or fail. It's sort of like the Jack -- the Jack Dempsey-Gene Tunney fight. Every fight fan who saw that fight was convinced Dempsey had knocked out Tunney, but Tunney got back up after a long count and was the champion. And whoever wins this thing is the champion. KING: He was, but to this day people say Dempsey won that fight.
ROLLINS: To this day...
Fifty years from now, people will say that whoever doesn't get to be president won the fight, too.
COLLINS: They still say that Andrew Jackson beat John Quincy Adams in 1824.
ROLLINS: But one man is going to be president.
KING: Tamala, were you going to say something? Yes.
EDWARDS: What's interesting is that George Bush early on, sort of toward the end of his father's presidency, commissioned a report to say what happens to the kids of ex-presidents and it was not a pretty picture. And so I think it's something he's been thinking about for quite a long time, and perhaps more than people in the past, he'll be looking to leave a much better imprint on what happened to this son of a former president than perhaps some earlier people.
KING: Gail, how does Florida come out of all of this?
COLLINS: Boy, I know a lot of people who are saying that they'll be happy not to go to Florida again for quite a long time. Certainly, this is a state that's going to get some new election machines, I would say, over the next couple years.
ROLLINS: But one very important point -- and I would agree totally.
KING: Quickly, Ed.
ROLLINS: Floridians, there's no accusations that are realistic that anybody stole an election vote down here. There may be mistakes that were made, but this was a very honest election, and I think Floridians can be very proud of that.
KING: Thank you all very much. Gail Collins, Ed Rollins, and Tamala Edwards. Tamala of "TIME" magazine, Ed the longtime strategist, and Gail, of course, of "The New York Times." "All the news that's fit to print."
We invite you to stay tuned now for another CNN special report, and on this report you'll hear -- you'll see the complete interview that John King did with Vice President Al Gore. It was done earlier today. We've played it in excerpts. You'll see it in its entirety following this program.
And we're back tomorrow night with another edition of LARRY KING LIVE on -- guess what topic. 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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