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Larry King Live

Marathon Courtroom Hearing Could Determine the Outcome in Florida

Aired December 3, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

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

ROGER COSSACK, GUEST HOST: Tonight, a marathon courtroom hearing on day 25 of the presidential race that just won't end.

As Governor Bush entertains some big-name guests at his ranch in Texas, the vice president takes a break in Washington.

And in Florida, question: Will state legislators weigh in? Joining us in Tallahassee, Doug Hattaway, spokesman for team Gore. And from the Bush camp its spokesman Tucker Eskew.

Then a political free for all with Republican Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, and joining him in Washington, Senator Evan Bayh, Democrat of Indiana. And in Little Rock, Republican Congressman Asa Hutchinson. And in Miami, Democratic Congressman Alcee Hastings.

All that and a top-flight panel next on LARRY KING LIVE.

Hi, good evening. I'm Roger Cossack sitting in for Larry King.

Let's go right down to Florida to Bill Hemmer.

Bill, you had an opportunity to view and comment on today's court battles. Your feelings, do you think that it's going as quickly as expected? Who's winning, who's losing?

BILL HEMMER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I would say for the Gore folks right now, Roger, we were in court all day today. We're going back tomorrow, and we've yet to count a single ballot now, day 25. And I don't think from the Gore perspective that is good news by any stretch of the imagination.

You know, the Gore team on Wednesday this week came out and said we want to start counting that 10,000-14,000 mark on the ballots to try and go through there. That's where they believe the votes are for their man Al Gore. It hasn't happened yet. It was denied on Wednesday and Thursday, and tomorrow, Roger, we're going back into court. It's December 3rd. It's Sunday and it's day 26 in this matter.

Now throughout court today, the judge said at the outset that he wanted to wrap this thing up in about 12 hours today, then deliver a verdict. Well it didn't happen. It went about nine hours...

COSSACK: Right.

HEMMER: ... We did not get the verdict. And once again Judge Sauls is going to bring it up again tomorrow, Roger.

But one important point here is we were trying to get to that question about how the outcome could be different. You know, the judge was looking for that. And about as close as we came to that was the -- Judge Charles Burton, who came up from West Palm, a canvassing board member down there in West Palm. You know his name. He's been in the news for the past three weeks...

COSSACK: And his face, Bill.

HEMMER: ... They were trying to find out -- yes, indeed. They were trying to find out, Roger, basically if the canvassing board acted properly. And at the end, you heard the judge. Judge Sauls called him a great American. I don't know how you read into that, but...

COSSACK: Yes...

HEMMER: ... indeed Judge Sauls at this point anyway has it in his hands.

COSSACK: Let me tell you, as a lawyer, if you're on the other side of the guy who the judge just called a great American, you're not really happy.

Let's go over to Bill Schneider, our political analyst.

OK, another day goes by, nothing settled, a long, rather tedious day in court today with a whole lot of rather tedious testimony and yet nothing solved. How does that play for team Gore and for team Bush?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It plays for team Bush because long, tedious days in court with nothing resolved are exactly what Bush wants. He wants more of them, day after day of long, tedious exposition and nothing being resolved because the Bush team honestly believes that December 12th is the drop-dead deadline. That's when the electors are supposed to be named. And if they're not named by December 12th, then it's going to be over. And if it's not over, the legislature will be able to at least pass a resolution naming the Bush electors.

But Democrats say, hey, it won't be over. It can go on and on and on.

COSSACK: Bill you are -- you know, you're a student of politics. Democrats say it can go on and lawyers know how to make things go on, but there is going to come a time when the American people are going to say no, no, no, it's not going to go on anymore. Whoever makes it go on a little longer is going to pay some dues next time around. Are -- do the parties think about that? Do the Democrats think about that? Do the Republicans think about that in terms of, like, congressional seats, Senate seats? SCHNEIDER: Well, they do think about it, but there's no evidence yet that people are running out of patience. You've got this odd situation that I would describe like this: The Democrats have the facts. The Republicans have the law, and that's the contest we're seeing.

The Republicans say, we're going to abide by every single letter of the law and every date specified in the law, and the Democrats believe that Gore actually won Florida. And we're told that there's a story coming out I believe tomorrow in "The Miami Herald" in which they do some abra kadabra statistical projections and conclude that, yes, probably Gore did win Florida. And Democrats are just frustrated because they say, we need time to prove it. The facts are on our side. Why can't we have the time to prove it?

So far, the American people say, all right, we'll wait a little longer. How long that's going to last, we don't know.

COSSACK: You know what Mark Twain said about statistics, that they were lies, damned lies and statistics. And, you know, I think these statistics can perhaps say anything that the statisticians want them to say.

Bill Hemmer, let's go right back to you again in Florida. We hear the Florida legislature has now passed a resolution that they're going to meet on Wednesday. What's going to happen then?

HEMMER: Need to back up just a little bit, Roger. Just in the past hour, the head of the Senate here in Tallahassee issued a statement that he will not sign a proclamation on Monday. You know, in Florida under law it's got to be the governor. In this case, Jeb Bush isn't going to do it. If it's not the governor, it's the head of the Senate and the head of the House that have to get together and sign this proclamation.

It was thought throughout the course of the day today that they would do it on Monday, call a special session on Wednesday. But now they're backtracking away from that now. The Senate president, John McKay, said tonight that this would be the most important matter the state legislature here in Florida ever takes up in its entire history.

He's probably got a point on that matter when you consider past history and looking forward on this. But suffice to say right now it doesn't like that proclamation's going to be reached on Monday, which means the session won't start on Wednesday.

It doesn't mean it won't happen, but it doesn't look like based on the timetable we had earlier that that will be the case next week.

COSSACK: All right, Bill Schneider, the Florida legislature takes a step backward. We know that they've been criticized, people have been saying, you know, why are you doing this, let the procedure take its course. Does this mean that the Bush camp says, hey, we're going to win this, why involve the politics of the Florida legislature? SCHNEIDER: Oh, it seems to me that the Florida legislature probably decided on its own with a lot of political pressure that they didn't want to jump into this too quickly. Look, there's a lot of public -- a lot of voter resistance to that notion, and the voters of course determine the fate of the legislature.

You know, when you ask people, should the courts decide this matter, they're a little nervous about that. Should the legislature, should politicians decide this? Never. People do not want to put this in the hands of a partisan legislature in which the outcome is a foreordained conclusion for Governor Bush. It will look like the fix is in, and they're a little bit nervous about doing that. So I'm not sure this is at the behest of the Bush campaign.

I think the Bush campaign probably recognizes that imposing a legislative -- a solution by the legislature too quickly would be a bad move.

COSSACK: All right, Bill Hemmer, again back to you. Let's talk about the absentee ballot lawsuits that are going on both in Seminole and in Martin counties. What is -- what's happening with those? You know, a lot of people feel that those are the smoking guns of this election.

HEMMER: Yes, Roger. Right now, there are four circuit court judges here in Leon County on the civil side. All four have cases pending in front of them with regard to the Florida vote. But directly to your question now about the absentee ballot situation, in a nutshell there are Democrats in Seminole County, a Democratic attorney, who has brought this case to the court. He alleges that workers for the Republican Party went into the polling station, went into the elections office, and filled in the identification numbers for the voters on the Republican side.

Now technically you can't do. However, it was done. At issue here is whether or not you take all the absentee ballots in, say, Seminole County, which 15,000 absentee ballots there. Do you throw them all out, or can you go in and look at that 4,700 in question? It's largely believed that you can't go into that pile and pick out 4,700, you're going to have to toss them all out.

Now, Republican and Democrats will argue on both sides of this, but some Democratic attorneys tell me that indeed they're not pursuing this case right now. Again, Gore has not joined that case, and it's possible they won't because throughout this entire matter right now the Gore campaign is trying to add votes, not take votes away. And in those cases, Seminole and Martin County...

COSSACK: Bill...

HEMMER: ... you would actually be taking votes away.

COSSACK: Let me just interrupt you a second.

HEMMER: Yes.

COSSACK: We've got just a few seconds left.

HEMMER: Sure.

COSSACK: Bill Schneider, go ahead.

SCHNEIDER: The Gore campaign does not want to be put in the position that Bill Hemmer was just explaining. They don't want to be saying, we don't want to count votes. By throwing out absentee ballots, they'd be saying, we defend the ideas that these votes should be thrown out. If they go down that path, they could get into trouble. That's why they're not taking a position.

COSSACK: All right, Bill Hemmer, Bill Schneider, thank you for joining us.

When we come back, Doug Hattaway, a Gore -- a Gore committee -- excuse me, a Gore campaign spokesman, Tucker Eskew, a Bush campaign spokesman.

More with LARRY KING LIVE.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Should those votes be counted? We believe those votes should be counted. We believe that under the election contest law there is sufficient evidence that those votes could change or at least, in the language of the statute, place in doubt the results of the election sufficiently so that those votes have got to be included in the vote tally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: All right, joining me now is Doug Hattaway, a Gore campaign spokesman from Tallahassee.

Doug, that was David Boies pleading with the judge to let the votes be counted. But, you know, it was a slow and tedious day and the clock is ticking. You know this is not -- was there a good day for the Gore campaign?

DOUG HATTAWAY, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Well, I think our side made the case very well. Thousands of people showed up, cast their votes for president and vice president, and the machines didn't record those votes. Under Florida law, you take a look at the ballot, look for objective criteria that shows who tried to vote for whom and count those votes accordingly. That's the standard here in Florida, it's the standard in Texas. We're simply arguing that those 10,000 ballots in Miami-Dade that have never been looked at by a human being ought to be looked at by this court, that the ballots...

COSSACK: But, Doug, December 12th is the cutoff date. You know that and I know that. And every day that goes back is like a year for your side. You know, you may have made a great argument, David Boies is a great lawyer, but, you know, it closed up at 6:00 today and the judge said see you tomorrow at 9. Your side lost a motion to have it done even earlier and quicker. This can't be good.

HATTAWAY: Well we certainly wanted things to move quicker. I think the judge will try to do his best tomorrow to wrap it up, I think.

The -- obviously the Bush campaign's tactic is delay. They started all of this back in the very first instance dragging this into federal courts. All throughout the process they've thrown up obstacle after obstacle to stop the votes from being counted. That's why we're here today.

I think their tactic is quite obvious, as you know. They offered a list of 95 witnesses. Fortunately, the judge saw through that and pared it down. And they're going to try to drag this out.

At the end of the day, we think the American people are patient, want to see this done right, want to make sure that the election was actually certified for the candidates who got the most votes. That's why these votes should be counted.

COSSACK: Doug, are you concerned with the polls that seem to indicate that while the American people are patient they also seem to be running a little bit out of patience? That every day -- at least when we see the polls, every few days, less people believe this should still be going on?

HATTAWAY: I think that's certainly a part of the Bush campaign strategy, as I said, is to try the people's patience. At the end of the day, it's the law that matters. It's the people's votes that matter. And we're trying to not worry about polls and focus on the goal of getting the votes counted.

You know, it would be a real travesty and a public relations nightmare for Bush if he is declared president and it's found out later when these vote -- ballots do get counted -- I know there are organizations already trying to, under the sunshine laws here in Florida, get hold of the ballots and count them -- it would be a real travesty to find out that the guy in the White House is not the guy who got the most votes.

So I think it's in the best interests of the American people and of both sides that these votes get counted, that the election is certified for the candidate so the next president doesn't have a cloud over his head.

COSSACK: Doug, how long do you go on? I mean, I know you keep saying the mantra is, count the votes, count the votes. But there comes a time when perhaps you have to say, you know, reality is what reality is. How long do you keep going on with this thing?

HATTAWAY: I think until the votes get counted. We're not talking about any drop-dead dates. I think we'll have to take this one step at a time. And unfortunately the Bush campaign wants those to be baby steps. We're trying to get things concluded as quickly as possible. And again, I think the Bush campaign is going to come under pressure because it's more obvious day by day that what they are trying to do is keep people's votes from being counted. I think it's obvious they are afraid Al Gore got more votes in Florida. That's only reason you wouldn't want to count people's votes. I think...

COSSACK: Doug, if you're not successful -- let me just interrupt you a second -- if you're not successful in the circuit court in front of Judge Sauls right now, will you appeal this case to the Florida Supreme Court where you have had success?

HATTAWAY: Well I think both sides, as you know, have the option to appeal. I can't talk to next steps. As you know, our goal now is to make the best case possible: this judge, that those people's votes ought to be counted, that they ought to be counted quickly and that the election ought to be certified for the candidate who got the most votes.

COSSACK: All right, Doug Hattaway from Tallahassee, thanks for joining us.

Let's now go to Tucker Eskew, also from Tallahassee.

Tucker, how's the parade down there?

TUCKER ESKEW, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: We're right in the middle of it. You know, real people are getting on with their real lives right here in Tallahassee and around the country, but I'd certainly be happy to talk about some of what happened in the building next to me as well.

COSSACK: All right, let's talk about that today. It seems like the judge hoped to wrap it all up in one day. I think that was like what most lawyers believe is a good deal wishful thinking. It's set again to go a Sunday. I know lawyers and judges don't like to work on Sundays. How long is this going to go on? And you have been called that the Bush team is doing nothing but delaying. Are you guilty of that?

ESKEW: Not in the least. Let's remember two things, Roger. First of all, it was the Gore campaign's fighting of the certification of the results that resulted in lowering their window of opportunity to conduct this contest by 12 full days.

And secondly, just here today David Boies himself admitted that their own witness went on too long. So I think that's misplaced criticism.

COSSACK: But you came in with a witness list of something like 95 witnesses. Every lawyer knows you're not going to call 95 witnesses in a case like this, and the judge isn't ever going to let you call 95 witnesses. I mean, doesn't that put you in the position of having someone sort of point the finger at your side and saying, look, time is on our side and we're going take advantage of it. That way we win. ESKEW: Let's take a look at the final number we call, Roger. You know better than I that lawyers sometimes float a list, and it certainly seemed to have stirred up the Gore campaign quite a bit, perhaps a few reporters. But we called two witnesses today, and our lawyers are meeting right now and working on tomorrow's witnesses. We've got witnesses who buttress our case. I think contrary to that, the Gore campaign today was unable to clear a very high hurdle. They've got a burden that is very difficult and they didn't carry it.

COSSACK: Tucker, a lot of lawyers and, you know, legal analysts feel that this -- the lawsuits that are kind of moseying along, if you will, in Seminole and Martin counties are the ones that really have the explosive power behind them, these allegations that the applications for absentee ballots were in some way, some would say, tinkered with, some would say just a little bit of ministerial help, but one way or the other, that something that shouldn't have been done was done to them. There is a sense that perhaps these ballots, or these votes, might get thrown out. Your reaction to this?

ESKEW: Well, that's a specious argument. There's really no grounding in that. They're hung up on a real hyper technicality. The fact is, these applications get sent out by political parties -- both parties do it. The Democrats did it here as well -- and the parties are able to print on the back side of the application the voter identification number. It was misprinted on some that were sent out, so it was correct. If you're allowed to print it on there, why not correct it?

You know, anyone who would argue that we should throw out 15,000 absentee ballots because perhaps 5,000 had this little fix made would really be running counter to an argument that even Al Gore is unwilling to embrace.

COSSACK: But, you know, the argument is that -- by your side is, look, this is just a technicality. We just assisted people who need some assistance. But the other side says, you know, you don't give help unless someone asks for it.

ESKEW: Sure, let's make sure every vote counts. You know, we hear that mantra a lot from the other side. Two points: These are real votes. No one is suggesting that the votes themselves were in any way tampered with.

And let's remember, Roger, the law in Florida on this matter is a fraud statute. No one can argue with a straight face there's fraudulent intent involved in correcting a voter ID number printed on a ballot.

And, you know, on this issue of counting ballots, I like the point I heard earlier today. They talk about the specific number of ballots that weren't counted in Miami-Dade, 10,000 some-odd. How would we know the number if they haven't been counted? They've been counted, they simply don't have votes on them.

And in that same city of Miami there was published today and tomorrow a very unfounded statistical analysis that suggests -- and the Gore campaign's embracing it with great vigor -- that Al Gore would have, should have, could have if a bunch of things had been done differently. That's really a flawed...

COSSACK: Should have?

ESKEW: Really, you call it bogus. That's my scientific term for it.

COSSACK: All right, should have, could have, would have and bogus. Tucker Eskew, thanks for joining us.

Let's take a break. When we come back, let's have a free-for-all with Senator Charles Grassley, Senator Evan Bayh, Congressman Asa Hutchinson and Congressman Alcee Hastings, when we return.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARRY RICHARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: What we are here for today is for the plaintiff to carry its heavy burden of proving that the canvassing boards under challenge not only acted wrongly but acted in a fashion which no reasonable person could have done, given the facts known to them at that time.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSSACK: Hi, welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Roger Cossack sitting in for Larry tonight.

Joining me now is, from Iowa Republican Senator Charles Grassley; from Indiana, Democratic Senator Evan Bayh. And, of course, from Arkansas Congressman Asa Hutchinson and from Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings.

First of all, I want to go to you, Senator Grassley. Your impressions of the court hearing that went on today. It seemed tedious, it went on for a long time. I don't think there was much resolution today.

SEN. CHARLES GRASSLEY (R), IOWA: There was not. I'm not a lawyer so I didn't watch it more than a couple hours, but I think it would be pretty tedious if you had to be there doing it. But it's a process I suppose we have to go through. But I would hope that it also signifies to people that this is a drawn-out process that really ought to be a case of where Vice President Gore would throw in the sponge and look to the year 2004 and have a repeat of 2000 so we could get the transition under way and get a new president. Because the people on January 20th are going to expect us to have the ball rolling.

COSSACK: Well, you know, Senator Bayh, that's -- it brings up a good point, because one of the things we see in the polls is we see the American people getting tired of this and getting tired of lawyers and the notion that the lawyers are going to be deciding who the next president is. Somewhere along the line there may be some time when the American people say a pox on somebody's house for doing this. Are you concerned?

SEN. EVAN BAYH (D), INDIANA: Roger, I think it's much more important that we take the time and have the patience to get this right. The stakes, after all, are very large. This is the presidency of the United States, not a local race for a PTA or something like that.

I used to be the secretary of state in my state. I used to be the head of our state recount commission. This is what you do. It takes time. But it's important to make sure you take the time to count every vote to ensure that come next January we swear in as president of the United States the individual who actually got the most votes.

It's not glamorous, it's not terribly exciting, but that's what you do. The only difference about this situation is the office involved.

COSSACK: Aren't you glad you're not the secretary of state, the one that has to make the decisions that Katherine Harris had to have made in Florida?

BAYH: I might have made them a little bit differently, but, yes, I'm glad I'm not in her shoes.

COSSACK: All right, Congressman Hutchinson, we had today -- we saw that Governor Bush today met with Speaker Hastert and Majority Leader -- Senator -- help me out here -- the senator -- why am I having...

REP. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: Lott.

COSSACK: Senator Lott. Not a good thing for me to forget Senator Lott's name. He will pay me back for that.

What do you think that was? Was that more symbolic than anything else?

HUTCHINSON: Well, no, I think it was very substantive. It's important that in a time of transition at least quietly planning that. You've got to look at next year's budget. You've got to look at the schedule and how you can work together. So I think it was an important meeting.

Going back, if I might, Roger, in today's hearing, you know, I think the critical question has to be asked not do votes -- should they be counted, but are they votes? And I think that question is being mischaracterized.

And the second question I think that we're going to have to ask -- I hope that we can get a resolution that the public can have confidence in -- but who is going resolve it? The -- Al Gore rejected, really, the executive branch when Katherine Harris and the certification of the results.

Then you've got the court and the legislative branch. They don't like the legislative branch looking into it, although the federal law says that might be appropriate. The question is, will they accept the results of the court? And I'm beginning to wonder whether they will accept the results under any circumstance under any branch of government. And I hope that they -- the courts will be able to give us a final judgment that people can have confidence in.

COSSACK: Congressman Hastings, you've heard the criticism that the Democrats won't accept anybody. They won't accept -- they don't seem to want to accept the courts, they don't seem to want to accept the legislature and they just keep this thing going. Your comments on that?

REP. ALCEE HASTINGS (D), FLORIDA: Roger, I'm absolutely fascinated that you've conducted this entire program without mentioning the United States Supreme Court. I find that fascinating, which suggests to me that you and a bunch of us must obviously know that the court may very well rule that this matter is not right for them yet and that many of the issues are moot based on the conversations that have been had.

I do believe that Al Gore and Senator Lieberman are prepared to take this fight all the way, and I do believe that there is a time when they will say, if they are the losers -- and I don't anticipate that they will be if the votes could be counted -- that they will at that time do as Senator Grassley said, throw in the sponge.

But I would ask the senator, why would not George Bush consider throwing in the sponge? Al Gore received more votes in the popular vote, and here in Florida those of us that are on the ground -- and I happen to be a Congress person that represents three of the districts where contests are in progress at this time -- those of us that are here are fully mindful that Al Gore got more votes than did George Bush in the state of Florida.

COSSACK: All right, Congressman Hastings, let me interrupt you for a second. We're going to take a break.

More with our panel when we come back.

Stay with us. I'm going to ask Senator Grassley to answer that question.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSSACK: We're back with more LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Roger Cossack.

Senator Grassley, I want to give you a chance to respond to the Congressman. He says look, Vice President Gore won the popular vote. Perhaps it should be Governor Bush that should be thinking about giving it up. GRASSLEY: Two points. First of all, thank God we have the Electoral College because whatever the phenomenon and situation is in Florida, it isn't diminishing the votes of voters in any other state of the 49 states. It doesn't diminish my vote in Iowa. If we had the popular vote, everything that's wrong in Florida would diminish my vote in Iowa.

And we should limit the wrong as much as we can and the Electoral College does it. Secondly, I think if Bush had found himself 1,700 votes behind on election night and called up governor or Vice President Gore and said I'm ready to concede, he wouldn't have called up an hour later and withdrawn it. I think there's a difference between how the Bushes see public office as a opportunity to serve and a privilege and I think the Gores see it as a right.

COSSACK: Senator, I want to give you a chance to respond to that because what Senator Grassley has indicated is now, I think, a deep philosophical perhaps difference on how both these gentlemen view the election, view their need for service before the American public.

BAYH: Roger, I have a great deal of respect from my friend, Chuck Grassley. I've enjoyed serving with him, but I do disagree with what he just said. You know, Al Gore proved that he's not a sore loser as some people have said on election night when he did call Governor Bush to concede when he was behind by not 1,700 but by 30 to 50,000 votes when the result was clear. Even the television networks changed their mind and moved it back to the too-close-call column. So -- I hate to remind you of that.

COSSACK: That's what I've been told, yes.

BAYH: So when the election truly became too close to call, the vice president merely said look, let's follow the rule of law. Let's follow the provisions under Florida statute for determining who won this race and I'm convinced if we're allowed to go through this contest and get a final ruling by the Florida officials possibly ultimately the Florida Supreme Court and he's in the short end, he'll do the gracious thing and concede. But until then he simply wants to know who got the most votes.

And the last thing I'd say, there's going to be an article in tomorrow's "Miami Herald," not a Democratic Party publication, "The Miami Herald" indicating that if the votes were counted in accordance with the way the voters of Florida intended to cast them, Al Gore would carry the state by 23,000 votes. Now under those circumstances I think he has a right to want the votes counted.

COSSACK: All right. Let me go over here to Congressman Hutchinson and change the topic just a little bit. Today, Governor Bush met with Senator John Breaux, a Democrat -- or didn't meet with him, excuse me. called him on the phone yesterday. Senator John Breaux, a Democrat from Louisiana. There's speculation that perhaps he is someone he would want to include in his Cabinet. Perhaps this is kind of like a peace offering to show hat he can bring people together. What do you know about that Congressman? HUTCHINSON: Well, Senator Breaux would be terrific. He's a great thinker. I hope they were also talking about the Medicare commission that Senator Breaux and Congressman Thomas worked on that came out with a report to reform Medicare. I hope that that can be something that we can work together in a bipartisan way to accomplish. Senator Breaux is a major figure in that so I bet you that was a part of that conversation as well.

COSSACK: Congressman Hastings, we just have a short time left. You and I both know that the Supreme Court probably will not be the final word in this matter, will it?

HASTINGS: No, it will not and there's something else. These dates that we keep talking about, I ask you, Roger, and all of our colleagues to look at the 20th Amendment which contemplates someone not being qualified even as late as January 20th. This December 12th date, yet another fiction. Hawaii offered their electors as late as December the 28th. This matter is ultimately going to be decided in Florida. I do believe that whoever wins before Judge Sauls is going to go to the Florida Supreme Court, but Roger, you know something and I do, too. Those absentee ballot questions are causing the Republicans to whistle pass the cemetery.

COSSACK: That may be the issue that we end up talking about.

HASTINGS: You got it.

COSSACK: Let's take a break, now. When we come back, we're going to have state representative Lois Frankel, the leader of the Democrats in Florida as well as John Thrasher, the former Republican House speaker and one of the 25 Bush electors. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSSACK: All right, we're back with more LARRY KING LIVE. I'm Roger Cossack sitting in for Larry tonight. Joining me now is Representative Lois Frankel, the leader of the Democrats and former House Speaker John Thrasher from Florida.

Well, Lois, did the legislature blink today? We understand that they are not going have that -- hear that resolution and they're not going to meet Wednesday.

LOIS FRANKEL (D), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: Well, let me start and say, Roger, that it hurts me that we're in this discuss because you know when all you media types go home, the rest of us are going to be left to have to deal with each other on some very tough challenges in Florida.

But with that said, let me say this. I believe that you're seeing a show right now. I believe that it's been predetermined that if it continues to look like Al Gore is going fight this contest out, that the legislature will meet, that we're going meet on Wednesday, and it is not John McKay and Tom Feeney who are calling the shots right. It's Jeb Bush and it's George Bush and I believe that a proclamation will be signed wither tomorrow night or Monday night unless something drastic would occur such as Al Gore conceding and I do not believe that will happen and I hope that does not happen and I hope that he's going to keep pressing to get all the votes counted in Florida.

COSSACK: John Thrasher, the report is that the leader, Mr. McKay, has indicated that he doesn't -- he won't sign the resolution calling in for a joint meeting of the state legislature and therefore, there will be no meeting Wednesday. What does that mean?

JOHN THRASHER (R), FLORIDA BUSH ELECTOR: Well, Roger, I think what's happening is both Tom Feeney and John McKay are being very deliberate about moving ahead. There are obviously things that are still unsettled that could end all this. The Supreme Court of the United States could obviously render an opinion in the next day or so that in essence would moot any further action by the legislature or by the multiple Gore lawsuits that are pending in Florida.

COSSACK: But John, that's been the case for the last week and the Florida legislature through their leadership in the Republican overwhelming majority in both houses have been flexing their muscles and threatening to call this joint session. Why step back now?

THRASHER: And why shouldn't they do that because you know what? George Bush has won this election in Florida already three times and the Florida legislature has a right to step in and protect the will of the people in the state of Florida and that's what's going on.

There's a lot of hypocrisy out there from the Gore side and it was shown today in the courts in Tallahassee where they're on one hand saying they want to count every single vote and on the other hand they're trying to throw out 15,000 absentee ballots in one county in the state of a Florida.

That's the height of hypocrisy. We need to get on with this. The Florida legislature is prepared to step in if they need to protect the will of the people; and that's what this is about. Tom Feeney and John McKay are going to do it in a very deliberate fashion and only do it if necessary.

COSSACK: All right, Lois, let me go to you. There's a question here of hypocrisy, the leadership of the Republicans has apparently stepped back and said, no, look, suddenly we think that Governor Bush has won this thing and there's really no need for us to do this.

As the leader of the Democrats who have been fighting this, how do you respond to this? Are you glad that it's happened?

FRANKEL: Well, I have said all along that I think it would be wrong for the state legislature to intervene in this election process. After all, we wrote the very laws that are allowing Al Gore to challenge the election. And to my friend John Thrasher, if there's any hypocrisy it's the legislature now being aggravated or incensed that Al Gore is following the very laws that we put into place. But with that said, Roger, I do believe that you are seeing a show. There is no way that the Republican Party in Florida will allow Al Gore to win this election. The legislative session will be an insurance policy for George Bush. Mark my words: If the court case continues past Monday, you're going to see us in special session on Wednesday. It has been predetermined; this is an act -- they're saying they're waiting for a report -- to read a report.

At least I will say this as to Mr. Feeney: At least he has been straightforward and honest in his communications about this. He has said from day one he believes there should be a special session and that he's going to sign the papers for that; and as I said, I believe that the George Bush campaign is calling the shots, and as soon as they say to both those gentlemen, sign the papers, they'll be signed.

COSSACK: All right, let me go John Thrasher. John, let's assume that Gore does look like he's, perhaps, going to be successful and, in fact, the Florida legislature comes in and does what it's been threatening to do. Will there be a voter backlash, and who will pay the price? Do you think, you know, in two years everybody is going run for election in every state.

THRASHER: But you know what, Roger? Let me tell you something. You know we -- I was speaker for the last two years. Lois Frankel and her democratic colleagues fought me every step of the way on education reform, tax cuts, tort reform, doing those kinds of things for the good of the people of Florida. We stood for election this past November 7 and now we have more Republicans in the Florida legislature than in the history of the state of Florida.

I'm not worried about that because I know Tom Feeney and I know John McKay are going to do the right thing based upon their constitutional prerogatives; and I haven't heard representative Frankel say that they did not have the right under the United States Constitution to do what they have suggested.

And let me just correct you, Roger, in all due respect: It hadn't been a threat; they have been undertaking to look at their responsibilities under the Florida Constitution and the United States Constitution.

COSSACK: But the argument is that the only reason that you're backing off is because you don't need to do it -- look, the argument is what Lois Frankel says it is -- that you're acting as an insurance policy. You know, how do you answer that?

THRASHER: I'm not sure anybody's backing off. I think what's been said tonight is simply, let's take a look at what happens over the weekend, make a determination of what we need to do on Monday, and then we'll move ahead.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break. When we come back our A panel with Mary McGrory of "The Washington Post," Tim Padgett of "Time" magazine, and Amy Holmes of voter.com. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COSSACK: Welcome back to LARRY KING LIVE. Joining me now is Mary McGrory of "The Washington Post," Tim Padgett of "Time" magazine, the Miami bureau chief; and, of course Amy Holmes from voter.com.

Let's go right to you. Mary, you have had the opportunity to cover many of these things. In your opinion -- first of all, have you ever seen a story like this?

MARY MCGRORY, COLUMNIST, "THE WASHINGTON POST": Never; this is absolutely unique.

COSSACK: And in terms of how this will end, will whoever becomes president of the United States be able to govern and will they be able to get anything done?

MCGRORY: That's the big question, isn't it? And that doesn't depend so much on legitimacy, although that is a factor. It was a worry when Lyndon Johnson succeeded Jack Kennedy under traumatic, terrible circumstances; but once he was in the office and doing things, as Stars Coons Goodwin (ph) has pointed out, he was quickly accepted and seen as a strong president.

What will hamper whichever one of these gentlemen finally makes it to 1600 Pennsylvania: the numbers in Congress. The Senate will be, at best, 51-49 -- well, 50-50. And the House, very narrow margin, so that they will both be pretty much blocked from anything of a radical nature.

COSSACK: Well you know, some say the best government is the government that does nothing.

MCGRORY: Well, I think we're about to get it, then. Don't you?

COSSACK: I'm afraid so -- we might, at least.

Tim, the Florida legislature, at least the leadership, seemed to blink a little bit today and back off of what we heard was going to be a Wednesday joint session. Why do you think they did that?

TIM PADGETT, "TIME" MIAMI BUREAU CHIEF: Well, it is strange because, during the past two weeks, the Republicans in the legislature, particularly these Republican freshmen -- as you know, about 40 percent of the incoming class of legislators in Florida are newcomers. They seemed remarkably reminiscent of the 1994 class of Republican freshmen who came in with Newt Gingrich in the U.S. Congress -- very zealous, very true-believer Republicans. And all up until late this week we thought that they were going to just really push this special session through and that it was going to be announced or proclaimed by both Speaker Feeney and Senate President John McKay today -- yesterday, excuse me.

Suddenly, as you said, they seem to have blinked and I get that whatever guiding force the legislature has right now, whether it is actually Tom Feeney and John McKay or whether it's James Baker and the Bush campaign, I think they were beginning to see that the public was getting a little queasy about the idea of this precipitous move to just have the Florida legislature take it upon themselves to choose their electors. And so I think they've reigned it back a little bit and they're going to see how this hearing goes, they're going to see how the Supreme Court rules.

I think they realized in the end that it wasn't good PR for them to act so imperiously, let's say, in this case.

COSSACK: Tim, tell us a little bit about the voters of Florida. I mean, this is a state that, overwhelmingly, is represented both in its House and its Senate by Republicans and yet went, at the very best, 50-50 in the presidential election.

PADGETT: Right; this is a state of fiercely independent voters. What you have here is essentially demographic chaos. I don't mean to say that in a negative sense, but it's just a fact. This is the most demographically chaotic state in the country and, not coincidentally, that's why it's the new bellwether state of this country.

And because you have that chaotic mix, it makes voters, I think, more skeptical, it makes the electorate more independent and more centrist; and they tend to like to like to hedge their bets when they vote down here and, as you know, up until 1996 this was a heavily, heavily Democratic state. It's only been in the past three or four years that Republicans have really begun to make the inertia go a little more rightward in this state.

So as I said, this is a very fiercely independent state, and even though the Republicans do control the legislature, this is an electorate that doesn't like to see a transparently or starkly partisan behavior, which is one of the reasons, for example, that Katherine Harris may not have much of a, you know, political career left in this state.

COSSACK: All right, let's take a break.

When we come back more, with Mary McGrory, Tim Padgett, and I will talk to Amy Holmes right off the bat.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSSACK: We're back with Mary McGrory. We're back with Tim Padgett and Amy Holmes.

Amy, I want to start right with you from Voter.com.

What about the American public? Is apathy starting to set in? Is it a pox on both your houses, get this thing over with?

HOLMES: Well, interestingly, I mean, this whole things has sort of been like sort of a talmudic debate for the political class of what is the just outcome of this election, and who should win based on either the law or the politics. Who's transgressing the boundaries, you know, from week to week, day to day. But it looks like the people want is not a just outcome but an outcome. And what you're starting to see "Newsweek" polling showing that larger numbers of Gore's own supporters would like him to concede. So you're starting to see a bit of a shift here in the public attitude toward this, which is not so much that they want to get it over as soon as possible but they're less interested in a fair result than just a result.

COSSACK: All right, so when does push come to shove?

HOLMES: When does push come to shove? I think that the Florida legislature backing down -- I think Tim's right about that -- and it might have had something to do with the polling. And so I think there goes the Jeb Bush puppeteer theory about all of this.

And also, the Florida Supreme Court, they set aside the issue of the butterfly ballot. Again, the public polling showed that the public really wasn't too terribly sympathetic on that issue, that, you know, them's the breaks, and, you know, people make mistakes. So when push comes to shove I think is when we see what happens with these court cases. You know, we have Seminole County and Martin County, and those judges have the ability to put their finger on the button and blow up this election. And I think you're going see, if they choose to do this, that's where the push comes to shove.

COSSACK: Mary, the Supreme Court yesterday, that majestic building, those majestic judges hearing this case, and yet people hope they're going to give us the answer, but it appears that they're not going to give us the answer. What does that mean in terms of the fact that the Supreme Court may come out and make a very narrow decision and beat goes on, the lawsuits continue?

MCGRORY: Well, it seems to me that the Supreme Court here, like the state Supreme Court in Florida, just felt that some more majestic institution of government could step in and lay a cool hand on the fevered brow. It doesn't seem to have worked that way, because as you saw -- you were there, Roger -- the justices were disagreeing among themselves. They couldn't agree why they were there, they couldn't be absolutely sure about the federal component. And one of the attorneys for Katherine Harris, I believe, said, hoping that it would make the justices like him more, that he wasn't bringing in the sort of federal element. And Justice Scalia said, you're in a federal court. So that...

COSSACK: Yes.

MCGRORY: ... you couldn't win, in a sense. And there was great -- a certain protectiveness shown by the justices for their brothers and sisters in the Florida Supreme Court. Justice Souter used to be on the New Hampshire Supreme Court, so maybe he felt a fraternal sense there. And Ruth Bader Ginsburg said she really didn't appreciate any reflections on the integrity of the Florida Supreme Court, which was being talked of by the Republicans as if it were the Politburo in Moscow or some other hideous entity.

So they were, I thought -- you'd know better being a lawyer and all -- I thought they were just all over the lot.

COSSACK: Yes, they seemed to be. They seemed to be all over the lot.

HOLMES: I thought one of the things that came out of it, though, was the impression that Judge Terry Lewis may have interpreted this conflicting Florida statutes correctly, that the final discretion resides with Katherine Harris and then you have this contest period. And then from there, the Florida state law, if you look at it, says a judge has -- a circuit judge has the authority to provide a remedy for any, you know, complaints by either party.

So at the time, I remember it seemed as if he was just sort of punting and not being willing to make a decision and putting it back on the shoulders...

COSSACK: But it may turn out he was right.

HOLMES: But it may turn out that he was right after all.

MCGORY: As Justice O'Connor pointed out early in the proceedings, rather to my surprise, the Florida election law, which Mr. Olson kept saying had been so carefully drawn, had a deep contradiction in it. It says that if there are irregularities, there can be a recount. But it says the deadline must not be interfered with...

COSSACK: And there was.

MCGORY: ... which is giving you a remedy...

COSSACK: And then taking it away from you.

MCGORY: ... and then saying that you can't have it.

COSSACK: All right, Tim Padgett, in 30 seconds I want to ask you about the Seminole County lawsuits. Both sides -- one side says it's a disaster and the other side says, no, it's just a little administrative error. What's going to happen there?

PADGETT: Well you have to remember that this is taking in a sort of a rarefied context down here, because absentee ballots are at the heart of the voter-fraud plague, let's say, in Florida, especially Miami. It's a problem that has always been the origin of voter-fraud cases in the past decade at least in this state. It's something this state and its judges take very, very seriously. Now a lot of people will say it's a technicality, but in this state it could be serious.

COSSACK: Tim, I'm afraid we're all out of time.

I want to thank all of our guests. I want to thank all of you for watching.

I'm Roger Cossack in for LARRY KING LIVE. Join Larry tomorrow, and we'll see you again. Bye-bye.

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