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Larry King Live

How Many Court Cases Does It Take to Make a President?

Aired December 5, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Vice President Gore still talking tough on day 28 of this never ending presidential race. While in Texas, Governor Bush talks transition. And in Florida, Supreme Court gets ready for what could be the final showdown.

Joining us in Washington, RNC Chairman Jim Nicholson, his counterpart on the Democratic side DNC head Ed Rendell. And from Tallahassee, Alan Greer, co-counsel for the plaintiff in this Seminole County absentee ballot case, and the attorney on the Bush side, Daryl Bristow. Then House majority leader Congressman Dick Armey and the Democratic caucus chairman Congressman Martin Frost. Then a superstar panel. It's all next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin by welcoming back our dynamic duo. They're both in Washington, Jim Nicholson, chairman of the Republican National Committee and Ed Rendell, general chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Start with you, Ed, and it's the same question for both of you.

Honestly now, Ed, if positions were reversed, exactly reversed, wouldn't you and your side be doing exactly what Governor Bush is doing?

ED RENDELL, GENERAL CHAIRMAN, DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL COMMITTEE: Well, maybe to some extent, although I think if Governor Bush was trying to validate votes that hadn't been counted, I think we would to some degree, want to see those votes validated. It's interesting, Larry. I don't know if you saw the challenge that the New Mexico Republican Party has made. They want to hand recount, because they're within 500 votes and they don't believe that the machines counted every vote. They want them votes to be looked at visually.

KING: But you can honestly say, if positions were reversed, you would say OK, count the ballots?

RENDELL: Well, for example, we're not involved in the Seminole County case because that's an attempt to disqualify ballots. It's not an attempt to validate ballots. So, I think...


KING: Jim, on your side. Jim, on you side. Same case, positions reversed. Would you be doing everything Al Gore is doing?


KING: Absolutely not?

NICHOLSON: No. I just came back from Mexico City this weekend. I was down there for the inauguration of President Vicente Fox. They had an election down there and they threw a party out that had been in power 71 years and they surprised them. They surprised most of the people in Mexico and in the world. But they had a very peaceful transfer of governance down there -- very noble, very honorable.

We've had an election in America. We've counted the votes. In Florida where it was very close we counted them again. In some cases they've been counted a third and a fourth time. Never before in the history of our country have we had a party that was beaten in election, that Governor Bush has been certified now in every state as a winner, and they won't step aside. They're trying to fight it out in the courts.


KING: What I'm getting at is you can honestly say if the positions were reversed, if your side were the Gore side, it was Bush in Gore's place, you would have conceded.

NICHOLSON: Oh, I can say that absolutely...


KING: Definitely?

NICHOLSON: Look at what governor -- Senator Ashcroft, former governor, Ashcroft. He stepped aside. He lost to a dead man who may not have been eligible to be elected in Missouri, but in the interests of the people of Missouri, who voted, he stepped aside. Look what President Nixon did in 1960. Look what President Ford did in 1976. Both very razor-thin elections. They said rather than put the country through this, we're going to concede.

KING: Ed, why then don't do you the same?

RENDELL: Well, first of all...

KING: He said honestly if it was positions were reversed, Bush would concede.

RENDELL: Well, first of all, that's inconsistent with what the New Mexico Republican Party is doing, Larry. That's number one.


KING: Well, that's because you're still challenging them.

RENDELL: No. We won in New Mexico. They're asking for a hand recount and the New Mexico Party chairman said the only way to count these votes is to look at them visually. Isn't that what we've been saying in Florida? Of course it is. And all we're saying is there is still some nearly 11,000 votes that haven't been counted.

Jim says they've been counted, once, twice, three times.

NICHOLSON: They have.

RENDELL: They have never been counted. They are what's called an undervote and, the machines as you know, Larry, and there's been testimony galore, the machines do not have the ability to count them because unless the chad is totally knocked out, the machines can't count them. But visually, and that's what the Florida law calls for, visually, these votes can be counted.

KING: Then why do you keep losing in court Ed and why didn't Dade County agree to -- why didn't they count them when they had the chance?

RENDELL: Well, first of all Jim -- I mean, excuse me, Larry, we didn't lose in court. The Florida Supreme Court said yes, hand counts should go on. They said you want to validate intent of the voter by moving ahead counting these ballots. They set a time limit that I think in retrospect was unrealistically short and Miami-Dade Couldn't comply but the Florida Supreme Court -- the number one court in the state -- has said hand counts must go ahead, because they're only way to validate votes that have been undervoted.


KING: Jim how do you respond to the -- how do you respond to the New Mexico question where you're doing the same thing they're doing here?

NICHOLSON: Well, it was very close in New Mexico, and Vice President Gore has not won in New Mexico. It appears that there was a glitch made in the count in one county, and...

KING: So, you're challenging that, right?

NICHOLSON: Right, and they're challenging that.

KING: So why can't he challenge you in Florida and you challenge -- why can't anybody challenge?

NICHOLSON: Well, the situation is very different. These votes in Florida were counted. They were counted again.

RENDELL: They were not.

NICHOLSON: And then they were selectively recounted in two heavily Democratic counties by Democrat counters, and then this went to a trial before a Democrat judge in Florida. He heard all the evidence, took the testimony, examined the demeanor of the witnesses, and made a very, very sound ruling, and said that this counting has no probability of changing the outcome, and ruled against them on all counts. Very unequivocally, very sound, solid well-supported decision. RENDELL: Larry, interestingly, in New Mexico, they're not asking to do hand counts in all of the counties in New Mexico, they're just asking hand counts in counties that they did well in. Doesn't that sound familiar?

KING: Let me get a break, guys. We'll be right back with more. We'll ask about what they make of this Seminole County case. It never ends. We'll be back with Jim Nicholson and Ed Rendell. Don't go away.


KING: Jim Nicholson, what do you make of the Seminole and Martin County cases which come up tomorrow?

NICHOLSON: They're very interesting. There, you know, Gore's people -- this guy that's brought this lawsuit has given over $100,000 to the Democrat Party in support of Al Gore. And there they're trying to throw ballots out. You know, they've been saying this mantra that every vote should be counted. They're trying to get 15,000 ballots thrown out in Seminole and Martin County and the reason that, you know, they're bringing this is that there was a glitch in filling out the applications -- the application, not the ballots, the applications for the votes, and many went out to again, servicemen and women the people that are out there defending us for this right to vote. And, the Democrats are in there trying to get these votes invalidated. It's just totally inexplicable to me.


RENDELL: Well, first of all, I know the man that has brought this suit, Harry Jacobs. In fact, Jim, I solicited a lot of...


NICHOLSON: He gave over $100,000.

RENDELL: But Harry didn't check with me. He didn't check with anybody in the Gore campaign. He filed this as an outraged citizen and again, we're not involved in the suit. But I think there should be a level of outrage here, Larry. Jim tries to say this is just a technical glitch. The Florida legislature requires that absentee ballot applications when they come in, have the voter's registration number on it. And the reason they do that is to prevent fraud. This was an anti-fraud statute. In a Miami mayor's election a few years earlier when this was done, the courts threw out the ballots now.


KING: And the mayor.

RENDELL: And the mayor.

Now, there is a difference here, because you can't identify the 4,000 ballots that got co-mingled with the overall 15,000, and that makes it harder, but this is a serious violation by Republicans, who violated the law, and I assume that those Republican officials knowingly knew...


RENDELL: If they knew about the Miami case, knew this was a violation of the law.

NICHOLSON: You know, I'm not sure that I agree with you, Ed, that the law was violated, because it doesn't say anything that you cannot assist someone in filling out their application for a ballot.

But I would like to ask you right here tonight -- I mean, surely you would agree, and Vice President Gore would agree, that these people should not, through some technicality, lose their right to have their vote counted, wouldn't you agree with that right now tonight?

RENDELL: Well, again, I think if there is some way that...

NICHOLSON: Wouldn't you agree? Would you agree, Ed?

RENDELL: Jim, if there was some way of isolating the votes that were done this way, I think that those votes could be stricken, but I wouldn't want to see all 15,000 absentee ballots.

KING: How are you guys -- how are your parties -- how is everything going to work, Jim -- these are court cases now, neither of you involved, the courts are going to determine it -- Jim, how is this country going to work in the next four years?

NICHOLSON: I think it depends on how this ends up and how quickly we can come back together as a country, and how closely we can work together. Governor Bush has a great record for this. As the governor of Texas, he had to work with a Democrat legislature and Democrat constitutional officers, he called them all together and said, let's work together, let's not worry about who gets the credit, let's improve life for Texas. He has a record for doing this, and I think he will do it here in Washington, he'll reach across the lines, bring a bipartisan coalition.

KING: But with all the vituperative -- that's not going to be -- that's not as easy as Texas -- I mean, in the area that -- you know how vituperative this has been, Jim.

NICHOLSON: That's why it takes a very special leader, and I think George W. Bush is that guy, I really do, Larry.

RENDELL: Well, I...

KING: And what about you, Ed? What's going to happen?

RENDELL: I agree with Jim to the extent that it's important the winner in this to have the ability to reach out to the other side, but I think it's just as important for the loser, whether it's Governor Bush or Vice President Gore, and the congressional leaders of the loser's party, to not make this a two or four-year election campaign, to not say, we are going to just gridlock the government and we are going to fight, fight, fight for the next four years. The American people don't want that. We care about the issues that we campaigned on. The elderly people in this country can't wait four years to get a prescription drug benefit under Medicare. And if we care about those things and if we are the loser, we have to reach out and try to meet Governor Bush, then President Bush, halfway, and if we are successful, I would hope that the Republican Party, Jim and the leaders of the Republican Party would do the same. No four-year election campaign.

KING: Gentlemen...

RENDELL: Let's try to get some things done for the country.

KING: All right, would you agree there is a...

NICHOLSON: I think we are on that track. I had a meeting today with Secretary Cheney -- want to call him Vice President-elect Cheney, but -- and the leaders of the Senate, and talked about that very issue of how important it is that we work in a bipartisan way, to get some things done for the people of America, bring about a prescription drug benefit, bring about a tax cut, improve education for our children, and we know we are going to have to work together in both sides of the aisles to do that, and Governor Bush is the kind of guy, and has a record, and the temperament and the will to do that.

KING: And would you say definitely, Ed, that Al Gore will do the same?

RENDELL: If he wins, I think he realizes the burden that whoever wins is going to have, and he is going to have to reach out dramatically toward the other side. But again, we hope that the losing side, whether that is us or Jim's side, is responsive and doesn't make this a four-year election battle. The country can't stand that, Larry.

KING: Thank you both. On a little optimistic note, two good guys: Jim Nicholson and Ed Rendell.

When we come back, Alan Greer, he's co-counsel for the plaintiff, and Daryl Bristow, Bush campaign attorney, they're on opposite sides in the coming up case in Seminole County over absentee ballots, next. Don't go away.


KING: Let's start first with Alan Greer, attorney for -- the co- counsel for the plaintiff.

The argument on your side is what, Alan?

ALAN GREER, CO-COUNSEL FOR PLAINTIFF: The argument is that there has been a disparate treatment of voters in Seminole County. You had a situation where you had a Republican supervisor of elections recognize that absentee ballot requests were coming in, in improper way, they weren't filled out the way the statutes mandate that they have to be filled out. And she brought in the Republican operatives to change only the Republican errors, leaving a different group of voters to be treated differently. Democrats, independents, anybody else didn't get a chance to have their mistakes on their absentee ballots corrected. Therefore, the Republicans side picked up, upwards of 2,000 votes they would not ordinarily have had.

KING: And what relief do you want? Do you want a crime charge? Do you want the votes thrown -- what do you want?

GREER: Well, the -- what they did is a crime, it's a third- degree felony, but what we are asking in this case is that either all or a portion of the absentee ballots be disallowed, providing additional votes to Vice President Gore.

KING: The other side has asked the judge to recuse herself, she has not. What do you make of that?

GREER: I -- you will have to talk to them about that, it seems pretty desperate to me. She is a very honest, straightforward judge. Like any other judge, she was nominated for a higher position, she didn't get it. I don't think it bothers her one bit.

KING: Do you think you have a big chance of winning here?

GREER: Well, we think we've got a very, very strong case. Obviously, the judge is the one who is going to have to make the determination of what the outcome is going to be. But if justice prevails, the facts are so strong here, this was such an egregious act on the part of the Republicans to come in and try to jimmy the system, that we think we absolutely should win.

KING: Is the Martin County case the same?

GREER: There is one difference in the Martin County case: there, the Republican representatives, employees of the party were allowed to actually take the ballot request out of the supervisor's office, go off site and do whatever they wanted with them. In our case, the Republicans had an office space within the supervisor's office and spent over three weeks there being fed the ballots and correcting them, changing them in the supervisor's office. So that's the principle difference between the two cases.

KING: Everything in Florida is sunshine, will that trial be open to the cameras, Alan, that -- tomorrow?

GREER: It's a small circus in the courtroom, I have never experienced that in my life and it's an unusual experience, for me at least.

KING: Thanks, Alan Greer, he's co-counsel for the plaintiff, saying he has a good shot tomorrow.

Now let's talk with Daryl Bristow, who represents the Bush side of ledger.

What did Alan say, Daryl, that from your side was wrong?

DARYL BRISTOW, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Well, I think you first need to keep your eye on the real ball here, and that's the voter. You have to remember that we have an official who sent these voters their absentee ballot forms, they filled them out, they voted them properly, they were counted properly. They had no idea that there might be somebody laying behind the law ready to make a complaint like this. They voted, and if they were to be denied this vote, they would be disenfranchised.

The Constitution will not permit a state official to have caused that result, federal law won't permit it, and state law won't permit it. You heard...

KING: Is it your position then that the people who filled out the things for them, that was proper by law?

BRISTOW: There's no question that it was proper by law, and this business about there being a third degree felony, frankly, is bogus. You have -- the voter does indeed make the request, but he can have people -- he or she can have people help and assist, and the only requirement is that you have the voter registration number on the form. And that showed up on the form.

Remember, the only glitch here is the idea that somebody helped correct a computer error on a card for these voters who thought they had requested a ballot. Their signatures are accurate. This is hypertechnical. I mean hypertechnical

KING: Are you saying, Daryl, much ado about nothing?

BRISTOW: Well, with the -- with the cameras in the courtroom, Larry, with you interested, it's much to do about much, but it certainly is not under Florida law, federal law, and constitutional law something that would cause any one to disenfranchise 15,000 voters who thought they were doing the right thing, and never had a chance to go to the polls otherwise.

KING: Was it a tactic to try to have the judge recuse herself so to put pressure on her?

BRISTOW: Not at all. This is a courtroom battle that involves the presidency of the United States. We wanted to be absolutely sure that this judge felt right about any appearance. I never want history to second-guess the court because there might have been some reason for her to not be completely objective.

Let me that say everything she has said, everything she has done, every question she has asked, every courtesy she has extended indicates she's doing a masterful job. But we did believe that we needed to protect the record, and give her the opportunity to look at that issue.

KING: Do you think you will prevail tomorrow?

BRISTOW: Well, I don't know whether it will be tomorrow or not. I hope it will be tomorrow. We thought we prevailed today.

The court is going to hear evidence tomorrow. We have provided stipulations so that we can abbreviate this hearing. I hope we'll get it over in a hurry. And I feel absolutely certain that this judge is going to do the right thing, and what is fundamentally fair and that is those people who requested their absentee ballots are going to get to cast them and the will of the people will prevail.

KING: Thanks, Alan. Thanks, Daryl. Alan Greer earlier then Daryl Bristow. They're attorneys on opposite sides. You'll be seeing them tomorrow. That telecast Florida in the sunshine. When we come back: Floyd Abrams, Viet Dinh and Roger Cossack. Don't go away.


KING: Before we discuss the political aspect, let's get some legal thoughts in some moments with Floyd Abrams, the famed constitutional attorney. He's in New York. Viet Dinh, professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center and very own Roger Cossack, CNN legal analyst, co-host of "BURDEN OF PROOF" and pinch-hitter for Larry King on LARRY KING LIVE.

All right, Floyd Abrams, the Supreme Court hears oral arguments starting Thursday. When do you think this will wrap one way -- when you do think they'll have a decision?

FLOYD ABRAMS, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: Oh, gee, I think that they would likely have a ruling as early as Friday. Last time they decided really after a weekend, but I think they'll do the their very best to get out a ruling as soon as possible. Given the fact that December 12 is almost upon us, I'm sure they're doing a lot of work already. They get briefs tomorrow, and I think they'll try to get out a ruling as absolutely soon as they can.

KING: And it should be understood, Viet, is that correct, that good justices read briefs in advance so they have some knowledge of where they're going, right?

VIET DINH, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER: No question. I think all these justices are very conscientious, and they will read the briefs that were submitted today well in advance of an oral argument on Thursday. They are under a bit of a hydraulic pressure from a very good opinion by Judge Sanders Sauls from below, and a rather clear opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court from above. So I think that their room for maneuvering here is a little bit circumscribed and they will know that also.

KING: Roger, what about the time? Can all of this -- suppose it goes in Gore's favor. Can they do it by the 12th?

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, that's a tough question. Larry, I do agree with our guest that they're going to have -- the Florida Supreme Court is going to make a very, very, very quick decision, but, you know, if it wasn't done by the 12th the question then becomes what happens? And does it mean that Florida automatically loses its right to get its votes counted in the Electoral College. I'm not so sure that would happen under those circumstances, but you know, that's such an unpleasant thought to think about.

Let's think about getting it done by 12th, see if they can.

KING: Floyd Abrams, what do you think is going to happen on the question of the Supreme Court throwing it back? Do you think the Florida Supreme Court will answer that to their liking?

ABRAMS: I think the U.S. Supreme Court is likely finished with this case. They asked two questions of the Florida Supreme Court. I think the Florida Supreme Court is going to answer in a way that makes it unlikely for the U.S. Supreme Court to hear it again. If it weren't for all the other problems the Gore campaign has, most of all of the ruling of Judge Saul, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling wouldn't be so much of a problem at all.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling really asks them to answer the question what did they mean when they talked about the Florida Supreme Court -- how important the Florida constitution? How important was that? They can answer that. They asked them another question, I think they can answer that. I -- I don't think this case is going back to Washington. This is -- this case is going to end as it began, in Florida.

KING: Viet Dinh, what do you make of the Seminole County case that we just discussed with the two attorneys? Could this be an off- the-wall factor here?

DINH: I think it is, as you phrase it, a wildcard, but I think it is rather weak wildcard, as we discussed, that I think that the linkage between the alleged violation here and the remedy requested is rather tenuous. You don't get from an irregularity, even if proven, in an application to throwing out the votes of all of the absentee voters in one particular county. I think that is a rather big stretch, and I think that will be the primary problem that makes this wildcard rather weak.

KING: But Roger, in Miami, that did happen. They through them all out and they threw the mayor out.

COSSACK: Yes, that's true. Larry, there is a case down there that we've been looking at. It's called the Bextrum (ph) case, which I know that Governor Bush's team feels is controlling, and what it pretty much says is, is that you have to find fraud or perhaps gross, gross negligence before anything happens, and as Viet points out, you know, it's a real stretch when we're talking about applications for ballots.

We're not talking about somebody messing around with the ballots. We're talking about applications to get the ballots. Unless you can find absolute fraud, it's a real stretch to say votes should not be counted. We've heard the Florida Supreme Court say in its last decision, they said, you know, the policy in this state is we want votes counted. DINH: And Larry, if I can -- if I may in the in the Miami mayoral race the allegation of fraud there was on the actual absentee ballot itself and was not limited to the absentee ballots but was also dead men voting, voter solicitation, a whole host of other fraud.

ABRAMS: Larry, I think there's another problem here, though. What the Democrats are alleging is -- goes beyond simply saying something was done which was technically unsound, they're saying this was favoritism. They're saying...

KING: Yes, they threw out Democrats...

ABRAMS: ... only Republicans were allowed to do this. And if that's true, I mean if they can prove that and a violation of law, then they'll be well up on the ladder to try to persuade a judge that you just can't let this happen.

KING: Thank you, legal eagles. Floyd Abrams, Viet Dinh, and Roger Cossack. When we come back two top people in the House and we'll get some political thoughts from Dick Armey and then Martin Frost. Don't go away.


KING: Now, we've heard all about the legal things, and the courts will decide that, we thought we might get caught up a little on politics.

We'll begin with Congressman Dick Armey, the House majority leader, Republican of Texas. They met on Capitol Hill with Dick Cheney today.

How smooth is this going to go in the next two to four years, Dick?

REP. DICK ARMEY (R-TX), MAJORITY LEADER: I think it will go fine. You know, every presidency establishes its own legitimacy. The House and the Senate are anxious to go back to work, and we got important things we want to work on, we're anxious to go to work with the president. And quite frankly, I think the reports that we will be faced off in some sort of severe partisan -- what -- standoff, I think are grossly exaggerated.

We're all adults here. We understand about winning and losing on the election trail, but we also, to a larger extent, understand the reasons why we run, the things we want to accomplish, and the degree to which we have to work together to get things done.

KING: And you think, Congressman, that, that will take precedent over the vituperativeness, or the fact that there is -- whoever is president, there will be a cloud?

ARMEY: No, I -- this idea of there being a cloud, quite frankly, I don't think it will last. If it's there, it won't last long. Once you get caught up in the business of working on solving the problems like educating our children, which is going to be an extraordinarily high priority with George W. Bush, where he's had a proven working record bipartisanly in Texas -- well, we are all anxious, both Republican and Democrats alike to get back to work on that. And quite frankly, we will be so wrapped up in the work that we won't remember these difficult times.

KING: Would you also say unequivocally then that if it should turn out that Al Gore is president your remarks would be exactly the same?

ARMEY: I think so. There is no doubt about it. The only way the -- I mean, obviously whoever is in the presidency will have to demonstrate that I, too, let bygones be bygones, let's go down to work fellows. As long as everybody is willing to do that, then it will go fine.

If you are not the principal in this case, the president, and you decide to say, well, I'm going to hang on to my animosities, my disappointments, my angers, my frustrations, you'll just find yourself left out of the process. The process will move forward with those people who want to work together. Only...

KING: So those people...

ARMEY: ... a recalcitrant president could bring it -- keep it alive.

KING: So those people on the far end of the fringes that want to keep this pot boiling, they are going to fall by the wayside?

ARMEY: Yes. This is the oldest line, I may have said this back in 1985, you can be so ideologically hide bound, you cut yourself out of the process. You want to be part of the work, you have to have a good humor about it and go to work with folks.

KING: Congressman Dick Armey, House majority leader, Republican of Texas, always good seeing him.

Let's get the thoughts of another Texan, Congressman Martin Frost, the Democratic caucus chairman.

Would you agree with your counterpart?

REP. MARTIN FROST (D), TEXAS: Well, I hope that will be the case, Larry. There are strongly held views on both sides. I mean, there are some issues that are very important, what's going to happen about prescription drugs, what's going to happen about education. There are differences between the two parties, but I think we are capable of working this out.

It is very important, from our standpoint, that this appeal to the Florida Supreme Court on the question of the undercounted votes go forward, be decided on the merits. I hope that this will be decided quickly, and then I hope that we will be able to figure out who the president is and move forward.

KING: And Can you say that if it's Bush you are quite willing to work with him?

FROST: Oh, I think that's going to be -- that's clear, Democrats will work with whoever the new president is. But it isn't...

KING: Even though with all the vituperativeness we have had?

FROST: Well, Larry, there has been -- there have been strong feelings on both sides, and I think that the new president is going to have to sit down with both parties, and I would -- if it is Bush, I think that one of the things he will have to do is sit down with Tom DeLay, who is the Republican whip and who has really been the most strident on their side, and I think he is going to have to ask his own side to calm down, and then he's have to -- going to have to reach out to Democrats. And the same thing -- if it's Gore, I think that he has to reach out to both sides.

I agree with Majority Leader Armey, we're all adults around here, we are interested in what's for the best interest of the country and trying to accomplish some real things. It will not be easy, Congress is evenly divided, both the Senate and the House -- the Senate is tied, the House has a difference of only five votes -- and it will not be easy to pass legislation on important national issues, but we are sure going to try.

KING: So, Congressman Frost, what we have is a split country, right?

FROST: Split right down the middle. This is the closest presidential race in the history of the United States, this is -- it's -- this is the closest divided Congress in a very, very long time. And no one should pretend that there aren't real differences in this country, but I hope we can work them out and at least try and make some progress.

KING: So you then, no matter how this comes out, are -- you share the views of Congressman Armey, you are optimistic?

FROST: I'm always optimistic. Dick and I have been involved in this political process for a long time, we have worked together over the years. I am optimistic for the country, but I do think that we have to recognize that the country is evenly divided and that there are strongly held views on both sides, and it's going to take a good bit of effort to meet in the middle.

KING: Thank you both very much.

We have an outstanding panel ahead of Bob Woodward, Hugh Sidey, Hal Bruno, and Frank Sesno, they're all next. Don't go away.


KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, our most frequent visitor, Bob Woodward, assistant managing editor of "The Washington Post," Pulitzer Prize winner, best-selling author. His new book, "Maestro: Greenspan's Fed and the American Boom," already a best seller. How important is he? Greenspan smiled yesterday, the market went through the roof today.

Hugh Sidey, the famed "Time" magazine presidential historian; Hal Bruno, former political director, ABC News, he did a yeoman-like job for CNN on election night; and our very own CNN Washington bureau chief, always good to see him, Frank Sesno.

We'll start with Bob Woodward.

Bob, is it, as Yogi would say, is it over?

BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": No, I don't think it is. And I think Gore really has much more of a chance in the Florida Supreme Court than people think, and the reason is those ballots are kind of the DNA of all of this, the 14,000 ballots that no one really has fully counted, or at least hand counted.

And there is a tradition in the law which is kind of, let's use and look at the best evidence. You go back to the Nixon tapes case, he had to turn over his tapes. President Clinton had to give testimony, sworn testimony, in the Paula Jones sexual harassment case.

Again, the court said, we want to know, we want to look at the evidence and hear the witnesses. Presidents Reagan, presidents Bush had to turn over their personal diaries.

So the DNA, I think it's quite likely that the Florida Supreme Court will say, let's look at it. It will -- it is a difficult legal hurdle to get over, but I think they can do it, and it's possible they will.

KING: Now, Hal Bruno, if they do, do it, is there time to do it?

HAL BRUNO, FORMER ABC POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Not much. It's going to be a very, very difficult squeeze. But if they're going -- if the court wants to do it, they've got to come up with a decision very fast, because they are quickly running out of time. And there's no way to come back once you reach the 12th of December. That's it.

KING: Hugh Sidey, do you think it's over?

HUGH SIDEY, "TIME": Larry, I don't have a clue, to be totally honest with you, and I don't think many other people do. We don't know what they're going to do.

But the fact of the matter is I'm only about one of six in this country who's not a lawyer, and they're all down there as near I can tell. So we'll just wait and see what happens.

KING: Now, Frank Sesno, you always have your ear to what's going on. What do you hear on the Hill?


KING: You're always around, Sesno. You're everywhere.

SESNO: They're a lot of places to put your ear these days.

Look, I think no one -- no one is going to tell you it's over. There are Republicans who are saying privately, and some of them openly, that they're nervous, that anything can yet happen. If not anything, then certainly there are twists and turns on this road.

But I spoke not very long ago this evening to someone close to Gore's legal team, and this is how he put it. His words: "This is the last issue that we're going to raise. People are confident, but there's no question that this is it."

In other words, the Florida Supreme Court is the last game in town, it's the last inning of the last game, at least that's how it's perceived. And the sense is -- and it was conveyed by Joe Lieberman today to Democrats on the Hill -- that they think they're going to have an answer from the Florida Supreme Court by Friday or Saturday probably.

KING: But Bob Woodward, on the other hand, Al Gore said today that while he's not involved in it, that case in the other two counties might prove fruitful.

WOODWARD: Yes. I agree with the other -- the lawyers who you were interviewing. That is remote. But what you have to do is think two months or two years down the road. Again, I -- I hate to keep being a reporter in this, but go to those ballots. There are only 14,000 of them: Tell us what they say.

There is no -- you know, it wouldn't be hard. We could count them here in a couple of days. And maybe it would be inconclusive, and maybe it would be conclusive. And you know, what are we going to do: Have one of these guys become president, and somebody is going to go down there and count them and look at them, and they're going to get the League of Women Voters to do it so everyone might accept the result.

SIDEY: But Bob, that -- that happened in 1960.

KING: Hal Bruno, it's already happened.


I'm sorry, Hugh. Go ahead.

SIDEY: It happened in -- well, I'm just saying that happened in 1960. Earl Mazo (ph) for one went out to Cook County and counted those, and found they voted whole cemeteries, lists of dead people. They did -- it was criminal action, it was voter fraud. Kennedy lived with that. I talked with Kennedy about it. He didn't lose any sleep about the fact that it was a close election and there was all of that, for heaven's sakes. So we'll live with it.

If they go down and count them, OK.

BRUNO: But Richard Nixon also lived with it. I was in Chicago at the time as a reporter, and we knew exactly what was going on. The Democrats...

KING: But Illinois couldn't have changed that election.

BRUNO: No, it wouldn't have...

SIDEY: Oh, no. Wait a minute. Wait a minute. It wasn't only Illinois. It was Texas and others. Had they gotten into that, you wouldn't have known what was going to happen in that.

KING: I see.


Hal Bruno, "The Miami" -- Hal Bruno, "The Miami Herald" is already filing for the right to count the votes.

BRUNO: They are going to count?

KING: And there will be a hearing in December. "The Miami Herald" wants to pay for and count them.

BRUNO: There is no question that somewhere down the line -- maybe it'll be a year, maybe it'll be six months -- that every vote in Florida eventually is going to get counted, because Florida has very free open information laws. So, that's going to happen.

But let me just finish off about what you said about Illinois in 1960. The Democrats did things in Cook County, but the Republicans did things in downstate Illinois, and Richard Nixon knew that. And some years later I was having a conversation with him on a plane when he was making his first -- second comeback in 1966, and he said he knew exactly what the Republicans had done in downstate Illinois, and that was one of the reasons he didn't protest that election.

KING: I want to ask Frank Sesno and the entire panel when we come back, supposing Bush is president and in June they reveal that Gore won, what then? First this. Don't go away.


KING: Frank, what happens if that happens? What happens if "The Miami Herald" reveals fact, Gore won? Bush is president, been president for five months.

SESNO: Oh, I don't have a crystal ball, so it's really hard to see exactly what's going to happen. But I can see this, and that is it wouldn't be pretty, because it's already happening, Larry.

We're already hearing privately and publicly from a lot of Democrats, they're very busy citing "The Miami Herald" study that says, according to "The Herald," that if all the votes had been counted a certain way Bush would -- I'm sorry, Gore would have won Florida by over 20,000 votes.

And there's another point that's worth making here, Larry. Unlike 1960 -- Hugh, you were citing, you know, John Kennedy and all of that kind of business -- we have Cable News Network, we have 24- hour news cycles. And politicians will tell you that their lives are very substantially different now when their speeches are seen on C- SPAN and they are talked about 24 hours a day.

So I think the impact of such a revelation, if it were to be such, would be almost impossible to judge right now.

KING: Bob Woodward, is there no doubt that whoever takes that office in January has a cloud over his head?

WOODWARD: Not necessarily. And again, what...

KING: Why not?

WOODWARD: Simply because maybe we will get the answer to the question. I really believe that the law is driven by common sense in the end, and common sense tells you walk down to that room and take a look and get some sort of more accurate count.

The other factor in all of this, which the lawyers really like to talk about much, Judge Sauls opinion is in a sense airtight factually and legally. But when you look into it, you realize that a fact- finder, when a judge sits as a fact-finder, it's incredibly subjective. And he said the question here is, is there a reasonable probability that if you counted those ballots the outcome would be different, and he said he found no evidence.

Well, one man's reasonable probability is another's compelling probability.

SESNO: If I could, what the Gore legal team is saying, Larry, on this subject of evidence is that the judge never examined the evidence, never physically looked at those ballots. That's going to be a key part of the Gore legal strategy, they say, when they go before the Supreme Court, that the evidence itself was never actually examined, those questionable ballots.

KING: Very quick point: Hugh Sidey, do you believe it's a clouded presidency?

SIDEY: No, I do not. It depends on the person, of course, and out of every crisis comes opportunity, Larry. And if these people really take this and there is dissension and there is some doubt and you use that and try to bring people together, I think it could even be a stronger presidency than we anticipate, because as I point out, all through history people who have come in turmoil and been able to deal with it have used it for stronger leadership.

KING: Hal Bruno, are you that optimistic?

BRUNO: No, I'm not. I'm very skeptic. I think it's going to be -- it has all the potential to be a very troubled presidency combined with a Congress that is so closely divided that it's -- they'll just barely be able to take care of the essentials of government and nothing more than that.

SIDEY: That's all they have to do. That's all they need to do.

KING: Let me get a quick call in, gentlemen. San Luis Obispo, hello.

CALLER: Hello.

KING: Yes, go ahead, sir.

CALLER: Of the 14,000 uncounted votes, what happened to the votes for the nonpresidential candidates on the ballots?

KING: Oh in those -- do we know, Frank? In other words, the other offices, Congress and the like on those ballots. I think they were voted for, right?

SESNO: Yes, those are presidential undercounts. Those are votes that undercounted the presidential. So in some cases there may be other spoiled votes somewhere on the ballot but for the most part they registered in those down-ballot contests.

SIDEY: But they aren't really uncounted, are they, Frank? They're counted.


SESNO: They went through the machines, but they were not counted by hand. They were not...

SIDEY: They were counted in the total.

SESNO: That is correct. That's right. They were counted.

KING: We'll be right back and we'll get some more thoughts from our outstanding panel. Tomorrow night, Mitch McConnell and Tom Daschle of the United States Senate will be here. Jeff Greenfield has a special report at the top of the hour. We'll be back with Woodward, Sidey, Bruno and Sesno right after this.


KING: We know this is impossible. We're dealing with the courts but we'll try anyway. This is for everybody. Bob Woodward, are we going to ever count those votes legally? How's the court going to come down?

WOODWARD: Well, again there's this convergence. If the Florida Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme court sent down the case for, you know, do your homework better and then Judge Sauls' opinion is before them, and I think -- I'm going to repeat myself but I think this is the thing that matters, common sense will prevail and somebody's going look to history and to the idea well, why can't we at least look at those ballots. Maybe the court could do it in camera in secret and then decide to make some ruling.

But in all of the cases where people have had to deliver their evidence publicly -- Nixon's tapes, or Clinton literally had to give blood in the Lewinsky case so they could find out his DNA -- there were competing privacy claims. Those ballots have no privacy claim. You can look at them and no one is going to be heart and no one is going to say, now, wait a minute. You don't have a right. You were invading me in a way.

KING: Hugh Sidey, do you think we are we going have...

SIDEY: Those ballots counted?

KING: A legitimate -- are we going to have a legitimate president?

SIDEY: Oh, sure. Of course. Whoever he comes -- but those ballots will not necessarily be counted. I shouldn't say that will not necessarily be counted, again.

The fact the matter is that we had a state that had a reasonably honest election compared to other states, and it was counted twice. So there is an argument on the other side. It doesn't necessarily focus on these 14,000 at this time. The argument is that the process went forward and they declared a winner. Imperfect though it may be, it may stand.

KING: Frank -- Hal Bruno, what do you think.

SESNO: Well, I'm not to tell you what you I think.


KING: I know, you're the journalist. You can't tell us what you think.

SESNO: No, I'm going to tell you what I hear. How's that? What I hear from the people who care most about whether these things are counted, the Gore legal team, they think they have a compelling legal case to take before the Supreme Court. They think that there's a reason for the Supreme Court of Florida to jump in it. They say it's question of whether or not the justices really want to get deeply involved.

These guys have been brushed back by the United States Supreme Court and there's sort human factor even in the Florida Supreme Court.

KING: Hal Bruno, how do you see it?

BRUNO: With an election this close there's something wrong if you don't have a total recount. In many states, it would be absolutely mandatory that when you have an election that comes this close you've got to have a complete recount. I don't think there's time for all of that.

The Supreme Court, as Frank says, if they really want to get into it they could order a recount. It could be done fast. It's got to be done before December 12th.

SIDEY: A total recount? Whole state? BRUNO: Yes, it could be done.


WOODWARD: Yes, why not?

SIDEY: Because one of the problems with this, it's selective.

BRUNO: Well, that's the problem, but there's no reason in the world not to have, in this modern age, to have a total recount, and you should have had it from the very beginning when you have an election this close. Some states it's absolutely mandatory that you do.

KING: Bob, is the legislature out of the picture or might they still step in, in Florida?

WOODWARD: Oh, the legislature might step in if they don't like what happens in the courts. There's the real possibility there, but if you think about this -- and there is only one Republican I talked to who voiced a little concern from the Republican side of this; it'd be interesting if Frank has heard this, too. They're thinking ahead a little bit. It may be in Bush's interest, oddly enough, to have these 14,000 votes counted, because if they are counted and Bush still wins, then it definitely is over and it legitimatizes him in a way he might not have that.

KING: Is it worth it, Frank, for him roll those dice and say count them?

SESNO: If I were a gambling guy. you know, I'd stay away from Las Vegas. But you know, I've talked to -- and I think we all have -- people on both sides of the aisle, Larry, who say that the ideal outcome here is a clean resolution, a clean result. Democrats will tell you they'd like a clean victory for Bush if that's what it takes, but they want it clean because the question of this sort of lingering historical question mark is the nightmare scenario.


KING: Thank you all very much. We're all out of time. Bob Woodward, Hugh Sidey, Hal Bruno, and Frank Sesno. Tomorrow night, Senators Mitch McConnell and Tom Daschle, among others.

Jeff Greenfield is next. He's hosting a special report out of New York. I'm Larry King. Tomorrow night will be day 29. We've passed four weeks. Thanks for joining us and good night.



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