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Larry King Live

Which Will Florida Court Will Determine the Next President?

Aired December 6, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET

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

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, more major courtroom action on day 29 as the battle for the White House drags on. And a big announcement from the Florida legislature. Joining us in Atlanta, attorney for the gore campaign, Teresa Roseborough. And from the Bush camp we'll meet attorney Ben Ginsberg in Tallahassee.

And then a square-off between Florida state Senate Representative Suzanne Kosmas in Tallahassee and also in Tallahassee Republican state Senate Majority Leader James King. Then in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Democrat Tom Daschle and Republican Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Also in Washington -- all that and a top flight panel, too. Next on LARRY KING LIVE. -

We begin with Teresa Roseborough, and by the way, you'll notice the braces I'm wearing are certainly fitting with what's gone on, on day 29. The scales of justice are upon us. Teresa Roseborough is the Gore campaign attorney, the Seminole County court that continued until tomorrow at 1:00, you represent the Gore side in that battle over absentee ballots. How did it go today?

TERESA ROSEBOROUGH, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Well, actually we're not involved in the Seminole County proceedings. I did get to see some of those proceedings, and the allegations in that case are quite disturbing. But that is not one of the proceedings that counsel for the Gore campaign is responsible for.

L. KING: But you are involved vicariously?

ROSEBOROUGH: Well, we're involved with interest because of our concern about the election and the election procedures in Florida and concern with integrity of the process that was followed and concern ultimately with making sure that Florida law is followed and respected by all of the courts that have the opportunity to consider these issues.

L. KING: The vice president mentioned yesterday -- it was mentioned in court today by the Bush side, that the man bringing that suit is a close friend and contributor to the Gore campaign, and that Gore is directly involved. Do you deny that?

ROSEBOROUGH: I -- I have no knowledge of -- I know that the Gore campaign attorneys are not directly involved in that litigation. I don't know anything about the relationship between the plaintiff and in that action and vice president. L. KING: Do you see a validity in the suit?

ROSEBOROUGH: I have not examined the allegations of the complaint any more than most of us watching the news today. Certainly, as an observer, I can say that the allegations made in that suit are quite disturbing. I haven't seen the other side of the case or the other side of evidence, and I think everybody has to wait for that process to happen and let all evidence be laid out in court. And then make our judgments after we hear all that evidence. But certainly the allegations that were revealed in court today are quite disturbing.

L. KING: Now in the Supreme Court side, do you give your side a good chance tomorrow of overruling Judge Sauls?

ROSEBOROUGH: I think we have a strong chance before the Florida Supreme Court. I think that Judge Sauls's opinion is disturbing that it was a departure from the precedent of Florida courts, that the Florida Supreme Court's prior rulings dictate more respect for the fact that there were thousands and thousands uncounted ballots still waiting for examination in the state of Florida and I think the Florida Supreme Court will join us in wanting to have an examination of those ballots to see if the intent of the voters can be discerned from the face of those ballots. If it can't, then of course, the votes can't be counted. But if they can we have an obligation to the people of Florida to make sure those votes are counted.

L. KING: If that court ordered it and took charge of the counting could that get done by Tuesday?

ROSEBOROUGH: Oh, absolutely. I think that the court will be able to call on resources, accounting firms or other experts, and marshal the forces necessary to get the ballots counted quickly.

L. KING: Thank you very much, Teresa Roseborough, the Gore campaign attorney, coming from Atlanta. Now let's go to Tallahassee and Ben Ginsburg, the national legal counsel for Bush-Cheney. I know we never say everything is certain when we deal with courts, are you hopeful that you will prevail tomorrow in the Florida Supreme Court, Ben?

BEN GINSBERG, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Well, sure we are, Larry. The lower court decision was a very well-reasoned legal opinion, steeped in a factual record that's consistent with past practices in Florida.

L. KING: Former appeal -- former Supreme Court Judge Kogan earlier tonight with Wolf Blitzer said that it would not surprise him if the court overthrew because this is a court that is very involved with seeing that every vote counts.

GINSBERG: Well, I think that every vote has been counted, first of all, I think that the way the case comes up to the court is with such a well-reasoned opinion will present an interesting set of issues for the court, certainly. But ones that are really are well-settled in Florida law. The Gore campaign strategy since this began has been to change the rules of the game under which the election was held. They're in essence asking the Florida Supreme Court to exercise its equitable powers to create a rule that has never before been used in the state of Florida. That's precisely what the United States Supreme Court opined about when it vacated the Florida Supreme Court's earlier opinion and referred to Title 3, Section 5 of the U.S. Code as not permitting the rules under which an election are held to be changed.

L. KING: Now when you're hearing the appeal, Ben, they can't rule on the judge's ruling of fact, right? They have to rule on error.

Am I correct?

GINSBERG: That's correct. Yes, you are.

L. KING: They have to show that the judge erred, not that his opinion was wrong?

GINSBERG: Well, they -- I think that the way the opinion from the lower court came out is one that is steeped in both the facts and the law, and so it would be -- involve overturning the laws Judge Sauls cited in all the prior opinions, of not only the Florida Supreme Court, but the district courts of appeals, plus looking into the factual record, and each one of the legal conclusions that Judge Sauls reached was tied in to a factual recitation of this case.

L. KING: Ben, do you worry about the one thing the other side keeps harping on, that the judge never looked at a ballot, never looked at evidence?

GINSBERG: Well, I think that in fact what this comes down to, again, is trying to change the rules after the election has been held. As the court noted, all the ballots in both counties were counted, not only on election night, but also in the first recount and also in a second recount in some instances. The point is that to now adopt a different set of rules, as the Gore campaign is asking the Florida Supreme Court to do, does change those rules. The imposition of dimple ballots, something never before used to count votes in Florida, is what the Gore campaign's asking, and that's something new and different, indeed a change in the rules.

L. KING: And do you expect the arguments to begin and end tomorrow?

GINSBERG: Yes. There's an hour of time allotted -- 30 minutes to each side. As soon as Barry Richard, who will be arguing for us tomorrow gets done, he goes over to the Seminole County case, where interestingly enough we have the Gore campaign asking to disenfranchise 15,000 Florida voters in what truly is a sort of a shocking contradiction to what they're claiming and asking the Florida Supreme Court to do.

L. KING: Thank you, Ben. Ben Ginsberg, we shall see what we shall see -- by the way.

GINSBERG: Yes, sir. Thank you. L. KING: Thank you, the case in Martin County similar to the Seminole County case, is still in progress. And there you see portions of it. And we've been showing lots of it all day after the Seminole Case. This case will go on, the judge has said, until midnight tonight. And they'll either end it or adjourn until tomorrow. We'll be right back and talk about the legislature's involvement right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

L. KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE, both in Tallahassee, State Senator Jim King, Republican, Florida Senate majority leader, and State Representative Suzanne Kosmas, Democratic caucus chair.

The -- Senator King, they're going to go into special session on Friday. Are you kind of taking -- are you taking this into your hands now?

JAMES KING (R), FLORIDA SENATE MAJORITY LEADER: Well, I don't know whether taking it into our hands is -- is a good analogy, Larry. I think what we've done is we've let the clock tick. We're still willing to let it tick. None of us in the Florida Senate want to come into this special session. We know that it has both short- and long- term consequences, not all of which are good.

You know, but as that clock ticks inexorably toward the December 12th checkered flag day, we feel like we have to be in position, and we are coming into position on Friday. We're going to recess then. Saturday and Sunday we're going to be off, so that in case there is a decision by the Gore campaign or by the judges or by the Supreme Court, that that would render are coming into the session moot, we could do so.

And then when we come back on Monday, Larry, we intend to take it very, very slowly. We don't intent to pass anything, probably until the 13th, at which time we're getting perilously close to the time when Florida's electors would not be chosen, would not be represented in the electoral college.

So we're coming in -- we're not taking it into our own hands.

L. KING: And Representative Kosmas, that date is the 18th, right?

SUZANNE KOSMAS (D), FLORIDA STATE REPRESENTATIVE: Yes, sir.

L. KING: OK. Are you concerned about this gathering?

KOSMAS: We are very concerned about it. We think it's a very unnecessary step. We do not see a checkered flag as having dropped or the clock ticking. And we have been advised by 37 constitutional lawyers around the country, unsolicited by us, this is a totally unnecessary step.

There has been already a slate of electors certified, signed by Katherine Harris, signed by the governor, and forwarded to the archives in Washington, D.C.

So we do not feel that there is any necessity here at all, and we are most concerned about establishing a very dangerous precedent here.

L. KING: But Senator McKay says that those -- those electors may be tainted. You don't buy that?

KOSMAS: No, we don't buy that at all. They are -- they are fully certified. As I said before, 37 constitutional lawyers agree with us around the country that...

L. KING: And what...

KOSMAS: ... in fact we have a slate of electors there. If -- if by some course of events, the courts should order a different slate of electors, based on some different counting of the votes than what has currently been certified, then we would have that slate of electors there. In no instance, do we see an absence of a slate of electors?

L. KING: Senator King, if a court orders it the other way and the electors go to Gore, why should you overrule that? We are a nation of laws, aren't we?

J. KING: We would not, Larry. The Senate is prepared, the Senate president and myself as majority leader. If -- if Vice President Gore is declared, because some of the circumstances with the courts or whatever prior to the time that we got out of a special session, we would make sure that Gore's electors were also duly seated.

L. KING: I see. So then the only reason you're worried is the electors don't get counted at all?

J. KING: Larry, that's what we've been saying now for days. And quite frankly, the rhetoric we hear from the other side doesn't seem to quite understand that. You know, they keep on saying that what this is an insurance policy. Well, yes, it is, it's an insurance policy. It's an insurance policy with 6 million Florida voters as a beneficiary.

We think it would be absolutely unconscionable for Florida not to be represented in the electoral vote, and yet some people in the Gore campaign seem to think, well, that would be desirous, because if that were the case, our voters wouldn't be there, and their man would win automatically.

L. KING: But Representative Kosmas, he is also saying that if the courts turn it around, if Gore wins, then the legislature will certify those electors. So what's your worry?

KOSMAS: Well, I don't think we have any guarantee in fact that that would be the outcome. And we have seen this legislature act in a way that we believe is in direct contradiction to the courts, and in an effort to take a legislative maneuver and put it in place so that if the outcome in the courts is not what they want it to be, then they will certify a slate of electors... L. KING: So you don't trust what Senator King is saying?

KOSMAS: Well, I know and respect Senator King very much, and I'm happy to hear what he had to say. It's the first time I've actually heard that said, that if a court directed us to do a count which in fact gave an outcome to Gore, that they -- that the Republican- dominated legislature and Senate would then certify that slate of electors. If that's the case, I'm happy to hear that.

But in either instance, we do not think it's necessary and what we fear here is that we are establishing a very dangerous precedent, where legislatures around the country can take into it their own hands after an election has happened and undue the will of the people. And in this instance, of course, we, too, are talking about the fair and accurate count of the 6 million voters who cast their ballots in the state of Florida.

L. KING: And Senator King, your worry is that you wind up with no electors?

J. KING: That's exactly right. And Larry, George Bush has never trailed in this state. Through at least two and some would argue four counts, he is still the declared winner, and all we're trying to say is, if that's the case, if he is the winner, that he gets the electoral votes to which he's entitled.

L. KING: Thank you both very much, State Senator James King, State Representative Suzanne Kosmas.

When we come back, our legal panel -- they've been with us now for the third night in a row -- Abrams, Dinh and Cossack chime in as we show you the goings-on in the Tallahassee court today dealing with the Martin County ballot question. They're going to go to midnight. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

L. KING: Now let's get some thoughts from our legal eagles. In New York, Floyd Abrams, the famed constitutional attorney; in Washington, Viet Dinh, professor of law at Georgetown University Law Center; also in Washington, Roger Cossack, our own legal analyst, the host -- co-host of "BURDEN OF PROOF," and the pinch-hit host on LARRY KING LIVE.

All right, Floyd Abrams, first on what you heard today in Seminole County, what's going on in Martin County. Do you think those cases have a shot?

FLOYD ABRAMS, CONSTITUTIONAL ATTORNEY: Yes, I think they've got a shot, because what they've got a violation of law, it seems. And it seems to me the real question is not whether something that went on wasn't supposed to happen. It wasn't supposed to happen. The real question is what's the relief, what's the remedy, and the question is: Will either of those judges go so far as to strike some significant amount of votes? That's a tough remedy, particularly because the Florida Supreme Court in the very opinion that the Republicans keep attacking made so clear that the centerpiece of Florida law is to make sure that people who vote have their votes counted. So while that helps the Democrats in the appeal tomorrow in Tallahassee, it hurts them in these cases.

L. KING: Viet, what do you make of the Seminole and Martin County cases?

VIET DINH, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY LAW CENTER: I agree with Floyd that there is a shot here. I do think it is a long shot. The reason is exactly as Floyd outlined. It's the linkage between the violation and the remedy here. And you heard testimony from that expert witness, who under cross-examination admitted that really he can't show a linkage between the failure of the application and those votes actually not been cast had those violations been sent back to a voter.

And so there is a real significant linkage breakage here that I think the court will have to take notice of.

L. KING: Now, let's -- Roger, let's turn to the Supreme Court tomorrow. Earlier, we heard a former justice of the Supreme Court, said that he thinks there is a good chance they may overturn the circuit court in Tallahassee. Do you think so?

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Larry, I have gone on record -- and I'm going to continue on -- saying that I think there's not a good chance, and the reason is I think the way that Judge Sauls crafted his opinion would make it very, very difficult to find four justices of that Florida Supreme Court, which is the number it takes, to overturn his opinion.

He made a very strong finding of fact -- and now it's a question of the Florida Supreme Court, or least four of them -- coming in and saying he applied the wrong standard of law. Now, you know, that's not as difficult as overturning a fact decision. I just think, though, that it's going to be very difficult for them to do that.

So I'll go out on my limb and say that I think it's going to be tough for the Florida Supreme Court to overturn that decision. I never say "never" but I would predict no.

L. KING: Floyd?

COSSACK: Look, it's an uphill battle, it's a difficult battle for the Gore forces, but it's possible and then some. It'll take a brave court. All the elements are against it. They are threatened by the U.S. Supreme Court. They are threatened by the Court of Appeals in Atlanta. They are threatened by the Florida legislature. It's not easy. But this is the most important judgment they're going to make in their lives, and the arguments are very serious made on behalf of Vice President Gore.

L. KING: Viet, do you give the Gore a chance -- do you give the Gore team a chance? DINH: Instead of "brave" I would actually characterize it as "fearless," because that's really what the Florida Supreme Court has to be thinking if it will take the chance in this, a federal case of federal jurisdiction, according to the Supreme Court, to again try to do something that is brave or fearless, or to put another way, somehow outside the bounds of the judicial role.

COSSACK: Well, Larry, let me just tell you something. I know you're a fight fan, and I will tell you this: If the Florida Supreme Court somehow is as brave or fearless, whichever adjective you want -- you want to put to this, and somehow the Seminole County court or the Martin County court says that some of those votes should be tossed out, this would be like somebody getting off the floor in the 15th round and suddenly knocking the other guy out, because it would be that dramatic a turn.

L. KING: Well-stated. Floyd Abrams, Viet Dinh, and Roger Cossack, I'm sure they'll be back with us tomorrow.

When we come back, Senator Tom Daschle and then Senator Mitch McConnell. It goes on and on and on. The Martin County trial goes on and on and on. They're going to go into the night. We'll be back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

L. KING: We now welcome the Senate minority leader, Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota. Are you bugged that we still say minority leader? They voted today to not share the committee chairmanships. Do you think you should be co-majority leader?

SEN. THOMAS DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: Well, Larry, these are the kinds of things I think we need to discuss. I don't think there was any vote today. Basically, Senator Lott and I are just going to sit down for the first time tomorrow to begin talking about all of this.

Basically, we just want a good partnership. We want to be able to make the system work better. We want to reach out across the aisle, work with our Republican colleagues to come up with a way that makes the system work, that doesn't has the political polarization that so characterized this session of Congress.

L. KING: With a split country, with a split election, split Congress, can it work?

Well, you know, the precedent in the United States Senate is to reflect in committees and the way you do work what -- what the membership itself reflects. If it's a 50-50 membership, obviously, it would then portend a 50-50 committee breakdown. That's the kind of partnership we're talking about: a bipartisan effort to try to direct the government, to allow both parties to feel invested.

That's what we're doing. We want both people to feel as partners that they are invested in this process so that we can actually move legislation along for the first time. Obviously, pundits will tell you that it's not going to work, that the odds are against us, and I think we have to acknowledge that. But I don't want to repeat what's happened over the last couple of years. I want to see if we can actually get something done, work together to try to resolve things. And I'm somewhat hopeful that maybe this can work.

L. KING: Do you -- do you continue to support Vice President Gore's legal efforts, do you not?

DASCHLE: I do, Larry, absolutely. I think it's important that he be allowed to take this to whatever length may be required to assure that we get a fair and accurate count, and that's what he's doing tonight.

L. KING: Are you concerned about the legislature going into special session in Florida?

DASCHLE: I am, concerned about that. I think it's unnecessary. It could do real damage to the credibility not only of Florida's position, but overall to the Bush position. I think we ought to allow this process to go forward without any intervention on the part of the legislature.

L. KING: Even though the Senator King, the majority leader of the legislature, said that if the courts overturned it and the electors go to Gore, they'll put in Gore electors.

DASCHLE: Well, I guess that makes me wonder why they're doing this at all. If the elections overturned, that's exactly what would happen without their intervention. So I'm not sure why it's necessary. But were that the case, clearly I think we've got to ensure that whoever won Florida is represented when the electoral college meets and votes.

L. KING: Thank you, Tom.

DASCHLE: My pleasure.

L. KING: We now welcome -- my pleasure -- Senator Mitch McConnell, chairman of the Senate Rules Committee. He chairs the congressional committee on inaugural ceremonies. He's in charge of the swearing in and the official luncheon. Have you locked everything down, Senator McConnell?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), KENTUCKY: Well, we drove some nails today and the platform is going to be built. We're not quite sure who's going to be standing there, although it seems to me we're getting, Larry, a closer to having a president.

L. KING: Do you agree with Senator Daschle that you can work it out?

MCCONNELL: In the Senate?

L. KING: Yes. MCCONNELL: Yes. Well, you know, it's very close obviously...

L. KING: I mean that we can have progress, that we can have bills passed and the country move on?

MCCONNELL: Yes. We've had progress over the last few years when it was relatively close. Now it's going to be closer.

It is important for there to be a majority and a minority, and we believe we're going to be up 51 to 50. And that means that the majority ought to have the committee chairmanships, and I believe a slight edge on each committee. But once a bill gets to the floor, obviously, it could be very, very close frequently.

I think what the American people were saying to us is we're not going to give a mandate to either side and we expect you to work together, and that's what we're going to do.

L. KING: What do you think of Vice President Gore's legal fights here?

MCCONNELL: I think it's very disappointing. I said a few days ago and I'll say again, I think at this rate Al Gore is going to become the Tonya Harding of presidential politics. You know, he will contest this until he runs out of lawyers, and there are lots of lawyers down in Florida.

I think it is not a great example to set. I don't think the president of the United States ought to be picked by some unelected judge in some state court somewhere in America. And I think what the Florida legislature is doing, they're all elected by the people of Florida and they're making it clear that they're going to make certain that the voters of Florida are not disenfranchised by some elected -- unelected judge in a state court system down there making an outrageous decision.

L. KING: But it is a nation of laws, is it not?

MCCONNELL: It certainly is, and the state legislature, both under the Constitution, Larry, and the federal statutes, has the responsibility to make certain that their state is represented in the electoral college, and it's clear to me that's what they intend to do.

L. KING: Do you think, though, that when it all comes down, no matter who is sworn in, this country will come together?

MCCONNELL: I think it will. We've had close elections before. We're going to swear somebody in on January 20th, as we have every four years, throughout the history of our country, and the American people will rally behind that new president.

L. KING: Thank you so much. Always good seeing you, Mitch.

MCCONNELL: Good to see you, Larry.

L. KING: Senator Mitch McConnell, earlier Senator Tom Daschle. Two more prominent members of the United States Senate will join us in a moment: Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, Carl Levin of Michigan. The Martin County trial goes on, and again, to midnight Eastern Time, and then they'll either close it up or adjourn until tomorrow.

Seminole County resumes at 1 o'clock Eastern Time tomorrow, and tomorrow morning, the Florida Supreme Court hears arguments over the Leon County case dealing with the ballots. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

L. KING: We're back on LARRY KING LIVE. We now welcome, both in Washington, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Republican of Texas. She's the newly elected vice chair of the Republican conference. And Senator Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan.

Senator Hutchison, do you agree with Senator McConnell that it's 51-50 because of the vice president -- that if Bush is elected and therefore the chairman of each committee should be a Republican?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Yes, I think the vice president will break the tie and that would put the chairmanships on the Republican side. I do think that everyone wants a spirit of cooperation and I think our leaders should have the leeway to negotiate and I think they will be able to come up with something that everyone will agree is fair. I'm very hopeful of that.

L. KING: Are you, Senator Levin?

SEN. CARL LEVIN (D), MICHIGAN: I'm hopeful that there will be an agreement, yes -- a power-sharing agreement. I think it is important, though, that the 50-50 break that the public has voted in apply to the committee structures. That has been the tradition in the Senate, is the committee membership reflects the proportion of senators to 100. So if it's 55-45, that that be the proportion of committee seats or whatever the proportion is.

We've never added the vice president into that mix, and so I do think it's important that the committee structure and the rules of the committee and the operations do reflect 50-50. But I agree with Kay that it is also important that the leaders have flexibility to work out something on a bipartisan basis.

L. KING: Let's touch some other areas.

Senator Hutchison, do you worry at all about the Florida legislature getting involved, or do you think that's OK and correct?

HUTCHISON: Larry, I think they are trying to protect their ability to make sure that Florida has electors. They're seeing all of these lawsuits, they're seeing new lawsuits, new appeals and I think that it is not only their right, but their responsibility to step in and make sure that Florida is represented in the presidential election with electors. And they only can do it if they begin to act in time to have that December 12 deadline.

L. KING: Senator Levin, you worried? LEVIN: Yes, I am. There's no purpose for them to meet Friday except to put some pressure, they hope, on the Supreme Court because they could meet afterwards if, by some reason, there's no slate of electors.

But, of course, there already is a slate of electors; it's already been sent to Washington by Governor Bush of Florida, so that there can't be an absence of a slate of electors. It's impossible.

So I'm skeptical about what the motivation of the Florida legislature is. I think it is to put pressure on the Supreme Court, but I was very happy to hear tonight -- I think you really made some news here tonight with that Republican leader saying they would abide by the decision of the Florida Supreme Court. That is the most important single commitment that everybody ought to make -- the Supreme Court of Florida, unless overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court is the final law of Florida and ought to be abided by, by everybody.

I hope Governor Bush, both in Texas and in Florida, will commit themselves as the vice president has, to abide by the Supreme Court of Florida decision.

L. KING: That is correct; and if you joined us late, Senator King did state that tonight on this program.

Senator Hutchison, Senator McConnell said that Al Gore is hurting himself greatly doing what he's doing. Do you think so?

HUTCHISON: Larry I've never said that the vice president shouldn't pursue his rights because I want Governor Bush to pursue his; and so I'm not going say only one side can do it. But I think that Vice President Gore is coming to the end of his rights. I mean, he has lost every major battle, including the certification one, and I want Governor Bush to pursue his rights. I want the vice president to so that there is a legitimacy to this election. And I think Governor Bush has won fair and square and I think that's the way that it will end.

L. KING: Do you think, Senator Levin, it's fair and square?

LEVIN: Well, they're in the middle of a contest, and the Supreme Court of Florida will ultimately judge how this contest is going to be won and, it seems to me, totally appropriate to appeal to the Supreme Court of Florida. Governor Bush lost a case in the federal court today. I don't hear any suggestion that he, then, concede just because he lost a federal court case today.

These cases are going to be won or lost at lower levels; and until the Florida Supreme Court or the U.S. Supreme Court make that final decision it seems to me that both parties are going to pursue their rights. The vice president pursued his appeal to the Florida Supreme Court just the way that Governor Bush would have appealed that lower court opinion in Florida had he lost that lower court. Both sides can and will and, I think, are expected to pursue their rights. But when the Supreme Courts of either the state or the U.S. speak, it ought to be abided by. L. KING: And will both of you work together no matter what?

HUTCHISON: Absolutely...

LEVIN: No doubt about that. We're used to working together and we will continue to do so. in fact, I think it could be a very productive session. State houses -- state legislatures have been divided 50-50 and it's worked out well.

Excuse me for interrupting.

HUTCHISON: No, that's absolutely true. I think you can count on Congress -- Republicans and Democrats -- to come together. We have to with a 50-50 Senate. It's close and we're going to have a bipartisanship in the major things that we are trying to do that all of us have promised: Social Security reform, more money for education, prescription drug options, all those are things we've all promised, so we'll get to work on them.

LEVIN: Time to deliver.

L. KING: Thank you Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Senator Carl Levin, Texas and Michigan respectively.

When we come back, what a panel: Bill Plante, Ben Bradlee, Sander Vanocur. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

L. KING: At the end of every program we assemble some major journalists and tonight is no exception. Joining us in Washington is Bill Plante, CBS's famed White House correspondent. Also in Washington, one of the great names in the history of American journalism, Ben Bradlee, vice president of "The Washington Post" -- vice president at large. And here in Los Angeles, Sander Vanocur, who has covered politics for NBC, ABC, "The New York Times," "The Washington Post" and hosts movies, in time, on the History Channel. Bill, the other gentlemen have been with us before on this issue. You have not. What do you make of all this? Where's it going?

BILL PLANTE, CBS WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was about to end, or so everybody thought, Larry, but then the goal posts got moved again. The vice president's own people were saying at the beginning of this week, just a couple of days ago, the Florida Supreme Court will write the finish to this. Then it's over.

Then the vice president came out and seemed to embrace those two cases in Seminole and Martin counties, where they're trying to throw out votes, something he hasn't formally embraced, but he certainly talked approvingly about the issue involved there. And now the Gore campaign suggests that it may go to court if the legislature appoints a slate of electors. So the goal line keeps moving back.

L. KING: Ben Bradlee, there's no precedent for this. As a veteran journalist as you are, what do you -- what's your read on all of it? BEN BRADLEE, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I, I -- the truth is hard to find in this town at any time, especially now because people -- I mean, two intelligent people say exactly the opposite thing and just did it on your show here. And I don't know what's going to happen, but I think -- I get the feeling that it's over at the end of the week.

L. KING: And Sander Vanocur, you always bring us a historical -- you can't -- there's no historical aspect you can give us to this, correct?

SANDER VANOCUR, JOURNALIST: No.

L. KING: You can't give us an example?

VANOCUR: No. They're making it up as they go along. It's like the guy who goes into a bar, goes over to the piano player, asks him to sing a song, and he said, "Do you know that song?" The piano player says, "No, but if you hum a few bars, I can fake the rest."

(LAUGHTER)

L. KING: That's where we are now, right?

VANOCUR: Yes.

L. KING: Bill, what in all of this has surprised you the most?

PLANTE: I think the resilience of the American public is the most surprising thing. In spite of all the heated rhetoric on both sides, the public, although patience is growing thinner, really hasn't gotten too exercised about this as it's gone forward over the last three or four weeks.

L. KING: And Ben Bradlee, do you think that they're going to be able to come together? I mean, it's been so argumentative and the anger has been so intense. Do you think this country can come together on -- in the Senate? In the House? Can Gore and Bush appear together?

BRADLEE: In a ring maybe...

(LAUGHTER)

... but I was interested to hear the senators say that they thought they could cooperate. I don't see any chance of that at all. At all.

And I think they -- you're going to -- it makes the last session of Congress look -- look good.

I don't think they're going to do much work, I don't think -- I don't see how they can. What surprises me most about all of this is how people, intelligent people, can take opposite positions with equanimity. I don't understand it.

L. KING: Sander Vanocur, do you?

VANOCUR: Sure. That's politics: the ability to hold two conflicting ideas in your mind at the same time and believe both.

(LAUGHTER)

But we've been paying attention to the Senate. Let's look at the House. They've got some battles this week about who's going to be the chair of the various committees, because they impose term limits on it. And we have been thinking about Lott and Daschle. Nobody's paying attention to Tom DeLay. I don't care who wins. When Tom DeLay is in full flight, he is going to make Newt Gingrich look like Little Lord Fauntleroy.

L. KING: So he's going to make it rougher?

VANOCUR: He's going to make it rough. He's got his own agenda. He's a very tough player.

L. KING: Now, Bill Plante, in a puzzling announcement tonight on this show by Senator King of the Florida legislature -- he's the majority leader -- that if the courts overturn, they will certify Gore electors?

PLANTE: Well, that's certainly going to be something that the Gore campaign is delighted to hear if they believe it. There are other legislators in Florida other than Senator King, and I'm not sure that the Gore campaign is ready to say, OK, well, that's fine, it's all over.

BRADLEE: If you believe that, Larry, I've got a hot stove I'd like to sell you.

PLANTE: But you know, on the civility issue, Larry, our Scott Pelly (ph) interviewed Governor Bush yesterday and asked him if he would feel comfortable walking President Clinton to the door on January 20th. And the governor, as he now prefers still to be called, said that, yes, that was something that was part of the tradition of civility in this country.

And I do think -- and I don't mean to be pollyannish -- I do think you'll see both the vice president, the president and Governor Bush, whichever order this falls out in, being quite cordial to one another.

Now, Congress, that's another question.

L. KING: Sander, can you see Gore and Bush -- let's say, Gore is the winner, Bush loses; Bush the winner, Gore loses -- appearing together on television?

VANOCUR: Oh certainly.

L. KING: You do?

VANOCUR: I think there's a civility that still exists in this country and we should take pride in it. I think we should pay a lot of attention to the legislature.

When young journalists come to me and say, what should we do about going forward? I say, well, learn how to write a simple declarative English sentence, read George Orwell's essay "Politics and the English Language," and go cover state legislatures, because there's nothing about human behavior that will ever surprise you again.

Ben had a guy working for him some years ago, a brilliant journalist, Bill Greider (ph), and Bill wrote a piece one Sunday about going to cover the Kentucky legislature in Frankfurt for "The Louisville Times." A scene of bedlam down there -- you couldn't believe it. Books were being thrown, inkwells and so forth. There's always one grizzled veteran of the legislature. He looked at Greider and said, "Greider, you think they're bad down there; you ought to see the folks who sent them here."

L. KING: We'll be right back.

(CROSSTALK)

PLANTE: ... City Council was pretty interesting, too, Larry.

L. KING: Yes, Miami Beach ain't bad either. Plante, Bradlee and Vanocur return after this. Don't go away. The Martin County, they're still in session, and they're going to go to midnight Eastern Time. They'll either finish it tonight or adjourn until tomorrow, as Seminole County has. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

L. KING: Oh, Ben Bradlee, this is right up your alley. "The Miami Herald" is seeking access to the undervote ballots in Miami- Dade. The court has directed that they be given that access by December 14th or show cause otherwise.

Now, suppose they may get that access, suppose that Bush is president. They count votes, independent people come in and do it, and Gore won the vote. What do they do now?

BRADLEE: Well, they listen to the senators on your show tell them that they're -- they're full of it. I think that's a wonderful scenario. If "The Miami Herald" thinks that it is alone, they're crazy. I mean, "The Post" is going to send, you know, a baker's dozen down there, and I'll bet you so is "The New York Times," and quite right. And they won't pool their resources, but they'll fight it out. And then who will believe what they write?

I can hear the same people who were saying that Gore really won will say, well, you know, he didn't, he didn't. And who's going to prove us wrong?

L. KING: What's going to happen, Sander?

BRADLEE: I think -- and that could -- look, that could go all the way up to -- look where it goes. It goes to... L. KING: Where does it go? Where does it is go? What if one guy's president and we find out the other guy won, Sander? What do we do, Sander? What do we do, punt?

VANOCUR: Punt, punt.

Well, listen...

BRADLEE: Fourth down.

VANOCUR: A guy -- a guy Bradlee and I used to cover, a guy named High Raskin (ph) out of Chicago -- wonderful man, looked like an evil Santa Claus. He used to say always politics is arithmetic. This is arithmetic, and if we find out it's Gore who has the votes or Bush who has the votes and one of them is not president...

L. KING: Right.

VANOCUR: ... we have to have a new convention of the founding fathers. We better channel to James Madison.

L. KING: Bill Plante, what do we do?

PLANTE: Well, if we don't have that new convention of the founding fathers, it simply isn't going to make any difference. Well, somebody will be find out that, say, the other guy won.

L. KING: Right.

PLANTE: But the...

L. KING: Just tough breaks.

PLANTE: But the other person will be in the White House. So what?

L. KING: So then, do you think, Bill, the newspapers are just committing an exercise in folly, or is it good journalism?

PLANTE: Oh, no, no, no. Oh, no, no, no. It's very important to do this. We all want to know, but it isn't going to make any difference.

(CROSSTALK)

BRADLEE: Larry...

L. KING: One at a time. Yes, go ahead, Ben.

BRADLEE: Normally, you might think that if a person who was elected president suddenly discovered that he was illegally elected or that he didn't -- hadn't earned the victory, that he'd resign, but this guy won't be able to resign, because that means -- say it's Bush. He won't resign, because that makes Cheney president, and Cheney won't resign because that makes Hastert president, and Hastert won't resign because that makes Strom Thurmond president. Now, that's not going to happen.

VANOCUR: It's just not going to happen. The only person who is going to benefit from this, if it happens, is the venerable cartoonist of "The Washington Post," Herblock. This will add years to his life.

(LAUGHTER)

L. KING: We'll be a back with more of Plante, Bradlee and Vanocur. They're still going at it in Martin County over the ballots, and that's going to go, as we have said, until midnight.

You'll be seeing it all on CNN. Whatever happens, it's right here, covered with our cameras. We're there. They're there; we're there. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

L. KING: We are going try the impossible here: predictions. Bill Plante, what do you think is going to happen in the Florida Supreme Court?

PLANTE: I think that, based on conversations I've had with some pretty good lawyers who believe that there are really not grounds to reverse this, I think that they will uphold Judge Sanders Sauls.

L. KING: And therefore, barring something happening in Seminole, Martin or with that other lawsuit filed today in Duvall, Bush is the next president?

PLANTE: Well,yes, but that's a big order. I mean, who knows what's going to happen in Seminole or Martin, although I do think that in the end it probably isn't going to matter. It may drag things out a little longer, though.

L. KING: Ben Bradlee, what do you think is going to happen?

BRADLEE: Well, I agree with Bill. I think the Supreme Court will -- of Florida will rule against, and I think that the vice president will probably say that's it, that's enough.

L. KING: And do you think he could do it by this weekend?

BRADLEE: Yes, I do. If the Supreme Court rules by then, which I think they will.

L. KING: Sander?

VANOCUR: I think the Supreme Court in Florida may take a duck, but the two most important legal...

(CROSSTALK)

VANOCUR: A duck?

But the two most important legal figures in this country tonight are those two judges that are sitting in those trials down there. They're very important.

L. KING: Because it's hard to overrule a circuit court judge.

VANOCUR: Hard to, and it creates a whole new ball game. And with this thing about "The Miami Herald," let's look at the votes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are two judges.

L. KING: The two judges, the one in Martin County and the one in -- the one...

VANOCUR: Seminole.

L. KING: ... doing the Martin County case and the one doing the Seminole County case, Ben. They're both in Tallahassee.

PLANTE: Well, that could be a real problem for Gore, though, because his whole -- his whole argument has been based on the fact that every vote must be counted, and those two cases are asking that thousands of ballots be thrown out.

BRADLEE: That won't happen. I don't think.

VANOCUR: But remember, Gore wanted a total statewide recount right after the election. Now, people say, it can't happen. Listen, if we should have learned anything in the last month, it's a great degree of humbleness. Anything can happen.

L. KING: What do you guys thing of what Maureen Dowd wrote today, that everybody thinks Gore won but he didn't win? Did you read that, fellows?

PLANTE: I did.

BRADLEE: Yes.

L. KING: Did she make sense to everybody?

PLANTE: She skewers beautifully. It made sense to me.

L. KING: Make sense to you, Ben?

BRADLEE: Oh, it makes sense. It hurts. I mean, I just feel for my fellow man when Maureen gets you in her sights. Look out.

L. KING: Did you read it, Sander?

VANOCUR: I read it, and all I kept thinking about, a line of Kennedy's, Lord Morley: "Life is one continuous choice between second best." That's really where we are.

L. KING: That's where we are, choices of second best?

VANOCUR: I think so.

L. KING: And Bill Plante says the country has upheld. What's been the most surprising thing to you in all of this, Ben?

BRADLEE: Well, I'm completely surprised every time it happens, how nobody can get along in this country, in this town: 50/50 is the story of the country on every issue all the way through. And I don't see -- you know, we need -- we need a leader to pop up and lower those ratios, you know, 60-40. I would try that.

L. KING: Sander?

VANOCUR: 54, 40 and five. Listen....

BRADLEE: Yes.

VANOCUR: ... whoever gets in the White House, they should remember what President Truman said after General Eisenhower was elected. He sat at his desk, and he said: "Poor Ike. He'll sit here and say, do this and do that, and nothing will happen. It won't be like the Army at all."

Ben's right. The country is not split. The country is just in equilibrium now, and there's nothing that we should do, us gas bags, to exacerbate the situation. The country, I don't think, is sitting on the edge of the chairs waiting for a decision. The country is taking this very, very carefully.

L. KING: Do you agree, Bill?

PLANTE: I agree, and I'll tell you what: In six, eight months, people aren't going to really remember this except for the partisans who feel most strongly about it, and I suspect that they are nowhere near a majority. This will pass.

L. KING: And thank you all very much for a delightful conversation: Bill Plante of CBS, Ben Bradlee of "The Washington Post," and Sander Vanocur of the History Channel. We thank all of our guests for being with us.

Stay tuned now for another CNN special report, hosted by my friend Jeff Greenfield anchoring out of New York, and we'll keep close tabs on that trial in Martin County that's still going on. The Seminole County trial has adjourned until 1 o'clock tomorrow. Follow it all here on CNN.

Thanks to our guests. Thanks to you for joining us. Stay tuned for this special report, and good flight.

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