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Larry King Live

Hillary Clinton Discusses Politics and Life at the White House

Aired December 11, 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, the first lady and the new senator from New York, Hillary Rodham Clinton on politics and life at the White House.

And on day 34, all eyes turn to the U.S. Supreme Court. What will the justices decide? Joining us in Washington, the governor of Montana, Marc Racicot, he's close to Governor Bush; and in Tallahassee, Ron Klain, Gore campaign senior legal adviser; then in Washington, one of the men who argued before the U.S. Supreme Court, Ted Olson, Bush campaign attorney.

All that and our roundtable, next on LARRY KING LIVE.

We begin with our conversation taped earlier this afternoon with Mrs. Clinton.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KING: We now welcome to LARRY KING LIVE -- another visit, she's been on frequently -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, the first lady of the United States, senator-elect in the state of New York, author of the new book, "An Invitation to the White House: At Home With History." We'll talk about that a little later on.

How do I address you now? I've known you so long. Is it Madam First Lady, Hillary, Hillary Rodham, Senator?

HILLARY RODHAM CLINTON (D-NY), SENATOR-ELECT: It's a little confusing, isn't it?

KING: Yes. What do you like the best?

CLINTON: Well, I -- gee, all of those are, you know, really wonderful things.

KING: Do you call a senator-elect a senator?

CLINTON: I don't know. That's a good question. You know, I've been telling people that I'm not a senator until I'm sworn in on January 3. So, how about Hillary?

KING: Just senator-elect. Do you like the term senator?

CLINTON: I do like the term, yes. KING: It fits?

CLINTON: I feel very good about it. You know, it was a great campaign. I had the help of thousands and thousands of people across New York and lots of friends around the country.

And I'm very excited. I went to Senate school last week.

KING: What was that like?

CLINTON: It was great.

KING: Senate school.

CLINTON: Yes. I mean, it was wonderful. I mean, we had an opportunity to hear Senator Byrd talk about the history of the Senate, and we did it in the old Senate chambers where so much of that history took place.

I spent time meeting my new colleagues, both Democrats and Republicans. It was a really good way to start getting oriented toward the Senate.

KING: Did you get your office yet?

CLINTON: No. That won't happen for several months. We're all -- as the new freshman class, we're all in the basement of the Dirksen Building, waiting until we...

KING: You're in the basement?

CLINTON: In the basement, because we have to wait our turn to see what space is available. The seniority system works so that people can move. And people who retired or lost will obviously vacate their space and then...

KING: The next one moves up.

CLINTON: ... the next one moves up. And then, you know, I'm down toward the bottom of the order.

KING: Doesn't the Secret Service say, "We'd rather have her in this..."

CLINTON: No. It's all by seniority.

KING: They don't have clout?

CLINTON: No, no clout -- no clout.

But that's fine. We'll be -- you know, we'll have a good time no matter what.

KING: Lots of things to talk about, but first things first. What do you make of all this? And I don't even have to say what "all this" is. CLINTON: Well, you know, as we're speaking, the Supreme Court arguments are going on and we don't know what the outcome is going to be.

KING: So let's say what if. What if the outcome is they can't vote anymore -- they can't count anymore? Or what if it's Bush is -- will be president, do you expect Gore will give it up?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I'm not going to engage in the what-if game. I think that, you know, from everything I've seen and heard, more people probably did intend to vote for Vice President Gore. And I would hope that there will still be an opportunity to have the votes counted, because I think that's the best for whoever is inaugurated as president. But it's now in the courts, and we'll leave it to the Supreme Court, which we'll find out maybe later today or tomorrow.

KING: If the court says -- well, let's say they say it's Bush. Can you -- what is it going to be like, do you think, working with a president of the other party, with a 50-50 Senate?

CLINTON: Well, I think everyone's going to have to make a real effort to work together. There's too much at stake for the country. I certainly intend to work wherever I can in a bipartisan way, both with fellow senators and members of Congress across the aisle, as well as with anyone else, including a possible administration.

I think that on so many of the matters that the country cares about, we were divided nearly 50-50 in the presidential race; we are certainly divided very closely in the Congress. So I think that...

KING: Divided in the court.

CLINTON: And divided in the court.

So there has to be an effort to reach across party lines and look for ways that people can cooperate.

KING: Of course, you could make it a stagnation, right? Either party can do that.

CLINTON: Well, that certainly is the prerogative, I suppose, but I hope that's not the priority of either party or any leader of either party, because when you come to questions about the economy or education or health care, these are all matters that I think despite the closeness of the election, the American people have made clear they want some action taken.

KING: Do you think we ought to change our voting system? Do you think that the federal government ought to help local communities by supplying equipment? I mean, this is the year 2000. You would think that we could vote like an ATM machine.

CLINTON: Well, Larry, I think we have to take a hard look at how we vote, and particularly in federal elections. There ought to be a way for the federal government to perhaps provide some assistance, to work toward a standardized ballot that states would be asked to consider accepting. I think that these are all matters that will be taken up in the 107th Congress.

But it's critical that people have confidence in our electoral process.

You know, I went all over the state of New York, as I have on behalf of my husband and other candidates over the last 30 years, urging people to vote, trying to reverse the trend of the last 30 or 40 years of lower and lower voter turnout. I just don't think we can afford for people to believe that their vote wouldn't even be counted literally, so that when we tell and encourage Americans to get out and vote, we really mean it and that we'll have a system that can fairly and accurately count their intention to vote for the candidate they chose.

KING: Of course, it seems ridiculous if the chad doesn't get punched through and the machine can't read it, and there are so many things we can do electronically today that, that should be covered.

CLINTON: Absolutely.

KING: Didn't we think that everybody voted the same way? In New York City, when I grew up, we pulled levers.

CLINTON: Right.

KING: They still do that? They pull levers?

CLINTON: That's what I did in Westchester, right.

KING: That's the safest, because you can't vote for two people for the same office. You can change, turn the lever back, and when you open the gate it's open. Why can't that be standardized? It seems simple.

CLINTON: Well, yes, I like voting machines, because, just as you described them, they make voting very clear and you can't really make a mistake. If you try to vote for two people in the same office, the machine won't let you do it.

KING: Can't.

CLINTON: But in New York, for example, which does use those machines, people aren't even making some of the machines that are still used, they're hard to get spare parts for. So we have to take a hard look, perhaps with a commission or some kind of joint congressional committee, to look and see what is the best technology, the safest, most accurate technology, because questions can be raised about any form of voting.

You know, some people talk about online voting, but imagine if there were an electrical surge or a blackout and whole states or regions of the country lost their votes. How would we handle that? So every way we think about voting will have some questions.

But clearly we have to learn from this experience that in our democracy, the oldest surviving democracy in the history of the world, the most fundamental task for our government is to provide an election that people have confidence in, and so when they go to vote they know their vote will be counted.

KING: In a minute, we'll ask about whether you think this president, no matter who it is, it's a tainted presidency.

We'll be right back with Hillary Rodham Clinton, senator-elect, state of New York, first lady United States, mother, husband, wife. We'll be right back.

(LAUGHTER)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: You're an only, you're the only first lady ever to win elective office.

CLINTON: So far.

KING: Is it going to be -- the Secret Service won't be allowed on the Senate floor, will they?

CLINTON: No, no.

KING: They have to stay up in the gallery.

CLINTON: Well, they're working it out with the Capitol Police and the sergeant of arms, who have been very cooperative, they understand the issues that they have to take into account.

KING: Is this a tainted presidency?

CLINTON: I hope not. I mean, I really hope that however this is finally resolved, that the country will, you know, really decide that we need to act in a bipartisan way, and we'll do so.

KING: If you could change the Constitution, would you make it a popular vote?

CLINTON: Well, I would, because I think that, that really is the intent of one person, one vote.

But I have no illusions that, that is not likely to occur, because it would take a constitutional amendment. That's why I favor doing everything we can to make our electoral systems as fair and accurate as possible.

KING: Everyone has said, except maybe you, that you are going to run for president someday. So let's -- I mean, let's say Gore loses. That means the Democratic Party has no incumbent. Are you interested in that office in '04?

CLINTON: No, I'm not.

KING: Not at all? CLINTON: No, no. I am intent upon being the best senator that I can be. That is what I want to do. I really feel like the people of New York gave me a great honor to give me the opportunity to serve, and that's what I am interested in doing. You know, all of the work that I've done for 30 years now -- it's almost hard to imagine -- going back into my young adulthood, concerns, you know, children and families and education and economic opportunity and health care.

I think we will have an opportunity, no matter how our presidential campaign is finally resolved, for people of good faith to reach across party lines and try to hammer out some of the solutions that I really think the American people want us to work toward.

KING: Did you tell the people of New York that you are going to stay the six years?

CLINTON: Yes, I surely did.

KING: And you wouldn't change that?

CLINTON: No, I wouldn't.

KING: So that's as definitive as you can get, right?

CLINTON: As definitive as I can get.

KING: Are you complimented by the thought?

CLINTON: Well, people say a lot of things about me. Some of it is not complimentary.

KING: How did you react to the bitterness, the anger that, that campaign presented for a while? I mean, you won it rather clearly, but...

CLINTON: You know, I...

KING: Did you like it?

CLINTON: I loved campaigning.

KING: You did?

CLINTON: I did. And I absolutely fell in love with every part of New York. I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed the days that I spent on the campaign trail, traveling all over, staying in people's homes...

KING: Even Bensonhurst?

CLINTON: I loved everywhere -- everywhere. But now you said you were going with me, and you didn't come, so...

KING: My friends Sid (ph) and Ashley (ph), they were going to go with you.

CLINTON: Yes. So we'll have to reschedule that.

KING: You did well there, though.

CLINTON: I did. I did. I was very gratified by the outcome of the election.

KING: Committee chairmen, now, there's a movement here now to -- that the Republicans say since they -- it's 50-50, but they have the vice president if Bush is the president. The Democrats want committee chairmen shared. What do you think?

CLINTON: Well, I think there are a number of issues that Tom Daschle as the leader of the Democrats will be negotiating with Senator Lott, and that's one of them. But there are other issues, the seats on committees, staff and other budgetary considerations, the rules of how the Senate operates.

You know, I was very impressed by what Senator Byrd told us in his lecture about the way the Senate has always functioned, ever since the early 19th century, so that individual senators were able to present amendments, that matters could be brought to the floor. And I think we need to, you know, have an agreement to go back to having the Senate function the way the Senate historically has functioned.

So there's a lot at stake in these negotiations.

KING: You'd favor co-chairmanship, though?

CLINTON: No, not necessarily -- not necessarily.

KING: No? No?

CLINTON: No, because I think that it'll either be 51-49, or 50- 50 with a vice presidential tie-breaking vote. And so, I think that that's something to be negotiated.

KING: Any committee you'd want to serve on?

CLINTON: Well, I'm open to a number of committees, and we're not going to...

KING: What would be your favorite if you could pick one?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I'm not going to get into that right now, because I'm standing in line like everybody else.

But we don't even know how the committees will be chosen, because as you just pointed out, we don't know how many members will be on the various committees. And I'm just going to wait my turn. The Democrats will make those decisions at the leadership level. And I'll work as hard as I can on whatever committee I'm appointed to.

KING: Did you take offense to Trent Lott's statement that you're -- don't expect anything, you're just another wheel in the -- cog in the wheel?

CLINTON: Well, you know, I'm just one of a hundred, and that is -- that's a factual statement.

KING: You didn't take -- you didn't...

CLINTON: You know, people say things sometimes in the heat of partisanship. And we've had a very cordial encounter in the Senate. We went from Senator Daschle's office to Senator Lott's office, and he gave us a wonderful history lesson about that office and the role that it's played in the history of the Congress.

KING: How did he treat you?

CLINTON: Very cordially. Very collegially, which is what I expected. I have gotten to know him and his wife over the last eight years, and I expect that, you know, there will be differences, obviously. He has a role to play and a party to represent.

But I imagine wherever we can, we'll try to work together. And certainly, I see no reason for us not to be in a very collegial, cordial relationship.

KING: So you're optimistic that this government can work, that this can be four fruitful years, no matter who's at the -- who's sitting at the -- your old -- in your old -- in this house?

CLINTON: Well, I believe that America is at heart an optimistic country, you know. We are people of an optimistic spirit. And we have work to do, and work doesn't get done if people are drawn into battles over issues that are not going to make a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans.

You know, my hope is that in my work and the work of those in the Senate, you know, we will be able to keep the economy strong and growing, we will be able to improve education and provide health care and protect the environment, all of the things that I campaigned on. You can't do that if you're more interested in scoring political points.

KING: How about the leftover vituperativeness?

CLINTON: Well, that's for others to judge. You know, I...

KING: You admit it's bitter?

CLINTON: Well, there has been a lot of bitter feelings and rhetoric, but I think that if you are willing to overlook that, not let it get in the way of trying to forge some solution to a problem, to try to help people, it certainly is possible, and that's what I'm going to try to do.

KING: We'll talk about this house, Christmas here, and with the lady of the house. She's still the lady of the house, Hillary Rodham Clinton, senator-elect New York. Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: OK, you write "It Takes a Village," you write "Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids Letters to First Pets," and now we have "An Invitation to the White House: At Home With History."

CLINTON: Right.

KING: And you don't make money from this, right? It goes to the White House Historical Association...

CLINTON: No, all of it goes to the White House Historical Association.

KING: Simon Shuster published.

This is what, the 200th anniversary?

CLINTON: This is the 200th anniversary of this wonderful house. You know, the first occupants were the Adams. And although President Washington chose the site and oversaw the construction, he never lived here.

KING: He surveyed it.

CLINTON: He surveyed it, absolutely. And Thomas Jefferson submitted an anonymous design plan, which wasn't chosen.

But over these 200 years this house has really served as a symbol of our democracy, as a office for the presidents, and a museum for American history and culture, as well as a home.

KING: So the book -- the book is a compendium of those years?

CLINTON: Yes. The book is really an inside look at what it's like to live here, both the informal moments that we spend together as a family, but the more formal, public moments as well, the historic peace treaty signings, the state visit of Nelson Mandela, the kinds of things that I wanted to give people a behind-the-scenes look at. And I wanted to share this experience, which has been not only unique, but so wonderful for me personally and for our family.

KING: Last Christmas here, thoughts on that.

CLINTON: Well, it's really kind of...

KING: Because you love Christmas.

CLINTON: I do. I love Christmas.

KING: You've spent a lot of Christmases here.

CLINTON: Yes, we have. This is our eighth Christmas. Well, it's a bittersweet moment, I mean, because it will be our last Christmas. But we are trying to enjoy every minute of it. I'm not sure that any of us will get much sleep between now and the end of the season, because we are trying to be as open and entertaining as we can of so many people who are going to come that we can say thank you to and good-bye to.

So it's been a reflection of the previous years, that's really the theme for this Christmas season.

KING: How'd you get the idea to do this book?

CLINTON: You know, people ask me all the time, you know, what's it like living there? And how many rooms are there? And what's a state dinner like? And how do you decide what to serve? What's it like meeting the famous people that you've met?

And this couldn't possibly cover everything that has happened, but it does really put the focus on the house, which no matter who the first family is, no matter what president sits here, this house is bigger than any of us, and it goes on and on.

And the permanent staff is such a treasure that I wanted everybody to know what I know about the people who serve no matter who the president is. They are here to make the house run, to keep it beautiful, and to help any first family.

KING: Do you have a favorite room?

CLINTON: You know, I have so many rooms.

You know, this one that we're in right now is the Map Room, and this is where President Franklin Roosevelt plotted our strategy for the Allied victory in World War II.

KING: This was the last map he saw, the German embankment right behind me.

CLINTON: Well, exactly. And when I got here, I asked, "Well, what is this room?" And I was told its historic significance. But there were no maps left. So I started a hunt that ended with finding a young -- at that time, a young lieutenant, still alive, who was serving President Roosevelt when he died at Warm Springs, Georgia.

And this was the map that President Roosevelt was working on when he died, and this young lieutenant rolled it up and took it away and has had it for all of these years. And when he heard that, now that he's an obviously much older man, that we were looking for something that would really signify the importance of this room, he donated it to the White House.

And I've walked in here for meetings, and I've seen people staring at it. One time I came in and there were tears running down a man's face because he'd been in the Allied forces that fought their way from Italy north. Another time, I came in and there was a very distinguished economist who was just standing before it in speechless wonder, because he at that time was a young man, a boy, living in Germany, and his father had been conscripted into the Nazi army and had been lost, and his mother and his sister were starving in Berlin, and they were liberated by the Allied forces.

So, that's what I love about this house, is that it is a living home, but it is also a repository of that history.

KING: Is it warm to you? CLINTON: I love it. It's warm; it's welcoming; and I've tried to make it that way, because...

KING: It's not unwelcoming?

CLINTON: No. I hope not, anyway, because...

KING: Well, of course, it can be...

CLINTON: Well, it can be overpowering, because of the awe that it inspires and the size that it is.

But that's why I wanted to take people behind the scenes in the book. I wanted everyone to see that here's a place that was our home as well as where we entertained for very special public events.

KING: Do you always feel like a tenant?

CLINTON: You know, that's a hard question to answer. I always feel in awe. I've never walked into this house, no matter what time of day, no matter how tired I was, where I was coming from, that I wasn't grateful and that I wasn't awestruck by it.

You know that you're just passing through; that it is a place that others lived before and will live after you. So in that sense, you always know that you're just temporary.

But we worked very hard to make it our home.

KING: Well, the book's a classic work of art.

CLINTON: Thank you.

KING: And giving it to the White House association, the historical association, is a great idea.

CLINTON: Thank you.

KING: One final thing, it's Inaugural Day. Somebody is being sworn in.

CLINTON: Right.

KING: Will that be a joyous occasion, no matter who? Or will it be, what's going on?

CLINTON: You know, it's going to be a poignant moment for me, because the eight years will be ending, my husband's presidency will be ending, I will be assuming a different role, my husband will be going on, I know, to do other things. So no matter what the outcome of the election, it's going to be poignant.

But it will also be very reinforcing. You know, I am such a strong believer in the fundamental strength of American values and institutions. You know, I'm just a dyed-in-the-wool, sort of sentimental patriot about what our country means. And the orderly, peaceful transfer of power is something that we have demonstrated for, you know, more than two centuries.

KING: So if it's George Bush raising his right hand, there's no biting of the bottom lip?

CLINTON: Not for me. For me, I'm hoping that when this is finally resolved -- and, of course, I believe strongly that the best evidence of the way it should be resolved are the votes of the people who actually voted in the election.

But it is in the courts. And when it is resolved, certainly, you know, I'm prepared to serve with and to -- you know, to watch whoever the next president is swear loyalty to our Constitution.

KING: Madam Senator-elect, First Lady, thank you very much.

CLINTON: Thank you. Thank you, Larry.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: Governor Marc Racicot, Republican of Montana, is next.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: We now welcome a gentleman who's become a very familiar figure in the American seen, Governor Marc Racicot, the Republican of Montana, who has been a Bush team observer from the get-go. What did you think of the arguments today?

GOV. MARC RACICOT (R), MONTANA: Well, the questions were piercing, I thought, from all members of court. The -- both sides were very well prepared, I thought. I thought they framed the issues exceptionally well.

I believe that there were three central issues, the threshold one, of course, concerning whether or not there was a federal question. And then I think they were gravely concerned about standards, and then they were concerned about the most important issue, which is the constitutional issue, whether or not there's been a violation of Article II.

KING: It is a dilemma, isn't it, Governor, dealing with states' rights versus federal versus constitutional, the right to -- no one wants to deny anyone the right to vote.

RACICOT: I would absolutely agree.

KING: Is there a way to simplify? I mean, obviously a chad punched that didn't go through should be counted, right?

RACICOT: I think anything that has a hole in it that -- even a dangling chad should be punched. I, as you know, sat through three and a half days of this process in Broward County and...

KING: What was the difficulty? RACICOT: That was no...

KING: That was not a problem.

RACICOT: No. No, the difficulty is when you're trying to divine whether or not someone, because there's a mark or a blemish or a scratch on a ballot, and they've executed the rest of the ballot correctly, whether or not that should be counted as a vote. And in our judgment and in the judgment of courts around the country, other courts around the country, that has not counted as a vote in the past. So it's just a process that's too metaphysical to be relied upon.

KING: Should the law have been written a little differently than just intent to vote?

RACICOT: I think had anyone contemplated this very, very difficult situation, it probably would have been written differently. But it could be defined, I believe, with precision and thereby take out the kind of challenge that we've had throughout the course of the last 34 days.

KING: What do you make of all the anger this has brought in people?

RACICOT: Well, I regret that. I know that there's disagreement, and I understand that. And I understand as well that people have very strong feelings. I know that I do. I support George Bush because he's my friend and I have great confidence in him and I believe that he'd do wonderful things for this country. And I know that there are others who see it differently.

And I think it's good to remind ourselves -- and I think the overwhelming share of Americans have done this, although there are some who are more vocal than others, is that a function of leadership is displaying civil discourse and being careful with each other in our language as well as any other way that we're careful with one another.

KING: Did you agree with the first lady that no matter what, they will come together?

RACICOT: I do agree with that. I think that she's right, that there is a great sense of optimism always that coarses through the veins of Americans. In fact, I think our Constitution reflects an extraordinary trust in the innate goodness of people and their ability to make decisions for themselves and to work together.

KING: You're an attorney. Is it automatically forecastable that the court agreed to hear this, they voted 5-4 to hear it, the vote tomorrow will be that way?

RACICOT: I don't think that that's forecastable at all. I think that obviously there are some presumptions because they granted the stay, which indicated some of them preliminarily think that there was a strong reason to believe that George Bush would prevail on appeal. But that is not the last conclude at all. It's just that the stay requires some elevated consideration prior to the time that they ultimately hear the final appeal and I think any one that tries to enter into that kind of judgment is risking folly.

KING: We'll be hearing a lot more from you.

RACICOT: Thank you kindly.

KING: Governor Marc Racicot, governor of Montana.

When come back, Ron Klain, senior Gore legal adviser.

Still to come, the Ted Olson figure who's been familiar as well, who argued the Bush standpoint today at the court and then our panel.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: In a couple minutes, Ted Olson.

We now welcome in Tallahassee Ron Klain, the senior Gore legal adviser. I guess you heard the arguments today, did you not, Ron?

RON KLAIN, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: I was actually there in Washington, Larry. I came up last night and...

KING: Oh, you flew back already?

KLAIN: I did and came back to Tallahassee this afternoon.

KING: Well, what do you make of the proceedings?

KLAIN: I thought both sides did a fantastic job. You're going to have Ted Olson on in a few minutes. I thought he did an excellent job on behalf of his client. Obviously, though, I disagree with the point of view he advocated in the court.

We think our case before the Supreme Court is very strong, and it rests on a fundamental idea that it is not the role of the Supreme Court to intervene in a state election dispute and especially not the role of the Supreme Court to intervene to stop the counting of votes and to deny many voters here in Florida a chance to have their votes counted.

KING: All right, there are a couple things they can do. They can go with the Bush thing and say forget it, it's over, that's it, no more counting. They can go with your side, count them all. Or can they not instruct Florida Supreme Court they should then instruct how it should be counted? Can they do that, too?

KLAIN: Yes, I think -- they certainly can. It's always dangerous to try to guess what the Supreme Court will do. But you're right, the one possibility here would be that they could send the case back to the Florida Supreme Court and instruct that court to issue additional standards or to count ballots more broadly or recount particular counties.

They have lot of options, Larry, and I hope whichever option they choose is an option that reinforces the principle that every vote should count and that there should be a maximum chance to look at these ballots and see if the voters indicate their intent on them.

There are still in Florida thousands and thousands of ballots that no human being has yet to look at to see if someone cast a vote on those ballots. And I hope the Supreme Court, however it decides to settle this out doctrinally, issues a ruling that stand behind the counting of those votes.

KING: Now help with us something. Tomorrow is the 12th. We all thought the 12th was that's it -- it's not it?

KLAIN: I don't think so, Larry. I'm think the 18th, when the electors meet to cast their votes, is the "it" date here.

The 12th is a date that says that if a state has its electors selected by that date, they're insulated from certain kinds of attacks in the Congress. But I think more important than getting that protection, what the lawyers call the safe harbor, more important than that is getting it right.

And I thought all the justices at the court today indicated an interest in speed, yes, but also in making sure that the right candidate wins this election. And by that, I mean, of course, the candidate who got the most votes.

So I think by and large while it would be better to have it done by tomorrow, I think we were on a track to have it done by tomorrow before the Supreme Court stepped in, the best thing now is to get it right.

KING: All right, what did you make of the 6-1 response by the court today, the Florida Supreme Court, telling the United States Supreme Court that they were acting under Florida law?

KLAIN: Yes, I thought that was -- it's obviously very gratifying from our perspective. It reinstates a decision by the Florida Supreme Court on behalf of Vice President Gore. And, as you noted, Larry, it was a 6-1 decision, a very strong, consensus decision by the Florida Supreme Court, a well-done opinion, a 30-page, carefully crafted opinion that made clear their prior ruling was based on appropriate grounds, answered the questions put to it by the U.S. Supreme Court, and also kind of locks in the fact that these recounts started at a number of a 537-vote lead for Governor Bush.

We know given the second Supreme Court decision about 400 votes were knocked off that. So we're down to a margin of about 150 votes in Florida before these recounts commenced last weekend and hopefully will recommence as soon as tomorrow.

KING: Concerned about the state legislature coming in?

KLAIN: Well, I am concerned. I think everyone should be concerned. You know, we're prepared to win this election, we're prepared to lose this election however the votes come out. But I don't think anyone in America should be happy with the idea that a state legislature would get together and decide the election.

Six million people in Florida went to the polls and voted on November 7th. I think more of them voted for Al Gore than voted for George Bush. But however that comes out, their votes should be what decides this election, not a decision in the middle of December by some state legislatures here in Tallahassee.

KING: Ron, thanks as always. Ron Klain, the senior Gore legal adviser.

And when we come back, a man just he complimented highly, Ted Olson, the Bush campaign attorney who argued before the high court today.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Now my friend Ted Olson, who argued for the Bush side today, second time you did that before this court. What did you -- how did you feel today?

THEODORE OLSON, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Well, I hope we do better than we did last time, but maybe that's not possible since it was 9-0.

KING: Last time 9-0, but you didn't win, you didn't lose. You played -- what was that?

OLSON: Oh, I think we won. I mean, the decision that we were complaining about, the Florida Supreme Court decision that we didn't like, the Supreme Court said it's vacated, which means it's a nullity. And they said, now, if you can explain what you're doing in a way that will prove it somehow, go ahead and give it a try. But, you know...

KING: Now the court did that today. Have you read their decision?

OLSON: I ready portions of it today.

KING: What did you make?

OLSON: Well, what they did -- The problem they did the first time is what they rearranged Florida election law. And they did it again today. They were more careful about how they tried to explain it, but I don't think they're really going to fool anybody. What they're doing, the legislature has a responsibility to create an election code in Florida. The court doesn't have the right to go and change it, flip it over, do it over again, change it after the election. That's what's upsetting to people, and that's where the constitutional problem is. And they're still doing that.

KING: One of the things mind boggling about this, and the governor of Montana agreed, Ted, to determine the law: intent of the voter. How do you judge that? OLSON: That's right. You've got a piece of paper there and there's a mark on it, and I'm going to try to decide what you meant by that.

KING: So what does the law mean if it says intent -- we want the intent of the voter to be counted. How do you do that?

OLSON: Well one of the things, in Palm Beach they had a very clear instruction -- they changed it after the election, but they had a very clear instruction: You must express your vote unambiguously, unambiguously express your choice -- punch it all the way through.

KING: So if the chad's loose, that's counts?

OLSON: You have to punch it all the way through. And they also admonish people, you know, when you take the ballot card out, check to make sure that these little pieces of paper aren't still hanging on there. They changed that after the election because they weren't getting enough Al Gore votes. And so they just said, well let's look at indentations, what they call dimples, and other marks on the ballot. I mean, that's just mystical.

KING: The Supreme Court can do anything it wants. Could it tomorrow say, count just the holes?

OLSON: I think what the Supreme Court is going to say...

KING: You don't want to predict.

OLSON: I don't like to predict, but I don't think the Supreme Court's going to say that. I think the Supreme Court is going to say that the Florida Supreme Court does not have the right to take away from the Florida legislature the way to set up how the election is conducted and how controversies are resolved, how votes are tabulated, especially after the election.

And I think they're also going to be concerned -- expressed concerned about, and the justices did today, where there's you're vote is counted one way in one county and another way in another county and the standards by which your vote is evaluated change from day to day after the election. I think that's going -- all those things bothered the Supreme Court, I hope.

KING: When Judge Ginsberg asked you, though, if the machine...

OLSON: Justice Ginsburg.

KING: Justice Ginsburg, I'm sorry.

OLSON: Be careful about that.

KING: If the machines are different and the ballots are different, how can the standards be the same?

OLSON: Well, and in answering her question, I said, we're treating similarly situated people similarly. If it's a different kind of ballot, of course you have to look at it differently. But we're talking mainly in the controversy down there is these punch-card ballots. You have to have even, consistent, uniform standards.

KING: How did the other side do today, do you think?

OLSON: Well, I thought they were very good. Mr. Boies is a fabulous lawyer and he knows the facts very well. He's been down in Florida. You've probably seen him on television a lot. He's handled these cases, he's a very, very fine lawyer. They asked both of us very, very hard questions. And...

KING: You like that, though, right?

OLSON: Well, we love that, because that means -- just like you, we get a chance -- we know what's on their mind, we get a chance to communicate. He's very good at that.

KING: Does it feel good when it appears you have one justice, Scalia, in your grasp, he is with you? At least that's the appearance given by the press today, his statement on Saturday?

OLSON: Oh, I never, ever assumed that. And...

KING: Never?

OLSON: Never, ever assume that. You may assume that and then you're going to be hurt. They're asking -- all of those justices are going to look at the briefs and they're going to ask hard questions. And anybody who listened to it today knows how hard those questions are. They're all really good. And you must not assume where they're coming from, because then you may mistake the way you answer the question. Give them an honest answer. That's what they want.

KING: Have judges in the past surprised you?

OLSON: Well they have.

KING: On both sides.

OLSON: That's right, they have. And because they're asking good questions and hard questions, just like when you ask questions, it doesn't tell me necessarily how you think. You're asking questions to find out what I think...

KING: To learn.

OLSON: ... It doesn't tell me necessarily what you think. A lot of people might guess what your politics are, but they don't really know.

KING: So you don't guess what the court's going to rule?

OLSON: No, I don't.

KING: Do you expect it tomorrow? OLSON: Well, no, I don't expect it at any particular time, because my job is done now. We filed briefs, we said the best we could in writing and we said the best we could today in person to the justices.

I know they know it's important. We -- the Florida Supreme Court decision was Friday. That night we asked for the Supreme Court to take the case. Saturday they took the case. Sunday we wrote a brief. Monday, today, we argued the case. They know how important it is. This is the fastest schedule in history, as far as I know.

KING: Thank you, Ted.

OLSON: Thank you.

KING: Congratulations. I think anybody would say you did a great job.

OLSON: Thank you.

KING: Ted Olson.

When we come back, our panel of Ed Rollins, Diane Rehm and Fred Graham.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Each night for, lo, these many nights, we have a panel. Tonight, another distinguished one.

In New York, Ed Rollins, the well-known Republican strategist. And here in Washington, Diane Rehm, host of "The Diane Rehm Show" on National Public Radio. Her syndicated talk show airs every day 10:00 a.m. to noon Eastern time, also airs overseas. And Fred Graham, chief anchor and managing editor for Court TV, for years, of course, with CBS and "The New York Times."

Fred Graham is the lawyer of the group. And we can say Ed Rollins is probably a little on the right and Diane Rehm a little on the left. So let's start first with Ed.

How did today go, Ed, from your perspective?

ED ROLLINS, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Well I think obviously the court was very well prepared and the lawyers were very well prepared. I have to tell you personally, Larry, there's something about all this that bothers me. I have the greatest respect in the for Ted Olson, who served with me in the Reagan administration, Michael Carvin, Ben Ginsberg, the other lawyers. They're my personal lawyers. I just have a hard time finding us as conservatives trying to basically push aside state courts and state decisions.

KING: Really? ROLLINS: I certainly want my side to win. I certainly -- I believe in recounts. I spent 40 years of my life in politics and government. I want -- I think George W. Bush won on Election Day, I think George W. Bush will win when all the votes are counted. But I think it's very important all the votes get counted. And I think there will be a cloud over his presidency until that occurs. I don't care if the court sets some standards, but I think the critical things is those votes have to be counted before voters and Americans will feel good about themselves again.

KING: Diane, is that a true conservative speaking?

DIANE REHM, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Larry, you know what I hear is the whole spectrum.

KING: Now you should say the federal government should be involved. As a liberal, you should want them there.

REHM: Well, but don't count me as a liberal or a conservative...

KING: What do you think of what he just said?

REHM: ... think of me as a talk show host who hears what Ed Rollins's point is that every vote ought to be counted and also hears from the public it ought to be over. It ought to be decided quickly.

KING: I did a panel this weekend at a convention, and Fred Barnes, a conservative, said the only way the public -- this will totally be accepted is if they fully recount and Bush wins. Other than that, there's going to be an enormous argument.

FRED GRAHAM, COURT TV: You know, first of all, I don't think there's going to be a total recount.

KING: You think the court will rule against it?

GRAHAM: It seems to me that it's time to put an end to this, and maybe that's the direction they're going. One of the things we're learning is that elections are enormously ambiguous things. There are all sorts of give and -- uncertainty about how people voted.

And, you know, we tend to forget that we, the television industry, put out the word on election night that Al Gore had won Florida while they were still voting in the Panhandle. That may have change more votes than all the dimpled chads in the state of Florida.

And I think what should come out of this is not more lawyers and more challenges, as Ed Rollins seems to strangely want to see, but a more objective standards, so that on election night you know who won and you go forward with your country.

KING: Ed, is he right that we don't have a subjective standard?

ROLLINS: You're always going to have challenges. I've been involved in this political system a long, long time, and there's no such thing as a perfect election unless you win by landslides. You can go into 33 states and have hand counts after the fact. I've been in them, I've won on Election Day, lost two weeks later when they've done the recount. But I think one of the unique things in this country is the opportunity to go contest the election if you think the vote wasn't quite accurate. And that's what occurring in this particular situation.

There's been a lot of lingo. Obviously, the microscope has gone on Florida, and I have said on this show before I think Florida has come out pretty darned good. There's no voter fraud. These are good decent people who've gone to the polls and voted.

And I think where I differ with Fred is I don't -- I'm a Californian. I don't buy the fact that because you predict people don't go vote. If people want to vote, they go vote. The critical thing here is people who voted may not be having their ballots counted, and I want that to happen.

KING: Diane, what do you think is going to happen?

REHM: Well, what I hope is going to happen, Larry, is that the Supreme Court is going to remand this to the state Florida Supreme Court and say...

KING: Affirm their decision or...

REHM: Give us a set of standards and then come back to us. That's what I hope is going to happen. He says there's not enough time...

GRAHAM: It's a fiction that there's a set of objective standards. Today in the court, David Boies, Al Gore's lawyer, was urging them to follow the Texas statute. And he was gigging Texas a little bit there. But if you read the Texas standards, they're a series of very objective remarks, and finally the last one says, and try to divine the intention of the voter. You're back where you started.

REHM: Well, but if you ask for a standard -- and that's word that kept coming out again and again today -- if you ask for a set of standards and you say to the Florida Supreme Court, come back to us with that set of standards, you've got something.

KING: Do you have until the 18th?.

REHM: Of course you do, of course you do.

GRAHAM: You better.

KING: Yes, right. Let me get a break and we'll be back with some more moments with Ed Rollins, Diane Rehm and Fred Graham.

Don't go away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: Ed Rollins, if it's possible in any of these days to forecast anything, what do you think the court's going to do?

ROLLINS: I think the court probably...

KING: I can't hear Ed. All right, go ahead.

ROLLINS: I think the court is probably going to stick 5-4 or maybe even 6-3 and reject the Florida court's recounting of the votes and then it will be over. But as I said earlier, I think if -- it's not going to affect long term. Six months from now, George W. Bush is the president. I think the country will basically judge him on the performance that he does. But I think in the short run, I think it's going to leave a very bitter taste in lot of people's mouths.

KING: Fred.

GRAHAM: I agree with almost everything he said.

KING: Bitter -- they won't -- they will overrule...

GRAHAM: Yes.

KING: ... but there will be a bitter taste.

GRAHAM: You know, and I agree with him that the bitter taste will go away. You know, I remember Kennedy, the cliffhanger he had. In no time at all, he charmed the socks off the whole country.

KING: But he had a lot more electoral votes than the winner here is going to have.

GRAM: But there was a lot of doubt. And there was fraud alleged in his case. This case, as Ed said, is just mistakes. So I think if it's George W. Bush that he's got some charm going there, too. If he uses it advantageously, it will pass the bitterness.

REHM: Larry, what does that do to the Supreme Court and the people's perception of the Supreme Court? Do you want the Supreme Court to decide who your next president is?

KING: Maybe not, but what does it matter? They' re the final arbiters. What they say goes.

REHM: Well, but the point is...

KING: They're the gorilla.

REHM: The point is, is the Supreme Court a political institution or a judicial institution? Do you want it to make that political decision?

GRAHAM: Well, it's going to be the Supreme Court of the United States or the Supreme Court of the state of Florida. And I have to say that from what I've seen of the two of them it seems to me the Supreme Court of the United States is preferable.

KING: Ed, there's no other way to solve a dispute, is there, but the court?

ROLLINS: Well, I think -- I mean, we are a nation of laws and ultimately it has to go to that level. And I would hope that this court not get tarred as being political. I do think it is a divisive court in the sense that it pretty much is 5-4 on a lot of the major issues.

But I think the reality is the country will accept it ultimately. I never forget the day Richard Nixon left office and Gerald Ford, who only had one vote, and that was the vote of Richard Nixon when he was vice president, and the Congress endorsed that, he became president and became a popular president in the early stages.

So I think, you know -- I think no one argued against his legitimacy. I don't think anyone ultimately will argue against Bush's legitimacy. I just think -- I think personally he can win these recounts. I think if it's a legitimate recount, I think he's going to win this thing. And then I think it all goes away and he could have a much better tenure and be a much stronger president.

KING: That's best result, isn't it Diane?

REHM: I think so, too.

KING: I mean, where the public would accept it.

REHM: I think whoever wins this election is going have a tough time in the next four years. So, therefore, if you count the votes and George Bush comes out winner -- hooray.

KING: And, Fred, will this change elections in the future? Are we going to have a more standardized procedure?

GRAHAM: I think it should. I think that probably it's time for an act of Congress. It's been -- I mean, this country now is too much a nation to have that many disparities between the states, some of which are not dealing with it properly. And I think this movement that's just starting in the Senate and in the Congress to have some national standards is a good idea.

KING: Thank you all very much. It's always great seeing you. You get younger.

Ed Rollins, a Republican strategist; Diane Rehm, host of "The Diane Rehm" radio show; and Fred Graham, chief anchor and managing editor of Court TV.

Jeff Greenfield is next with another special report he'll host.

Then "THE SPIN ROOM."

We'll see you tomorrow night with Senators Warner and Feinstein. Stay tuned to CNN around the clock.

I'm Larry King. For all of our guests in Washington, good night.

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