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Larry King Live
Katherine Harris Discusses the Florida Presidential ElectionAired January 16, 2001 - 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: She was caught in the headlights of history. We know what she said, and we know what she did. What was she thinking? The Florida secretary of state, Katherine Harris, is our guest; her first live prime time interview will include calls, too. It's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
I can say this without fear of contradiction. She's the best known state secretary of state, maybe ever. She's Katherine Harris, in the center of the election fire storm. It took 35 days, 14 hours and three minutes from the time the polls opened on November 7, to the moment that Al Gore conceded.
Reflecting back, are you glad about this, in the sense -- I mean, that you became famous. A lot of people say that's terrific.
KATHERINE HARRIS, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: I don't think of my interest has ever been in becoming famous. My only position in this entire election morass following the recount was simply to follow the law.
KING: So, becoming famous was not an intention of yours, or -- when you ran for office, though. But you -- how did you handle it?
HARRIS: On a day-to-day basis, we worked with our attorneys, and we watched CNN a lot. Actually, you know, so many times you were reporting what we were yet to learn.
But, for the most part, we just stayed very steady, looked to the law. And I remember, early on, my husband said, "No matter what happens in this -- this war -- this election war, if you will -- if you're a casualty of that election war, the most important thing, if we sail off into the sunset, and you can no longer serve, you have to be able to live with yourself." So, the most important issue, during this whole time, was that we were faithful to the law.
KING: Did you feel like a casualty, at times?
HARRIS: Well, certainly I think, perhaps, the personal attacks were difficult. But following the law was very simple.
KING: Easy to follow the law, in this case?
HARRIS: In this case -- of course, there were differing opinions. But, for example, in the aftermath of the election -- if you can put yourself back, maybe one or two days, after Tuesday -- on the news, everyone was saying, "Perhaps we won't have a president by December or January. What's going to happen?" And when you read the law, it said seven days after the Election Day, you -- that I would certify.
So, we invited Secretary Christopher and Secretary Baker in, to indeed, let them know that we were going to certify -- this was two days after the election -- that we would be certifying a week later, so that it was a level playing field, and there were no punches.
KING: Was it difficult, though -- and we want to touch a lot of bases with you -- was it difficult to carry, kind of, two hats? You worked hard for President-Elect Bush. You're also the secretary of state.
KING: So, you have to be the moderator, in a sense, of an election, and at the same time, rooting for one of the combatants. Is it like a referee, who has to be fair in the boxing ring, but he wants Sam to beat Joe?
HARRIS: I've never been a referee. But perhaps that's a good sports analogy. I had my preference. You had your preference. But, when it comes to carrying out the law, or upholding the oath that we swore, that's not difficult.
KING: Is it emotionally difficult?
HARRIS: At times. But actually, I can tell you, within the first week, as the smoke was clearing, and we realized that someone needed to bring this into -- in for a landing -- some suggested, "Oh, just pass it to the Supreme Court." And we decided we would follow the law. As, in the executive branch, my duty is to administer the law, and that's exactly what we did. And there were times it was difficult, but...
KING: Did you ever doubt yourself?
HARRIS: I never doubted the law. I never doubted -- as we talked with our attorneys, and debated the issues, I never doubted. And I've looked back, time and time again, if there was anything I could have done differently. If Vice President Gore had been leading, could I have done anything differently?
KING: That's one of the questions people have asked. If Gore were leading, and the county in question wasn't in South Florida, but in northern Florida, would you have acted the same?
HARRIS: You know, I've thought about that...
KING: And only you can answer that.
HARRIS: Right. I've thought about that so much, and I can't come up with anything that I would do differently. Some people suggested that I should have come out more and talked. And we tried to be accessible, in terms of informing people with written comments. But regardless of what everyone was saying about me, my purpose was to stand firm on the law, and only come out and speak when I could direct, you know.
KING: So, you could sleep nights?
HARRIS: Actually, I can always sleep very, very well. That's one thing I'm famous for, being able to sleep. But during this process, for the first time in my life, I probably only slept two or three hours a night.
KING: How did the family handle it? How did your husband -- he's not in politics, right?
HARRIS: My husband was awesome. He's a rock. He was so steady.
KING: He's from Sweden, right?
HARRIS: My husband's from Sweden. He became a citizen, this summer, so this was his first election. (LAUGHTER)
KING: Did his chad go through?
HARRIS: Yes, well, let's hope so. But they were fantastic, very supportive.
KING: Your daughter, as well?
HARRIS: Yes, yes indeed.
KING: I mean, seeing their wife -- the wife and the mother in the limelight, new to them.
HARRIS: Well, I think she was away at school. And so, she was much more isolated at college.
KING: Her friends had to talk to her.
HARRIS: Sure. But she was much more isolated.
HARRIS: My husband -- actually we live in Sarasota, and we also have a home in Tallahassee, by law -- we bought an old home and fixed it up. But he spent so much time with me and was so incredibly supportive during this whole process. And he can laugh at things. He has a great sense of humor. So sometimes when things seemed so tough or desperate, I mean he really could see the forest for the trees and said, "Be steady. You have to act with integrity, you have to live with yourself."
KING: You handled it well, too. I spoke to you. You laughed at people making jokes about you. That was a hoot to you.
HARRIS: Some people were really funny. When I talked to you, we have a big family rivalry between the University of Florida and Florida State, it's a big state rivalry. And at one point, David Letterman had said at the height of when people were saying that I was acting so strongly, he said that I was going to go to the Florida-Florida State game and call it early for the Gators in the third quarter. I thought that was really funny.
KING: We'll be right back. There's lots to learn with Katherine Harris, the Florida secretary of state. If I have to tell you who she is, you got problems. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: On behalf of the state Elections Canvassing Commission, and in accordance with the laws of the state of Florida, I hereby declare Governor George W. Bush the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes for the president of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This evening, the secretary of state of Florida has decided to certify what by any reasonable standard is an incomplete and inaccurate count of the votes cast in the state of Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Was he wrong?
HARRIS: We think so, according to the law. And I believe, in the final analysis, with the U.S. Supreme Court's opinion that we acted completely faithful to the law.
KING: We'll get to a lot of that, but there was something wrong in the voting. Maybe this exists everywhere, right, but obviously this was not a perfect Election Day.
HARRIS: Well, you know what's so interesting, and I love Florida so much. I'm a fourth generation Floridian. I think that we've had -- taken such a beating on some issues. But the fascinating part is that, if you were to look at our voting systems, they're rated as one of the best in the nation. We are certified to have only one mechanical error per million votes. But notwithstanding, we need to do a lot better.
And so as we move forward, my primary efforts -- and I'm going to stay as secretary of state. I have no ambitions to be ambassador or anything else.
KING: You don't want a federal job?
HARRIS: No, I don't -- I did not want to be ambassador but I think, in having fulfilled all my campaign promises, I was open to whatever may occur, but now with these voting systems needing such attention, I couldn't possibly leave until I had the assurance that we'll have the model of systems in the country.
KING: Let's clear up something. They're not dropping the office, are they?
HARRIS: Oh, thank you for clearing that up. Actually, contrary to all the reports, this office is not being eliminated because it's so inconsequential, I think was the word. The voters, in 1998, determined that our governor needed -- we needed to have a stronger governor.
KING: You have a weak governor, as it's termed.
HARRIS: The system -- in terms of the system, there are seven on the cabinet including the governor...
KING: All elected.
HARRIS: ... all elected, so the governor can't choose his cabinet. So the secretary of state, the commissioner of education and the commissioner of insurance will be appointed or will be combined in other jobs in January of 2003.
KING: And if it's to your liking, if the next governor, if it's Jeb Bush or whoever, if you're asked to stay, you will stay?
HARRIS: No. Actually, I said the day after I was elected, when I understood that it would be eliminated, that I did not wish to be appointed. I like being accountable back to the people of Florida. I like being...
KING: So you'd run for something else?
HARRIS: You know what, we haven't even plotted that far ahead. We think if I just do a good job and focus on the present that the future will take care of itself.
KING: Now, one thing I do know -- I don't know a lot of things but I know Florida.
HARRIS: You do know Florida and Florida loves you.
KING: If you said you're fourth generation, you're an old-hand Floridian, you had to be a Democrat.
HARRIS: You're correct.
KING: Your father, your grandfather.
HARRIS: I come from a long line of Democrats. Yes, indeed. My grandfather was a Democrat senator, and -- actually, when I moved to Sarasota in the late '80s, that's when I switched to become Republican.
KING: And why did you switch?
HARRIS: I really did believe that my philosophy aligned with, for example, with Senator Connie Mack with less taxes, less government, more freedom. And...
KING: But you worked for Lawton Chiles.
HARRIS: I did. I interned for Lawton when I was in college and...
KING: And liked him, didn't you?
HARRIS: Very much.
KING: What a man. He's a Democratic governor, senator.
HARRIS: He was a very close personal friend of our family. But I did decide when I was in D.C. that I wanted nothing to do with politics. And so it's, kind of, coming full circle that I even ran for the Senate because I really had disconnected from politics?
KING: Was it an issue?
HARRIS: It was an issue.
KING: What was it?
HARRIS: We have a phenomenal museum in Sarasota called the Ringling Museum.
KING: I know it well.
HARRIS: It's not just circus. It's an extraordinary collection of 18th-17th century paintings.
KING: Reubens, right?
HARRIS: Reubens, yes, indeed. And our senator at the time said that as far as he was concerned, Reubens was a sandwich. And we really needed additional funding and it was very important. And actually, Governor Lawton Chiles had appointed me to the board of that museum. And those were, sort of, fighting words and one thing led to another.
KING: So you're a Republican supporter of the arts.
HARRIS: Yes, I am.
KING: You think government should support the arts.
HARRIS: I do. I do, indeed. I think the arts -- when you start looking at arts and education and how important it is -- we found through studies -- I served on one of the Getty's board museum -- Getty Museum's board before and it raises, for example, the SAT points some 60 points verbally, 30-plus points in math. And with our kids at risk, we all learn differently. Some learn verbally, spatially, perception, you know there are all kinds of different issues. Well, the arts teach that.
And one unique situation we have, 120 young men in Tallahassee, the Tallahassee Boys Choir, very much kids at risk, and they performed at the inauguration, at our inauguration. They're the hottest ticket in town. And just recently, the pope invited them to sing at The Vatican so their lives will never be the same. That's arts in education and art changing lives.
KING: You attended Harvard, right?
HARRIS: Yes, I did.
KING: Somewhat of an expert on trade, Latin America.
HARRIS: I have a lot to learn but my passion is in the international arena especially for Florida. And I think that -- I hope in this next administration we'll once again focus on Latin America.
We have this east-west bias that we're always looking elsewhere but this hemisphere is so extremely important.
KING: It goes back to the old good neighbor policy, though right?
HARRIS: It does.
KING: We're the parents.
HARRIS: Well, it really does. It's not only -- it's not only economically sound policy and extraordinary opportunities but it's morally important, too. For example in Florida, we trade more with Brazil than all of China, Russia, India combined. You could even thrown in EU and non-EU countries and indeed we trade twice as much with Central America as we do Brazil. So the opportunity is extraordinary.
And I will just say one thing because trade -- some people feel disenfranchised or don't understand. But we've -- our trade, in less than a decade, in Florida has grown from $32 billion to almost $70 billion, and the U.S. Department of Commerce said that each billion dollar increase in trade created 20,000 new jobs. So, that's more revenue for education, infrastructure.
KING: So, would you want a federal job in that area?
HARRIS: No, I want to stay right where I am. I think I have a job to do to make sure we have the...
KING: So you're going to run for office in Florida. We don't know what office, but you're going to run for office?
HARRIS: Perhaps, we'll see. I mean, two years is an eternity in the political arena.
KING: But you like it?
HARRIS: I really do like public service, it gives me chance to give back. I've been so blessed and it's an extraordinary opportunity.
KING: The life and times of Katherine Harris on this edition of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: I want to reassure the public that my decision in this process has been made carefully, consistently, independently and, I believe, correctly.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REV. JESSE JACKSON, FOUNDER, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: With each investigative report, the patterns of disenfranchisement and voter suppression are increasingly embarrassing and humiliating. In a democracy you can afford to lose an election, but not your franchise.
All of this chaos is on the watch of Governor George W. Bush's brother, and their friend and delegate and Electoral College voter, Mrs. Harris.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And how do you react to that? Has there been -- have any black voters in the state been disenfranchised to your knowledge?
HARRIS: To our knowledge, no. And the recent panel -- many testified but all had the opportunity to vote.
Let me just say this: Florida's always been a very progressive state and we have a zero tolerance policy towards discrimination whether it be for race or creed or gender or age. And so, of course, we'll look into these allegations and we'll thoroughly follow up on them and thoroughly investigate them.
KING: Now, because of litigation, we've agreed with your attorneys we can ask only one question with regards to civil rights. Is there still pending litigation over this? Will you get to the root of it?
HARRIS: We absolutely will get to the root of it.
KING: Because it should concern any citizen, Secretary of State, if any person is denied the right to vote.
HARRIS: You're absolutely right. I couldn't agree with you more. And we will vigorously pursue this. KING: Well, let's go back. When did you know, uh-oh? Was there an uh-oh moment for Katherine Harris in this election?
HARRIS: Perhaps in the first two days there was such a fog. And there was...
KING: Were you up all night on election night?
HARRIS: Yes, well I was up all night. I went home and went to sleep after George W. committed
KING: When they declared Gore the winner, were you shocked?
HARRIS: I was very distressed with the media for announcing Florida early and, in fact, had written them a week earlier asking them not to call it at 7:00 because there were 200,000 voters in the Panhandle...
KING; Pensecola, yeah.
HARRIS: ... that would believe that they shouldn't even go to the polls.
KING: So you were shocked when all the media did that -- proclaimed Gore. Were you surprised that he was -- did you know it was going to be close?
HARRIS: We always thought it would be close, but had no idea it would be this close. In fact, none of our laws or voting systems, nothing anticipated such a close race.
KING: So, you went home after Bush was declared winner.
HARRIS: That's correct.
KING: And went to sleep happy.
HARRIS: For a few minutes.
KING: Now, what was the first thing that happened? When did you know trouble?
HARRIS: I received a phone call from Austin, and I spoke with Governor Jeb Bush and he asked, "Why is there a recount? You know, what is going on here?" And we have an automatic recount if one half of one percent margin. And, so he asked questions strictly about what is the law.
KING: By that time you thought his brother had won.
HARRIS: When I woke up, I said, "I just left, and I had just heard that your brother had won. So, I'll be at the office in five minutes." And I was there in five minutes and for the rest of the night we just worked through legal issues -- what's the next step?
KING: At this point, wasn't that difficult for you, Katherine. Here you are, you've got this post as secretary of state, you wanted this other guy to win, his brother has just called, there's going to be a recount. Can you see, "I'm going to be the center of this"?
HARRIS: I couldn't see I was going to be the center of it at 4:00 in the morning, 5:00 in the morning. But by the next day, with all the issues going on -- probably two days into it, I realized it was a no-win situation for me; that I was going to be the center of this controversy and the most important thing that we could do was handle it with extraordinary care and integrity.
And by the end of the week, after I had met with Secretary Baker and Secretary Christopher, I said, "We will have no contact with either party other than information. And in fact, we're putting up a fire wall -- no strategy, no sharing legal opportunities or where we're going. In fact, if anybody tries to push us on that, we're calling a press conference." And we were very adamant about putting up that fire wall.
KING: When that started, Katherine, did Jeb Bush ever call you again?
HARRIS: He never called. We had no contact with the governor, the Bush campaign, the Republican Party, none. So, it was very isolated. In fact, there was an article that appeared, a senator dropped by to see me and he said, "Oh, you must be inundated with so many people stopping by." And I said, "You're the only one who's come."
KING: People shied away because they were afraid that what they might say. What happened when you went to dinner? And that lasted a long time.
HARRIS: Well, it was a long time. For the first time ever, I had dinner in my home. I've never had dinner in my home in Tallahassee. So we were going home having dinner every night there.
KING: Well, what lessons did we learn? We'll pick that up in a minute. Katherine Harris is our special guest, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: OK, what was that like? Surprise?
HARRIS: That was a complete surprise. It was so overwhelming. Maybe it's, kind of, like good cop, bad cop. You feel like people are so hard. And then the nice guy comes along, and you lose it, you know. I actually had to think of something very funny, so that I wouldn't -- to keep me from...
KING: What did you think of? HARRIS: Mini-Me.
HARRIS: From "The Spy Who Shagged Me," it's a the little guy who was -- that's why I didn't cry.
KING: You were shocked, then...
HARRIS: I was...
KING: ... these were the former members of your -- this was your old crew.
HARRIS: These were people that I'd served with, on both sides of the aisle, in both the House and the Senate. And it was very humbling. But I was extremely grateful.
KING: Katherine, where do you feel in all of this? And there's some humor to that. And we'll take some calls. Where do you think you got the worst bum rap?
HARRIS: There was one time that -- my lowest point. And I didn't know -- apparently he was a comedian, but he said, he said that, "All of America sat in hope, as they watched Ryder trucks going down the road, bringing the votes, that O.J. had murdered me." And that hit very hard. I didn't know, at the time, he was trying to be funny.
KING: Not funny.
HARRIS: That wasn't funny.
KING: Not funny. How did people treat you -- everyday people?
HARRIS: Well, I think...
KING: Since -- how were you treated in New York? HARRIS: Well, during the time -- I think, in three weeks we had 750,000 e-mails. We had flowers every day. I have a funny story to tell you about that. It was just incredibly encouraging, and overwhelming. I mean, I had e-mails that said they didn't agree, but for the most part, they were very -- you know, they explained why.
But in the airports, people have been so incredibly gracious. People come up and just thanked me, and say that it was courageous, or that I'm their hero, or something. I don't -- that makes me feel uncomfortable. I don't think it's courageous, in the United States, to follow the law.
But even in New York, today I was walking on the street, and people came up, and just smiled and said, "Are you Katherine Harris? And, thank you -- it was great."
KING: All right, how about fame? I mean, it can affect people in lots of ways -- recognition -- vast. Now, you've had recognition, a lot. You've run in Florida. You've been known in Florida. But having this...
HARRIS: I never think I'm recognized. I never have, and it still ticks me off. It gets to me when people are so kind, now. But I remember the Saturday after the election, I was shopping for groceries. And I was pushing the cart along. And the sales lady came up to me, and she says, "Are you Katherine Harris?" And I was kind of taken aback, and I didn't know what she was going to say to me. And I said, "Yes, ma'am." She said, "You shop?"
And on the flowers -- on that recognition thing, I wanted to say, we -- every week we just received -- we received almost 1,000 arrangements of flowers, and no return addresses -- just kindnesses. So, at the end of every week, we divided in teams at the office, and we would take them to nursing homes or hospitals.
And so, it was pretty funny. I went into this one lady's room. And I was introduced to her. And she sat up, and she said, "I just saw you on TV." And she was so kind -- again, one of those moments where it was so gracious. And she said, "You're so little to have the weight of the world on your shoulders." And she said all these kind things. And then she wanted to hug me. And so, as we were leaving, she said, "I'm going to call my family, and tell them that you brought me flowers."
So, we left, and the folks that I was with starting laughing. And they said, "She'll probably say that Secretary Baker or Secretary Christopher came by."
So, after we delivered all the -- to the rooms, all to the individual residents, we were leaving the nursing home. And her nurse came running out. And she was just laughing. And she said, "Wait, wait." She said, "You'll never believe it. Her son just called. And he was very concerned about his mother's medication. He wanted us to check on it, because she just told him Secretary Harris had just brought her flowers."
So, there were some really, really wonderful moments.
KING: That's great stuff.
HARRIS: There really were.
KING: Katherine Harris is our guest. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: We will all remember these times as some of the most critical and defining moments in our nation's history. A time when we, as Americans, are working to ensure the meaning and vitality of our democratic system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We will take some phone calls for Katherine Harris in just a couple of moments.
KING: She's secretary of state of Florida. Peter Jennings will be with us tomorrow night.
She's -- where did you go? You were just out of the country, right?
HARRIS: For New Years, our anniversary, we went to Morocco.
KING: Did they know you there?
HARRIS: They said, we watch CNN. We know you there. I should have worn a veil, I guess.
KING: They know you wherever Katherine Harris goes.
HARRIS: It'll be short-lived. I imagine it'll taper off very quickly.
KING: But you're going to stay active.
HARRIS: I will stay active.
KING: Right. Now what can we do about making voting better? I mean, you would think with a nation with all of this technology, this should never happen.
HARRIS: You're right. Unfortunately, all of the voting systems that are available to us today have strengths and weaknesses. And so, what we're going to focus on in the elections task force right now is to determine what's the best voting system.
My strongest intent -- my strongest will, in terms of making Florida's voting systems the model system for the nation, would be to choose a system that will make the will of the voter self-evident. However, the legislature has to balance limited resources and costs with everything else that they budget.
So, in our budget -- in our supplemental budget, we're going to add funding because we've never had the ability -- this has always been a local issue. So supervisors of elections will be able to...
KING: You can't tell the supervisor of election, "Here's our system"?
HARRIS: Actually, no. The supervisors of elections in our state are independently elected in each county. They're constitutional officers, so they determine their ballot and they determine their voting systems.
But we can create incentives through funding if they -- when they go a certain way, you know, if they'll move towards these updated machines that we'll try to assist in the funding. And I'll go to D.C. and fight for federal funding too, if it's available.
KING: Can the -- if the federal government spent enough, let's put it -- maybe this is awkward. Shouldn't someone voting in Denver be faced with the same apparatus as someone voting in Pensacola?
HARRIS: A uniform voting system would be excellent.
KING: Why not?
HARRIS: But it still comes back to local control. And one would hope that that would be apparent but it comes back to local...
KING: What we want is honest -- we want an honest count, right?
KING: That's all we want.
HARRIS: We want the will of the voter to be able to be counted.
KING: How come ATM machines? They work.
HARRIS: Well, again, I think the issue still is an issue of data integrity, data security, and the fact that you don't have a specific ballot if you will for each vote, that it could counted manually if that were the case.
We still have -- some people are less comfortable with computerized systems so we have to deal with that issue. As I said, there are strengths and weaknesses in every system and this type of touch-screen voting, if you will, is very expensive.
But I think it's very important and so we'll continue to push. We'll advocate these issues before the legislature and with the governor's task force. And never before has the country and certainly our legislature and other legislators been more interested in making certain our voting systems are reflecting the vote of the people.
KING: Do you think it's going to happen? Do you think we will see uniform voting in your lifetime?
HARRIS: In my lifetime, yes. In the next two or four years, no. I mean that's a federal issue. And I would just hope that as the system is perfected, everyone would want to go to that. But presently, there's not one system that doesn't have, as I said, the strengths and weaknesses so that's the disparity in making choices. KING: Were you surprised when you saw what looked like irregularities, or looked weird? Buchanan -- those votes in Palm Beach; did that surprise you?
HARRIS: There were so many surprises in this election. Every two hours, there were surprises and twists and turns every day.
KING: Something every day. The Florida Supreme Court surprised you.
HARRIS: They really did. We had...
KING: You know them all, right?
HARRIS: I do. I do.
When we had gone before Judge Lewis and he said we couldn't act arbitrary, we actually came back to the office. And when you looked at the statutes and consult staff or those who had written the law, they said, "This says that you have discretion, and it means if there is a natural disaster." But I was concerned and they were concerned that Judge Lewis wouldn't think that was enough to not be arbitrary.
So, at that point, my attorneys were all discussing this. I said, "Wait a minute, I have an idea. If it's a bad idea, just stop me. But listen to this," and I said, "You go research the statutes and case law and come back to me tomorrow with every possible reason for a manual recount that's justified by law.
"In the meantime, I'll call every supervisor of elections and write and fax them, the one's that are considering the manual recounts, and ask them to tell me by 2:00 tomorrow why they need a manual recount and if the twain shall meet, then you know, we'll live and die by the sword."
The attorneys came back with, if it was a natural disaster, if there were mechanical error or there were fraud. But all the supervisors of elections testified there was not mechanical error, no fraud, no natural disaster. They just desired one. So from that standpoint, we didn't feel that we had the authority to grant a manual recount.
KING: Would you have rather have granted a manual recount? Would that have given us a better -- a more honest or a better total result?
HARRIS: Well, certainly we had to work with the laws as they existed. But I think you'll find that the legislature is going to fine-tune our statutes such that it won't just be -- if it affects the entire state, then perhaps the recount should look to the entire state. But it will be a uniform...
KING: Because that's what the United States Supreme Court said, right; something's wrong but you don't have time to correct?
HARRIS: ... standard when they're counting county by county, those kinds of issues. But all of that type of speculation or opportunity was completely outside my authority.
HARRIS: And, in fact, when we -- when we did that give that opinion back to Terry Lewis, Judge Lewis, he said, "You didn't act in an arbitrary fashion." So we really felt -- so that was why it was so surprising. And when the Supreme Court said I didn't follow their law, no, I didn't because they just wrote it, you know? They had written new law and created new opportunities for recount.
KING: Well, a lot of people played it up. The one decision you did make, you could have let Palm Beach go until Monday.
KING: Instead, you called it Sunday.
HARRIS: That was such a tough issue. The Supreme Court came back and said, "If you come into work on Sunday, you certify it at 5:00. If you come -- certify the next day."
I wasn't quite sure why they did that. But in the interest of the country, everybody was so concerned. And the other county -- Broward had completed their count, there was no consideration that they wouldn't make it by Sunday since they had extended it to Sunday.
And we didn't want to look as though we were dragging our feet and not trying to do our job. So, everybody came back from Thanksgiving. We opened the office on Sunday.
We announced, as soon as the U.S. Supreme -- the Florida Supreme Court said that, that, indeed, we would certify on Sunday. So, everyone knew ahead of time we would certify on Sunday.
Interestingly enough, when Palm Beach came back, they said that in only two more hours they would be ready. It was several days before the results were turned. And even at that point they didn't certify them to us. So, it wasn't two hours.
KING: So you always wanted an honest count?
HARRIS: Yes. And we had to follow the law. If I extended two hours, or two days, or two weeks, or... KING: The law gave you no leeway?
HARRIS: I -- absolutely -- if I were in any way inconsistent to the left, or the right, then all bets were off.
KING: Do you think you should have gone on television, then, earlier and explained some of this frankly...
HARRIS: I thought I came -- went on television every time it was important to let the nation, or...
KING: ... including -- you weren't on an interview on this, kind of, relaxed, sort of, setting where you could, where we could have known you better? HARRIS: Well, actually, that's exactly why I didn't. I thought that it was my job to administer the law. And with all the heckling and, you know, jokes, I didn't want to get into that because that was getting off point.
The most important issue I could address was administering the law. And I was going to wrap myself in the law and be faithful to the law. Someone asked me, "Well, didn't you feel hostage?" And actually I felt that in the law, I was only place I was set free. That was my safe harbor.
KING: Did you agree with the law?
HARRIS: That's a good question. I hadn't really thought if I agreed, or disagreed. I just followed the law. I wasn't -- you know, I don't write the law.
KING: Would you change it now?
HARRIS: Oh, there are a lot of things that are changing. In fact, we have a legislative package that we'll present to the legislature with specific changes that are -- that are absolutely necessary.
KING: We'll be right back with Katherine Harris, secretary of state of Florida. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HARRIS: I've decided it is my duty, under Florida law, to exercise my discretion in denying these requested amendments. The reasons given and their requests are insufficient to warrant waiver of the unambiguous filing deadline imposed by the Florida legislature.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: By the time it was over, our candidate had won the popular vote, and the only way they could win the election was to stop the voting in Florida.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Did that hurt you, to hear the president say that?
HARRIS: No. I was just sorry that he got involved in that, as president, you know, at this point. We followed the law. I don't think our president of the United States would want me to go against the law.
It's interesting, so many people said I was courageous. And I always said, "It shouldn't be an act of courage, in this country, to follow the law."
KING: Have you spoken to President-elect Bush since?
HARRIS: No, I have not.
KING: Not at all?
HARRIS: No, I haven't.
KING: You'll see him at the inaugural, I presume.
HARRIS: Yes, yes indeed.
KING: You're going to the inaugural?
HARRIS: Yes, I'm going.
KING: I want to ask you what you're going to wear. So did Mr. Blackwell. We'll ask about that in a minute.
Sag Harbor, New York, hello.
CALLER: Thank you, Mr. King...
CALLER: ... for your unique forum.
Secretary Harris, it appears you've modified your tone of makeup.
You clearly are intelligent, a good thinker, well-informed. You happen to be attractive and well-groomed. Did you find it has been necessary, or appropriate to react to the superficial comments and observations about your appearance? Did you find yourself put in a position that a man never would?
KING: Good question.
HARRIS: Well, the main thing that really bothered me, when I was in Tallahassee, and I'd watch my -- the men, who went to be on TV, and speak. They had on three times as much makeup as I ever had, and the press said nothing about them. But...
KING: You think it's true, society still treats women differently, right?
HARRIS: Well it's a...
KING: A man would never get criticized for -- come on.
HARRIS: It's -- as a professional woman, this -- these things happen, but it -- particularly...
KING: Did it annoy you? HARRIS: ... in politics. Well, I thought it was silly. I mean -- and I also felt that, after going through my background, and education, and every job I'd had, people I had dated, if this was the worst thing they could say -- that I don't apply makeup very well, well then, literally, thank God, you know. It was OK. It was OK.
KING: What did you make of Mr. Blackwell, putting you on the 10 worst dressed...
HARRIS: Ten worst -- I was number 10. I loved it. The moniker...
KING: You loved it?
HARRIS: I did. He -- it was great. His moniker said the -- he said I was pretty. The press has never said I was pretty. He said the pretty, brassy, lassie from Tallahassee. And I loved that. And in fact, then, two days ago, he was taking me off. And I don't want him to. I was in great company. And I think we could have a fundraiser with those women. And we could do a before and after...
KING: Bring them all down in one place.
HARRIS: ... have Blackwell come and judge. I think it would be awesome.
KING: So, you could look at things with good spirit, when you were kidded in good spirit, right?
HARRIS: Well, seriously, I was very happy with the company that he put me in. I've never been in such awesome...
KING: Bloomington, Illinois, hello.
CALLER: How are you doing?
CALLER: I'd like to know what your -- what do you think this is going to your political future?
KING: Good question, too.
HARRIS: That is a very good question. Unfortunately, I haven't always worked on my political future, maybe, like most do. I just believe that if I continue to do a good job, be very ambitious for Florida, then things will take care of themselves.
I have an extraordinary family, and a wonderful husband. I came from a business background in the private sector. So, there's always that great chance to go back, as well. So, we'll let the future take care of itself.
KING: But, if you do run again, this will be an issue, I guess. People will -- no matter what office you run for, right? So, you would expect that. But you -- I don't want to make judgments -- you impress me as the kind of person who likes the hunt.
HARRIS: Well, I -- if I'm passionate about an issue, then I won't let go.
KING: That's what I mean. You...
HARRIS: I won't let go.
KING: ... ran for the Senate, over an issue, right?
HARRIS: I ran for the Senate, over an issue, correct -- over the arts, and funding for the arts. And I think that's never been a platform for a senator -- a state senator. But it was very important in my area, in Sarasota -- it's a very cultural community.
And interestingly enough, they're just now discovering, through studies, that whether it's historic preservation, or the arts -- both of which I have responsibility for, as secretary of state -- when a visitor comes to a historic site, an ecological event, or a cultural event, they'll spend 30 percent more than they do on leisure activities. So, there's an economic consequence that's very important, as well.
Also, I just thought I would tell you, as a point of interest -- not many people realize. They think I just do elections. I serve equally with the governor, on the cabinet, handling issues like education, and the environment. Then, I have seven divisions, including elections. I also have the Office of International Affairs, where I cover all the international affairs for the state. I have the cultural and historic preservation. I have libraries. And we started literacy grants, which has been really extraordinary. I have corporations and licensing. So, it's a very diverse office.
KING: And in Florida, the cabinet is equal.
HARRIS: The cabinet is equal, that's correct.
KING: Back with some more moments with Katherine Harris. Don't go away. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR GEORGE W. BUSH, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: The election was close. But tonight, after a count, a recount, and yet another manual recount, Secretary Cheney and I are honored to have won the state of Florida, which gives us the needed electoral votes to win the election.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERT GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are some who would have us bring this election to the fastest conclusion possible. I have a different view. I believe our Constitution matters more than convenience. So, as provided under Florida law, I have decided to contest this inaccurate and incomplete count in order to ensure the greatest possible credibility for the outcome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Did you understand him doing that?
HARRIS: I did. What I didn't understand is early on in one of our issues with our attorneys, we had asked the Florida Supreme Court to consolidate all of the lawsuits and to come up with a uniform standard. If that had occurred, then the protest time would have stayed within its timeframe instead of extending it into the contest time. Because what happened, when the Florida Supreme Court extended the time for manual recounts, it limited the time for a contest.
KING: So, in other words, had that not happened and he followed your bit, we would have been more...
HARRIS: There would have been more time for a contest. And again, all we were doing the whole time was just following the law.
KING: What did you make of the lawyers? Lawyers got famous in this trial.
HARRIS: I thought they were excellent.
KING: Both sides?
HARRIS: Both sides. I was very impressed with the legal representation.
KING: So, you would watch the arguments and say, "That's a good point"?
HARRIS: I learned a lot. I learned a great deal.
KING: How do you like our young friend, Barry Richards?
HARRIS: I think he's fantastic.
KING: We've both known him a long time.
HARRIS: He was just amazing. He called me and said that I should definitely come see you.
KING: And he was right, was he not?
HARRIS: Yes, he was.
KING: We'll be back with our remaining moments with Katherine Harris. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, NBC'S "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE") WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: I've been thinking about my Cabinet. Who do you think would make a better secretary of the interior, Nolan Ryan or the Rock?
ANA GASTEYER, ACTRESS: You're thinking too hard, George. You look tense.
FERRELL: Heck, I just can't wait till all this president junk is over with next week so I can go back to hunting and executing.
GASTEYER: Next week? You know you have to be president for four years.
FERRELL: What? That blows! I'm going to kill Dick Cheney!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You like seeing yourself played like that, funny?
KING: It's funny.
HARRIS: Have to get like, what is it, Botox, or something, so I quit raising this eyebrow. It kind of happens.
It's funny. It's funny. Some of them, as I said, some of them -- as I said, some of them...
KING: When it's funny, it's funny.
HARRIS: Some of them are very, very funny.
KING: Are you worried, fearful, thoughtful about this media count, the Miami Herald, CNN, the New York Times, doing their own count? Under Florida Sunshine laws, they can do that.
HARRIS: My only personal concern is what is going to be the standard for how they're counting?
KING: Well, they say they're going to tell you how they do it...
KING: ... whether they'll be chad counts and mark counts.
HARRIS: Actually, as soon as we heard that, we, our Division of Library Services in charge of all the archives offered every assistance possible, anything we could do to help expedite, or make -- make it easier for everyone.
And, so, no, I'm not concerned. I think that the country wants to know and certainly it's the right of the press to do that count.
KING: Do you think there would be some embarrassment, hypothetically, if Gore won and, say, the Miami Herald, CNN, New York Times, all said, "He won"?
HARRIS: You know, we'll just have to wait and see. Actually, I guess, it was just reported in Miami they counted and Bush picked up votes.
KING: And Bush picked up votes.
HARRIS: But, you know, I don't know. This is -- this is -- part of this has been difficult. Someone, well, there are people that'll always say, "Well, what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger." And I don't know if I agree with that because I've seen people who have been through difficult things and they're either very bitter, or they're broken. But I've also seen people who have gone through things and they're better.
So, I guess my...
KING: How do you think...
HARRIS: ... my goal is that this will make me a better person. I certainly think with all the prayers going on for me all over the country it was really extraordinary. I can't be the same person.
KING: Had to do it all over, what would you do different?
HARRIS: I think about that all the time. I think about that all the time. Perhaps had I been more -- had I come on TV as we had spoken of and talked with you so they would know. But I feel very strongly that I had to keep the focus on the law and not on me. I didn't want to be another talking head.
KING: Even though you realize, in this day and age, that this media, their subject is you. We are the subject. I mean, you know, would you say, safely, that maybe you might have done that in view of this?
HARRIS: Perhaps I would have, in view of that, perhaps I would have come and given more explanation. We gave out media advisories all the time. We kept the press very informed. But I was trying to limit my appearances so that it wouldn't be about me. I only went on TV and I only spoke four times.
KING: I know.
HARRIS: In the meantime, numerous opinions and advisories.
KING: How many people were after you? What was that like?
HARRIS: Well, there were, I guess, quite a few. KING: One of your favorite people is going to follow this program. He's the new host of "CNN TONIGHT," Bill Hemmer, right?
HARRIS: Yes. Yes, indeed.
KING: You told me you thought he was a...
HARRIS: I thought he did an excellent job. CNN had some -- some very, very good reporting and accurate reporting. So, we watched CNN quite often, your legal analysis and the political issues were accurately reported. So, it was good to get that word out. And Bill did an awesome job.
KING: What are you wearing to the inaugural? Which party are you going to, Texas Friday? HARRIS: No, well, I'm not sure. We're -- they're still working on my schedule.
KING: Is there a Florida party?
HARRIS: There is. There is. It's going to be very special.
KING: You'll go to that, of course?
HARRIS: Yes, I wouldn't miss my state.
KING: Do you know what you're wearing so we can let Blackwell know?
HARRIS: Well, I have to get his private advice first. You'll just have to wait and see.
KING: Great having you with us.
HARRIS: Thank you, so much, Larry. I appreciate it.
KING: Bill Hemmer's off tonight. There's a special on called, "UNFINISHED WAR." You be sure to watch that. And be sure to check out my new web site. Hey, how about that? Join me for an online chat tomorrow at 4:00 Eastern, www.CNN/LarryKing.com. Hope you'll join in with me. I don't even know how we do this, but it should be a lot of fun. I'm don't -- very knowledge -- do you know about computers?
HARRIS: Love it.
KING: You do?
HARRIS: Use to work for IBM.
KING: Ah, I meet another one in my life. Thanks very much for joining us. Stay tuned for the special. See you tomorrow night with Peter Jennings and on the web at 4:00 Eastern. Good night.
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