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Capital Gang

Which Side Has the Advantage in Historic Election 2000 Showdown?

Aired November 11, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to a special one-hour edition of THE CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields, with the full gang: Robert Novak, Kate O'Beirne and Margaret Carlson, and in New York City, Al Hunt.

When election night yielded no winner, the leaders of the two presidential campaigns turned to the Florida vote count.


WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: We believe this requires the full attention of the courts in Florida and concerned citizens all around our country. If the will of the people is to prevail, Al Gore should be awarded a victory in Florida and be our next president.


DONALD EVANS, BUSH CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: The Democrats, who are politicizing and these distorting events, risk doing so at the expense of our democracy. One of the options that they seem to be looking at is new elections. Our Democratic process calls for a vote on Election Day. It does not call us to continue voting until someone likes outcome.


SHIELDS: But yesterday, the Gore campaign chairman softened his tone.


DALEY: I hope that our friends in the Bush campaign will join us in our efforts to get the fairest and most accurate vote count here in Florida.


SHIELDS: Today, the Bush campaign sought a federal injunction to stop the hand counts in Florida.


JAMES BAKER, BUSH CAMPAIGN OBSERVER: The potential for mischief would exist to a far greater degree than in the automated count and recount that these very ballots have already been subjected to.



WARREN CHRISTOPHER, GORE CAMPAIGN OBSERVER: If Governor Bush truly believes that he has won the election in Florida, he should not have any reason to doubt or to fear to have the machine count checked by a hand count.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, which side has the advantage in this truly historic showdown?

ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": The Gore side has the advantage. And that's why you're seeing some long Republican faces, Mark. Very quickly, after the period nobody would be declared the winner on Tuesday night, they found that in Broward County, Florida, there were several ballots that had not been punched all the way through and that was the opening.

A heavily Democratic county, if they could get not only a recount, but a hand recount, they could have the inspector say, boy, it looks like there might be an indentation there or maybe somebody made a circle. They would detect the wishes of the voters. Now, you say how can the Republican poll watcher permit that to happen.

Well, he'll vote no, but the three-person canvassing committee would say yes. And that's why they went to court, I think very reluctantly, but what other option do they have? Mark, you and I interviewed the chairman of the Republican National Committee, Jim Nicholson on "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS" today, and I asked him, do you think they're trying to steal the election? He virtually gave an answer yes, and that is the feeling by the Republican Party right now.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt in New York, the feeling of the Republican Party: nervousness?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": Mark, there is no crisis. There's no riot in the streets. There's no cities -- paralyzed cities that are threatened by missiles. I mean, this is a phony crisis. We're just simply trying to find out which candidate got the most votes in the state of Florida. It was decided by less than 1/100 of 1 percent of the vote. And, you know, hand counts are commonplace. I believe they do it Texas.

Certainly did it in New Mexico, and that's all we're trying to find out right now. And I think to try to say somebody is stealing the election is phony. I think that is a widespread perception in the GOP, just as in the Democratic Party there's perception that they're being cheated out of this victory. That perception is unfortunate. I don't think it's the reality, at least as of now.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, the Bush folks agreed to a hand count in Seminole County where George Bush picked up seats.

KATE O'BEIRNE, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Let me just back up a minute. Bill Daley gave the game away when he made that outrageous statement this week on behalf of Al Gore. If the will of the people is to prevail, Al Gore will be awarded a victory in Florida and the presidency. What is he saying? He's saying if Bush would have Florida electors, he stole it. He's saying that if this doesn't work ought the way Al Gore wants, it's illegitimate. I mean, what an outrageous thing to say.

There's been a count. There's been a recount. Machines aren't perfect, but they are non-partisan. This mistakes they make are at random, cut against both parties. The hand count has to be political. Well, it already has been. First of all, they're only hand counting in four Democratic counties. Secondly, in Palm Beach County, they voted should we allow a hand count? The Dems said yes, the Republicans said no.

The judge in Palm Beach County who has stopped sending ballots to Tallahassee, can't certificate ballots, the vote until Tuesday, her husband worked for the Clinton-Gore administration and he husband makes political donations to Al Gore. I mean, this is Recusal 101 but that Circuit Court Judge Crowle (ph) in Palm Beach County didn't reduce herself. They should stick with the count, the recount and absentees period, because a hand count will not be any more reliable and commits all sorts of both human error and human manipulation.

SHIELDS: I wish that Governor Bush had had the benefit of Kate O'Beirne's insightful counsel when he signed the bill in Texas this year authorizing it, OK, hand counts as the best way to resolve disputes, Margaret.

MARGARET CARLSON, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Right. One of the things -- I agree with you on one thing. The campaign people should not be out there. The campaign is over. This is for someone else to -- you know, the dullest man in the world, Warren Christopher and James Baker, not quite as dull, but two secretaries of state.

Whenever Karl Rove or Karen Hughes or Bill Daley is out there, it seems like the election is going on. What's still going on is the count to see where the election stands and what Bill Daley was saying is that what we know now is that there were enough anomalies in the voting, and people were thwarted enough by a ballot that was inadvertently, innocently difficult to follow, that we need to look at and see where we stand in an election this close. Gore didn't insist on that first count. That's not like a count that the Gore people are insisting on.


O'BEIRNE: No, the first count was legitimate.

CARLSON: That's an automatic recount. And what they found were enough anomalies that they are going to take a sample by hand which as you pointed, out Governor George Bush, thinks is a good idea...

NOVAK: Margaret, with all due respect, that just isn't the way it was being done. My sources, and I do have some Democratic sources, told me long before the count was completed, before it was -- virtually before it was started, the mechanical count, exactly what was going to happen, that they were going to depend on not so much the Palm Beach County but the Broward County ballots, which were blank, and they were going to interpret them because there was an indentation as having voted.

See, it isn't just a simple count, and the reason the Democrats are now saying, well, it's -- let's just have a fair count, they know they've got a rigged deck, particularly when the deadline has as passed on hand counts in Republican counties.

CARLSON: You can't rig the count. And if they wanted...

NOVAK: Yes, you can rig it. It you really can.

CARLSON: If they wanted a count in their favor, those 19,000 ballots that have been uncertified because they were punched twice are the ones that would go to Gore, disproportionally,because those were Buchanan-Gore ballots and those are just thrown out.

HUNT: Mark, can I weigh in a little bit? I mean, when Kate O'Beirne, my dear friend, goes through all this, you know, this stacked political deck and everything, Kate, the secretary of state in Florida, the ultimate person in charge of this is a Bush crony who campaigned for Jeb bush, a crony who campaigned for George Bush in New Hampshire. I mean, the Bush people come out and say, Palm beach, which is the source of 3,400 Buchanan votes is a Buchanan stronghold. Pat and Bay Buchanan, to their great credit, say that's nonsense.

Jim Baker's only trying to prove how tough he is because he fell out of favor with the Bush's. I mean, there is certainly - I mean, don't try to say one side is somehow behaving better than the other because they aren't.

O'BEIRNE: I don't see how anyone can justify a hand count in four overwhelmingly democratic counties and not throughout the state, which, of course, would tie us up for how long. This week, 120,000 ballots were invalidated in Cook County. It happens all the time. Right, we don't promise -- OK -- perfect elections. We do the best we can.

SHIELDS: We do promise that people's votes will be counted. That's a basic, fundamental responsibility of democracy. It is as old, Bob, you know and I do, if you go in those machines are imperfect; if you're talking about a hand count, all you have to do is bring in -- I don't care if it's federal marshals just to have that thing done fairly, we're going to have the press available, lets just be...

NOVAK: Why not do it with whole state?

SHIELDS: Make the whole state... NOVAK: But that isn't being done -- just a minute.

SHIELDS: That is perfectly fine to do the whole state, but Al Hunt made the key point: What is this rush to judgment that Jim Baker has to prove how macho he is? Bob, let me just say -- I listened very patiently -- let me just say one thing, and that is: We have 10 weeks until the inaugural. We have 5 1/2 weeks to the Electoral College. We have a president who constitutionally is there, who's healthy, who's smart as a whip, he likes the job, and there's no crisis.

NOVAK: Mark, can I just say one thing.

SHIELDS: Quickly.

NOVAK: Bill Daley said -- our friend, our mutual friend Bill Daley -- said on television it was too late to go into hand counting the other counties; we've got our counties, you're out of luck, Republicans and that's the Chicago way of doing it; believe me.

CARLSON: You have a certain amount of time to request it, but they didn't.

NOVAK: Tough luck for America!

SHIELDS: Bob, back to Joliet. The gang will be back with a broader look at Tuesday's vote for president.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

The still incomplete national returns show Al Gore leading George W. Bush by 223,000 votes out of 100 million cast. What had each side done wrong?


SCOTT REED, FORMER DOLE CAMPAIGN MANAGER: I think if Bush loses, there'll be some questions about their electoral strategy, that it may have been spread a little too thin.



CELINDA LAKE, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER: Among white, blue-collar men, they favor overwhelmingly the populist themes. My argument would be, I don't think they've heard them very clearly.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, did Bush or Gore run the better campaign?

CARLSON: Well, in part, it depends who wins Florida. Both of them may be wishing at this very moment that they had gone to more early bird specials at Howard Johnson's in Florida. Now, before the election, I thought Bush had run the better one because he just stuck to his themes. He was on the on the high road, he never gave up on honesty, integrity -- I'm a uniter not a divider.

You had no question what he was about; and he stole some Democratic issues and harped on them without harping on the solutions, of which he had none. His mistake at the end, I think he will regret having taken a victory lap in California, which was not a victory lap, it was a waste of time -- unless there's a recount and he finds out he won it.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, there's no question that Al Gore closed fast and closed the gap; so does that make him a better candidate?

NOVAK: No, I think -- you know, I talk to Democrats, they think he ran a terrible campaign and thought he was a terrible candidate. And Republicans thought that George W. Bush ran a good campaign but he was not very articulate in pushing his position.

I'd say where they lost, though, they lost in what the politicians call -- or not lost, they lost ground on what the politicians call the ground game. And the ground game is getting people to the polls. A UAW van pulls up to your house and they tell you get in there buddy and go and vote, that's different than a postcard from the Republican Committee.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, I have to say one thing, Bob Novak's description of get-out-the-vote, which is always intriguing, overlooks the fact that the Bush campaign's chief strategies Karl Rove announced on national television the weekend before, we'll win in a walk. You talk about taking the energy and sense of urgency out of any campaign, that will do it.

HUNT: And we have a much better ground game, he also told Bob.

Look, I think, if you look carefully you'd have to conclude that these were two pretty pathetic candidacies. I mean, Al Gore had the best economy in our lifetime, running against a guy with a mediocre record and he couldn't win easily, he couldn't even carry his own home state. George W. Bush's campaign, as Margaret said, made some classic miscalculations, spending $9 million as well as four days, between the two candidates, in California.

And there's depending on Ralph Nader to try to eke out a victory here. I think these were two very, very weak candidates.

SHIELDS: Kate: but we're guaranteed, regardless of how bad the campaign either side might have run, that whoever is the loser emerges as the shadow president, denied the presidency and almost the inevitable nominee for his party next time.

O'BEIRNE: I don't think Al Gore think he's the inevitable nominee in 2004 if he doesn't make it this time.

Let me second guess again, for a moment -- join everybody else in second guessing. I think Senator Connie Mack now looks like a swell running mate for George Bush in retrospect, from Florida.

SHIELDS: Well I am, too.


O'BEIRNE: And George Bush does have Clinton to thank to some extent. There was definitely a Clinton fatigue going on, but also look at the vote of Cuban-Americans in Florida -- 40 percent of them went for Clinton-Gore in 1996, not less than 20 percent for Joe Lieberman and Al Gore. So it looks as though Lazaro Gonzalez' revenge helped George Bush in Florida.

But basically the electorate broke out rural, urban, white, black, married, single, religious, not religious; that is a very deep divide, and they supported their candidates. They got their partisans to the polls and not too many of the weak voters.

SHIELDS: Seventeen states divided by less than 5 percent: closest national election ever. Diverse states -- I mean, just incredible.

O'BEIRNE: Deep divisions.

SHIELDS: Not deep divisions, clear divisions; but there's no polarizing division in the country, and I say two words to George Bush tonight: Tom Ridge.

Next on CAPITAL GANG, Republicans keep control of Congress -- barely.


SHIELDS: Welcome back.

For the third straight election Republicans won control of both houses of Congress, but by the narrowest of margins. Democrats won a net of three Senate seats, cutting the Republican lead to 50 to 49 with the outcome in Washington state yet to be determined.


SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D) MINORITY LEADER: Power sharing is a unique concept. We recognize, and I hope they recognize, that the only way the Congress will accomplish anything is through bipartisanship.



SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R), CHAIRMAN, NATIONAL REP. SENATE COMMITTEE: No one is anywhere near 60 and any measure in the Senate that is even remotely controversial now requires you to get 60, not just 51. So I think, just as the situation now, it will require bipartisan cooperation to advance any agenda.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SHIELDS: In the House the Republican net loss was at least three seats, lowering the GOP majority to as few as seven seats.


REP. DENNIS HASTERT (R), HOUSE SPEAKER: Clearly we have to reach across the aisle and try to do things on a bipartisan basis.



REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D) MINORITY LEADER: We want to get things done for the American people.

We will work with the other side to get these things done.


SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, will we really see less partisanship on Capitol Hill?

O'BEIRNE: The only thing I think we can safely predicted is extreme bitterness on Capitol Hill. What's already happened in the presidential race is going to leave one side feeling deep wronged. But I think we have to note the remarkable achievement of House Republicans. Dick Gephardt, on his third try, promising his members they were going to get back in the majority, failed. The Republicans pretty much confined their losses to out in California; they picked up six Democratic seats. They were supposed to be an endangered species, House Republicans, and they did really well this time.

SHIELDS: Al Hunt, did the Republicans do really well this time?

HUNT: Well, I think Denny Hastert deserves some credit, not so much for the election, but the way he managed the end of the session, which avoided a debacle which a lot of Republicans feared. I think you've got to give him credit. Dick Gephardt is terribly disappointed.

On the other side I think Tom Daschle is ecstatic and I think his power sharing case is solid and I think that Trent Lott is in real trouble. He may not be unseated because there's no one to beat him. But finally, I'll just say, you know, I've got good news and bad news for Bob Novak. The goods news, Bob, is that Hillary Clinton won and, as I said, you'll be able to write about her all the time. I'm saying you'll have at least 10 mentions in your columns or commentaries by the end of the year. But secondly, Bob, on any mandate for that tax cut, there may be a tax reduction, but Bob, listen to me: Read my lips, no big tax cut for you.

SHIELDS: Bob, what about it?

NOVAK: Read my lips: There's going to be a repeal of the estate tax if George Bush doesn't have the election taken away from him. If Al Gore -- please. If Al Gore is the president there won't be an estate tax -- you know, when you hear about power sharing and bipartisanship, please don't think of people sitting down with each other and reasoning together. There's all kinds of things going on behind the scenes right now; the conservative Republicans trying to get the blue dog Democrats over, the Democrats trying to get the liberal Republicans over, trying to get the other people in. It's going to be, perhaps different, but not less partisan.

SHIELDS: Less partisan, Margaret?

CARLSON: I mean, Denny Hastert should get a badge of honor from his colleagues for how he's handled things. He's a sweetheart compared to Newt Gingrich, and he did a lot to help them out. The reason there's not going to be bipartisanship is Trent Lott. And, as Al says, he's not going to be ousted.

Let me tell you, Hillary Clinton, this week, it's her first act, said, well, I look forward to being a uniter not a divider and reaching across the aisle. Trent Lott snaps back saying this, I'll tell you one thing: When this Hillary gets to the Senate, if she does, maybe lightning will strike and she won't, she will be one of 100 and we won't let her forget it.

SHIELDS: Doesn't sound liked bipartisanship to me, Al Hunt.

I have to say in closing, the only problem with Bob Novak's estate tax is you have to die to get it.

The gang of five will be back with the "Outrage of the Week."


SHIELDS: Now for the "Outrage of the Week" -- Robert Novak.

NOVAK: Truly remarkable that first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is now a U.S. Senator, her first elective office, elected from New York, a state where she never lived. Might this unusual rookie senator show a little restraint? Not our Hillary. Three days after the election, she called for a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College. I bet the junior senator from New York will provide many outrages in the years ahead, though none so outrageous as her election.

SHIELDS: Bob's commitment to democracy continues to amazes me.

On the subject of new Senator Clinton, the ever-objective Bob Novak had this to say.


NOVAK: She is scary. I don't scare easily, but she scares the hell out of me. That's Madame DuFarge (ph). I thought she is so sinister...


SHIELDS: Now, when you know that Mr. Novak has been a strong defender of certifiable thugs like Nicaragua's Dobeson (ph), Chile's Pinochet and the colonels in the Haitian Junta, you really have an outrage.

CARLSON: Do I scare you Bob? My outrage of the week, sadly, is me. I made a flippant remark about the military which offended many people and I regret it. Whatever tax breaks people who risk their lives get is not enough. The military, the police and teachers should get paid the most. Lawyers, investment bankers and pundits the least.

My older brother worked for the Navy for 25 years. My father served in World War II and worked for the Navy for 30 years. I can't apologize to him, but I apologize to everyone else.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne.

O'BEIRNE: Reverend Jessie Jackson is marching on Florida, claiming it is the new Selma and making wild claims about voters being disenfranchised. In March, Houston was Selma when Jackson was protesting in support of race-preference programs. In December, students being punished for fighting at an Illinois football game -- you guessed it: Selma. The use of the struggle of civil rights to register phony outrage is an outrage.


HUNT: Mark, Missouri's democratic senatorial candidate Mel Carnahan died in a plane crash last month, but show-me state citizens elected him anyway, knowing that his widow Jean would take the seat. But lacking the decency to accept this, Missouri's other senator, Republican Kit Bond, called for the FBI to investigate, quote, "a criminal enterprise to defraud voters," end quote. The offense: a judge kept some St. Louis polls open a few hours late so long lines of inner city citizens could vote.

That, to the graceless Senator Bond, is a criminal enterprise.

SHIELDS: This special one hour edition of THE CAPITAL GANG will be back to look more closely at Al Gore, at George W. Bush and at the future of the Electoral College.


SHIELDS: Welcome back to the second half of our special CAPITAL GANG.

As the Gore campaign mobilized to turn around the Florida vote, Al Gore came under pressure from Democratic Party stalwarts not to prolong this fight indefinitely. Al Hunt, what do you think the vice president of the United States will do?

HUNT: Mark, I think he's going to continue pursue what -- that there's a legitimate chance without any kind of protracted struggle that they can prove that a plurality of Floridians last Tuesday voted for Al Gore. And I think that is supported by real Democratic leaders: Tom Daschle, Dick Gephardt, Chris Dodd, Bob Gramm. I think it's only a few headline-hunters and deal-makers who are carping. If, a week from now or two weeks from now, one of these candidates, say is ahead by a couple thousand votes in Florida, I think they'll be intense pressure on them to concede whether that is Bush or Gore.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, what about it?

O'BEIRNE: Well, as I said, Gore told us what he's up to and Bill Daley said anything less than victory in Florida for Al Gore is illegitimate. We're on notice. Now they're having this selective recount in counties only he picked that can only benefit him.

Al Gore is reinforcing that notion that he will do and say anything. When he himself cites his plurality in the popular vote, that is so dishonest. First of all, it's not final. Second of all, in the popular vote, he's less than one half of one percent, his plurality. That would trigger an automatic recount if it were Florida, which, of course, he has every right to in Florida. I mean, it's in the error zone. Thirdly, it's irrelevant.

These candidates did not campaign for the popular vote. Had they, for all we know George Bush would be up two million votes and no president's ever been elected with the popular vote alone. What he's trying to do is build legitimacy based on that thin, thin plurality that could not -- might not hold up in order to put pressure on George Bush that he's willing to do and say anything.

SHIELDS: Last time I checked, Al Gore is ahead in both the popular vote and the electoral vote, Margaret.

CARLSON: Yes, that's right. It's been, you know, in the corner of the screen all week. Listen, there has been a prima facie case made that there have mistakes in the ballot in Florida. Asking, even if you have to go to court, for a recount is not a constitutional crisis. We have a close election. They're looking at the ballots.

You know, this idea that this is something, you know, that's going to cause some kind of revolt because you're asking to have this looked at, is preposterous, and going to courts is what we do in this country, looking for dispassionate judge to look at a set of facts, and come to conclusion. It isn't there yet, but the Bush people act as if it's some huge ordeal. And they're the ones who ended up going there first. Twice.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, what should Al Gore do?

NOVAK: Margaret, what he should do -- I don't know. He wants to be president very badly, so he is doing everything he...

CARLSON: Surprise.

NOVAK: Of course, but the problem is started that when they decided just weren't go going for a mechanical recount, that the Gore people were going to go into a battle mode to try to make sure they won the election by manipulating these votes in these heavily Democratic counties in Florida. That's the truth. You don't like it, Margaret, but that's what's happening.


CARLSON: IT's not battle, it's a count.

NOVAK: Margaret, you and Al say there is no crisis, and I agree with you there is no crisis. But I'm telling you, things are deteriorating. First place, the markets have been going down. The people -- I was up in New York the other night talking to a lot of financial people, and a lot of them just want to get done.

They would much rather have Bush than Gore, but they'll take Gore in a minute rather than this. And I'll tell you something else. That this manipulation of the vote and this perception of a stolen vote is serious business. And you can you can say, mark, that it's just an honest count, but there is a bad taste in the mouths of about 50 million Americans right now.


HUNT: Let me just tell you this, Mark. Can I just jump in for a second? I mean, I'm sorry about Bob Novak's portfolio and we all hope it holds up.

But, Bob, let me just explain something to you. There's an equal number of Americans right now who worry that they're being cheated on the other side, and to suggest that one side is culpable here, not the other -- there is no difference between what Bill Daley said and what Jim Baker said. Both have declared an end to this election before the process is finished. And Karl Rove is going out lying about various things and somehow that's acceptable. I'm sorry, you cannot say there's a difference in behavior here.

SHIELDS: And I have to say, talk about battle mode. When you say two days earlier in nine different communications I get from Bush people and Republican people saying, they're against Al Gore going to court and he ought to be condemned for it, then they go to court themselves.

That is rank hypocrisy and let me just say, Bob, you talk about battle mode, my conservative friends, who pride themselves on being populists, don't want the votes counted, that's for sure.


NOVAK: That's not true. It's just not true at all.

O'BEIRNE: That's not true.

SHIELDS: That is for sure, And secondly, in conclusion let me just say you're always extolling the virtues of local government. Now you don't believe in local government. Now you can't have it both ways. You want to go to federal judge.

NOVAK: Mark, that's strictly campaign spin.

SHIELDS: It is. NOVAK: This is something that was devised by national people. They saw, very cleverly, a way to win this thing. I really believe, as far as I know, maybe there'll be a surprise, that the Bush people were taken by surprise. If they had asked for the hand count in all of these big Republican counties, obviously there be increased Republican vote but that is not the way to elect a president.


O'BEIRNE: Republicans said they would abide by a count, a statewide recount, including absentee ballots. The Democrats have never said any such thing and the Democrats went into court in front of a judge married to Clinton appointee, in order to overturn the vote, change the vote. The Republicans going in to freeze the vote.

SHIELDS: Does it make you at all curious...

HUNT: The governor of Florida is George Bush's brother, Kate.


O'BEIRNE: He's not a circuit judge in Palm Beach County he's taking recounts, AL.

SHIELDS: We're all curious, Kate. When there are 15,000 fewer votes cast for president in a county than there are in the U.S. Senate race...


O'BEIRNE: That's one county. What about the other counties in Florida that we're not looking at.

SHIELDS: Let us do it. Let's go.


O'BEIRNE: You can't.

NOVAK: You can't.

CARLSON: There are anomalies that cannot be explained, other than with a ballot that was inadvertently, perhaps innocently, confusing.


O'BEIRNE: No do-overs. The same goes for everybody. No do- overs.

SHIELDS: OK, the Gang of Five will be back to look at the premature, entirely premature, Bush transition.


SHIELDS: We're back. George W. Bush wants transition publicly speculating about the personnel in his administration, meeting with prospective cabinet members such as General Colin Powell and former Federal Reserve Governor Lawrence Lindsey.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Should the verdict that has been announced thus far be confirmed, we will be ready. And I think that's what the country needs to know, that this administration will be ready to assume office, and be prepared to lead.


SHIELDS: Gore spokesman assailed Governor Bush for presuming too much. Margaret Carlson, is this a profile in arrogance?

CARLSON: While we're waiting to see why all these Palm Beach Jews voted for Pitchfork Pat, both sides should be in neutral. Now, Al Gore played touch football with the little aura of the Kennedys, but George Bush did a whole tableau of transition, as if the Austin mansion was the set of "West Wing."

And he had people sitting around just they way thy do in the Oval Office. He had this lovely dining room scene where he's having lunch with his vice president like -- guess who, those Clinton/Gore weekly lunches and instead of the peanut butter jelly he loves, they had chilled squash, pureed soup, and on and on. It was all very elegant. And I don't think he was playing video games and taking naps as he was putting this all out. So, possession, 9/10 of law -- he acted like he owned the White House.

SHIELDS: Bob, I had conservatives tell me they thought it was a little bit too much too early.

NOVAK: Well, I think they have to do some transition because they're not -- he's not vice president of the United States. There has to be preparation, but obviously it doesn't have to be done with cameras, and photo-ops. See, both sides cannot believe the campaign is over.

And I hear these spokesmen getting out there, and they -- they believe there is going to be another vote or something or another or somehow or another these ballots with these indentations on them are somehow -- if they can if they can argue with them, they can come to life. But as a matter of fact, what they're trying to do is validate the result of this election for American people, and you may think that this is just -- you may think, Mark, this isn't difficult. It's going to be very hard, and I'll be even-handed, for either side sell the results of this election.

SHIELDS: And that's why I, Al, I'm very much in favor of a full by hand, exhaustive, under judicial watch, under press openness, of every county.

NOVAK: Of every county.

SHIELDS: Every county.


HUNT: Actually, Mark, I go further. I think we'd be much better off having Florida revote if both side would agree which, of course, they will not. I agree with Margaret, I thought those were -- I thought they'd rented those sets from "The West Wing," except they didn't look as presidential as they do in "The West Wing." I don't know if it was arrogant, I just thought it was inept.

But you know, I am struck a little bit by the piety here because as my conservative friends know, the day before this election, if George Bush had won popular vote and lost the electoral college, they were preparing a public relations and political blitz to try to change that perfectly legitimate outcome.

NOVAK: I'd like somebody to prove that to me. I've heard that from you, Al, I've heard that from Mark, I haven't heard it from any real people.


NOVAK: And I would really like to see some proof of that, because I have never heard of it from anybody, and I suspect it.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne, haven't you heard it?

O'BEIRNE: No! We're traditionalists, we like the Electoral College.

HUNT: No, not you Kate, not you -- the Bush people were planning it.

O'BEIRNE: No; you know what, the idea of a Florida state election -- just confined to Florida for the president of the United States is absolutely ridiculous, absurd.

NOVAK: You know what we ought to do, we ought to have a whole revote of the whole country, but what we need is about a six month campaign before the revote.

O'BEIRNE: That's so absurd. The Constitution says we all go the same day. The circumstances now are different than they were Tuesday, for the rest of us. Nader voters in Florida now know that Ralph Nader didn't get 5 percent of the vote. Therefore they'll vote differently this time around. Some people are actually even seriously talking about Palm Beach County -- a presidential election in Palm Beach County. Will the presidential candidates have two debates in Palm Beach County or just a town hall meeting? I mean, it's utterly ridiculous. There can't be a hand count statewide, we should stick with the machine count, the non-partisan count and absentees.

SHIELDS: First of all, I don't know why there cannot be a hand count statewide. I mean, I just think that it ought to be done under the strictest of all conditions and circumstances, both parties being represented, and both campaigns being represented. I think it's on the level; I think it is because I think people really care about this. I think we're talking about the United States of America, I don't think we're talking about -- you want to talk about manipulating, like it's all one way, Bob.

NOVAK: It's not on the level, believe me.

CARLSON: Pouncing is not manipulating, but let me just say this one thing, which is that there are court cases which have thrown out elections where the ballot has been shown to be confusing.

NOVAK: In Massachusetts, I mean, what an example.

CARLSON: And in Connecticut.

O'BEIRNE: Ballots are confusing all over the country.

SHIELDS: Al -- last word, Al.

HUNT: I think, Mark, what you say sounds perfectly rational, but Bob and Kate aren't going to accept it because it just might change the outcome. They can't accept that.

SHIELDS: I think you're absolutely right, and that's the last word Al, and you make such good sense.


SHIELDS: Next on CAPITAL GANG, closing down the Electoral College.


SHIELDS: Welcome back to first time since 1888 -- and Novak did not cover that race -- there is a possibility that the president will be elected with a majority in the Electoral College, but a minority of the popular vote. A new CNN/"Time" poll shows Americans, by a three to two margin, say Governor Bush as president would be legitimate even if he does not win the popular vote.

But, by two to one, that same group want the Electoral College abolished. Bob, will the Electoral College be abolished?

NOVAK: Not a chance! All these silly people who want to abolish it can't get 3/4 of the states or 2/3 of the Congress; and it shouldn't be abolished because we are a federal republic, we are not a democracy; there are a lot of simple-minded majoritarians who would probably abolish the U.S. Senate because the senators from Delaware have the same status as the senators from -- shudder -- New York.

But, it's a good -- the only change I would make and, if it could be made, is I would eliminate the electors and make the electoral vote automatic. But there's only been three unfaithful electors in last 40 years, so even that's not much of a problem.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson. CARLSON: What I like about the Electoral College is that the junior Senator from New York, as her first act, has decided that she will put her heft behind a constitutional amendment to shut down the Electoral College.

You know what I'm worried about -- I don't think it's going to happen, it's not going to change, it's too big -- I think this country should take a real good look at how we vote. You know, I was appalled when the Palm Beach head of party or the ballot person said, oh, yes, we threw out 14,000 last time -- like, hey, didn't blink an eye, nobody thought anything about it and nobody said oh, well let's work on it that this doesn't happen next time. And then we do find out it happens everywhere.

I mean listen, we can send a man to the moon, I think we can fix this.

SHIELDS: Kate O'Beirne -- the Electoral College.

O'BEIRNE: Well I'm not surprised that Hillary Clinton opposes it. We know she doesn't support geographic politics, shall we say. I agree it's not going to happen, and it forces candidates to campaign where they campaigned this time: in West Virginia, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Minnesota. And the popular vote plurality that Al Gore's now talking about -- I mean, that could have come from New York alone.

Now why should New York, through popular vote, get to elect the next president of the United States? They did enough damage on Tuesday night sending Hillary Clinton to Washington.

SHIELDS: Al, but they never got to Massachusetts, Nebraska, people like that; and I have one question for you Al: Does the Electoral College play Bob Jones at homecoming?

HUNT: It'd be a heck of a contest. Mark, I do have to correct you, though, because I read the Novak clips of that '88 race and it was really some terrific stuff.

Let me, first of all, say that if one candidate does win the popular vote and loses the Electoral College, that does not, in any way, detract from the legitimacy of the winner. I agree with Kate, they played by the same rules, everybody knew them, that has nothing to do with, you know, with the outcome. I also agree with Bob that they're not going change it. Whether they should or not we can debate it, but it's not going to be changed. This is a system, we're going to stick with it.

If plan on -- Mark, in that same poll, over two-thirds of respondents told CNN that Al Gore should not concede and should keep trying to find out who won this election.

O'BEIRNE: How do you find out who won the election in Florida?

SHIELDS: I think you do it by counting votes.

NOVAK: But you know what it says in the Bible, thou shalt not steal!

SHIELDS: You know, I don't think people tuned in here for mass for the shut-ins from Novak. Thou shalt not cheat, Bob, thou shalt not run to a friendly judge.

CARLSON: Like who shot JFK we don't want "who stole Florida" on the bookshelves, so we want the count.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Next on CNN, a "TALKBACK LIVE," special town meeting with Bobbie Battista -- here's Bobbie.

BOBBIE BATTISTA, HOST, "TALKBACK LIVE": Mark, it is a special edition, a prime-time edition of "TALKBACK LIVE." We're at Palm Beach Atlantic College in West Palm Beach, Florida as we talk about the vote that has stalled the election. Coming up, Greta Van Susteren will join us, along with local Republican and Democratic party officials; also, a man who is so incensed by what's happened that he is suing the county of West Palm Beach. "TALKBACK LIVE" is coming up next -- Mark.

SHIELDS: I'm Mark -- thank you very much Bobbie -- I'm Mark Shields, for CAPITAL GANG and a good, good night.



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