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CNN Late Edition
Election 2000: Florida Recount Deadline Approaches; Palm Beach County Continues CountingAired November 26, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: It's noon in Washington, 9 a.m. in Los Angeles, 6 p.m. in Paris, and 8 p.m. in Moscow. Wherever you're watching from around the world, thanks for joining us for this special two-hour LATE EDITION. We'll get to our guests shortly, but first the latest on the Florida recount.
As of this hour, here are the latest numbers. George W. Bush has an official statewide lead of 930 votes. But revised totals from eight counties give Bush a net gain of 91 votes, and the now completed hand count in Broward County gives Al Gore a net gain of 567 votes. In Palm Beach County, where the hand count continues, Gore has a net gain so far of 46 votes. So the unofficial Bush lead, for now, is 408 votes.
BLITZER: Here in Washington is Gore ally Eleanor Holmes Norton. She's a Democratic House delegate for the District of Columbia. She just returned from observing the hand counting in Florida.
And joining us from West Palm Beach, Florida, to give us the view from the Bush camp, is Montana's Republican Governor Marc Racicot. He's also been observing the hand recounting that's been going on in Florida.
Thanks to both of you, and I want to get right to the news of this hour.
Governor Racicot, maybe you can give us your assessment of what it means if in Palm Beach County they don't complete the hand recounting by 5 p.m. Did the Florida Supreme Court give them enough leeway to continue for some more hours to complete the process?
GOVERNOR MARC RACICOT (R), MONTANA: Well, I certainly am not final legal authority when discussing that particular question, but I think the court was clear in their directions that it was until 5 o'clock on this particular date. In addition to that, of course, Florida law provides that if you are going to conduct a manual recount, very specifically it requires all the ballots to be tabulated. So that'll be a legal conclusion that the secretary of state's office will have to make at that time when the hour arrives.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Norton, is it your sense that if they don't complete the job, then none of those recounts in Palm Beach County should hold, that whatever gains, so far relatively modest, for Al Gore should just disappear.
DELEGATE ELEANOR HOLMES NORTON (D), WASHINGTON, D.C.: Wolf, this a matter of Florida law, which must be interpreted in light of the Supreme Court decision. And our position all along has been that this matter should be decided by Florida law.
NORTON: Apparently, the secretary of state is huddling with her lawyers to find out what to do in that instance.
Clearly, however, not counting all the votes would leave a cloud hanging over Florida: What would have happened had all those votes come in? And what we are trying to do is remove that cloud so that there is legitimacy to whoever becomes the next president.
BLITZER: Governor Racicot, on that specific point, the Gore campaign, the Gore lawyers, have already made clear, because Miami- Dade refused to go into the hand recount, they are going to contest whatever result is, because they are saying that there was a partial recount in Miami-Dade that simply -- and got a few extra votes for Gore -- the result is not going to be accurate. Does this give the Gore campaign, if Palm Beach County doesn't complete the work by 5 p.m., another opportunity go for some contest of this election?
RACICOT: I think what we have to remember here is that the fundamental notion underlying virtually all election laws, all the way across this country, is an issue of fairness. And that is why there are principles of law that speak to notions of finality and also provide a reasonable opportunity for election officials to comply with the law.
So in this particular instance, the underlying reason for the rule in Florida law is that you do not begin a recount unless you can complete the recount. Otherwise, you dilute the votes of so many people who cast their ballots appropriately and whose votes didn't get counted then, pursuant to a recount.
So the bottom line here is that you can never attain perfection in an election. And, quite frankly, what's going on here is a process of divining, trying to discern intentions of a person unknown to you. In spite of best efforts of these good people, the fact of the matter is, from the very beginning we have warned that, once on this slippery slope, we were going to end up in a very tangled web.
And when the Florida Supreme Court rewrote the law and left this situation in their hands, they made it virtually impossible for them to do anything that was trustworthy and credible in the long run.
BLITZER: All right, Congresswoman Norton, you were down there yesterday in Broward County observing the hand recounting. I believe we have some video. You were actually joined by Governor Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey. She was the Republican, you were the Democrat. Is this a process where these people, the canvassing board, they're simply divining, they're trying to just determine randomly who got that vote? NORTON: I must say that comes close to an insult to the folks on both sides. What they're doing, of course, is following the Constitution and the law the state of the Florida that says that the intent of the voter governs.
What does that mean? Apparently, throughout history, it's meant that you do exactly what they're doing in Florida. And I think that they are doing all that they can do under the law. I did not see there anything but utter professionalism and collegiality. And I don't think we should cast doubt on what people are doing there, unless we see some people doing something wrong there. I think it does a disservice to this entire process and to the ultimate point here, which is to get a president we all can accept as the legitimate president of the United States.
BLITZER: You know, Governor Racicot, we did some checking in Montana, your home state. You've also been criticized by at least one newspaper editorial there for some of the things that you've said over these past few days. I want to read to you from editorial, Tuesday, in The Missoulian in Missoula, Montana. Listen to what the editorial said.
"Montana Governor Marc Racicot assailed the vote recount under way in Florida in a manner so reckless as to make us cringe. Some of what the governor said was merely divisive. Some of it was patently unfair. His timing was terrible."
Similar reaction, of course, from Democrats. What do you say to that kind of criticism for some of the things that you've said while you've been in Florida?
RACICOT: Well, I have been here watching it, and I would never impugn the best intentions of the people that are involved in this process. But they are partisans to begin with. And, secondly, they have a chore assigned to them, in all due respect to the Congresswoman, that is virtually impossible to perform with any degree of equitability or consistency. They are trying to discern the depth of a dimple on a ballot, and, based upon that, to try and divine, in some mystical way, what a person intended.
And then not just doing that, but they don't keep the rules consistent from one place to another.
We started out with one rule in Broward County. It was changed a second time. It was changed a third time. The rule here has changed in Palm Beach County. I mean, my God in heaven, at some point in time the people of this country expect that we'll employ at least the same rules to count the ballots.
Clearly, we have recount provisions in the state of Montana. But the same notions of being equal and fair would apply there as should apply here. You can't try and discern out of thin air what it is that someone you don't even know, who didn't properly execute a ballot, ultimately intended, and then go back, as the Gore campaign has gone back, and said we don't want to count military ballots when they're clearly voted and you can understand what they provide. BLITZER: Go ahead.
NORTON: This is what the Montana paper had in mind, you know, "out of thin air what the voter intended." I sat there and saw Democrats and Republicans. They say they're partisans, that's right, one on each side. They're observers on each side. They're evenly matched.
This is a political contest. They're supposed to be partisans. This is how we sort out voting and disputes in voting in this country.
Now, if the governor wants to come up with a new way to sort out these things, he has yet to put it forward. And reckless attacks on those who are trying to do their job does not do this process any good and ultimately does a disservice to the entire process.
RACICOT: Let me tell you, Wolf...
BLITZER: Governor -- go ahead, Governor.
RACICOT: ... we did something in this country -- we did something in this country a generation ago, with all due respect to the congresswoman. We made a commitment over a generation ago to an electronic system of balloting in this country because we knew that if there was going to be any error, it would be randomly assigned. It wouldn't have partisans with prejudice and passion involved in trying to discern from an indentation whether or not somebody intended to vote or was that really just a pause mark.
So the bottom line is, I think the congresswoman and I are speaking about the same objective, but her telling us that we need to suggest a different method, I would relate to her was selected over 40 years ago in this country. And our failure to observe it has led to this very messy situation now.
NORTON: Governor, manual recounts are routinely done to check machine counts which are in dispute. That's also a part of the decision...
RACICOT: But, Congresswoman, you do that...
NORTON: ... that has been made in this country over the years and in many, many jurisdictions.
RACICOT: You do that when there's a clearly marked hole on the ballot or even when there's a chad that's just hanging there. But how are you going to say...
NORTON: You know you also do that...
RACICOT: ... when there's a scratch or a blemish?
NORTON: You also do that...
RACICOT: How are you going to say with a scratch or a blemish that somehow that indicates a voter's intent? NORTON: You also do that -- you also do that...
RACICOT: I've scratched those ballots before. I didn't intend to vote.
BLITZER: Governor, let Congresswoman Norton respond, then we're going to have to take a quick break.
NORTON: You also do that in cases like Miami-Dade where the counters were shut down by people at the door when they were trying to count...
BLITZER: We're going to get to that in a second, too.
NORTON: ... undercounted ballots. You know, your focus on the so-called dimple is seen as a real insult to people whom I heard testify in Palm Beach yesterday.
BLITZER: All right, Congresswoman, Governor, we're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. When we come back, also, more questions. We'll also be taking your phone calls for D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and Montana Governor Mark Racicot. This special two-hour LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the White House, the ultimate prize for the winner of Florida's presidential election recount. Welcome back to this special two-hour LATE EDITION. We're talking with D.C. Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, a Gore supporter, and Montana Governor Marc Racicot, a supporter of Governor George W. Bush.
Congresswoman Norton, I want to show you and our audience some videotape of the protesters in Miami -- at Miami-Dade, when they were clearly unhappy with the manual recount that was going to go forward. The vice presidential candidate, Joe Lieberman, had some strong words, saying that the Miami-Dade canvassing board was intimidated by these kinds of protests. Listen to what Joe Lieberman had to say on Friday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I am deeply disappointed by reports of orchestrated demonstrations on Wednesday inside a state building, a government building, in Miami- Dade County, not just to express a point of view, but to disrupt and halt the counting of ballots. These demonstrations were clearly designed to intimidate and to prevent a simple count of votes from going forward.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Yet, yesterday, Congresswoman, David Leahy, who is the canvassing board supervisor, the person in charge -- he's a Democrat, he's in Miami-Dade -- he told our Frank Buckley that there was no intimidation. Listen to what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID LEAHY, CANVASSING BOARD SUPERVISOR: I was not intimidated. My vote to suspend the hand tally of the votes in Miami-Dade County had nothing to do with the protests. It simply had to do with not enough time or logistical support to complete the hand recount by the deadline set by state Supreme Court.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What is wrong with that argument? He says they didn't have enough time, so they couldn't start the process?
NORTON: Two things, Wolf. First, somebody -- I don't know if it was he -- one of them said that they clearly felt intimidated right after the event, when asked by a reporter.
Secondly, the fact remains that these folks were in the process of counting the undercounted ballots. Undercounted ballots are ballots in which everything has been counted except president. And so they were going to look not at all of the ballots, but at about 10,000 ballots that were undercounted.
The fact remains that after they were stormed at the barricades, as it were, they stopped counting those ballots. It seems to me it is very hard to draw the conclusion that there was any reason for stopping a count that was in progress, except that they felt intimidated.
BLITZER: What about that, Governor? I assume you totally disagree with the congresswoman.
RACICOT: Completely. And, again, with all due respect, that is political hyperbole. The fact of the matter is, I was there just shortly after all of this occurred. I was there when the board announced the result. There was absolutely no evidence of any kind whatsoever of any intimidation or concern about protesters.
And the fact is that many, many, many of these people -- and there were children and men and women from all over that particular county who were there to voice their concerns. And, in my view, America was designed to hear many voices, and, clearly, some of them are more vocal than others. But there was absolutely no evidence of any threat or intimidation that I saw. And that's why Mr. Leahy said what he said
NORTON: Why was the vote -- look, the evidence is that the vote was in progress, and...
RACICOT: Let me tell you why the vote was taken...
NORTON: ... and the vote is no longer in progress. That's the evidence, Governor.
RACICOT: Let me tell you, Congresswoman.
NORTON: But the vote was shut down. Why was vote shut down of the undercounted votes?
RACICOT: I'll tell you precisely why. Number one, first of all, they were going to do in secret, and they were threatened to be sued by the media. Secondly, they had 10,700 ballots that they'd segregated away from the remainder of ballots, and they knew that Florida law required that all ballots be examined. And they knew that that was not conceivably possible between that time and the time that the deadline had been set by the Florida Supreme Court. It had absolutely nothing to do with these people being there voicing their concerns.
BLITZER: Let's take a quick caller from Pennsylvania. We have a question.
Please go ahead with your question.
CALLER: Yes, sir. In regard to the overseas vote, I can understand if a person is on a ship or on a submarine or stationed in a war zone, that his vote counts. But I can't understand -- I never hear nobody talking about it -- like, say you're stationed in Germany, England, Italy, Okinawa, Japan, why should their votes count and the votes in Florida not count?
BLITZER: All right, let's ask Governor Racicot that question. What's your answer?
RACICOT: A vote in Florida ought to count if we know that it's a vote. But how do we know it's a vote? We know with the military ballots, people actually execute the ballot. They sign them. They send them in.
We're talking about men and women that serve in our military and, through no fault of their own, have done everything that they understood the law to require. And then we have the Gore campaign fighting canvassing boards in opposition to having these ballots counted.
We heard from Senator Lieberman last Sunday that he wanted these ballots counted. Yet, when we went to court yesterday in Leon County, in Tallahassee, Florida, the Gore campaign was AWOL. They weren't there. It seems to me that those were hallow words.
NORTON: The fact is that the Bush people have a hyper-technical approach to counting the votes of World II veterans from Palm Beach County, for example, who are now civilians, but they want the most flexible approach for counting people who are now in the military.
RACICOT: We're not saying that.
NORTON: In our country there is no difference...
RACICOT: We not saying that.
NORTON: In our country there is no difference among us, whether we're in the military or not. We want to make every attempt to make sure the military votes are counted, but why wouldn't we want to apply the same flexibility to every American?
RACICOT: I would totally agree. I would totally agree with you, Congresswoman. But how can you allege that trying to discern the dreams of an unknown voter with a scratch on a ballot is the same as making an effort to count a ballot from a man or woman serving in our military that we know was executed by them and sent to this country? The two just don't match up.
BLITZER: All right, I'm going to let Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton respond and then we have to end this segment. Go ahead.
NORTON: The governor tries to create the impression that everything that is going on in counting these ballots on the civilian side is undiscernible. I watched what was happening. Most of these are clearly able to be discerned based on what you see on that ballot.
It is wrong to leave the impression that a manual count can never be valid in this country, and they are proving that it can be where it has been allowed in Florida.
BLITZER: All right. Governor Racicot had the first word; Congressman Norton, you had the last word. I want to thank both of you for joining us on our special LATE EDITION. Thanks to both of you.
RACICOT: Thank you.
BLITZER: This discussion will continue.
In fact, it will continue when we return: Now that the battle for the White House is heading to the Supreme Court, who will ultimately decide which candidate will get Florida's decisive 25 electoral votes? We'll discuss that and much more with two top members of the Senate Judiciary Committee: Utah Republican Chairman Orrin Hatch and Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy.
Our special two-hour LATE EDITION will be right back.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I firmly believe that the will of the people should prevail. And I am gratified that the court's decision will allow us to honor that simple constitutional principle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOVERNOR GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), REPUBLICAN PARTY PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Manual recounts will continue in three selective counties, with no uniform standards, no clear direction and, therefore, no fair or accurate result.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Vice President Al Gore and Governor George W. Bush commenting on the Florida Supreme Court decision to allow the hand recount to continue.
Welcome back to this special two-hour LATE EDITION. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments over the disputed recount on Friday. Joining us now to talk about that are two leading members of the Senate Judiciary Committee. With me here in Washington, Utah Republican Orrin Hatch; he's the chairman of the committee. And in Burlington, Vermont, Patrick Leahy; he's the committee's top Democrat.
Senators, welcome back to LATE EDITION. I want to begin, Senator Hatch, with some news from our CNN reporter on the scene in Palm Beach County, Jeff Flock. He is now reporting that the Palm Beach County canvassing board is asking the secretary of state for 9 p.m. deadline in order to enable them to complete the hand recount. The 5 p.m. deadline being asked to be moved to 9 p.m. Is that a reasonable request?
SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: I'm not sure that it is under the circumstances, because we're now -- remember, this was all supposed to be certified by the 14th. Then the Supreme Court laid down an absolute in saying it had to be certified by 5 p.m. today. So I doubt seriously that they're going to accept that.
I think they'll probably have to -- the secretary of state will probably have to certify in accordance with the direction of the Supreme Court at 5 today.
BLITZER: What about that, Senator Leahy, any wiggle room for this deadline?
SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: Well, of course there is, both under the Florida law and under the Supreme Court decision. We're talking about -- now she's saying maybe 6 or 7 o'clock this evening, they'll be doing the certification. They're saying let's go for a couple more hours. We're talking about the presidency of the United States. We're talking about ballots that had been counted. Of course, they can wait the extra two hours, especially when the appeal -- the most recent appeal by Governor Bush's team is not going to be heard until next Friday before the U.S. Supreme Court. What difference does a couple more hours make on Sunday, when you're not going to have the U.S. Supreme Court hear this case until Friday of this week?
BLITZER: You know, Senator Hatch, the other point that the Supreme Court did make in their controversial unanimous ruling the other day allowing the hand recount to go forward, they said, if the secretary of state has her office open on Sunday at 5 p.m., it could be certified at that point. That could be the deadline. Otherwise, if she decided not to open until 9 a.m. Monday morning, it would be fine with the Supreme Court if she decided to keep it -- keep it closed on Sunday, and just open the office on Monday.
HATCH: But only if she doesn't keep the office open. I'm not sure what the Florida Supreme Court would say under the circumstances. But I think when a court gives an order, then you abide by the order. And, you know, maybe they would find this is a court that has -- made up mainly of Democrats, at least two of whom donated to the Gore campaign. You never know what they're going to do.
In fact, there's a tremendous argument that's going to go to the Supreme Court right now whether or not they acted properly in doing what they did in their decision.
BLITZER: And on that specific point, Senator Leahy, the Supreme Court here in Washington will hear arguments on Friday. We're now looking at a live picture of Charles Burton, who's the head of the canvassing board in Palm Beach County. I think he's about to talk.
JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH CANVASSING BOARD: As all of you know, we have been working very hard this past week, trying to make the deadline that was granted to us by the Supreme Court.
As you know, the Supreme Court had issued an opinion giving the county until 5 p.m. tonight to submit the amended certification of the election, assuming the secretary of state's office would be open to receive it. And if not, they gave us until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning.
As you know, we're working very hard in there; we're trying to get through this. We are hopeful that we will be able to fully complete the recount.
In the abundance of caution, we did send a letter to the honorable Katherine Harris, secretary of state, that was just faxed to her office, which I wanted to read. It says:
"Dear Secretary Harris: The Palm Beach County Canvassing Board respectfully requests your assistance in ensuring that the most accurate results of the 2000 presidential election are submitted for certification. We have been working diligently to complete the hand count of this election.
"Beginning Thursday, November 16 approximately 14,500 questionable ballots were set aside by the counting teams, creating an extraordinary and unprecedented challenge for the canvassing board to review each of these ballots. We have been working diligently, including the last 24-hour period, to complete this critical portion of the hand count. Your consideration of our request to extend the deadline for final submission of this hand count until Monday, November 27, at 9 a.m., would be greatly appreciated. As we know, you are interested in counting all votes as accurately as possible.
"The canvassing board is committed to reviewing each and every one of these questionable ballots as quickly as humanly possible, including working through this evening. We do not believe this extension would prejudice the state in any way in light of the Florida Supreme Court's opinion.
"We appreciate your consideration of this request and look forward to your response."
And we have provided the telephone number and fax number at this location.
As I indicated, you know, we're going through this as quickly as we can, and we see no reason why the secretary of state should not grant us that extension until 9 a.m., given the Supreme Court's opinion.
Thank you very much. We'll let you all know something as soon as we hear.
QUESTION: How many ballots have you...
BURTON: I don't know. We're just really trying to get through this. We're moving pretty quick.
QUESTION: If you work all night long...
BURTON: Well, it depends what they tell us. But if the secretary wants to give us till 9 p.m., that would be helpful, too, so anything in between.
BURTON: We are just really going through precincts quickly. And, you know, we're trying to go through them at the same the supervisor of elections is trying to get everything updated, and we're trying to get them out to you.
I don't know the last -- you know, the last batch you've had.
QUESTION: I you don't make the deadline, Judge, will you go back to a prior certified ballot count?
BURTON: No, we're going to send them what we have.
BLITZER: Charles Burton, head of the Palm Beach County Canvassing Board taking a few questions, but saying they've written a letter to the secretary of state asking for a 9 a.m. deadline tomorrow morning to complete the work, if possible, of this manual recount.
He said 9 p.m. tonight, Senator Hatch, would be OK, but they really need some more time. Was he convincing to you?
HATCH: Well, it's a question, I think, that's really troubling. But, you know, I don't think it would be an abuse of discretion by the secretary of state if she certifies as close to 5 as she can because -- the only reason she would go beyond that would be because of clerical reasons. It wouldn't be because she's delaying it. And if she does that, I do not think that's going to be considered an abuse of discretion, because that's what the court told her to do.
BLITZER: And very quickly, Senator Leahy, what do you think? LEAHY: Well, as I started to say before you went to the live shot, there's really no reason why this couldn't wait a few more hours. After all, Governor Bush's appeal isn't going to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court until Friday.
If we're talking about the presidency -- and we're talking about a recount which I understand is giving extra votes both to Governor Bush and to Al Gore. In other words, they're saying, "We're making sure that every vote counts. Why not take a few more hours?" There's nothing wrong with that. It is not going to create any problem when you stop to think that Governor Bush has actually put this off until Friday in his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. What difference does a few hours make?
BLITZER: All right, we'll find out. We probably will be getting some response from Secretary Harris in the not too distant future. We'll see what her final decision is.
We have to take a quick break. A lot more to talk about, including your phone calls for Senators Patrick Leahy and Orrin Hatch.
Our special two-hour LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: We're talking about the latest developments in the still undecided presidential race with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch of Utah, and the ranking Democrat on that committee, Patrick Leahy of Vermont. People all over the world are closely watching what is happening. They're watching on this program as well.
Senators, let's take a call from England. Please go ahead with your question. England, go ahead.
CALLER: Why not let the popular vote of the whole of the United States of America determine who is going to be president, rather than 400 votes in Florida?
BLITZER: All right, Senator Hatch, I guess a lot of people around the world have a hard time understanding the Electoral College and the U.S. Constitution.
HATCH: Well, it's because we do have an Electoral College, and our system has worked very well. What that says is, we have a direct election by 50 states. And what that did is it created a two-party system, rather than a Boston marathon of presidential candidates. It stops regionalism, it stops the 10 or 12 largest states from controlling the country. Actually, it mutes, to a degree, the media from controlling the country, from mainly those 10 or 12 largest states, and you can go on and on.
It's a system that has really worked well. And what it says is, is that if you get 270 Electoral College votes, you're the president of the United States. And that's what it's all about, and that's why this vote in Florida is so doggone important. BLITZER: A lesson in constitutional law from the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Go ahead, Senator Leahy. You want to add an addendum to that?
LEAHY: It is difficult thing because, of course, Al Gore has gotten almost a third of a million more votes than George Bush did nationwide, and so it is difficult to understand, but that's why it makes it all the more important to count every vote, something that has not yet been done, but to count every vote in Florida.
And I also think because, no matter how this comes out, you're going to see a debate as we have had different times in our in our history, of the electoral vote, especially because in this case, one person, Al Gore, got about a third of a million more votes than the other one.
BLITZER: All right. I want to bring this issue back to what may be in both of your laps in the not too distant future: the possibility that this could wind up in the U.S. Congress including, of course the U.S. Senate.
The Florida House majority leader, a Republican was on Meet the Press earlier today, and he made it clear that the Florida legislature, which is dominated by Republicans, might get involved in selecting the electors to the Electoral College. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE FASANO (R-FL), FLORIDA HOUSE MAJORITY LEADER: Here we are, three weeks after the election. We don't have a decision, and the courts are still involved. Maybe it's time that those who have been elected to office get involved and select those 25 electors.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Senator Hatch, you know that if that happens, if the legislature picks the electors, we're going to obviously vote Republican for Governor Bush. This could be a huge fight in the U.S. Congress.
HATCH: Well, it needn't have to come to that because I do believe that by 5 o'clock today, or whenever the secretary of state decides in her discretion, that we'll know who has won Florida. It may be by a relatively small number of votes, but nevertheless, it will be who has won.
With regard to the popular election, races are run on the basis of getting a majority of the Electoral College votes, not on a basis of getting majority of the votes in the country, because Bush would have had to run a completely different race had it been for getting a majority of the electoral -- a majority of the votes in the country than he ran. He would have gone into a lot of states that he would have lost, that he knew he was going to lose, would have gotten a lot more votes. BLITZER: Senator Leahy, what happens if it comes to the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate to adjudicate, if you will, this entire matter? Right now, the Republicans are in the majority in the House -- narrow, but still in the majority. And it looks like the new Senate is going to have a 50-50 tie, if you will, if Maria Cantwell wins that Washington state Senate race. Looks like she is going to, but it's still up in air, to some degree. What happens in the U.S. Congress, as far as the Constitution is concerned?
LEAHY: Well, I think in the Senate, the Democrats will be in a majority. I suspect she'll win her recount and, of course, with the vice president casting the deciding vote, at that point it'll be Al Gore, the Democrats would be in the majority.
But I would hate to see this come to the -- either the House or the Senate. I would hope they could be decided well before then.
I am somewhat disturbed, listening to some of the Florida legislators bashing the Florida Supreme Court. The Florida Supreme Court is considered one of the best in the country. It's the envy of most other states in the quality of their Supreme Court.
I think everybody ought to take a deep breath. Governor Bush has, as his right, among the various appeals, and he's made many, many appeals and gone to court in many different places, but one that he has is before the U.S. Supreme Court, which is going to be Friday of this week. Let's take a deep breath and see what the U.S. Supreme Court says on Friday. We have plenty of time to work this out.
BLITZER: All right.
LEAHY: We had a case, incidentally, with a recount in Hawaii back in 1960 where they changed their electors two days before the votes were counted in the Congress and the new electors were accepted. It was two days before. So we've got plenty of time to work this out.
BLITZER: Senator Hatch, we only have a few seconds left. You're going to be sworn and the new Senate will be sworn-in in early January. There will be a period until January 20 when the Democrats will really be the majority. You'll become the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. Senator Leahy, presumably, will be the chairman for three weeks. What's the impact of that going to be on this entire process, if in fact it comes down to the U.S. Senate?
HATCH: Well, that won't have much of an impact. And keep in mind that it's the House of Representatives which will determine who is president. But the Senate will determine who is vice president. And I can't believe, even though it would be 50-50 if Senator Gorton loses, that Al Gore would vote to put Joe Lieberman in as Vice President with a Republican president. So I just don't think that's going to happen. I think just discretion would say we lost and he better have the vice president that he wants.
But, you know, this is one of the most interesting sets of constitutional issues that I've ever seen. We're blessed in this country to not have riots, to not have people trying to bring down the government, to have us go through this process the way we're doing it. And yes, there's a wide diversity of opinions and viewpoints, but by gosh it just proves what a great country this is, what a great Constitution it is. And frankly, we all ought to be thanking God that we belong to this country.
LEAHY: Wolf, if I could add to that...
BLITZER: Senator Hatch, thanks...
LEAHY: I agree with Orrin on that, and that's why I would hope that we would have enough of the count done so that whoever is the president has the support of the Congress and the people. And that's why, take the time to do it right.
BLITZER: All right, Senator Leahy and Senator Hatch, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.
LEAHY: Thank you.
BLITZER: It's good to have both of you on our program as usual.
And just ahead, with the new presidency on hold, what effect will it likely have on the eventual winner's ability to govern. We'll talk with former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta, former presidential adviser David Gergen and "Washington Post" columnist Mary McGrory.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: We're looking at a live picture from West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, where they're continuing their manual recount. They've asked to get an extension of the 5 p.m. deadline; 9 a.m. tomorrow morning they say they need in order to complete the job. They have not yet heard back from the secretary of state, Katherine Harris.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now to talk about this stalemate and the impact that the winner might have -- guests include -- firsthand knowledge of what's been going on. In Monterey, California, former Clinton White House chief of staff, Leon Panetta. In our Boston bureau, David Gergen. He's an editor-at-large at "U.S. News & World Report." He's also served as an adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, and Clinton. And with me here in Washington, "Washington Post" columnist Mary McGrory. She's seen a lot of presidents come and go over the years.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION.
I want to get all of your reaction, first, to the news of the hour right now. I'll begin with Leon Panetta. Should Katherine Harris give them an extension to complete the hand counting in Palm Beach County?
LEON PANETTA, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I would think that would be appropriate at this point. You know, it seems to me that Palm Beach has done a very responsible job in the way they've handled this, and the votes haven't -- have really been pretty fair on both sides, both with regard to Al Gore as well as George Bush. And if they're within a couple hours of trying to finalize their vote, it would just seem to me that it would be appropriate to do that. Not only is it fair, but I think, even under the Supreme Court ruling in Florida, that it would be permissible.
BLITZER: David Gergen, what do you think?
DAVID GERGEN, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": I was in Palm Beach last weekend, Wolf, and it did strike me that the judge there and his colleagues are very conscientious. They are trying to do an honest job. I came away convinced these are not deep partisans.
At the same time, Wolf, I don't think it makes any difference whether they finish or not, because the Gore campaign is going to go into court and contest what they're doing anyway. And they're going to ask for a different group of people. They're going to ask for a panel or a special master to count this. This is the end of the line for the canvassing count.
The Gore group wants an entire recount of all ballots that the Palm Beach people are working with. And as a result of a court case, they think they'll win that court case. So I don't think it makes any difference, really.
BLITZER: And, Mary McGrory, picking up on that point, the Gore campaign, the Gore lawyers, also want a recount in Miami-Dade, which has not had a manual recount. They're going to contest, because there was no manual recount in Miami-Dade County.
MARY MCGRORY, "WASHINGTON POST" COLUMNIST: Well, as someone who thought that the best way out of all this was to recount all the votes in Florida, I just instinctively think it would be very nice if Mrs. Harris could see her way to letting them do what they say they can finish by, is it tonight?
BLITZER: It's supposed to be at 5 o'clock tonight, but they have asked for an extension until 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, Palm Beach County.
MCGRORY: I think it's reasonable, but I imagine she will say no.
BLITZER: All right. What about that, Leon Panetta? If she says no, and she'd been vilified, as you well know, as all of us know, by a lot of Democrats, by a lot of Gore supporters. She was, in fact, a co-chair of the Bush campaign. What's going to be the reaction, if she says no?
PANETTA: Well, if she says no and then goes ahead and certifies it, then I think, as David has pointed out, that it certainly is not end here. There will be contests that can be filed under the law, and I think both Al Gore and George Bush will contest some of the results, I would think, in some of these areas, just because the vote count, I suspect, is still going to be pretty close. But in the end, it seems to me, that we are heading towards a Supreme Court hearing at the end of the week. That Supreme Court hearing is going to be, I think, very decisive in terms of whether or not the Supreme Court in Florida has jurisdiction here, or whether the Supreme Court will have the final say as to when the votes should've been in. And I would hope that both candidates would, hopefully, abide by whatever the Supreme Court finally says.
BLITZER: David Gergen, did the Bush campaign, with hindsight, make a mistake -- a tactical mistake -- by going to the federal courts, going to Supreme Court? Because, presumably, if the votes aren't there in Palm Beach County tonight, Katherine Harris could've certified tonight or tomorrow morning that this election is over with. It would have put enormous pressure on Al Gore to cave.
GERGEN: Well, perhaps you can argue that, Wolf, but the Bush campaign does retain the right -- they reminded me of this last night -- to pull this case if they feel it's moot, that they've won election, it's been certified.
But think of it this way. Let's say Al Gore goes back into court, as he will, and asks for changes in Miami-Dade and in Palm and in Nassau counties, and he wins those, and he gets his vote total up over the top. The Bush campaign -- one of its fall-back positions is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court may come along wash all that away, saying, you know, the Florida Supreme Court exceeded its discretion.
So I think the Bush campaign now sees this as a safety measure right now, to have this case going before the Supreme Court. Even though it has granted more time, I think they still see it as an ultimate safety measure.
BLITZER: All right. David Gergen, Leon Panetta, Mary McGrory, standby. We have to take a quick break.
When we come back, we'll check the hour's top stories, then take your phone calls for all of our guests, plus former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh weigh in on the Supreme Court's role in this presidential race.
Our LATE EDITION roundtable will be here, and Bruce Morton as well. It's all ahead in the second hour of LATE EDITION.
BLITZER: This is the second hour of LATE EDITION: the Florida recount.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: I believe some are determined to keep counting in an effort to change the legitimate result.
(END VIDEO CLIP) (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: Let us testify to the truth that our country is more important than victory.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Four hours and counting, the deadline for the Florida recount approaches. We'll continue our conversation with two former presidential advisers, Leon Panetta and David Gergen, and "Washington Post" columnist Mary McGrory.
Then two legal veterans sort out the arguments: former White House Special Counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.
Plus our LATE EDITION roundtable: Steve Roberts, Susan Page and Rich Lowry.
And Bruce Morton has the "Last Word" on the media and the presidential election: Has the press let the public down?
Welcome back to the second hour of LATE EDITION. We'll get to our guests shortly, but first, let's take another look at the latest numbers.
George W. Bush has an official statewide lead of 930 votes, but revised totals from eight counties give Bush a net gain of 91 votes. The now completed hand count in Broward County gives Al Gore a net gain of 567 votes. In Palm Beach County, where the hand count continues, Gore has a net gain of 46 so far. So the unofficial Bush lead, for now at least, is 408 votes.
BLITZER: Let's get back to our conversation now with former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta and former presidential adviser David Gergen and "Washington Post" columnist Mary McGrory.
Mary McGrory, you've been covering Washington for a long time. Some of the rhetoric that we're seeing from both camps is getting pretty venomous, if you will. How dangerous of a situation are we going through right now?
MCGRORY: Oh, I think it depends if some grownups start speaking up. I think it's encouraging, for instance, that George Mitchell is now in Florida as a representative of the Gore campaign. Don't forget, he comes to us from Northern Ireland, from several years of negotiating with some of the most difficult people, if you'll forgive me, in the world. And, you know, they're always walking out and stamping out and tearing up agreements and all that.
So, Floridians are a little -- they're flighty. And what he will do -- and it may not be too late -- is sit down and wait, listen to the din. And then, when it all calms down, wait to hear if somebody says something sensible, and then he builds on it. So I think he could have a significant and important voice in this.
BLITZER: Do you sense, Leon Panetta, that there are some grownups out there behind the scenes, if you will, in the words of Mary McGrory, that are trying to calm down this situation? Because, you know, you've heard on both sides some potential for some unpleasant developments resulting from whatever happens down the road.
PANETTA: I would hope so, Wolf, but, ultimately, look, this comes down to the decision of the two candidates, as to whether or not this is ultimately resolved. You know, you can have a scorched-earth approach to litigation and politics that takes us all the way through the Florida courts and the Supreme Court and, ultimately, to the House and to the Senate for final resolution, but I think that would produce more gridlock and divisiveness.
The other approach is to understand -- both candidates understand -- when there is a convergence of the rule of law, common sense and the national interest. And, at that point, you have a winner, and you have a graceful loser. And that would be the best way to resolve this issue.
BLITZER: David Gergen, having said that though, some are saying this is like a runaway train. There's a process, a legal process right now, that is perhaps out of control. No one knows what's going to happen with the Supreme Court and beyond. That may not necessarily be the last word in all of this.
GERGEN: I don't agree with that, Wolf. What I find is that this has often been a raucous, rambunctious democracy in which we go at each others throats, we yell and scream a lot. But to go back to what Orrin Hatch was saying earlier, we are awfully fortunate that the founders devised a system which allows us to work out our differences in a peaceful way. I think we're doing that now. I think the system is holding. I think the public is holding. I think it's going to be difficult to govern after this is over; It's going to be very difficult to lead for the winner.
But what I would hope now in the next 24 hours after Katherine Harris certifies, whenever that occurs, is that Vice President Gore will address the country. I hope he does, to tell us why he wants to go forward. I think he has some good, strong arguments on his behalf that he wants to make and needs to make, and to ask, once again, as he has done, I think constructively, that we cool the rhetoric.
And then I hope that Governor Bush would also step forward and explain his position and to ask for his supporters to calm down. I mean, having these people outside the vice president's house now, for example, saying get out of Cheney's house, chanting that, I think that's very unbecoming. It's not what Republicans normally do.
I think leaders on both sides need to cool the rhetoric, have their supports cool the rhetoric.
BLITZER: Let's take a quick caller from Norway with -- who has a question. This show is being seen around the world. Go ahead, Norway. QUESTION: Governor Bush says he cannot accept the hand counting because there are no standards. Why doesn't he just give the standards so he can get on with it? And then both sides get what they're asking, the will of the people.
BLITZER: Did you understand that question, Leon Panetta?
PANETTA: Yes, I believe I did. It's whether or not Governor Bush could have come forward with a standard on hand counting. I believe that was the question. I think that's obviously the issue that both sides are arguing. Hand counts are provided under the law. That's why we're going through these final hand counts in these last moments now.
But clearly, there was no clear standard that had been established by Florida, and it's been up to each area to come up with the standards as to how you hand count.
I suspect that in the future, all states are going to look at establishing some kind of firm standard for how you do hand counts as a result of this.
BLITZER: One thing that Vice President Gore did do this week, Tuesday, he said it's time for both of the candidates to start thinking about a smooth transition.
I'd like you to listen, Mary McGrory, to what Vice President Gore said on Tuesday about the transition process.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GORE: Because we now know that this process is going to take more time, I believe it's now appropriate for both of us to focus on the transition to ensure that the new administration, whoever leads it, will be fully in place and fully prepared to lead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What was he signaling there by saying yes, Bush and I, Al Gore, should start talking, should start taking some decisions about a possible transition.
MCGRORY: Well, I dare say that Governor Bush will resent that, as he resents all suggestions from Vice President Gore about what he should do. So, I mean, it's each one's own business to go forward with the transition. Nobody needs permission for that. Nobody needs to go to court.
Al Gore has been expecting to be president for most of his life, so I imagine he has some pretty firm ideas about the choices he will make and so forth.
BLITZER: David Gergen, you've been involved in several administrations. How big of issue, if this is a big issue at all, the delay in the transition process since the new president is not going to be sworn in till January 20 in any case? GERGEN: It is the unwritten story of this whole fight, Wolf. There are only 10 1/2 weeks in a transition. Those days are just as precious as the first 100 days of an administration. This is the time when you really have to get your team together, when you have to get your agenda together so that you can hit the ground running.
There are only 10 and a half weeks in a transition. These candidates are losing now up to three weeks already. I think Al Gore was right. I think George Bush was right when he first started this process of planning the transition.
The vice president met here in the last 48 hours with Roy Neel, with the Liebermans and with Bill Daley, to begin thinking through what his team would look like and how to reach out to Republicans should he finally be declared the winner.
GERGEN: I think similar steps are being taken on the Republican side.
Thank goodness Dick Cheney is back out of the hospital. I hope he will be able to rejoin that group soon, because both teams need to thinking seriously.
I think we ought to be unlocking money from the GAO to let them go ahead and set up transition headquarters. This process of governing is too important to be totally crippled by this controversy.
BLITZER: Is that a good recommendation, Leon?
PANETTA: I think it is, and I think it's very practical that both of these individuals, because of the closeness of this race, really have to begin planning for the transition. Don't forget that Bill Clinton used all of the 10 weeks, and it wasn't even enough at that to try to build his team and try complete the staffing at the White House.
So you are talking about a very short period of time. I think it does make sense for both candidates to begin their transition process, so that they can at least hit the ground running. As divisive and close as this election will be, they are going to have an awful lot to do to bring this country together.
BLITZER: Three wise people talking about what's going on in Washington. Leon Panetta, David Gergen, and Mary McGrory, thanks for joining us on LATE EDITION.
And when we return, now that the battle for the White House moves to the highest court in the land, will the U.S. Supreme Court have the final answer on this presidential race? We'll get some insight from former White House special counsel Lanny Davis and former Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.
LATE EDITION will continue right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: You're looking at a live picture of the U.S. Supreme Court, which may provide the final answer to the burning question: Who will be the next president of the United States? The court is scheduled to hear arguments Friday about the hand recount in Florida.
Welcome back to LATE EDITION. Joining us now for some perspective on the latest legal twists in this presidential race are two familiar faces to our LATE EDITION audience. Lanny Davis is a former White House special counsel for President Clinton. Dick Thornburgh served as attorney general in the Bush administration.
Gentlemen, of course great to have you back on our program. The question, will you be back next week? We don't know what's happening, but I'll begin with you Dick Thornburgh.
Did you expect the U.S. Supreme Court to accept this case, because a lot of legal experts, so-called legal experts, thought it was not going to happen.
DICK THORNBURGH, FMR. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Yes, I think they did surprise a lot of people, but the basis for their considering this case is pretty clear. It comes from Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, which says, and I quote, "Each state shall appoint electors in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct," that is, the Florida legislature. And the question they have is, did the Florida Supreme Court change the law enacted by the Florida legislature by arbitrarily extending the deadline for hand recounts by six days. It almost seems to ask that question, answers it, but that's the essence of the consideration they'll be giving to this case on Friday of this week.
BLITZER: What the Democrats are saying, Lanny Davis, is that there was a conflict the Florida Supreme Court had to resolve, but the legislature had the deadline that it had imposed, at the same time saying there could be a hand recount. Which was more important for the voters of Florida?
LANNY DAVIS, FMR. WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: Well, the recount language came decades after the language that there shall be a seven day cutoff, and the Supreme Court has to try to reconcile two conflicting statutes. And I think to suggest that they rewrote the rules after the game has been played, when rules were in conflict, and they have to reconcile a conflict as a Supreme Court, they did exactly what they're supposed to do.
And the U.S. Supreme Court taking this case, while it's a bit of a surprise, may have been motivated -- for example, if I were a justice, I think I would have wanted to take this case to provide final closure, and to at least, in my judgment, ratify the appropriate role of the Supreme Court of Florida played.
BLITZER: Is that going to be final closure, though, what the Supreme Court is doing?
THORNBURGH: Well, it needn't be, depending upon what transpires thereafter. If you don't get a determination in Florida as to who the certified electors are, then it goes back to the Florida legislature and that will start the clock running all over again.
BLITZER: The whole decision, Lanny Davis, of the Supreme Court, and I want to read to you, and the former attorney general cited this earlier, what would be the consequences of this court's finding that the decision of the Supreme Court of Florida does not comply with Title 3, United States Code Section 5. That's the basis for this consideration of the Supreme Court, should that hand recount go forward.
That could be the end of the process right there if they say no. What happens then? What can the Gore legal team do if they say the Florida Supreme Court was wrong?
DAVIS: Well, I know what they will be doing tomorrow morning is to contest what are illegal actions by at least the Dade County canvassing board and probably the Nassau County canvassing board, and they have a right to contest any board that illegally counts ballots.
And in this case, Dade County was required to recount under the rules imposed by the secretary of state and under Florida law because of the narrowness of the margin, and that the initial sample recount showed that there could have been enough votes to change the result in the state of Florida. Their failure to recount in Dade County I think is illegal and a contest will show that when and if it's filed tomorrow morning.
BLITZER: What's the Bush administration -- excuse me, the Bush campaign's -- the Bush legal team's best argument before the Supreme Court?
THORNBURGH: Well, I think as I suggested by the question that the Supreme Court has accepted that the best argument is that the Florida Supreme Court violated the separations of power -- separation of powers clause by making new law rather than interpreting the existing law of Florida.
They arbitrarily tacked on six days, a number they pulled out of who knows where, onto the time allowed for the counting process. And that simply is not a judicial function of interpretation; it's a legislative function of making new law.
BLITZER: You know the Supreme Court, these nine justices, Lanny Davis. Is that argument going to be persuasive?
DAVIS: Well, it's going to be interesting to see some of the conservative jurists on the U.S. Supreme Court, Justice Scalia, who honors, to my judgment to a fault, states' rights and states' prerogatives, suddenly imposing, if they decide to do this, a federal jurisdiction over what is essentially a state election issue.
I think the Supreme Court will come together, they will try for unanimity, and I don't think that they're going to override a unanimous decision by the Florida Supreme Court, trying to reconcile, despite what my friend Dick Thornburgh says, conflicting statutes under Florida state law. One says seven days, the other says you may have a hand count that can't be done in seven days. And in resolving that conflict, that's exactly what a Supreme Court should do, and I don't think the U.S. Supreme Court will say otherwise.
BLITZER: A lot of people who made that point about there seems to be a switching role right now. The conservative Republicans saying the federal government should intervene in a state issue. And the Democrats saying, no this is just should be a states' rights matter.
THORNBURGH: I think the courts going to apply the law and they're going to apply it in constitutional terms. But I hope you haven't missed the delicious irony here: The Florida Supreme Court excoriated Secretary of State Katherine Harris for acting in an arbitrary way to impose a deadline. So they've imposed a deadline of their own, and guess what? At least one county and perhaps another county is not going to be able to meet that deadline. So it doesn't make Secretary Harris' actions look as bad as they were characterized by the court and by some of her opponents.
BLITZER: All right, Dick Thornburgh, Lanny Davis, we have a take another quick break. Up next, your phone calls for Lanny Davis and Dick Thornburgh. Our special two hour LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome to LATE EDITION. We're continuing our conversation over the legal fight for the White House with former White House special counsel Lanny Davis and former Bush Attorney General Dick Thornburgh.
Lanny, I know you've been talking to members of the Gore legal team. Do they have any new strategy that we can anticipate in the aftermath of a certification of this election, assuming, let's say, Katherine Harris, the secretary of state, certifies that George W. Bush again has won?
DAVIS: Look, from day one, the Gore legal team has had one goal in mind: Count all the ballots fairly, and then that's the end of the day. Tomorrow morning, I believe they should and they will contest the results in Dade County, which illegally refused to recount the votes.
I believe that in Nassau County, which had a machine count -- and in the recount Al Gore got a net gain of 52 votes. They just announced yesterday that they're going to ignore the mandatory machine count, not hand count, and go back to the earlier count to deprive Al Gore of 52 votes. That's an illegal act.
And I also think that Palm Beach County refusing to use what they do in Texas, which is to look for voter intent, and if there is an indented ballot that clearly shows voter intent, to count that ballot. For some reason, Palm Beach County decided not to do that, and I think that, too, was illegal and should be contested.
BLITZER: Sounds like a triple-headed approach that they're anticipating.
THORNBURGH: Yes, it is. And it's also deja vu. All these protests have been raised during the process here. And there is something very tricky about contest process, because that involves taking evidence, producing live witnesses, it could an be extended hearing. That's fine, when you're talking about a state office, as was the case with the Miami-Dade County mayor, who was finally thrown out of office after a contest was conducted. But it doesn't work when you're talking about choosing the president of the United States. And I doubt if they could get that contest process done by December 12, when they have to have electors.
BLITZER: All right. Let's take another caller from New Jersey. Go ahead, please, with your question.
CALLER: Yes, good afternoon, gentlemen. Isn't the Florida Supreme Court open to being reversed because they required recounts only in Democratic counties, and, really, selectively diluted Republican votes?
BLITZER: And what about that, Lanny Davis?
DAVIS: Actually, no, the only campaign that asked for recounts under the law was the Gore campaign. The Bush campaign chose not to. Then Vice President Gore, in act of, I think, great statesmanship, offered to Governor Bush to waive any objection, so that he could also ask for recounts throughout the state of Florida. And, at the time, on this program, Wolf, we talked about the possibility of a nonpartisan group supervising these recounts, which is what I think, in the contest, we're going to ask for special masters to supervise the recount.
Governor Bush turned that down for the very reason that everybody watching this program knows: They've been afraid to let all these votes be counted, because they suspect they will lose. And if Katherine Harris arbitrarily shuts this down at 5 o'clock, rather than allowing 9:00 p.m., we know it's because she's trying to stop Al Gore from winning the state of Florida, which we all know he actually did.
BLITZER: Go ahead.
THORNBURGH: Lanny, you amaze me. You're now saying that if Katherine Harris follows the explicit orders of the Supreme Court of Florida, that she's going to be acting arbitrarily. Please, give me a break.
But let me say something about this business of why Governor Bush didn't seek a statewide recount. He clearly recognizes this is a flawed process. And if it's flawed in three counties, it's not going to make it any better to do it in 65 or 67 counties. The real difficulty here is that there really is no basis for these recounts, so they rely on voters having made mistakes. And there is no fraud, there is no malfunction of the electoral machinery, and, simply, people didn't follow the directions that were given to them, didn't punch out clearly what they were instructed to do. And that's no basis for a recount or overturning the election.
BLITZER: All right. Dick Thornburgh and Lanny Davis, unfortunately, we are all out of time. Good to have you back. You might be back next week. Let's see what the legal struggle -- happens in the course of this week. Thanks for joining us once again.
And we're still standing by for word from Secretary of State Katherine Harris, whether she will accept that appeal for Palm Beach County, the canvassing board there, to allow an extension of this 5 p.m. deadline. Of course, as soon as we find out, you will find out as well.
Stay with us. Right after the break, another 30 minutes of LATE EDITION. Will the next few days finally bring a break in this presidential stalemate? We'll go around the table with Roberts, Page, and Lowry.
LATE EDITION will be right back.
BLITZER: Time now for our LATE EDITION roundtable. Joining me: Susan Page, Washington bureau chief for "USA Today"; Steve Roberts, contributing editor for "U.S. News & World Report"; and Rich Lowry, editor of "The National Review." He's filling in for Tucker Carlson.
Steve, you know, why is it that -- a lot of people have pointed this out -- that the Republicans. by and large, moderates -- Christine Todd Whitman, Governor Pataki -- firebrands, if you will -- all segments of the Republicans are firmly behind Bush and fight to the end, whereas on the Democratic side, there seems to be a wobbliness from time to time?
STEVE ROBERTS, "U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT": That's a good question. But you've got to remember, this is what happened during the campaign. The party united around George Bush very early, with the exception of the McCain insurgency. The Republicans are a royalist party. You know, George Bush was very much the crown prince here. But also I think there was the hunger. They've been out eight years. They realize how powerful the presidency is. They saw Clinton use the veto, they saw him use the bully pulpit to stop a lot of their initiatives. So I think they're united by hunger.
And I think they're also united by a resentment of the Clinton- Gore regime. I think Republicans hate Al Gore in a way that Democrats just simply do not hate George Bush. There is a difference in the intensity of the resentment.
And although I must say, I think Democrats are a little more united this weekend than they were last, partly because of the Republican tactics. But it's definitely true, Republicans are more united.
BLITZER: Why is that, Rich?
RICH LOWRY, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": Well, I think most of what Steve says is correct. I mean, Republicans are just hungrier. And you probably have both sides here quietly thinking about how they might win by losing. And on the Democratic side, it's as if Al Gore loses this thing, they have a very good chance of taking back Congress in 2002. On the Republican side, if Bush loses, you are going to have conservatives in this country supercharged in a way they have not been since 1993 and 1994. I mean, this is like the '60s for conservatives. You have them taking to the streets in protest, outnumbering Democrats, which is an extraordinary thing.
BLITZER: So there's some silver lining for both of these parties right now?
SUSAN PAGE, "USA TODAY": Well, I think there's an ambivalent calculation -- not that that's an easy word to say -- on the part of some of the congressional Democrats who are speaking out now. And that is, it doesn't necessarily serve their interests to have Al Gore win the White House. You know, 2000, we've got this evenly divided Senate, a very closely divided House. We know that historically the party that holds the White House loses seats in Congress in their first midterm election. That means Democrats feel almost certain that they would take over control of both houses of Congress if Al Gore loses now. And that's got to be part of their calculation.
Now the leadership, Gephardt and Daschle -- Daschle in the Senate, Gephardt in the House -- have been very solidly behind Al Gore. But that's not true of all their troops, and that has to be part of the Democrats' calculations.
BLITZER: Steve, I want you to listen to Senator John Breaux, the Democratic senator from Louisiana, was on ABC earlier today. In fact, he was asked a question by your wife, Cokie Roberts. I want you to hear what he said, because he seems to have come around to the Gore camp after earlier expressing a little bit of dissent. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: I would have liked, Cokie, for the Supreme Court of Florida to be the last word. But now Governor Bush has appealed this to the U.S. Supreme Court. So appropriately enough, that will now be the final word, hopefully. It has to end, but it should be through the laws of this country not through the politicians of this country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Well, you know, it is true, another factor, by the way, in the Gore problem in the Democratic Party, not a lot of Democrats who like Al Gore. You know, the people on the Hill have never liked him. There's nobody throwing themselves across in Miami or Florida saying, "Al Gore would make the greatest president of the next century, that's why we have to elect him."
But I do think Breaux is reflecting something, which is tempers are rising so much on both sides. The Democrats are looking at some of the Republican tactics -- the demonstrations in Miami-Dade, the talk about the Florida legislature stepping in, the talk about the House Republicans who provide a very good enemy for them -- and now they're starting to say, "Hey, we were trying to be fair. They're not. We're going to be as mean-spirited and as angry as they are."
PAGE: You know, I think that also there's some unintended consequences here. You know, the Bush people thought they had a victory when the Supreme Court -- the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take this case. In fact, it's given the Gore people a kind of breathing spell for a week.
If we did not know that there were going to be oral arguments in the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday, there would be much more pressure on Al Gore tonight if this vote is certified at 5 o'clock to concede.
BLITZER: Was that a big blunder for the Republicans, you think?
LOWRY: No. I think the most important thing here is, the Constitution clearly intends for the most political oriented bodies to adjudicate these kind of disputes -- the state legislatures and Congress. So I think the whole rush to the courts is bad on both sides.
It's a shame that the Bushies two weeks ago ran to the federal court. It was a totally frivolous claim to try to slap down these hand recounts as unconstitutional.
But the biggest abuse here was the Florida Supreme Court. In a decision that was utterly partisan hack work, substituted its judgment for when the deadline should be for the Florida legislature, with very little grounds at all.
So I think it's extremely likely the Supreme Court is going to strike down the Florida Supreme Court. I hope it's on the narrowest grounds possible. And I hope what it will say is just that the Florida Supreme Court exceeded its bounds and its authority, but then have the U.S. Supreme Court not mandate any sort of remedy. And that will serve sort of as the invitation for the Florida legislature to step in and take control.
BLITZER: Will Democrats then be justified, if that scenario unfolds, of saying this U.S. Supreme Court, seven of the justices were named by Republican presidents, two by Bill Clinton, this is also a partisan political court, if that's the argument you're making about the seven justices of the Florida Supreme Court.
LOWRY: Right, well that's -- sure that's what they're going to say. But if the U.S. Supreme Court decides this on very narrow grounds and doesn't go out of it's way to favor the Bush campaign, I think that'll be totally legitimate.
And, look, the Florida Supreme Court ruling is totally intellectually indefensible. There has to be a deadline, right? We can't count into March. What gives the Florida Supreme Court the authority to substitute its judgment for what the deadline should be for the legislature.
ROBERTS: You know as well as I do that there are competing arguments, that the argument that the Florida Supreme Court made was that there were two different statutes passed by the legislature, one allowing for a recount, one setting a deadline. They were trying to reconcile the two.
I'm certainly glad to see you admit that the Bush attempt to go to the federal courts -- and this is a guy who has campaigned against judicial activism, who's campaigned against federal authority over the states, and suddenly going to the federal courts to overrule a state. I mean, there's a lot of hypocrisy on both sides but that was one of the most egregious examples.
LOWRY: I agree that was a mistake. But any deadline is arbitrary, right? And what the Florida legislature did was balance two competing values, the option of a hand recount and the need for finality. And that's exactly what the Florida Supreme Court did as well. And on its own terms, the Florida Supreme Court now has disenfranchised the voters of Miami-Dade and perhaps disenfranchised the voters of Palm Beach. This is a totally arbitrary decision, and that's what the U.S. Supreme Court is going to tell us within a week or so.
BLITZER: Susan, Chuck Hagel, the Republican Senator from Nebraska, widely respected, he was on "Face the Nation" earlier today. He says that this has to get -- we got to get over this very quickly. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL (R), NEBRASKA: We are closely approaching the time when both of these candidates are going to have put the best interests of this country aside because -- their own interests aside and put the best interests of the country first, because elections are about governing and we must govern. The world is not going to stop until we get our act together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAGE: Well, I think that's true, and I think that we're about a week away from the point where there will be considerable pressure on one of these guys to concede. And it will depend on how these vote counts go, which vote counts are included, who's going to face the most pressure in doing that.
There will be a point when we'll expect one candidate or the other not to proceed with every single legal challenge that's open to him but to say, enough is enough. It's been a fair process, let's unite behind the winner and move on.
BLITZER: All right, we're going to take a quick break. We have a lot more to talk about. When we return, more on the Florida recount plus Republican vice presidential candidate Dick Cheney suffered a mild heart attack this week. Did the Bush campaign mishandle that problem? The roundtable has some thoughts.
They'll weigh in when LATE EDITION continues.
BLITZER: Beautiful picture of the White House, a building I covered for seven years, used to walk in there every day.
Susan, you still get to the White House once in awhile.
PAGE: I go over there, yes, sure.
BLITZER: It's a lovely place, 200 years old.
You know, Dick Cheney had a mild heart attack this week. We only learned of that as the day went on.
Originally, the Bush people were saying there was no heart attack. In fact, the Republican presidential candidate said specifically there wasn't. Listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Dick Cheney is healthy; he did not have a heart attack.
I was so pleased to hear his voice this morning; he sounded strong and vibrant.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Now, we as reporters, we maybe overly sensitive to this notion of getting accurate, precise information. But there's been some criticism of the Bush team for putting out what was obviously, even as he spoke, faulty information.
PAGE: Of course, they have said that Governor Bush didn't realize that he had a heart attack at that point, and I take them at their word. But I do think this is the item of some concern, and there is a long history of White Houses not telling the full truth when it comes to presidential health. So I think it fairs for us to be suspicious and very anxious to get full and complete information when it comes president's health or perhaps the person who will end up being the vice president.
I think it is of some concern that there wasn't more of an effort to make sure they knew the full story before they went out and talked to reporters and that then they released the full story to reporters.
ROBERTS: Well, you know, I've also covered the White House for couple of years. We were there together during the Reagan administration, and I think this tells something else, when is, boy, when you get to be president or on the brink of being president, as George Bush is, you got to be much more careful about what you say. The scrutiny is much higher. You're held to a very different standard. And this was a rookie mistake, and hopefully they'll learn from it if they become the White House.
BLITZER: The question, Rich, does it raise questions about the credibility of these people who are -- obviously he didn't think he was lying at the time. He got bad information, Governor Bush, but does it raise questions about the people surrounding him, that they wouldn't wait and be specifically much more precise? LOWRY: No, I think that's probably reading too much into it. But, in general, to be brutally frank, you know, George W. Bush's impressiveness over the course of last year has waxed and waned. And I think in the last two weeks, we've been very much in a waning period. He's oftentimes seen very shaky in front of the cameras, and this was just another instance of that, where he didn't seem quite ready for prime time. And that's a very disturbing thing.
PAGE: You know, it's interesting, Lanny Davis, who was just on this show a few minutes ago, wrote a book after his experiences, that the Clinton White House had talked a lot about the need to, once you get into some trouble, or once you have a controversy, the first thing you do is you find out exactly what the facts are and you put them out, because, over the long run, that really serves your interests.
BLITZER: In terms of your credibility.
Susan, you had an excellent article in "USA TODAY," this week's, suggesting, what if -- a year ago Thanksgiving Day, a little boy from Cuba is rescued on the high seas and what if that had not occurred.
PAGE: Well, you know, that's one of the most -- there are a lot of what if's in an election that is close. That ones really fascinating, because if the Elan Gonzalez story had just never happened, experts in the Cuban-American vote in Florida estimate that Gore would have gotten at least 5,000 and perhaps as many as 65,000 more Cuban-American vote.
The community there was inflamed against the Clinton administration decision to forcibly remove Elan Gonzalez from his Miami relatives. Al Gore paid a price for that. We wouldn't be sitting have here not knowing who the next president is if Elan Gonzalez had stayed home.
BLITZER: All right, we only have a minute left. I want to quickly go around the table and ask, will Katherine Harris accept the request from the Palm Beach canvassing board to give them some more hours to complete the job before she certifies this election?
ROBERTS: I don't think she will, because I think she'll be acting as a partisan Republican. But I think she should, but I don't think she will.
LOWRY: I think her attitude toward the Florida Supreme Court will be, "You wanted a new deadline, you got new deadline, 5 o'clock tonight.
BLITZER: Five o'clock, no leeway.
PAGE: Don't know.
BLITZER: I understand, Susan, I don't know either.
Susan Page, Rich Lowry, Steve Roberts, good to have all of you on our roundtable, thanks again for joining us.
And just ahead, Bruce Morton's "Last Word."
BLITZER: Time now for Bruce Morton's "Last Word" on television networks and election night woes.
BRUCE MORTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A congressman plans hearings on what he says is evidence the TV networks tried to rig the election by calling states that were for Gore early and states that were for Bush late.
I don't believe that, because I know a lot of the people involved, and their loyalty is to demographics, samples, numbers, not to this candidate or that.
But what happened in Florida -- Gore won, no he didn't; Bush won, no, he didn't either -- does illustrate one thing about todays' news business: It's much less competitive than it used to be.
As recently as 1988, individual networks did their own exit polling, had their own sample precincts. Now all the data is pooled. Networks can make their own calls, but off the shared data. Why? It's cheaper to pool.
If networks had had their own samples in Florida, they probably wouldn't have all called and uncalled as they did. Somebody's stuff would have been different and experts would have been saying, "Wait a minute."
Pool is cheaper in other ways, too. Networks buy a lot of the footage they use on international stories. Not takeouts, but regular, today's news pictures. It's cheaper than sending your own crew, reporter and so on.
A White House cameraman noted recently there aren't many press charters anymore because so many news organizations pool presidential coverage instead of sending their own people. It's cheaper.
A lot of what's called syndicated material, stories and pictures networks get from their affiliates and pass on to other affiliates around the country so that Oklahoma City has pictures of the big fire in Tulsa, that is pooled now. It's cheaper.
The business is moving away from news-gathering, going out and finding out what's going on, and moving toward getting the picture or the copy from somewhere else. It's cheaper, but it has a cost.
The cost is, if you don't gather the news yourself, how do you know it's reliable, that this story really is what somebody else says it is, that the picture is what somebody else says it is? You save a lot of money, and money is more important to management now than it was in the glory days when the networks entertainment divisions made so much money that news didn't have to show a profit. You save money, but you lessen competition. When different media -- print, broadcast, whatever -- compete, it's easy for an intelligence consumer to search for and find the truth. The more the media pool and don't cover it themselves, the harder that search for truth becomes.
I'm Bruce Morton.
BLITZER: Thanks, Bruce.
One footnote to Bruce's piece: ABC News announced this week more stringent guidelines for how it will make projections for the next presidential election.
Meanwhile, CNN announced it will establish an independent review board to make recommendations about its election night procedures.
I'll be right back.
BLITZER: Welcome back. Normally at this time, we reveal what's on cover of major news magazines in the United States, but today we can't do that. All three magazines -- "U.S. News & World Report," "Time" magazine, and "Newsweek" -- have delayed publication until after tonight's 5 p.m. deadline to certify the vote in Florida.
And that's your LATE EDITION for Sunday, November 26. Be sure to join us again next Sunday and every Sunday at noon Eastern for the last word in Sunday talk.
I'll be back tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern for a special report on the Florida recount and tomorrow night at 8 Eastern for our special edition of "THE WORLD TODAY."
And, of course, stay with CNN for the latest developments in the Florida recount. Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield will be here at 4:30 p.m. Eastern, about 2 1/2 hours from now, to begin our countdown to the 5 p.m. deadline, if, in fact, that holds. We're awaiting word from Katherine Harris, the secretary of state of Florida, whether she will extend that deadline. As soon as we know, you will know.
For now, meanwhile, thanks very much for watching. Enjoy the rest of your weekend. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.
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