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Crossfire

Should Al Gore Concede Defeat?

Aired November 27, 2000 - 7:30 p.m. ET

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

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALBERT A. GORE JR., VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There are more than enough votes to change the outcome..

RICHARD B. CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Never before in American history has a presidential candidate gone to court to try to change the outcome of an already certified presidential election.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Tonight, the vice president contests Governor Bush's Florida victory. Should Gore concede, or is Bush asking for the keys before he has won the White House?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE.

On the left, Bill Press. On the right, Robert Novak.

In the CROSSFIRE, Congressman David Bonior of Michigan, a Gore supporter, and in Kansas City, Missouri, Congressman David Dreier, a Bush supporter.

PRESS: Good evening, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

Never in history have we ever seen anything like this. One candidate having declaring himself president-elect already putting together his administration, the other. having declared the count incomplete, still contesting the election, and the Supreme Court ready to jump in to do who knows what.

Today's move, while his lawyers went back to court, Gore staged a phone conversation with Democratic congressional leaders asserting there were still yet enough uncounted votes to reverse Bush's Florida win. But a confident Dick Cheney announced plans to proceed with a transition. If Clinton won't give them office space, Cheney said, they'll pay for it with private funds. And that's where we stand tonight, until Gore makes his case to the nation to be carried right here on CNN at about five minutes to nine Eastern time.

So, is Bush jumping the gun before it's over, or is it time for Gore to concede? Our guests tackle those questions after we first check in in Tallahassee with CNN's Kate Snow, who's been following events down there.

Kate, please, walk us through what happened today, if will you.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bill, I will do my best here. It gets a little bit complicated, more complicated by the day.

This is the first legal challenge, we should note, to a presidential election in 125 years in this country. The argument from the Gore legal team before the court today, circuit court here in Leon County, that the final tally of votes in Florida should have included a partial hand recount in Miami-Dade County and a full hand recount which ended a little bit after the deadline last night in Palm Beach County.

Gore attorneys would also like the standard that Palm Beach County used to look at the ballots to be reviewed, and they would like some of those indented chads to be counted. They also want Nassau County looked at. In Nassau County, you may recall, last week, at the end of last week, the Nassau County canvassing board changed their rules and went back to the election night results, discarding a machine recount that they had done. That lost Gore some votes there.

Gore attorneys have asked the court to order Miami-Dade County to send up over 10,000, about 10,750 ballots, physically send them up here so that a judge or his surrogate could look them over. They've also asked Palm Beach County to send up about 900 ballots. And they want the certified results to include all of the hand counts that were done before 7:30 last evening.

The judge here in Leon County Circuit Court, that's N. Sanders Sauls, ordered the Gore team to present evidence and lists of exhibits tomorrow or Wednesday. They gave the Bush team a couple more days beyond that. The only time before the judge today was a one-hour hearing just about the logistics of what they will do.

One more note, the case of the butterfly ballots is now here in Tallahassee at the Florida Supreme Court behind me. Those justices prepared to look at that issue and consider whether they will take the case tomorrow.

Bill, you got all that?

PRESS: We got it, Kate, and it's not getting any less complicated.

Thanks very much, Kate Snow in Tallahassee.

Now to our guests -- Bob Novak.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Congressman David Bonior, this is the first time a losing presidential candidate has gone to court to reverse the case, and the American people don't like it. "The Washington Post"/ABC overnight poll asked, should Gore concede? Yes, 60 percent said he should concede. And this is taken down the middle, half Gore supporters, half Bush supporters. No, 35 percent.

The poll asked, was the Florida vote counted accurately? Yes 56 percent, no 39 percent. Has the people's party lost the people?

REP. DAVID BONIOR (D-MI), MINORITY WHIP: No, not at all, Bob. I think the people's party has been the one who has been most interested as a party in the people's vote. It is the Democratic Party that fought for the Voting Rights Act, it is the Democratic Party that has been for broadening the specter for voting in this country.

You know, there are a lot of people who thinks that their vote is the most precious thing they can give our democracy. And these are the people in Florida, Bob, who get on that early bus in the morning and they take care of our parents and grandparents in nursing homes. They're the people who fought for our country, 10,000 of them, who have not had their votes counted. Every vote counts, and until they are counted I think this election is open.

NOVAK: How do you explain that poll, Congressman? Are people just stupid? They don't understand?

BONIOR: No, I think when the vice president speaks tonight to them and lays out the fact that if you take the numbers, 157 votes in Dade County that were thrown out and not counted for after being counted for Gore, you take 210 in Palm Beach County that were not counted because Katherine Harris decided not to allow all that work to be considered, and you take the strange and odd situation that occurred in Nassau County, a 51-vote change, you're down to about 100 votes.

NOVAK: You hear that slipping sound you hear are supporters of Gore slipping away. A lot of them won't go on the record, but Julia Carson, who is an African-American woman and a congresswoman from Indianapolis, says maybe it's time to quit. Former secretary of labor in the Clinton administration Bob Reich says it's time to quit.

And let me tell you what Robert Torricelli, senator from New Jersey, says. You know, Senator Torricelli was a campaign chairman who did very well compared to the House Democrats. So you can't knock Torricelli.

Let's look at the screen and what he said.

He said, "There's an enormous burden on Al Gore to establish this fight should go on. My personal view is that it is increasingly likely the public is going to want this election brought to a close. You're losing your troops, aren't you, Mr. Bonior?

BONIOR: No, we're not. We had a conference call today with the Democrats in the House. We had virtually every Democrat on that conference call, and every one of them was supportive of the vice president and Joe Lieberman. And as you saw today with Daschle and Gephardt, the same feeling. So we are united. We believe every vote should count, and we are going to continue to fight this.

NOVAK: What about Torricelli?

PRESS: Let me...

BONIOR: Torricelli is an odd situation in largely...

PRESS: David...

BONIOR: ... that he's one person.

PRESS: David Dreier, let me ask you about this count.

Mr. Chairman, as chairman of the Rules Committee, as someone sworn to uphold the Constitution -- and does well, representing your district...

REP. DAVID DREIER (R), CALIFORNIA: Thank you.

PRESS: I'm sure you do agree with the premise that every vote should be counted in an election, correct?

DREIER: Absolutely. I totally agree that every vote counts, and it is one of the most precious parts of our democracy. We encounter free and fair elections worldwide. At the end of this week, I'm going to be at the inauguration of the new president of Mexico, and along with...

PRESS: OK...

DREIER: ... Jim Baker I led an observer team there last July. So it is a...

PRESS: All right...

DREIER: ... very, very important thing...

PRESS: All right...

DREIER: ... and we have to recognize the fact that every vote has been counted. And that's something that has been forgotten.

PRESS: Well actually, if you believe in the principle then you will be interested in the numbers, because the fact is, as Congressman Bonior just pointed out, every vote has not been counted.

In Nassau County, there are 52 votes identified by the county canvassing board, not the Gore campaign, for Al Gore, which have not been counted. In Palm Beach, there were 215, same. In Miami-Dade, 157,

Now that's 424 votes identified in three counties for Al Gore by their county canvassing boards. That's not enough for him to win the election in Florida, but surely, David Dreier, you would agree those votes should be counted, correct?

DREIER: Bill, let me just say again. We went, we had election -- we had the election, we had a count. And George Bush won that count. We had a recount. And in a number of counties, we've had a hand recount, and George Bush has continued to win.

And the fact is, you know, Winston Churchill said at the beginning of "The Moral of the Work," in victory, magnanimity. Last night, George Bush demonstrated a great deal of magnanimity. There is an interest for us to move ahead. And I will tell you...

PRESS: David...

DREIER: ... I worked closely with David Bonior on a number of issues, on dealing with foreign policy issues one just recently, and I look forward to working in a bipartisan way...

PRESS: Congressman...

DREIER: ... and I'm convinced that President George W. Bush is enthused about working with Dave Bonior frankly more than Al Gore is with David Dreier, because...

PRESS: Congressman...

DREIER: ... because I've seen more bipartisan coming from George W. Bush.

PRESS: Congressman, you and George Bush can say over and over and over again these votes have been counted. According to the county canvassing boards -- they know a lot more than you do -- they have not been counted.

I want to show, if we can, that last graphic on the screen we just saw, because if you take those 424 votes from George Bush's 537 official total, that slims his lead to 113 votes. Isn't that the reason why George Bush doesn't want any more votes counted...

DREIER: Absolutely not, absolutely not.

PRESS: ... including those 10,000 votes -- let me finish my question -- including those 10,000 votes in Miami-Dade, because if they're counted, Gore wins Florida.

DREIER: No, no, that is just plain wrong. People trying to continue to move these dates, which is what the Gore campaign is trying to do. It's being done in large part due to the fact that they would like to push this to December 12th so that we can't, in fact, have the completion of the electors from Florida going to Washington. They're trying to delay this process...

NOVAK: David Bonior...

DREIER: ... in an attempt to undermine it, and it's wrong. The election is over.

NOVAK: David Bonior, you're losing the political -- P.R. war and you're trying to make it back. I mean, Democrats tell me that they've been losing it. And so we had something today which I didn't quite understand. We had -- let's take a look at it on the screen. We had -- let take a look at that on the screen. Can we bring up what we saw, what all America saw today?

There it is. We had Al Gore talking on the phone in one place and Dick Gephardt, your colleague, and Tom Daschle in another place, and Lieberman and Gore were talking on separate telephones. You know, I've been around a long time, Mr. Bonior. That was about the silliest looking thing I have ever seen. You're a very savvy politician. What were they trying to do there?

BONIOR: Well, Bob, when somebody is in Washington and other people are in Florida, the way you talk to each other is on the phone.

DREIER: Why do you fly from Washington to Florida to have a phone call like that.

NOVAK: They went to Florida to have -- they went...

BONIOR: They went to Florida because Dave Dreier and all of his troops and his party people are down there, by the way, embarrassing themselves, as they did in Miami-Dade in that mob scene that occurred down there.

DREIER: Exercising First Amendment rights.

NOVAK: All right, we're going to have to take a break, but that was really dumb. You guys can do better than that.

DREIER: It was a spectacle. It was a spectacle.

NOVAK: I know.

BONIOR: Get out, get out.

NOVAK: Here's tonight's online audience vote: Should Gore concede? Tell us at CNN.com/CROSSFIRE, and we'll tell you the results later in the show. I can't wait, Bill.

PRESS: Scientific poll.

NOVAK: Then stick around for tonight's online CROSSFIRE debate, with Gore supporter Congressman Jerrold Nadler of New York, New York City, and Bush supporter Congressman David Dreier right after the show.

We're going to have a break, and then we come back and we'll talk about whether George W. Bush, if he is elected, has a mandate to govern.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE.

George W. Bush has been certified as winner of Florida's 25 electorate votes and, therefore, as the next president. What's more, public opinion seems to be running against Al Gore. But what mandate would Bush carry into the White House as minority president if he finally wins the long count in Florida?

We're asking two party leaders in the House of Representatives. Here in Washington, David Bonior of Michigan, the House Democratic whip, and in Kansas City, Missouri, David Dreier of California, chairman of the House Rules Committee.

Bill Press.

PRESS: Congressman Dreier, I want to ask you about the mandate in just a second, but first if there are any scenes from this experience over the last three last weeks we'll always remember, I think it's the scenes of that mob in Miami-Dade storming the courthouse doors and basically forcing the Miami-Dade canvassing board to shut down their operation.

We find out today, Congressman, from "The Wall Street Journal," that these are not Florida residents after all. Most of them are staff members, Republican staff members, from Washington flown to Florida, put up in hotels, given free meals by Congressman Tom DeLay to disrupt that process.

I don't how many of your staff members were there, but I ask you, is that a proper role for Congress to play?

DREIER: Bill, let me just say that characterization is totally wrong. I saw Floridians whom I happened to know who were part of that protest. And you know what they were saying? They were simply saying, we need to have an open process here. They weren't allowing television cameras in as they were proceeding with that recount, and they were doing it in a very tiny room upstairs. They finally moved it downstairs...

PRESS: Yes, but, Congressman...

DREIER: ... and those Democrats, Bill, came...

PRESS: Congressman...

DREIER: ... to the conclusion that it was in fact the right thing...

PRESS: Hey...

DREIER: ... for them not to proceed.

PRESS: Hey, Congressman, listen, this is "The Wall Street Journal" talking, not Bill Press. Seven hundred and fifty Republican staffers rotated in and out at GOP expense to disrupt the county election board. How can you defend that?

BONIOR: Bill, can I get in...

DREIER: People went...

BONIOR: Bill, can I get here over this thing?

DREIER: Let me just tell you. People went voluntarily to do this, to exercise...

PRESS: They were paid to go. DREIER: They were not paid to go. People went voluntarily, and the exercised their First Amendment rights because an outrage was taking place. And that outrage was they were not bringing about this count under an open process.

NOVAK: Go ahead.

DREIER: They wanted open deliberations.

BONIOR: David, they have a right to exercise their First Amendment rights, and I appreciate that and support that. But, you know, what happened there was that people were punched, they were kicked...

DREIER: Was anyone arrested?

BONIOR: They were put inside rooms and they couldn't get out. They had police escorts out. They intimidated...

DREIER: How many arrests have their been?

BONIOR: They intimidated one of the canvassers who admitted, changed his mind, but admitted...

NOVAK: He said it didn't have -- are you talking about Mr. Leahy?

BONIOR: Exactly, Mr. Leahy.

NOVAK: He said it didn't have any affect, David.

BONIOR: About four or five days later. The first day he said it did have an affect.

DREIER: It had no affect at all, and these are Democrats down there.

NOVAK: All right.

DREIER: Why would they be intimidated by some kind of protest?

NOVAK: OK...

DREIER: David, you and I know full well as elected officials. We deal with that on a regular basis. And I will tell you, I deal with a lot of Democratic activists who come and do that.

BONIOR: We don't deal with punching and kicking and pushing.

NOVAK: All right, Mr. Press and...

DREIER: Of course we do. Come to Los Angeles.

NOVAK: Mr. Press didn't get around to challenging Mr. Bush -- Governor Bush's mandate, but let's turn it around the other way. Let's say that Al Gore is elected president. I'm want you to listen to what one of your colleagues, a man I know you respect, Roy Blunt, the chief deputy majority whip, said to me on CNN yesterday about a Gore presidency.

Let's listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "EVANS, NOVAK, HUNT & SHIELDS")

REP. ROY BLUNT (R), MISSOURI: I think Al Gore would have to change his mode of operation a lot. I never a single time heard Al Gore say, I want to work with Republicans. I'm want to bring everybody together. As far as I know, no leader in the Congress, no Republican leader in the Congress, has gotten a call or talked to Al Gore about any legislative item for over two years now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Do you buy that? I mean, you have to agree with that. He'll have to change his way if he manages to win this count.

BONIOR: Well, I respect Roy Blunt and I like him. Let me just say this with respect to what he just said. If you listen to the debate, Al Gore said he would certainly reach out, in three debates, he said he would reach out to Republicans and try to run the country. You have to. The House is divided, the Senate is evenly divided, the country is divided.

NOVAK: He'd have to change his ways, in other words.

DREIER: I think an important point...

BONIOR: No, he wouldn't have to change his ways. The vice president worked with a number of Republicans on issues to...

NOVAK: Who? Who does he work with?

BONIOR: He worked with...

DREIER: Let me tell you, I have not worked with...

BONIOR: He worked with Republicans to...

DREIER: David...

PRESS: Go ahead, finish David.

DREIER: I have spent a great deal of time trying to work with Bill Clinton on international trade issues, on a wide range of things. Al Gore was never involved, and he's never reached out to me. George Bush has a pattern of having done it in Texas, and he very much wants to do it with you in Washington, just as I want to work with you. Because we know that we're going to have to proceed in a bipartisan way if we're going to get anything accomplished.

And I know, David Bonior, you want to help us have great accomplishment with a Republican president and a Republican Congress. BONIOR: Well I don't think this makes much sense talking about who's going to reach out to who. They're both obviously have to roach out to each other -- to the other party to make things work.

DREIER: We've got to look at the track record.

NOVAK: One more reach out. Dick Cheney came out of the hospital and he's vigorous -- he's more vigorous than Press and I are -- and he said because the administration won't give him the key to the transition room, in the case he does become president -- well let's lesson to what Dick Cheney said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICHARD B. CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We will pay a heavy price for the delays in planning and assembling the next administration.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Quick response.

BONIOR: He doesn't need to be -- have the key. He's not a vice president-elect yet. The Supreme Court hasn't decided, nor has the court in Florida. But in terms of...

DREIER: (OFF-MIKE) have decided.

BONIOR: Excuse me, David.

DREIER: The certification's taken place.

BONIOR: In terms of votes, if voting is so important, why did Dick Cheney fail to vote 14 out of 16 times?

NOVAK: They were just local issues.

BONIOR: Just local issues like education and health care, local issues like that.

NOVAK: He was just camping in Texas. He lived in Wyoming.

DREIER: It would be a terrible legacy for Bill Clinton...

PRESS: It's...

DREIER: It would be a terrible legacy if he doesn't release those funds.

PRESS: It's just warming up, but we're out of time.

Sorry, David Bonior. Thanks very much for joining us in the studio.

BONIOR: Great to be with you.

DREIER: Merry Christmas.

PRESS: And Congressman David Dreier, thank you very much for joining us -- Merry Christmas? You're jumping the gun on too much tonight, David Dreier.

All right, thank you, guys. We're going to come back with closing comments, Bob Novak and I. Meanwhile, don't forget to join our debate online right after the show with Gore supporter Congressman Jerrold Nadler from New York and Bush supporter Congressman David Dreier. It's starts right after this show at CNN.com/CROSSFIRE.

We'll be back with closing comments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: We have the results from tonight's online audience vote. Earlier, we asked you whether Gore should concede, and 81 percent of you said yes, while only -- 82 percent of you said yes, while 18 percent said of you said no. God bless America.

PRESS: Bob, those conservatives are cheating. They're voting more than once.

NOVAK: Bill, in your cloistered life, I don't know if you ever played any poker. But what Gore is trying to do is fill an inside straight, which is very difficult. He's trying to -- he has to win all of these contests in these three counties, he has to win the U.S. Supreme Court vote, And then if he wins all that, which I'm sure he won't, he has the Florida legislature and the U.S. House of Representatives to take care of.

You know what he ought to do? He ought to say, I surrender, dear, let's go on with the show.

PRESS: You know, Bob, if it's worth winning, it's worth fighting for. And I will grant you that there are lots of obstacles that the Bushies could throw in his path. But the truth is -- and you know it -- if all the votes are counted in Florida, Al Gore wins Florida. The goal of the Bush campaign is to stop those votes from being counted. What are they afraid of, Bob?

NOVAK: We're a country of laws. I know that's hard for a liberal to understand, but we have to go according to the law. And the U.S. Supreme Court is going to find that out. You were surprised, I'm sure, that they took the case. You may be surprised how they rule.

PRESS: The last take I checked, the law says that everybody gets to vote, and every vote shall be counted. Let's follow the law.

NOVAK: The certification had to be in -- certification had to be in two weeks ago.

PRESS: Well, Katherine Harris.

From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE. It's not over, and it won't be over for a while.

NOVAK: I wish I looked as good as Katherine Harris.

I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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