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Crossfire

Should Al Gore Concede?

Aired November 28, 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)

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm quite sure that the polls don't matter in this, because it's a legal question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: But do the polls matter?

Tonight, is the tide turning against Al Gore, or do Americans want him to keep fighting for a recount?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington: CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Robert Novak. In the CROSSFIRE: radio talk show host Janet Parshall; and in New York, Sam Greenfield, WEBB radio talk show host.

PRESS: Good evening, welcome to CROSSFIRE.

It's a busy day in Florida today, we'll talk about it all with our guests. But first, let's go to Tallahassee, get the latest on the legal ups and downs of today from CNN's Kate Snow.

Kate, please try to walk us through it.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, I'm going to stick with what just happened here at the Florida Supreme Court. We just heard from Florida Supreme Court spokesman Craig Waters. He came out a few minutes ago and said, No. 1, they are putting together a large box full of documents to send on up to Washington to the U.S. Supreme Court. Those will be a certified copy of the record in the case that was considered here in the Florida Supreme Court last week, the case which ultimately resulted in Katherine Harris, the secretary of state having to extend the deadline to receive manual recounts. All of the documents on that case going on up to Washington.

Secondly, on the butterfly ballot issue, which has come to this court now, they say there are now two separate cases: one was filed today, one was filed yesterday, both having to do with the butterfly ballots in Palm Beach County. The justices have not yet decided whether to take either, or one, or none of those two cases, they are going to accept briefs on the second case until 4:00 tomorrow. Now, today, they accepted briefs on the first case that has to do with butterfly ballots. That case combines the complaints of five different voters from Palm Beach County, all of whom say they were confused by that butterfly ballot and that they voted either twice or they voted for the wrong candidate.

They are asking for a revote, and in their brief -- one of their briefs filed today on behalf of those citizens, they say, "while we realize that a new election or a revote in a presidential race is unprecedented, at this point, the court has two choices: either go back to the results of," what they call -- quote -- "a flawed process" -- unquote -- "and conclude that those results represent the will of the people, or do what we want and order a revote."

A judge in a lower court in Palm Beach County found that he couldn't rule on that at all, that he couldn't call for a revote because he felt that voting is something established by the U.S. Constitution.

It establishes that Congress decides what day an election is held. So he basically said: I'm not going to interfere with that. Now, attorneys for George W. Bush agree with that point of view.

They think this whole thing should be -- essentially, that the Supreme Court should uphold what lower court did and get rid of this case -- the Bush legal team arguing that if anyone had a problem with butterfly ballots, they ought to have said so before the election and not afterwards -- but plaintiffs arguing that not only should there be a revote, they say in today's brief that there could be one, and they can prove it. They have an accounting firm that they have gotten in touch with.

And that firm says that they are prepared, if Palm Beach County doesn't want to do it, to come in, set up voting machines, have everyone fill in hand ballots on paper. And they would do that on December 1, and count votes on December 2, the next day -- Bill, back to you.

PRESS: All right, Kate, thanks very much.

And, of course, we have been watching for the last hour-and-a- half or so the hearing in Leon County over the disputed ballots in Palm Beach and Miami-Dade counties. CNN's Gary Tuchman was in the courtroom during that hearing. He's been following it.

Gary, wrap up what happened there today for us, please.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bill, it a was fascinating hearing. At times, it was downright funny. The judge cracked a lot of jokes. Sometimes you heard a vacuum cleaner in another room. And it would have been hilarious, until you realized the implications and the gravity of this hearing. And that's why it was so fascinating.

First of all, the Gore lawyers today asked for a motion to speed up the process. They wanted this trial -- and it's basically a civil trial -- to start as soon as Monday. The Bush side argued there should not be such a rush. It's the Gore fault that this has become so compressed. They had plenty of time to contest if they didn't protest it so long before certification. Well, this was victory for the Gore side. The judge made decision that the trial would be this Saturday at 9:00 a.m. He pushed it up even closer to now than the Gore side wanted.

And he also said something very important. The Gore side also asked for the ballots -- contested ballots in Miami-Dade County -- 10,500 that weren't counted at all during the hand count because that board stop counting -- and 3,300 ballots in Palm Beach County, which the Gore side contests should have been counted for Gore, because they had dimples, but were not counted for Gore -- the judge ordered that those ballots all be sent up to Tallahassee.

So those ballots are scheduled to arrive in Tallahassee by 12:00 noon. Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County will send the ballots in police cars in a caravan to come to Tallahassee for tight security. Now, the Gore side asked for those votes to be counted immediately. The judge says he would not count those necessarily immediately. He didn't close off the possibility of counting them. As a matter of fact, he said this Thursday he will hold a hearing on how to count them: what the standards would be if they were counted.

But he did not commit right now to counting the ballots. But he left that option open. The Bush side obviously does not want these ballots counted. The Gore side does. And the Bush side was not happy that a hearing was set up Thursday to discuss how to count them.

In addition, Bill, they are going to bring the voting machines from Miami-Dade County and Palm Beach County up with ballots, so the judge can see those.

So, that's the situation here. It's a very interesting hearing today.

The Gore side feel that they got some victories, but they didn't get everything they wanted, because they wanted those votes to start getting counted again right away -- back to you, Bill.

PRESS: All right. And it changes minute by minute. We are on top of it. Thanks very much, Gary Tuchman.

Let's get to our guests -- Bob Novak.

ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: All right, Sam Greenfield, talk show host from WEVD in New York.

We have had some interesting polls results from CNN/"USA Today"/Gallup, polls taken on Wednesday and Thursday -- I'm sorry -- on Monday and Tuesday of this week. And it shows first that people are losing patience: 62 percent say that the recount has gone on too long already; 37 percent willing to wait longer. And then there is a decline in the number of -- in the support for Al Gore.

Now 56 percent say that he should concede, compared to 46 percent last week. Only 38 percent say he shouldn't concede, compared to 46 percent last week. Does that jibe, Sam, with you -- what are you getting from your talk-show listeners: Let's get it over with? SAM GREENFIELD, RADIO TALK SHOW SHOT: No, my listeners want this count to go until someone is determined to be the winner by the votes that weren't counted, by the votes that are up in the air. But I understand people's, you know, fluctuation about this, because to us, president is like daddy.

And we were supposed to have daddy decided on November 8. And now we are encroaching upon December, and there is no clear winner. There is not a winner yet to be determined regardless of Mrs. Harris' count.

NOVAK: You know, I'm really interested. People in New York are a little bit different, I guess, than people around -- the real Americans around the country.

GREENFIELD: We're real Americans. We pay taxes, we vote.

NOVAK: Yes, but do you just ignore the fact that it isn't just the CNN poll, it's "The Washington Post" poll, shows 60 percent say he should concede? Can't you realize that in the great America beyond the Hudson River people are sick of this?

GREENFIELD: Well, I'm not from New York City originally, so the great America beyond the Hudson River...

NOVAK: Well, I don't care. You listen to people from New York.

GREENFIELD: I beg your pardon?

NOVAK: You listen to people from New York on your talk show.

GREENFIELD: Oh, I do. I listen to them assiduously. I also listen to people who listen to us on our Web site from Las Vegas and Kentucky and Tennessee. I got a call today from a man in Tennessee who supports Al Gore's decision as well as a guy from Kentucky.

The point is it doesn't matter what the polls say, as a Republican would say if the polls were going against them. Then the polls would just be some kind of superfluous fluff, and who knows how the questions were asked.

The point is there are thousands and thousands of ballots that are not yet counted. Let them be counted, and then let the chips fall where they may.

PRESS: All right, Janet Parshall, I want -- I get a big kick out of all these polls suddenly -- for all of us in the media, after we have so much egg on our face because of the polls during the campaign, not to mention the polls on election night, is there any reason we ought to be paying any attention to any polls today? I mean, seriously?

JANET PARSHALL, RADIO TALK SHOW HOST: Oh, methinks thou doth protest too much. The polls have been used as a club. In fact, "USA Today" had a wonderfully interesting piece. They said, once upon time, polls were used to tell us what we think. Now, polls are used to tell us what we should think.

And the bottom line is on this that I talk to people all across the country. I'm not relegated to one state. I'm on all across the country. And people are disgusted. That's the operative word. They're disgusted.

You talk about being disenfranchised: This is theater of the absurd. We just got through watching an hour and a half of court proceedings. Now, we're talking about how thick the rubber is before we punch the stylus through the ballot. It gets more bizarre all the time.

PRESS: Well, Janet, I'm not surprised that the people that you listen to on your show are agreeing with you. It's like listening to yourself.

But I want to just point out that not all the polls actually agree either. Here's from the NBC poll recently, just yesterday, I believe, was asked the question: "Should Bush have claimed victory or waited until the legal challenges were complete?" Should have waited, 51 percent of Americans say that. That he was right to go ahead and crown himself king, only 44 percent.

So the American people are as divided on this as they were on the choice of the president, correct?

PARSHALL: Bill, oh, thank you so much. Thank you so much for citing an NBC poll. NBC, now that would be the network that didn't air George W. Bush's speech on Sunday night because they didn't want to interrupt "Titanic." And that's why...

PRESS: That has nothing to do with their polls.

PARSHALL: Oh, it really is very reflective of biased broadcasting, about advocacy. You understand -- you talk about egg on the face, you've got people...

PRESS: I thought we were the only biased network.

PARSHALL: You've got people who are calling the race in Florida well before it was over, extremely culpable here. That's why talk radio has exploded. People want the rest of the story.

NOVAK: I'm afraid we're going to have to take a break, and when we come back, we'll talk to more about our radio talk shows, about talk-show hosts, about what the real Americans are thinking.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NOVAK: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. We're talking to Sam Greenfield in New York, who hosts "The Sam Greenfield Show" on WEVD in New York city and supports Al Gore for president; and here in Washington, Janet Parshall, who hosts the nationally syndicated "Janet Parshall's America" and supports George W. Bush for president -- Bill Press. PRESS: Janet, this has been a field day for talk show hosts and for lawyers. Yesterday Jim Baker said in Florida, it's time for all the lawyers to go home. Today the Bush campaign sent another platoon of lawyers to Florida to fight all these cases. Isn't it clear that the Bush camp's goal is delay, delay, delay -- run out the clock until December the 12th so these votes are never counted?

PARSHALL: Boy, Bill, I don't know what page of history you're reading, but that's now how I'm reading it at all. The stalls here are being put forth by the Gore campaign.

We're constantly talking about manual counts, manual counts, manual counts. You've heard it said before because it's the truth. You've had a vote, you've had a recount and in some cases you had three, four and five recounts, and that's why you're beginning to see the polls. And I'd venture to say 24, 48 hours from now, those numbers are going to get even higher.

The American public don't want an allegory. They don't want their president chosen by a court or by judges. There's been a vote and that's why you're now starting to get some defections in the Democratic camp who are going to say, enough already. You've lost, go home.

PRESS: Well I have to tell you -- I may not shock you -- I don't give a damn about the polls. I think the issues are too important. But I want to come back -- I invite you to read this week's "New Yorker" magazine. Jeffrey Toobin, their legal analyst, was down in Florida and interviewed a Bush strategist who said clearly -- quote -- "Every day that those votes don't get counted we're winning."

How can you deny their strategy is, again, legal delays so those votes are never counted? They admit it themselves.

PARSHALL: You know, there's been a count and there's been a certification. You heard Gary say that they heard the sound of a vacuum down the hallway -- were they vacuuming the chads that fell out in some of those manual recounts again?

The American public have had it -- they have had it. There has been a winner here; the winner is George W. Bush. And I'll tell you what, this is really about men of honor and men of character...

PRESS: Dream on.

PARSHALL: ... and sometimes doing the right things is the hardest think to do. Let's hope he does the right thing and backs down. That's Al Gore.

NOVAK: Sam Greenfield, let's not talk about the American people or even the New York people, but let's talk about "The Washington Post." The last time "The Washington Post" endorsed a Republican for president was Dwight D. Eisenhower a half a century ago; they always endorse Democrats. And let's just see what they said in their editorial today. They said, quote, "the court set a deadline. Mr. Gore wasn't able to win within it; and the court, in our judgment, needs to be awfully careful about granting him the further relief he now seeks."

The troops are leaving the democratic candidate for president.

GREENFIELD: Well, it says they ought to be careful. It doesn't say they ought to pack up their bags.

And I think it's interesting that Janet talks about people leaving, but when Mr. Baker has brought down this bunk squad to Miami- Dade to pound on the door saying, stop the voting, stop the voting. If anybody has imported people to Florida, it's certainly Mr. Baker.

And by the way, does George W. Bush have anybody of his own age group who he relies on? His transition guy is from daddy's team. Mr. Baker is from daddy's team. Is there anybody he personally knows who can come down there and settle this hash for him who didn't work for his dad?

NOVAK: Mr. Greenfield, are you afraid of yuppie, congressional Republican staffers?

GREENFIELD: I grew up...

NOVAK: I've been here in this town for half a century, they've never frightened me. Do they frighten you?

GREENFIELD: No. In fact, I used to drive a cab when I was getting my master's degree in Washington and you were one of my favorite customers. So I also -- yes, yes and an amazingly good tipper.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Was I a good tipper?

GREENFIELD: An amazingly good tipper for Bob Novak and the thing that I think is interesting is that now everybody is saying, let's go home. Let's stop. But when George W. Bush thought that there was a chance Florida could turn against him, he contested Wisconsin. He contested Iowa. He contested New Mexico.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: He didn't contest those states.

GREENFIELD: And by the way -- wait a minute. I don't blame him. This is big.

NOVAK: That's not correct. That's not correct.

GREENFIELD: And by the way, Jan, where have there been five recounts? Where has anybody counted votes five times?

NOVAK: Sam, he didn't contest those states. But I want -- in the interest of exposing mean-spiritedness, I want you to hear something that the vice president said today. Let's listen:

GREENFIELD: OK, you bet.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GORE: I believe it's essential to our country that there be no question, no cloud over the head of next president, whether it be me or Governor Bush. We need to be able to say that there is no legitimate question as to who won this election so that we can bring this country together.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NOVAK: Now, let me interpret that for you if I might. What he is saying is...

GREENFIELD: Oh, I heard it.

(CROSSTALK)

NOVAK: Just a minute. What he is saying unless the -- his lawyers get their way, George W. Bush will be an illegitimate president. Is that in the interest of the country?

GREENFIELD: No. I think what is interesting is that you point out that speech when yesterday George "I won, where the keys?" Bush made a speech saying, hey, you lost. Get out. Take it like a man. Go home.

The only thing that's in the best interest of the country is to have all votes fairly counted. Once that happens, if George W. Bush wins, God bless him because in two years he's not going to have a majority in either house.

PRESS: Janet, we're almost out of time, but in fairness, we'll give you the last word.

PARSHALL: We have a winner and whiner. I hope that the whiner goes home soon and so does a majority of American people

PRESS: I'm sorry I gave you the last word. All right, Janet Parshall, thank for being here.

PARSHALL: Thank you, Bill.

PRESS: Sam Greenfield, thank you for being there.

GREENFIELD: Thank you very much.

PRESS: But those two are not going away -- thanks, Sam. Those two are not going away, they're just going online. That's right, you can continue the debate with Sam Greenfield and Janet Parshall right after the show at our Web site at cnn.com/crossfire. And first, though, don't go away because Bob Novak and I will be right back with closing comments.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) PRESS: Bob, you know, I know George Bush is having a good time playing president down there in Austin, but if I were him I wouldn't give too many jobs away because you heard that judge today say that those ballots from Miami-Dade and Palm Beach are coming up to Tallahassee. If those ballots are counted, Bob, Al Gore wins.

NOVAK: He hasn't made a decision whether to count them...

PRESS: That's true.

NOVAK: ... but I'm going to tell you a little secret. I hope can you understand it. Read my lips. Some countrified judge in Tallahassee, Florida is not going to decide the president of the United States, because if these guys mess around and start this counting game, the Florida legislature is going to certify Republican electors and send them to Washington and under the Constitution, the legislature determines who the electors are.

PRESS: And I say let them try to steal this election with Jeb Bush and it's all over. From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night from CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: Thou shalt not steal, Mr. Gore. I'm Robert Novak from the right. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.

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