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Should There Be Another Recount of Florida Presidential Ballots?

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


ROBERT NOVAK, CO-HOST: Tonight, a truck full of ballots reaches its destination. Will it help Al Gore reach the White House? And George W. Bush welcomes an old friend to his ranch.


COLIN POWELL, FORMER CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: Congratulations, governor, on your success in the election.




NOVAK: Will Colin Powell be the neck secretary of state?

ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, CROSSFIRE. On the left, Bill Press; on the right, Robert Novak.

NOVAK: Good evening. Welcome to CROSSFIRE. Our guests tonight are Senator Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, and joining us later from Carson City, Nevada, Senator Harry Reid, Democratic of Nevada.

All of America is waiting for tomorrow's arguments before the Supreme Court on the Florida long count, and Al Gore's lawyers today advised the justices on what they want them to decide. Meanwhile, Joe Lieberman scolded the Florida legislature for planning to trump the Florida Supreme Court by voting in Bush electors. And down at George W. Bush's ranch in Texas, General Colin Powell was visiting. A secretary of state in waiting?

Lots more news in Tallahassee today, and here is CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman to tell us about it -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bob, it was an ordinary yellow truck with an extraordinary cargo: A Ryder truck with a detail on it that said "Rent me" was rented by Palm Beach County election officials to bring 462,000 ballots to Tallahassee, the state capital.

It was an eight-hour ride, but when they got there, they started unloading the boxes: 166 of them with about 2,000 ballots in each. The reason they're here, because Judge N. Sanders Sauls ruled they had to be here, as well as 654,000 ballots from Miami-Dade County: 1.1 million in all. Will he count them? He says he hasn't decided. He'll make that decision after the presidential contest officially begins on Saturday.

Now, it was quite a scene when that Ryder truck arrived here about 3:45 this afternoon: police cars, police motorcycles, helicopters, members of the media, members of the public, all wanting to see a little bit of unusual surreal history as that truck came down the streets with the sirens going off.

Also in Tallahassee today, a legislative committee voted to hold a special legislative session in the city on Tuesday where it's the Republican-dominated legislature will appoint 25 electors of its own, and you can bet your last buck those electors will be for George W. Bush.

Bob, back to you.

NOVAK: Thank you very much, Gary -- Bill Press.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Senator Hatch, if only you had been the Republican nominee, we wouldn't be in this mess today.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, you know, you guys, you guys didn't help at all.


Every one of you said, well, you're very qualified but you don't have a chance, and that proved prophetic.

PRESS: You didn't get my check? All right, Senator Hatch...

HATCH: Actually, I'm very proud of George Bush, and you've got to be proud of Al Gore. I mean, they've run very tough campaigns, it's a tough situation, and you know, you've got to have empathy for both.

PRESS: On a serious note in tonight's topic, there's action tomorrow in the Supreme Court, action today in the Florida state legislature. That's -- let's start there.

I know you believe that George Bush won Florida, and in fact, the secretary of state has certified that he won Florida. The governor has sent that certification up here to Washington, D.C. So why -- why? -- is there any need for the Florida legislature to jump into this thing?

HATCH: Well, because that certification is being contested by the Al Gore forces, and even some private citizens. So until there is final official certification, if this is not done by December 12, then under constitutional law and under our statutory law the state legislature has every right to make that determination. Remember, they were elected by the people as well, and that's just the way it.

I know that Bruce Ackerman takes exception with that, but he's wrong, because...

NOVAK: A professor.

HATCH: Yes, Professor Ackerman. I mean -- I mean, he's wrong on that, because basically there is no official certification until we get through this set of contests.

PRESS: All right. So Bush has been certified. If they -- the judge says we're going to count those votes and if they count those votes and it shows that Al Gore won, then there's -- then that certification -- pardon me if I just finish -- that certification will be changed. But isn't the only reason the Florida legislature then would jump in, to block Al Gore from being legitimately declared the winner if the votes are counted and he comes up the winner?

HATCH: Well, those are big "ifs" that you're saying, and nobody's sure that Gore is going to win on those matters. But even if he does, there would be an immediate appeal probably to both through the federal and the state courts.

You know, this is a classic -- let me say this, Bill. This is a classic federalism class in the Supreme Court tomorrow. The Supreme Court has to determine -- you know, I've had -- I've heard some commentators criticize Republicans. Well, aren't you people for the state and local government and control?

Well, this is the ultimate question about state and local government control, because Article II Section I of the Constitution says that the state legislature has the authority over elections. They delegated that to the secretary of state, who acted, and her actions were held to be not an abuse of discretion by a Democrat judge down there, and the Supreme Court completely rewrites the law and ignores what the state legislature did. And that's really what's at -- and usurps the power of both the legislative and executive branches, contrary to both the United States Constitution and the Florida Constitution. And that's what's involved here.

PRESS: Senator, I'm not going to debate the law with a chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, but look, you know that if this were the other way around, you'd be screaming bloody murder. This is a power play on the part of George Bush's little brother to say, if the state doesn't go the way I want it to go, I'm going to steal the election and give it to my brother.

HATCH: Well, Al Gore wants to count selective ballots in selective precincts, some of which were not even 6 percent for him, and selected votes, and ignore a lot of military ballots at the same time. And you're saying that -- and they keep passionately saying, well, we -- all we want is a full and fair count.

The fact of the matter is no, they don't. They want a full and fair count of the votes that they want to count. And secondly -- just think about it -- if they wanted a full and fair count, why didn't Gore immediately apply for all 67 counties? Now, he later said, yes, I would be amenable to that, but of course, it was for all practical purposes too late. And to me, that's just politics and crass politics at that.

NOVAK: We're still waiting for Senator Harry Reid, the House Democratic whip, to join us from Carson City, Nevada.

But Senator Hatch, I know you're a distinguished lawyer. A lot of people think you should be on the Supreme Court right now hearing that case. Maybe you think so too.

HATCH: I think you're trying to abuse me. I think that's what you're trying to do.


I can tell when I'm being had.

NOVAK: But let's stop the pussy footing around. Let's say what's happening. They have taken in Broward County, where the only place where the Gore people are relatively happy about the recount -- they picked up 560 votes there -- and they have taken these poor ballots, and they have twisted them and mangled them and stepped on them and god knows what. There is no record, no record of the contest between the two Democratic judges and the one Republican judge. Are they trying to steal the election?

HATCH: Well, let me put it this way: There is increasingly the feeling among people, not just Republicans, but even some Democrats and independents out there -- I've gotten all kinds of e-mails, letters, telephone calls, and many from Democrats, saying that they're afraid that Gore, not Gore, but his people are trying to hijack the election.


NOVAK: Do you think so?

HATCH: I don't want to make that claim.


HATCH: I think that there's certainly -- they certainly have a right to raise issues, but they're raising issues after two certifications. The first one was ordered by the legislature of Florida. If she hadn't certified -- look how she was trashed by these people who claim they're for women's rights.

NOVAK: That's secretary of state -- Secretary of State Harris.

HATCH: Yes, Katherine Harris. Look how she was trashed. She actually did what she had to do. She would have been subject to impeachment had she not certified on the 14th.

But then the Supreme Court took it over, rewrote the statute, set a new date. There's no real precedent for that. And then she followed the Supreme Court and she gets trashed again by these people who claim that they're for women's rights. That's the thing that really bothers me. And Bill, I know you wouldn't be part of that, because you are for women's rights. And I would think you should chastise your fellow Democrats for the way they're acting in this matter.

PRESS: If she had not acted as such a pure partisan and done her job, I would have not chastised her.

HATCH: How was she partisan? Bill, how was she partisan? She did what she had to do.

NOVAK: All right, there's just no...



HATCH: Now, come on, Bill.

NOVAK: There's no -- there's no...

HATCH: I'm ashamed of that...

NOVAK: There's no partisanship going on here.



HATCH: I'm only the one -- I'm the only being bipartisan here. I'll try and -- I'll try and give you Harry's arguments as well.

NOVAK: Don't be so bipartisan. But tell us -- give us a little information, senator. You talk -- you talk to Democrats all the time. You talk to your dear friend Teddy Kennedy. You don't have to give any names, but just tell us -- just keep it between the three of us, you don't have to tell anybody else -- have you heard from any of your Democratic colleagues...

HATCH: We're having a confidential discussion now?

NOVAK: Yes. Have you heard from any of your Democratic colleagues that maybe they would like to toss it in and they think that Al Gore ought -- ought to say, boy, it was a hell of a fight, but I didn't make it.

HATCH: Well, they're certainly going to give Al Gore the benefit of the doubt until tomorrow and perhaps until next week when the Supreme Court hopefully will make a decision in this matter. But I can tell you this: I haven't chatted with the majority of my Democratic friends and colleagues in the Senate, but I have chatted with a number of them, and they're not real enthused by Gore continuing to keep this going. And if the Supreme Court of the United States does rule that the Florida state legislature should be -- should be supported here and that Katherine Harris did not act improperly -- you know, when -- when she exercised her discretion and the Democrat circuit court judge says she did not abuse that discretion, it takes a very high standard to try and overturn that. And the Supreme Court just does it just like that. It's just wrong.

PRESS: A couple of questions, but first, I want to remind...

HATCH: I'm talking about the Supreme Court of Florida.

PRESS: ... remind you and all of our viewers that Senator Harry Reid will be with us shortly. We still have that satellite problem in Carson City, Nevada, so we'll continue our conversation with Senator Hatch.

On two points...

HATCH: Well, if you ask me what Harry's position is, I'll give it to the best of my ability.


NOVAK: Why don't you do a Harry Reid...

PRESS: How about Harry can do it -- he'll be here to do it.


HATCH: Well...


PRESS: Two questions: First, let's go back to the legislature. If the legislature is going to jump in -- and it looks like they are, because they've got all the votes, right?

HATCH: Well, they have a right to, they have an obligation to.

PRESS: Wouldn't the fair -- wouldn't the fair way to jump in be to do what Maine and Nebraska does and say this is a really hot election. There's a lot of passion here so we're going to divide the electoral votes according to popular vote. We'll divide them 50/50. Why not? Why not be fair, senator?

HATCH: Well, Nebraska can do that and Maine has a similar provision...

PRESS: I'm asking, why shouldn't Florida?

HATCH: ... because Florida state doesn't have that type of a rule and frankly neither do the other 48 states. They have every right, they have every obligation legally and otherwise to did what's right and besides, between you and me, I think that's a stupid approach.


NOVAK: Wouldn't that be changing the rules in the middle of the game, too?

HATCH: Sure. One of biggest arguments in this case is Title Three, Section Five, and that is that you shouldn't change the rules after the election. That's federal law and that's all we've had are changing of rules in almost every instance by the Democrats down there and the Gore supporters and by this battalion -- actually, army -- actually, I could even make it more than that of lawyers down there. I've never seen so many lawyers in my life.

PRESS: On both sides.

HATCH: And I've been around a lot of lawyers all my life.

PRESS: But of course, you know, they're not going to do that because if they did that Gore would win. Now, you said something a little white ago that really shocked me because I consider you a fair man. Let's just take one county. In Miami-Dade County by the canvassing board's numbers there are 10,750 ballots that have not been counted.


NOVAK: They have been counted. They have been counted.

PRESS: They have not been counted for president. I ask you, as an American, why -- what do you have against counting those ballots?

HATCH: Number one, they have been counted once. Then they were recounted...

PRESS: Not for president. Not for president. No, they haven't.

HATCH: A number of them have been manually counted. They were granted seven days after up to the 14th to do manual count. They didn't do it, so the Supreme Court of Florida grants them more days and some of these counties didn't get it down then.

PRESS: So you're just willing to walk away and leave those on the table uncounted?

HATCH: No, and the fact of matter is that that's why they put finality by having a seven-day period after the general election and the bigger counties are supposed to hire enough people to get it done and they didn't do it and now they come complaining to us, the Democrats? Give me a break.

PRESS: We are going to take a break and hopefully joined by Senator Reid when we come back. Senator Hatch is here and meanwhile, you can all take part in tonight's online audience vote. Go to and tell us whether or not you think George Bush should be picking his Cabinet before the election court cases are resolved? Stay tuned for those results at the end of the show and you can jump into our online CROSSFIRE also after the show. Our guests Gore supported Senator Harry Reid and Bush supported Senator Orrin Hatch will be there at right after the show.

When we come back, whoever wins, Bush or Gore, will there be gridlock in Washington?


PRESS: Welcome back to CROSSFIRE. Waiting for a winner in Florida, both Al Gore and George Bush worked on transitions today, talking new Cabinet members. But that's not the only uncertainty in Washington. Look what's happened in the U.S. Senate where, depending on whether Joe Lieberman ends up in the White House or the Senate, the upper house will be tied or Republicans will hold a one-vote lead.

Does that increase or decrease the prospect of getting things done with President Bush or President Gore? Well, we still hope to have two senators tackling that question tonight. Democrat Harry Reid -- we're still trying to get that satellite fixed in Reno. Of course, he is the Senate Minority Whip. Here with us in the studio, Republican Orrin Hatch of Utah, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee -- Bob.

NOVAK: Mr. Chairman, as complicated as this situation was as described by Bill, it's even more complicated because there's going to be 17 days from the time the new Senate is sworn in and the time the new president is sworn in where the Democrats will be in nominal control 50/50 with Al Gore still as vice president.

So, in those 17 days, they will lose control after 17 days to whichever one is elected president, but what should Trent Lott -- what should the Republican leader do about that? Should he say OK to the Democrats. We'll let you have the committee chairman for 17 days. We'll let you run the hearings on the new Cabinet members. What should he do?

HATCH: Well, I don't think the Democrats will do that, but if they do -- no, I met with Pat Leahy today and I said if you want to be chairman, you have that right as far as I'm concerned of the Judiciary Committee for those days and you know, if you stay in the majority, you have the right to have chairmanship but I think it's up to the leadership to work that out.

NOVAK: What would you do?

HATCH: Well, if I was the leader and I was in Tom Daschle's position I would say we're not going to do anything for 17 days. The problem is that you have holding confirmation hearings, hopefully. Hopefully, that we'll be moving ahead with whoever is president and we'll be holding confirmation hearings and so, somebody has to chair those hearings.

NOVAK: It's even more difficult than that, Senator. You have -- the Senate has to vote for a new sergeant-at-arms, it has to approve the chaplain of the Senate, has all these little jobs. What if the Democrats say, 17 days that shook the world?

HATCH: Even our colleagues on the other side are not going to do something like that. I just don't think they'll do that. I wouldn't do it and I don't think they would either.

PRESS: One question on the Senate before I get back to the campaign. you've got several new members coming into the Senate, one of them better known than some of others and recently -- in fact, November 15 Majority Leader Lott said -- quote -- "I tell you one thing -- when this Hillary gets to the Senate -- if she does, maybe lightning will strike and she won't -- she'll be one of 100 and we won't let her forget it." I mean, don't you think that's particularly unnecessarily snide and nasty and he ought apologize.

HATCH: He was trying to be humorous.

PRESS: Humorous?

HATCH: Oh, he never meant anything by that, anybody who reads into that -- Bill, come on. Trent is a better person than. He didn't mean anything by that. Look, she won that fair and square. I called her and the day after I congratulated her because it was a gutsy thing that she did and whether you agree with her politically or not she's the new U.S. Senator from there. I supported Lazio but by gosh, I've always respected -- I don't agree with her philosophically, but I respect her, I mean, and you have to show respect for the people you work with.

PRESS: Speaking of transition, of course, there were -- George W.'s been hiding out on his ranch down there in Crawford, Texas but he had visitors today and of course, you know, the cameras were there to show the visitors and Dick Cheney came in -- I guess we're going to see, of course -- and there is General Colin Powell went down there lunch, Dick Cheney says.

I have to ask you, Senator, seriously -- you might have been in this position -- but isn't it getting kind of old that whenever George Bush wants to appear that he is engaged he drags in people from his daddy's old team? I mean, we've seen this over and over again, same old faces, same old phony play.

HATCH: These are some of the best people in the country. There is no more charismatic person in either party than Colin Powell, and he'll be the first African-American secretary of state.

PRESS: Do you know that?

HATCH: I think he will. I don't think there is any question about that.

But let me tell you, and -- but to say that George Bush is hiding on his ranch -- you know, isn't it kind of wonderful to see some guy that isn't so ambitious and so concerned about wiggling about every little thing, but he's down there at least meeting with his people in a relaxed form? I kind of like that. I liked it about Reagan, and I like it about Bush.

And one of the things that bothers me about Al -- Al is a fine person and I know him well, and I like him, and I really like Tipper, too. But I have to tell you, there is an ambition there that comes through so much that it even bothers Democrats -- it bothers you, Bill, I can see looking at you right now.

(CROSSTALK) NOVAK: Mr. Chairman -- it doesn't bother Bill.

PRESS: It does not bother me, it does not bother me.

HATCH: Look, I can read minds and yours is one that's easy to read.

NOVAK: Mr. Chairman, let me ask you a quick question, we don't have much time, assuming -- let's just assume that George W. Bush is the president and he has this 50/50 Senate, very narrow edge in the House. Should he come forward with his full program, tax cuts, Social Security privatization, or should he say, hey, there is no mandate, I better ease up?

HATCH: You are darn right he should come forward with that, those tax rate reductions, because unless we do that, we are going to head into a period of economic difficulty and instability, and I've got to tell you, that is one of the things that has kept us going for the last 18 or 19 years, the Reagan cuts of marginal tax rates from 70 percent down to 28 percent by 1987.

NOVAK: Exactly right, Senator Hatch.

We'll have to close on that point. Thank you for being with us.

We'd like to apologize to Senator Harry Reid in Reno, because the satellite didn't come through, we hope to have you on soon.

Now it's your turn -- not yours, Harry, but the viewers -- to debate tonight's guests, Gore supporter Senator Harry Reid and Bush supporter Senator Orrin Hatch, just go to right after the show.


PRESS: Just what you've been waiting for. The results of tonight's online audience vote are in. We asked whether or not -- we asked you to say whether or not Bush would be picking his Cabinet before the election cases, court cases are resolved? Eighty-six percent of you said yes, while 14 percent no. We love those conservative viewers who vote many times, Bob.

Let me just say something, you know, we are all abuzz about what the Supreme Court is going to do tomorrow -- Bob, you know that case is practically moot. The keys to the White House are not held by the Supreme Court, they are held by Judge Sanders Sauls in Tallahassee, if he says count those extra votes, Al Gore wins.

NOVAK: You know, I don't know where you got your law degree, but I would send back the diploma, Bill, because let me tell you this: If the Supreme Court overrules the Florida Supreme Court, says the first certification is right, the Broward votes go out, other votes go out, he is in very bad shape. It isn't moot, and you have been getting -- you have been eating too much Gore spin.

PRESS: Bob, wrong law school. From the left, I'm Bill Press. Good night for CROSSFIRE.

NOVAK: From the right, I'm Robert Novak. Join us again next time for another edition of CROSSFIRE.



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