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Capital Gang

Will the Presidtial Election Be Decided in a Florida Courtroom?

Aired December 2, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Live, from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

AL HUNT, HOST: Welcome to a special one-hour edition of CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Al Hunt with Robert Novak, Margaret Carlson, and Rich Lowry of "The National Review." Our guest is Democratic consultant James Carville. IT's great to have you back, James.

JAMES CARVILLE, DEMOCRATIC CONSULTANT: Thank you, Al. Good to be here for the whole hour tonight. Oh, I'll tell you.


HUNT: In Tallahassee, Judge N. Sanders Sauls opened a trial on Al Gore's contest of the election results certifying George W. Bush as the winner of the presidential election.


DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: We have alleged that the certified results reject a number of legal votes and include a number of illegal votes. The issue before the court is: Is there or are there legal votes that have been rejected.


BARRY RICHARD, BUSH CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: What he is attempting to do is to begin this court down a path that inevitably leads to a destination that he must arrive at in order to win, and that destination results in a conclusion which is both unreasonable and contrary to Florida law.


HUNT: Margaret, is the presidency really going to be settled in Judge Sauls' court?

CARLSON: Well, if he -- if Al Gore is to succeed, he could succeed there and go on because what this judge has is whether the undercount -- the machine -- the ballots that the machine spit out are going to get counted in there a county where -- Miami-Dade just decided willy-nilly, without any explanation, oh, you know we're just not going to count them.

The experts are coming out saying listen, you can't have a 5-1 disparity of people just waiting in line, coming to Miami-Dade, and just deciding not to count? No, it probably is something to do with the machines. That's what they're showing there today. Here's the problem for Al Gore in Judge Saul's courtroom, though. He's a judge from Margaritaville, and I say that with a lot of admiration, going very slowly when he's dealing with a case that needs to be decided yesterday.

HUNT: Bob, it's all about fairness, isn't it?

ROBERT NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": Isn't it funny it's always just some nasty person like the secretary of state of Florida or some old circuit judge that just makes things hard?

CARLSON: With admiration.

NOVAK: I would say that this was a very bad day for the Gore lawyers for David Boies, the super litigator who brought Microsoft and helped ruin the stock market. He goes to this Tallahassee courtroom and he gets crunched because they are not making the case for contesting an election. You know, this isn't a little supervisor's race in Leon County.

It's the president of the United States. You've got to show something, and they are not showing something, and I would say right now they just hope that the politicized Florida Supreme Court will reverse what comes out of Judge Saul's court because I don't think they're going to get much out of it.

HUNT: James, when Bob and I were at the basketball game, did Dave Boies really get crunched?

CARVILLE: Look, there's two things that we know. We know these votes are going to get counted. We know that. And we also know that when it gets Gore's going to get the most votes. What we don't know is will they get counted before somebody takes office. This is DNA. When you saw that Ryder truck going in there, there was DNA in that truck. We know what the DNA evidence is.

The DNA evidence is Gore got the most votes. What the Republicans are desperately trying to is just don't count these dog gone things before the thing. So we might have the wrong guy -- sometimes we might get the wrong in the electric chair? We're going to have the wrong guy in the presidential because these votes are going to be counted under the Florida Sunshine Law. When they are, everybody knows Gore got the most votes. And so we're going to have the embarrassing prospect of having a -- we're going to have a president who's legally in office but he really wasn't elected. That's going to happen.

HUNT: Rich Lowry, my guess is you have a different take?

RICH LOWRY, "THE NATIONAL REVIEW": I agree with, Bob, not surprisingly. It was a pretty bad day for Gore for a couple reasons. One, I don't think this is playing well. You know, hours of testimony about chad build-up and the characteristics of rubber strips, I mean, it strikes most people as both ridiculous and boring.

So, I think it probably serves on the margins to help create public impatience with this. And also just on the merits. You can have as much expert testimony as you want, but the fact is there is no way to tell whether or not a dimpled chad was meant to be an actual vote or not. You don't know whether that person started to vote and may have stopped and reconsidered. So, I think Judge Sauls would be a fool to go on this crazy chad hunt that the Gore campaign wants to set him on.

HUNT: Let me just quickly say, I'm struck in watching both sides here that the patron saint of both the Gore and the Bush campaigns is Vince Lombardi. Winning is not the best thing, it's the only thing. If, for hypothetically, the role were reversed Bush were behind and Gore were ahead, you could hear the Bush lawyers now talking about the absolute need for counting and you could here the Gore lawyers talking about the need for quickness.

NOVAK: Look, one thing about James is he is never -- he doesn't get the talking points from the Gore people. He makes the talking points because that is the thing I have heard from all the talking heads over the last two days that these things are going to come out. It's going to be a huge embarrassment when they finally count them. These things have been counted several times.

The idea that they haven't been counted is nonsense. What they are is they want this poor old judge or to get some hack Democrat politician in there to recount it and to re-evaluate these things. They've been mangled. There's chads on the floor. They don't have records. It is an absolute chaos because nobody, James, in honesty, nobody is going to know how many votes they got.


HUNT: Before we go to James, let me just ask Bob one question. Is there such thing as a hack Republican politician?

NOVAK: Sure there are. Of course there are.



CARVILLE: All I'm saying to the people of America is these votes are going to get counted. They might get counted after the election but they're going to be counted under the Sunshine Law...


NOVAK: That's nonsense. They've been counted three times already.

CARVILLE: Excuse me for speaking while you're interrupting, Bob. I'm just saying, they're going to be counted. They're going to be turned over to the University of Florida or something like that. We're going to find out that Gore actually won the election, all right, and the point is, wouldn't it be better to count the things before you put the guy in the presidency?


LOWRY: James, James, the problem is the dimpled chads -- hold on. Hold on, it's so murky, it's so subjective, we can both of us go down there right now and start counting. We would never come up with the same number because it's totally subjective.


CARVILLE; You know what, they'll count them, and Gore would win even if you didn't count dimpled chads. It doesn't matter. Sure he would. And let me say another thing here. You know it's going happen. I understand. You want -- and I understand. He's going to be the legal president, but we're going to have a guy in office and we're going to --


CARVILLE: When they pull it out they're going to say Gore won the election.

HUNT: Poor Margaret Carlson has been sitting here quietly and demurely. Could you make an observation?

CARLSON: Yes. I wanted to say to Bob chads are supposed to fall off. If they'd fallen off with these faulty machines they wouldn't be there.

NOVAK: The finger, pointing in there. Pointing it out.


CARLSON: No, no, you cannot do it with your finger. First of all, hand counts are done across the land. Machines which we usually tolerate having this margin of error you can't tolerate in a race this close. So, you go and you count the ballots that the machine didn't count.

NOVAK: Just wait. We've had James and we've had Margaret.


HUNT: And we've had you and Rich and now we are out of time and we are going to be back.

NOVAK: I've just got to say...

HUNT: The gang will be back in just a minute with an historic day with The Supremes.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HUNT: Welcome back. In an historic argument before the United States Supreme Court, the lead lawyers attacked and defended a Florida Supreme Court decision that was in Al Gore's favor.


UNIDENTIFIED LAWYER: The Florida Supreme Court overturned and materially rewrote portions of the carefully formulated set of laws enacted by Florida's legislature to govern the conduct of that election.

UNIDENTIFIED LAWYER: A rather common technique is a recount, sometimes a manual recount, sometimes taking more time. It'd be rather like looking more closely at the film of a photo finish.


HUNT: For 90 minutes the justices peppered the lawyers with sharp questions and comments.


JUSTICE JOHN PAUL STEVENS, U.S. SUPREME COURT: Mr. Olsen, your submission is based on the premise that the Florida court overturned something that the statute had done. Is it not arguable, at least, that all they did was fill gaps that had not been addressed before?

JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBERG, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I do not know of any case where we have impugned a state Supreme Court the way you are doing in this case.

JUSTICE WILLIAM REHNQUIST, U.S. SUPREME COURT: You have said that the -- or suggested here, in your reply belief, the Florida legislature now has no role. You are now suggesting that this court has no role. That means the Supreme Court of Florida is it.

JUSTICE ANTONIN SCALIA, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I read the Florida court's opinion as quite clearly saying, having determined what the legislative intent was, we find that our state Constitution trumps that legislative intent. I don't think there's any other way to read it. And that is a real problem.


HUNT: Bob, long-time court watcher, can you tell which way this is going to go?

NOVAK: I know how the court breaks down. There are five votes which say we should follow the Constitution, that we should not have a result-oriented idea, that you go for some kind of vague concept of voting rights, not following the law. That goes five to four; it's clear.

The question is, what will the court do and how will they decide? Will they decide to just shuck it off? I can't believe they would have taken the case to do that -- or will they have a narrow case which just throws out the recounts that have been reported, which would give Bush about 300 or 400 more; or do they do, really, the right thing and say that you have to going back to the 950-vote level and that's what it is? It's really a question of judicial philosophy which so many of the people in this town have no idea what's going on.

HUNT: Margaret, now you're a lawyer, so you clearly must understand these judicial issues so tell Bob whether he's right or not.

CARLSON: Well, the interesting thing is that these five votes would, ordinarily, strain to find a way to support the states. That's the ordinary course of events, but here, as you say, they may not.

What we can hope for is that the court does something that's not five-four, but six-three, seven-two or, best of all, nine-zero so that you have a court coming out and saying this is what you should do and this is how you should do it and it restores people's faith that the process is being judged fairly. This is something we haven't been able to get so far because we keep having these things happen where, yes, partisan politics does enter into it, and this is what people always thought should happen -- when you have these clashes, courts should decide.

HUNT: Rich Lowry, it's always hazardous to predict an outcome based on oral arguments, but from what I hear the other day, a nine- zero decision appears almost an impossibility.

LOWRY: It's very unlikely. We did see some markers, though. I think there's clearly a constitutional issue at stake here: Article II delegates to the state legislatures the power to decide in what manner you choose electors. That's just very clear, and it's clear that the Florida Supreme Court changed the law that the legislature had passed. There was one deadline that the legislature had in law, but the court made up another one out of thin air.

Now the question, then is, as Bob points out, is what do you do about it? What is the remedy? And that's where, I think, you saw in the court a certain Admiral Stockdale moment there where some of the justices are asking, who are we, why are we here, what do we have to do with this; and that's because, ultimately it is up to the state legislatures and Congress to decide these sort of disputes under the Constitution. So I'm hoping it will be a ruling favorable to Bush, but on extremely narrow grounds, leaving this dispute to be adjudicated by the political bodies, not the courts. We are not meant to be ruled by courts.

HUNT: By the Republican legislatures.

CARVILLE: Republicans like nothing better than to have their politicians substitute their will for the will of the people. They tried to do it in impeachment; it's very logical that -- they tried to overturn an elected president. It's very logical that they would overturn another elected president. I, frankly, have had it. This guy, Feeney, I think he needs a lot of air time, America's got to...

HUNT: The Republican speaker. CARVILLE: Yes, I'm all for him being on TV a lot.

NOVAK: He has gone -- he is now with Katherine Harris and all the people that you've vilified over the years.

CARVILLE: I haven't said a word about...

NOVAK: You've already started on...

CARVILLE: I said he needs to be on TV a lot; I'm all for him being out there.

NOVAK: This has nothing to do with partisan politics because there's seven Republican-appointed justices there, two of the Republicans are the most liberal -- Souter and Stevens are the two worst members of the court. This is not a question of partisan politics, it's a question of whether you really believe that the judges do not have the right to overrule the elected representatives of the people. And when the Florida Supreme -- something that none of our legal experts have figured out until Scalia started talking about it -- when Justice Scalia, the most brilliant member of the court -- when he said that the Florida Constitution cannot give a right to vote -- deal with voting rights for members for the president of the United States.

HUNT: Please don't tell Clarence Thomas what he just said about Judge Scalia, OK?

NOVAK: He'll agree with me.

CARLSON: What the Supreme Court did was take two sections of the Florida code and reconcile them. That's what courts do. And it took the right to a hand count and said, if you have that, what do you do about this deadline when it's going to take this much time?

HUNT: Let me just say this...

CARLSON: Am I amusing you guys?

HUNT: I have to defer to Bob Novak when he says that Madison versus Marbury was a bad decision because he covered that decision back in 18...

Next on THE CAPITAL GANG, the Florida legislature prepares for action.


HUNT: Welcome back. The Republican-controlled Florida legislature called a special session for the purpose of approving electors pledged to George W. Bush.


DUDLEY GOODLETTE (R), FLORIDA STATE HOUSE: What I believe we're doing is merely creating a safety net to ensure that Florida's 6 million votes that were cast on November the 7th are counted on December the 18th.

TOM ROSSIN (D), FLORIDA STATE SENATE: This is the Florida legislature, not the House of Lords. I mean, why doesn't every state legislature use their absolute power to overturn their elections also?


HUNT: The threat was sufficient to arouse the Democratic vice presidential candidate.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: It threatens to put us into a constitutional crisis, which we are not in now by any stretch of the word.


HUNT: Rich, is the Republican controlled Florida legislature really prepared to overturn any result that favors Al Gore?

LOWRY: Absolutely. I think we'll probably see them take some action mid-next week. They're still figuring out exactly what it's going to look like, but one likely scenario is that they'll pass a bill that will say that the legislature's electors will only kick in if the courts do something to try to throw the result to Al Gore.

And this points out, Al, how this is essentially a defensive action being taken by the legislature to prevent the courts from either throwing out absentee ballots for Al Gore or deciding to count all these ridiculous dimpled chads to throw the election to Al Gore.

HUNT: But a defensive action with a guaranteed result?

CARLSON: You know, it's like Newt Gingrich revisited. Why they would want to go out and before they need to, to cast a vote to disenfranchise people in their own state is beyond me. It's a Shiite move down there, really.

HUNT: Be careful, Margaret.

CARLSON: It's two syllable, but here you have -- they're deciding ahead of time we are going to -- by hook or by crook we're going to see that Al Gore doesn't win this election. It is such a bad move to make and it involves Jeb Bush, who has tried to stay on the sidelines here. He properly recused himself, and he came out and called it an act of courage last week, which struck me as a very hazardous thing for his own health and he shouldn't be seen delivering the state to his brother.

NOVAK: You know...

HUNT: Bob, don't you think this -- I mean, whatever the wisdom of it is, ultimately, that it is kind of precipitous because I think the odds are greater that Bush is going win in the legal battle. NOVAK: No, I don't agree with that at all. I'm disappointed, Margaret, that you just called it Shiite, that you didn't call it Bolshevik, Nazi, Fascist, whatever you want to call it. If you want to read the Constitution, which I try to read every morning -- right on my dresser, and you will find -- I say that the Constitution does give the legislature the power to name the electors.

Now, let me tell you something. I just love these phony populists who are talking about the will of the people and the anti- Democratic Republicans and they think it's more Democratic to have a bunch political -- Democratically appointed political judges on the Supreme Court of Florida fixing the election rather than the elected representatives of the people who were picked by the people of Florida to serve in the legislature.

HUNT: You know, we are preachers of habit on this show, but I would really seriously consider a special segment of Bob reading the Constitution. I really think that would be great.

CARVILLE: In the morning when you read, when do you read it?


NOVAK: I can read it without moving my lips.

HUNT: James Carville, obviously the Speaker Feeney and the Florida legislature is tailor-made.

CARVILLE: Oh, yes. We ought to have live coverage of this, too. We've got to get the cameras there. We need to see this democracy at work because really why should we go through the trouble of having elections? We can just have Republican politicians take care of things for us. I mean, this as a Democrat, this couldn't be any better. Please, Mr. Speaker Feeney, get on TV.

Please let's let the cameras in the legislature. Let's watch America let the Florida politicians decide who the next president is. Let's throw out the law that gives people the right to contest an election that the Florida legislature passed. Let's go ahead and preempt it. I guarantee you that in 2002 they're going to -- you all going to have to think of something new to keep these Democrats away from the polls. I promise you that. It's going to be an outpouring.

HUNT: Politically, I think James has a point. I used to think that there was no worst way for either one of these guys to win. This may be the worst way of all to win, though.

LOWRY: And actually, I think James has a point and I think that's why we're not going to see Democrats abandon Al Gore because the party is not being hurt generally by this. If it goes sour, it's going to be Al Gore who's destroyed personally. But they want Gore to push this and push this to try to force the legislature to act so James Carville can go on TV and attack them in as vicious terms as possible.

CARVILLE: I'll be honest with you, every Democrat knows Al Gore won the election, OK. Now...


NOVAK: Not every American knows. I don't know that he won it.

HUNT: And you're a Democrat?

CARVILLE: Of course you do.

NOVAK: And I'm a Democrat.


CARVILLE; Everybody knows Gore won the election. But for me as a Democrat, not as an American, as a Democrat the most desired result, and I may get it, is for the Florida legislature to impose its electors and whether we find out Gore won the election --


CARVILLE: I am kind of hoping they get in this thing. That would be great. I want Speaker Feeney down in the well giving a speech. That's what I need.

NOVAK: That's very typical Carvillian politics, but I will say that -- just a minute -- somebody has to say that the reason why the Florida legislature has come out publicly saying what they might have to do is a preparation for the public and the news media because of the attempt of the Democrats to steal this election by counting -- just a minute -- by counting ballots over and over and over again which is a technique they have used in every state and the Republicans usually lie down on it.

HUNT: Margaret Carlson, quickly, I want to say, you touched on something, I think we're learning now this Jeb Bush recusal was one of the great phony con jobs of all times.

CARLSON: Because he's coming out now at this crucial moment when you'd think actually that the Bushes would want a legitimate count of the vote in Florida.

NOVAK: Oh, how can swallow that?

CARLSON: Who wants to win a tennis game on a bad call by a referee. And if the Republican legislature in a state run by the candidate's brother delivers the state to the brother, we're going to have next to who shot JFK who stole Florida.

HUNT: All right, on that, Margaret, James Carville and the gang will be back to say where this will all end. Stay tuned because we're going to answer that question in just a moment.


HUNT: Welcome back. Will this presidential contest end up in the U.S. Congress? We're going to go around quickly. Rich Lowry, you start off.

LOWRY: Al, if the courts rule in Gore's favor and try to throw the election to him, it will end up in Congress and that's exactly the proper in the way it should be in the solution that's contemplated by the U.S. Constitution.

HUNT: James Carville:.

CARVILLE: Yes, the Republicans would hijack this election if they thought that they were going to lose it. They'd do anything that they could. Sure, the Florida legislature, the Republican Tom DeLay, Tom Feeney the whole crowd. Absolutely. They tried to hijack the last presidency. No -- nothing can stop them from hijacking this one either.

HUNT: Hijacking, Bob?

NOVAK: Well, James has already started. I mean, in his heart -- I can look into his heart and he really knows that Al Gore isn't going to be president. He's already started the campaign of 2004 and 2002 with his usual way of denigrating the Republicans, of demeaning them, of saying they stole the election.

The problem is that using the recount method that the Democrats have used to steal so many seats in the Senate and the House and it just doesn't work for the president and the last line of defense is the Congress. But I got a feeling it's not going to go that far. I think that the courts in -- Judge Sauls' perhaps, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida legislature, god bless us will make it unnecessary for the Congress to intervene.

HUNT: Robert Novak has spoken.

CARLSON: Well, if the -- yes, if the admirable Judge Sauls allows a proper recount of the votes and Al Gore's votes are counted and we have an Al Gore slate of electors but the Florida legislature has chosen their own then in fact it will go to Congress because you can't let a Republican state take the election when you've got the vote over here for Al Gore. If you've these two warring states -- set of electors that's how it ends up in Congress and rightly so.

HUNT: Let me say this, I agree with Bob Novak, it probably will not have to go to Congress. But I could not disagree more passionately with you that the Democrats have stolen elections all over the country. For every election a Democrat may have stolen I assure you the Republicans have...

NOVAK: Can I cite a couple things? New Hampshire Senate, Indiana House -- things that we covered.

HUNT: You know something, Bob, there was a revote in New Hampshire and the Democrat won. I think that destroys your case.

CARVILLE: They tried to say that in Louisiana, they couldn't find one thing...

NOVAK: Louisiana too.


HUNT: We're going to be back with this special edition of THE CAPITAL GANG, talking about Al Gore pleading his case, George W. Bush preparing for the presidency and our outrages of the week after a check of the hour's top news.


HUNT: Welcome back to our one-hour special edition of THE CAPITAL GANG. I'm Al Hunt, with Robert Novak, Margaret Carlson, the "National Review"'s Rich Lowry, and democratic consultant James Carville.

President Clinton denied George W. Bush's request for transition funds. A memo by White House chief of staff John Podesta said, quote: "Until a president-elect is clearly identified, therefore, no transition assistance as contemplated under the Transition Act is available," end quote.

What he was saying was they're not going to give him any funds.


CHENEY: This is regrettable because we believe the government has an obligation to honor the certified results of the election.


HUNT: Using private funds, Governor Bush went ahead with his transition planning.


BUSH: The reason why we're moving forward with our discussions and our -- and the transition is because, when the counting finally stops, we want to be prepared to lead this nation. That what we were elected to do.


HUNT: That included a visit to the Bush ranch by General Colin Powell, his presumptive secretary of state.


COLIN POWELL, FORMER JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: I have not yet been asked and if that question should be posed to me, I think I should answer it directly to the governor at that time before answering it to anyone else.


HUNT: Margaret, is it time for Governor Bush to move forward with transition planning, or is he being presumptive? CARLSON: Well, I think he can do, you know, some of it, just like Gore can, but he shouldn't get the transition funds. There's a contest period by law. That's what's going on now. So there isn't a president-elect and so he just has to live with that. The whole idea is that any hand count, any taking advantage of your rights to a hand count, is somehow an anarchist thing to do and we just can't put up with it -- you know, keeping us from the presidency. The shot down there was, you know, at least George Bush is out and about and not just waving from a car, but it looked a little like he's trying to carve out what his role is going to be in a Cheney-Powell administration.

HUNT: Bob?

NOVAK: You know, I think if you took a lie-detector test on all the people sitting around this table, I think, in truth, they would all say that Al Gore is not going to be inaugurated as president January 20, it's George W. Bush. And so it is an act of extreme irresponsibility for Al Gore to continue this fruitless and futile attack and attempt to achieve the presidency when he has lost; and all he is doing is slowing down the transition, making it more difficult.

But what I see tonight when I see my old friend James and my old friend Margaret is they're already trying to undermine the Bush presidency, say it's an illegitimate presidency, and I think that's admirable.


CARVILLE: I never used the word "illegitimate." I just said he didn't get the vote. It may well be that the Florida legislature has the power -- Tom Delay has the power, that's fine.

Look, I don't fault him for going ahead with his transition. It's fine with me, I mean, you know, go ahead. But my point is very simple -- and I don't know what they're going to do to try to stop this, but these votes are going to be counted. We're going to know by March that Al Gore won this election and -- just like everybody at this table may think that George Bush is going to be president, there's not one person that knows anything about this that doesn't believe that Al Gore -- "The Miami Herald" reportedly got 23,000 more...

NOVAK: Well I don't know that he got more -- I'm one person.

CARVILLE: Sure you do.

NOVAK: No I don't. No I don't -- don't tell me what I think.

LOWRY: He only has the votes to win if you count the dimpled chads. He made such a big gain in Broward County because they counted the dimpled chads. They sued Palm Beach County to change their standard to count dimpled chads. And Margaret you said earlier that hand recounts are done all over the country, but all over the country dimpled chads are not counted except for in Texas, your favorite state, James. These are not legitimate votes. HUNT: Let me just say this. I must say I think that George Bush -- Bob, I agree -- I think he's much more likely to be president than Al Gore, but I must say I think he's been a diminished figure the last couple of weeks and I think there were doubtable -- Maureen Dowd, actually captures, she refers to him as Mini-Me. She say the handlers have a sense of a need-not-to-know basis. It does look like a Cheney- Powell administration and if they ever do a movie about this whole incredible period Dubya will have to be played by Mickey Rooney.

NOVAK: Maureen Dowd is now our mentor, and your tutor, Al?

HUNT: She's a heck of a columnist, isn't she? Don't you agree?

NOVAK: She doesn't tell me those capable of being president of the United States. I think what is going on -- I know what's going on in this town is that this is a calculated attempt to undermine George W. Bush because they know he's going to be president.

You know, when he came out very early and he sat around with Dick Cheney and Larry Lindsay and Andy Card, they say oh, this terrible guy. What is he -- he has not been elected president. He shouldn't be out. Then he retreats because he's getting all this abuse and they say, oh, he's in seclusion. He's scared to go out. I know -- I have seen this stuff for half a century in Washington and it's nauseating.

HUNT: Bob, is it a conspiracy as well as calculated?

NOVAK: You bet is.

HUNT: It's a conspiracy.

CARLSON: Wait a minute, let me just say one thing.

CARVILLE; These Republicans don't know a thing. What I like is that consistency here and my god, that anybody would dare -- first of all, I want to be very clear with this. I never said anything about being whoever it is that's put in is legitimate. I said I'd be the drum major in George Bush's inaugural parade, OK, but the truth of the matter is he didn't get the most votes in Florida. You know he didn't get...


NOVAK: You don't know that.

CARVILLE: Of course I know that. Everybody knows it. And that's why you don't want the votes counted.

NOVAK: See, that's what...

CARVILLE: Scared to death and that it'll all be counted and I'll be right.

NOVAK: That's what upsets me that you say everybody knows it. I don't know it and I don't think you're right. CARLSON: The Republicans are moving Earth and Heaven to make sure the votes aren't counted. And, you know, don't get me wrong. I actually think that George Bush is going to end up as president. I don't think the votes are going to be counted because Republicans have successfully run out the clock just about with their delaying tactics. So they won't be counted. But you know, one of the things that happened today was they showed that in these old machines, which are concentrated in Democratic precinct --

CARVILLE: I was going to say black precincts. Go ahead.

CARLSON: They are five times more likely to have an undervote because of these machines. Now, usually it doesn't count because we don't have close elections. This time we have a close election.

HUNT: I'm going to make a desperate effort to get off ballots. Rich, give me your sense of the substance of which you think George W. Bush is doing in his transition planning. Colin Powell, secretary of state, Democrats...

LOWRY: For conservatives, it hasn't been particularly encouraging so far. Andy Card I'm sure is a wonderful and talented guy, but conservatives are worried Bush is going to go to the family loyalists rather than people with substantive ideas and agendas. And just because the Congress is going to be so closely divided it's not going to free George W. Bush from pushing some sort of substantive agenda. And so far the early signs haven't been encouraging in that regard.


NOVAK: But I'll tell you what a lot of conservatives tell me, Rich, and that is as long as it's not Gore and his friends for another four years, they are OK with George W. They expect nothing from him. They don't want to get anything from him, but he's not Gore.

HUNT: So Bob Novak says it's OK if it's Bush even if he abandons his tax cut. James Carville and the gang will be back with Al Gore's offensive.


HUNT: Welcome back. After George W. Bush was certified by Katherine Harris as Florida's winner Sunday night, Al Gore appealed to the public in two nationally televised presentations and interviews with every TV network.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Many thousands of votes that were cast on Election Day have not yet been counted at all, not once. I believe this is the time to count every vote and not run out the clock. This is not a time for delay, obstruction and procedural roadblocks.


GORE: The only way to avoid having a cloud over the next president is to count all the votes.


HUNT: His opponent was less visible, but did reply.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I've won three counts, and I think it's time to get some finality to the process.


HUNT: Bob, what did the Gore mini-campaign accomplish?

NOVAK: Nothing. The reason it got out there is because several polls were indicating that 60 percent of the American people thinks he should concede. There's no question if the election were held today George W. Bush would win by a very comfortable margin. You know, John Zogby, the pollster who just about was the only guy who got is exactly right on the popular vote, 49 to 48.

HUNT: Showed Gore winning.

NOVAK: Showed Gore winning, took a poll the other day after his big speech and still 57 percent of the American people think he could concede. The reason -- I don't know why Margaret is so obsessed by this, but I know why Al Gore is is because he is finished as a presidential candidate if he doesn't steal this election because I know the Democratic party is not prepared to go around him again in 2004.

HUNT: Obsessed, Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: No, hardly, but given what's happened, it's actually surprising that 57 percent -- only 57 percent say because Democrats makeup one-third percent. His base is a third percent or so. Now why if it's so unreasonable to count these ballots, wouldn't you have 80 percent of people saying oh, listen let's bring it to an end.

Certainly, all the pundits are saying, oh, my God. When is this going to be over. But the publish is still saying, well, listen, 40 percent -- 43 percent are saying listen, let's keep at this. Listen, Gore has a lot going against him. You know, the state is Republican. He's got Katherine Harris. He's got a Supreme Court appointed mostly by, you know, a couple by Bush's dad.

LOWRY: Souter, Souter.


CARLSON: Appointed by President -- former President Bush. HUNT: Rich Lowry, I agree with all the data that Bob just cited and I think the polls are moving against Vice President Gore. But I'll tell you, you talk to Democratic politicians they say they're not getting any heat. They're not getting and pressure. You know, it's certainly not saying the other way. But is seems to me the public still remains reasonable passive.

LOWRY: As I said earlier, the Democratic Party is not being hurt by this, generally. So I think there's a rough analogy to impeachment where Democrats could stand by Clinton because the party itself did not take a hit. Clinton took a hit personally. But I'll tell you, the biggest PR problem Al Gore has it's that he's been consistently behind in Florida.

So, every time he goes in front of the cameras he basically has to say I didn't lose. I really, really didn't lose, and it just makes him seem pleading and kind of weak and it's also worth pointing out the essential disingenuousness of his case. He says he wants a full and accurate count. He wants neither. He doesn't want a full count. He just wants those selected Democratic counties and a dimpled chad count is not an accurate count. It's creating votes.

HUNT: James Carville, if you had been advising Al Gore would he have behaved the way he did this week?

CARVILLE: Look, first of all, I don't know to tell it to you, he said he would agree to a statewide recount. The Bush people don't want recount because they know they lost the election. Everybody knows that.

NOVAK: I don't know that.

CARVILLE: Of course you do.

CARVILLE: But believe me, the Bush people, Jim Baker and them know that they lost the election, OK. They will probably be successful in stopping the votes from being counted. But I'll tell you, as a Democrat -- and a lot of Democrats feel this way -- they want the vice president to do everything he can because when the votes are counted and we find out that Al Gore actually won the election, which we know, then we'll be able to say we did everything that we could. And I'll tell you one thing, there's going to be an agitated, activated democratic base in 2002 and 2004. I promise you that.

NOVAK: Can I respond to Margaret, please, just quickly?

You know, you forget Margaret, this election was 49-48. It wasn't 33 percent for...

CARLSON: But we're talking about the swing voters who have not...

NOVAK: Forty-nine-48 -- and I have had people in the Gore campaign tell me that when they get up towards 60 percent who want to go concede, they're in trouble because that means they have lost about 10 percent of their base vote. HUNT: Bob, my head is spinning with these numbers. I want to see if you all agree with Bob Novak that this is Al Gore -- if Al Gore loses time, as most people think he's going to -- is he dead politically?

LOWRY: Time is running out, there's no doubt; and the numbers aren't going to get better.


LOWRY: Democrats don't like him particularly. He had peace and prosperity and the only way he can possibly get into the White House is if he counts illegitimate, dimpled chads as votes.

HUNT: Margaret, is it now or never for...

CARLSON: No more dimpled chads, Rich.

HUNT: Margaret: now or never for Al Gore?

CARLSON: I think so. I think Senator Lieberman comes out of this all right, but I do not think Al Gore does.

HUNT: James?

CARVILLE: You know, look, he won the national vote. He won the vote in Florida, he won the presidency; he may not take office, but he was certainly elected. I think he's not going to be so much of a front runner that everybody won't run against him, but I think Democrats are going to allow him to make his case again in 2004 in the primary.

NOVAK: Is that a yes or a no?

CARVILLE: Democrats are going to let him make his case again.

HUNT: All right, Bob, if Al Gore is finished, what Democrats would you turn to?

NOVAK: They've got a lot of terrific candidates.

CARLSON: You're hoping for Hillary.

NOVAK: No; John Kerry is a very good candidate. Senator Bob Kerrey has got a new base in New York. Dick Gephardt, if he gives wanting to be speaker, would be a good candidate. I think the -- one of the effective politicians in America is the Governor of California, Gray Davis, he would be a good candidate. And if they all get together they might prevent a catastrophe from befalling the Democratic Party and, perhaps, America; and Hillary Clinton...

CARLSON: I knew he'd get there.

HUNT: No one will agree with me on this panel, I know, but I also think that Bill Bradley just may be back. And it may surprise you -- he may have learned some lessons this time. James Carville, I want to thank you for being with us tonight. We know who you think won the election. We know what Bob Novak doesn't concede, but next time I promise Bob will read a section of the Constitution to you.

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


HUNT: And now for "The Outrage of the Week." Remember when all those bleeding heart right-wingers screamed when Spain tried to extradite former Chilean dictator Augusta Pinochet for the crimes he committed during his oppressive regime? They said it should be up to Chile to decide his fate. Now a Chilean judge and prosecutor has indicted this thug for kidnapping his opponents, many of whom were murdered. Let's see if those right-wingers will now applaud this act of sovereign responsibility.

NOVAK: It's an outrage that he's in jail -- house arrest, believe me.

Thanks to Al Gore's campaign, votes of U.S. overseas service personnel were thrown out in Florida. Many of these servicepeople directed their anger at the Democrats. And what do you think the brass do about it? Thanks to Thomas Ricks of "The Washington Post," we learn that two major U.S. military commands warned it's a crime for officers to express contempt for the nation's political leaders. Air Force Brigadier General Jack Rives (ph) and Army Colonel James Rosenblatt (ph) are the military lawyers who issued this warning. The trial lawyers' mentality, regrettably, has invaded our armed services.

CARLSON: James Baker and others use segregationist code to trash the judiciary as undemocratic. Well, I'll take Clarence Thomas any day over Miami Mayor Penelas. After he lunched at the governor's club in Tallahassee with a Republican lawmaker and met with others instrumental in drawing a congressional district Penelas might win, suddenly the Miami-Dade canvassing board, one of whom works for Penelas, voted to stop the manual recount. They claimed, not enough time, didn't feel like it. Judges have to follow the law written down in reasoned decisions on the record, unlike Miami mobs and mayors.

LOWRY: Speculation centers on Tom Ridge as George W. Bush's potential pick as secretary of defense. Ridge would be an awful choice. When he served in the House, "The Pennsylvania Republican" compiled a consistently rotten record: supporting the nuclear freeze, opposing aid to the Contras and opposing missile defense. Bush should reconsider and hang a sign on the department of defense door: Quasi- doves need not apply.

HUNT: This is Al Hunt saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG, and I'm sure you join me in wishing Margaret Carlson a happy birthday.

And coming up next, an election 2000 special report with Joie Chen.



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