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Capital Gang

Is the Supreme Court Handing the Presidency to George W. Bush?

Aired December 9, 2000 - 7:00 p.m. ET


ANNOUNCER: Live from Washington, THE CAPITAL GANG.

MARK SHIELDS, HOST: Welcome to this special one-hour edition of CAPITAL GANG.

I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson.

Our guest is Republican Congresswoman Jennifer Dunn of Washington state. It's good to have you back, Jennifer.

REP. JENNIFER DUNN (R), WASHINGTON: Thanks; great to be here. Thanks Mark.

SHIELDS: Thank you.

The United States Supreme Court dividing five to four today ordered at least a temporary halt to the statewide recount of Florida votes, which had started only this morning. Yesterday, a four to three decision -- the Florida Supreme Court had ordered the recounts and boosted Al Gore's hopes.


JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: The partial manual recount system created yesterday by the Florida Supreme Court will not now proceed. As the three dissenting justices of the Florida Supreme Court emphasized, their four colleagues risked violating federal law and the United States Constitution by developing an alternative and flawed recount system.

DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: If President Bush is ultimately elected, he doesn't want to have the legitimacy of that presidency undercut by the fact that people will know that there were more votes for Vice President Bush -- for Vice President Gore than there were for Governor Bush in Florida.


SHIELDS: Al Hunt, is the Supreme Court about to hand the presidency to Texas Governor George W. Bush?

AL HUNT, "THE WALL STREET JOURNAL": That certainly seems to be the intent of the Antonin Scalia five to four majority in the Supreme Court, Mark. If the high court had decided to review the deeply divided Florida Supreme Court decision after the recount was finished, that would be understandable. Indeed, it would be necessary; but for the Supreme Court, the five person majority, to argue that a mere count or recount would do irreparable harm is simply a cover, if you will with, a disingenuous cover for their real agenda, which is desperately to prevent any count or recount.

SHIELDS: A disingenuous cover -- Bob Novak.

BOB NOVAK, "THE CHICAGO SUN-TIMES": What the Supreme Court did, God bless them -- I very seldom say that about the U.S. Supreme Court -- is they have halted, aborted a plot; and it is a plot by the activist majority on the Florida Supreme Court, people who don't care about the law, who defied the previous nine to nothing hint from the U.S. Supreme Court.

And what was at stake was very frankly but by democratic politicians: to get the counting, the recounting going under -- with no standards, anything can happen, anything -- trying to get the votes. And once they got the counting started, no matter what the Supreme Court did, George W. Bush would be behind the eight-ball because the count would not be on the level.

SHIELDS: Jennifer Dunn, don't we run a risk, though, if George W. Bush does win with this sort of aborted count and the Florida sunshine laws -- and they are as sunshiney and bright as any place on the planet -- somebody's going to go in and look at it. Isn't it going hurt his presidency if, next June, we find out that actually, my goodness gracious, Price Waterhouse, independent accountant, that Al Gore got more votes -- isn't it better to have George W. Bush have the affirmation of a full count?

DUNN: He already had the affirmation. He had the affirmation on election night, he had it on the recount, he's had it in many additional recounts. We think we won this election three times. I think that you will find that the Freedom of Information Act will not allow people to subpoena those ballots. Those ballots are going to be sealed right after the election.

But I think the main thing here is to look at this relationship situation we have between the Florida state Supreme Court and the United States Supreme Court. In their decision a week or so ago, the United States Supreme Court told the Florida Supreme Court, justify your positions -- and they vacated that position.

Now you've got the Florida Supreme Court yesterday afternoon, coming back and really putting their thumb in the eye of the United States Supreme Court. So now we have this huge move, which is more than a vacating of a decision; it's stopping the count -- very, very good and strong for George Bush.

SHIELDS: Good and strong -- Margaret Carlson.

MARGARET CARLSON "TIME" MAGAZINE: I wouldn't have said that the United States Supreme Court, five to four, is an activist majority trying to settle the election unless you said that the Florida Supreme Court, four to three, is an activist majority. In fact, what the Florida Supreme Court did was to cure the mistakes -- the mistake that the United States Supreme Court said it made in the decision it issued yesterday. And it referred to section 168, which is the contest phase and it gave the standard for recounts, which is the right to correct -- to a correct count of the ballots in an election is a substantial right in every case where there has been a failure to make a proper count, call, tally or return of the votes as required by law. You don't need broken machines, all you need is a failure to count some votes.

And that's where we are here; and what the Supreme Court seemed to say -- and, you know, people were watching this. They saw that, hey, you could count these votes in a day, it looked fairly orderly, they were going to get done -- it was judges, it was on videotape.

But they stopped the count right in front of us.

DUNN: The standards were terrible, Margaret.

NOVAK: This is the mantra...

CARLSON: Anything not to know who won.

NOVAK: This is the mantra that you have, that I know the Democrats were saying that once you start the count you cannot stop it, but they did stop it.

Now, Mark, you weren't here last week.

SHIELDS: I didn't miss you, Bob.

NOVAK: I missed you, and I was -- but you would have heard what you said was exactly what James Carville said, and that's been the spin. I don't say that you got this from anybody, because I respect your integrity, but the spin was that somebody's going to go in and look at those ballots and they find he won't win. And you know what that is? That is the long, long recount that goes way, way beyond January 20. It is the corollary to the permanent campaign -- that you keep fighting this election even after it's been won.

SHIELDS: I just find it fascinating Bob, I really do, that you sit here and you say, people who don't care about the law -- those are the judges, right? Those are the judges of the Florida Supreme Court.

You know, it's really been an ugly pattern; this whole debacle is that every time a decision went against Al Gore I have never heard Warren Christopher or Bill Daley or anybody else stand up there and say, these judges are hacks, these judges are bums, they don't know the law -- no, let me finish -- let me finish, Bob.

And yet at the same time, every time a decision went against the Bush folks, Jim Baker savaged the judiciary. Jim Baker, who has assiduously courted the reputation of being a statesman -- secretary of state, secretary of defense -- showed himself to be what he was, a 1988 political hit man in the case against Michael Dukakis. That's what he was today. That's exactly what he was. DUNN: No, no, no, Mark. He is being very moderate...

SHIELDS: That's what Novak is.

DUNN: ... in his responses -- very moderate.

The United States Supreme Court was very moderate in its initial decision. It had seven judges it had to get onboard; but the Florida Supreme Court is infamously liberal and it is very much an activist court and it has proved it again because yesterday it extended the deadline again after extending the deadline the first time and that's what they were overruled by the United States Supreme Court.

NOVAK: Senator Pat Leahy of Vermont told Frank Sesno, the CNN Washington bureau chief, that this court was guilty of extreme judicial activism and it had hurt its moral stature.

HUNT: Yes, but Bob, you and others told us -- I'll give you an example, Mark. It's not even when judges have made decisions; Judge Nikki Clark, who heard the Seminole County case -- we were told ahead of time, I think by you, this is a left-wing judge who will try to have a political agenda.

NOVAK: I apologize, Judge Nikki. I apologize.


HUNT: You impugn motive and you impugn integrity to these people who -- and I think, on either side, it's wrong. And you're right, Jim Baker has been a terrible culprit.

SHIELDS: Thank you very much Al Hunt, you get the last word.

Jennifer Dunn and the gang will be back with the Florida legislature raring to go.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. The Florida legislature was called into special session yesterday and its Republican leadership is poised to approve the state's electors for George W. Bush if necessary.


DANIEL WEBSTER (R) FLORIDA STATE SENATE: It doesn't produce finality yet. We've said all along, December 12 is the date; and if they can get all these recounts done, all the hearings, all the court cases, all the litigation and so forth done in time then there's finality. If not, the legislature's going to have to act.

LOIS FRANKEL (D), FLORIDA HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: Now that the vote count starts, it seems to me more than ever that this legislature should pull back, step back and say look, we had a lawful election, 6 million people went to the polls, let's see who the voters chose.

Legislators, stay out of this. We have no right to be involved right now.


SHIELDS: Bob Novak, do you think the Florida legislature will have the audacity, the brazen chutzpah, Bob, to approve Republican electors even if Al Gore wins a recount?

NOVAK: Absolutely, God bless them. I love the Florida legislature and I love Speaker Feeney, he's one of the best guys to come around since Tom DeLay.

And I'll tell you one thing; they hope, because of the U.S. Supreme Court decision, they don't have to act; but they will act if there is nothing that has happened, if the matter -- they miss the deadline. But even if they make the deadline with a Gore majority, a Gore delegation, I think they will act and elect Bush delegates because this is a flawed process and a phony vote-counting process.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: This goes back to something you said, which is that it's assumed that, should there be a recount and Gore loses, he'll concede.


CARLSON: We never talk about Bush conceding because you know what? He never contemplates it. There will just be power play...

DUNN: Because he's going to win. Why should you concede when you're going to win?

CARLSON: ... power play after power play. If there's a recount -- he doesn't say, I'll abide by the results. His people will go the Florida state legislature and enter into a power play to trump the recount.

SHIELDS: I think you're right; and I don't think the Congress of the United States would stand by, I really don't. I think there are Republicans of principle. If it's documented that Al Gore wins the recount in Florida, I don't think that the Republican Party will stand and watch.

NOVAK: Watch them. Well, I'll tell you what, it will be a test of whether they have any backbone.

DUNN: They have to. I mean, the Florida legislature is given that authority under Article II of the United States Constitution, that there if there are no electors at midnight Tuesday night they have to elect a slate and they have to send it up to us. And so of course they're going to act; so I think that it is in their hands legally and this is what the whole problem with the Florida Supreme Court...

SHIELDS: If the recount goes forward after the Supreme Court hearing and there is -- the recount continues and it comes back that Gore has won by 1,500 votes, you still think that the Republican House would vote to seat the Republican legislature?

DUNN: The United States House, are you talking about?

SHIELDS: Yes, U.S. House.


DUNN: I think the Florida legislature should do -- I think that they should meet on Wednesday, even if Gore has come in with the count and the electors have been selected, because you never know where this whole case is going to go. We don't know, so they have to be prepared. They would be irresponsible if they didn't do it.

SHIELDS: I am disappointed in Bob Novak, because he helped put together that set up and he excluded Speaker Feeney from it, because I'll echo what James Carville said last week: Tom Feeney is the political gift that won't stop giving. God, I want him on the air all the time, Mark, he is the best partisan...


SHIELD: I'm not finished.

But as much as I admire Jennifer Dunn, I disagree with her. There's no doubt would be politically insane, for the Florida -- for the GOP-controlled Florida legislature to do this. But I think it's constitutionally dubious, too, because they would create a crisis.

Basically, there's no question that a Florida -- that any legislature can choose the method by which electors are chosen. You can choose them by CD, Congressional District if you want -- but to step in after the voters, I don't think Jennifer would be very happy if the West Virginia or North Carolina legislatures -- democratic -- run tomorrow and say, you know, we're going to give our electors to Al Gore.

NOVAK: That's a different situation.

SHIELDS: It's not a difference. It's not.

NOVAK: But, you know, as fond as I am of you, Al, and I am fond of you...

HUNT: I appreciate it, Bob.

SHIELDS: Just flunked the polygraph.

NOVAK: Anybody that you and James Carville attack is immediately in my hall of fame. So Speaker Feeney, I think, is one of America's heroes, and I can't wait for Christmas when I will reward him on our Christmas show -- or New Year's show, whatever it is.

HUNT: People all over America are waiting for this.

CARLSON: Mark, as fond as I am of Bob, I have to disagree. Each time something goes against the Bush people they threaten a constitutional crisis, which they are determined to bring about when there is no clash because the December 12 -- we were going to, you know, that deadline was going to be met until the Supreme Court stopped that count, but December 18 is the outside date and that can be met. There's no need for the Florida state legislature to come in and, you know, pull a power play.

DUNN: Margaret, they would be irresponsible if they didn't do that.

SHIELDS: Last word because we have had to get our attorney, Margaret Carlson (INAUDIBLE). We'll be right back, Jennifer Dunn, with you. And next on capital gang, a showdown on Capitol Hill. We had a preview of that in the previous session.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. If rival electors for George W. Bush and Al Gore are sent to Capitol Hill, the Congress must decide.


SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D), VERMONT: I don't want partisan, party- line votes in the House or the Senate determining this. It should be the voters of America that determines it.

I would hope that the U.S. Senate would say, let's respect the courts.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R) CHAIRMAN, JUDICIARY COMMITTEE: There will be objections raised against Governor Bush by the Senate, and the House will approve him, and then the objections will be overruled by Al Gore, who will elect himself. And that's just not going to be acceptable to people.


SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson, where does Orrin Hatch get his shirts done?


SHIELDS: What will happen if the issue is sent to Congress?

CARLSON: Yes, why don't you have white collars and little tie pins? Spruce up your haberdashery, here.

It will be winning ugly if it goes to Congress because it will be along purely partisan lines, probably. You know, in the House it goes Bush, in the Senate Gore casts a tie-break vote for himself.

SHIELDS: You think it will be a straight party-line vote?

CARLSON: Well, you know, I would hope that, if people actually read these decisions they might break away. Moderates in the House might see that, actually, the statute does provide for a hand count that should have gone forward. A hand count does not cast a cloud, as the Supreme Court said, over the election. But then, if it comes back to Florida and Jeb, in a tragedy of Shakespearian dimensions, has to lay down his own political life to deliver the election to his brother there will be novels written about that for decades to come.

SHIELDS: Jennifer Dunn, what will happen?

DUNN: Let me take Margaret on on one thing. This hand count is not the answer to all problems. I was a state party chairman for 11 years and you can mess up ballots really well when they're prepared for machines and you try to hand count.

I don't want it to come to the Congress either. We will pick up that banner if we have to, but it will become more partisan. It should be decided by the United States Supreme Court; it should have been decided by the voters, and was election night, the recount -- and what does that stand for -- and several other recounts and Bush was the winner.

But to bring it to Congress you put us all in a really tough position, but we'll do it if we have to and it'll be fair and it'll be Bush.

SHIELDS: Bob, what will happen?

NOVAK: I think Jeb Bush would love to make his brother president. It would make him a hero with a lot of people across the country. He might be the third Bush president, who knows?

But I will say this: It won't be a party-line vote in the House of Representatives. You have some very moderate, well-thinking Democrats, such as Ralph Hall of Texas and Traficant of Ohio who...


NOVAK: ... who would vote for Bush.

HUNT: I think Jim Traficant may (UNINTELLIGIBLE). He's never been accused of being a moderate or well-thinking.

CARLSON: He's going to sue you, Bob.

HUNT: First of all, Margaret -- one thing, you're wrong, and I think that Bob Novak, too, would lay down his career for his brother, except he doesn't have one.

HUNT: I don't know who I prefer, Tom Feeney or Tom DeLay. I mean, Mark, it's such a -- Tom DeLay's patron saint is Jim Garrison (ph); I mean, he sees more conspiracies than Oliver Stone. It would be...

DUNN: But what about the constitutional issue of Vice President Gore voting for himself to break a tie?

SHIELDS: Well, now, that's a fascinating one. The last thing in the world George W. Bush needs, if he ever becomes president, is to get there with Tom Feeney and Tom DeLay carrying him across the finish line.

The gang will be back with just who will choose the next president.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. Who will be the final arbiter? Who will decide in this long presidential recount -- Al Hunt.

HUNT: Mark, looks like the fix is in -- the Supreme Court is going to go for Bush.

SHIELDS: Boy; Margaret, what do you think?

CARLSON: Sandra Day O'Connor could do it by switching over, not finding the Florida Supreme Court unreasonable and arbitrary, but finding it based on the Florida statute in the election code and in place before the election.

DUNN: I think it's going to be the United States Supreme Court. We're going to hear this on Tuesday and I think we're going to be very relieved and that will be the end of the process.

SHIELDS: The end of the process, Bob Novak, is that what it is?

NOVAK: I would like to see, somehow in my lifetime, the House of Representatives pick a president because -- maybe they should do it all the time, they probably have better choices than ordinary people -- but I would say that the U.S. Supremes, I said that several weeks ago, will pick the president.

SHIELDS: Diana Ross?

NOVAK: No this is different -- you know, Scalia and the Supremes.

CARLSON: Yes, Mark: Down with the people. They cannot be trusted.

SHIELDS: Bob's the great populist, who believes in that -- kind of the working people who want to cut the capital gains tax up to a point.

But seriously, what is the worst that could happen to Bush -- that it be decides in the House?

NOVAK: No, I think once he's president, he's president. Where do you think it ends?

SHIELDS: I think it ends, quite frankly, in the House of Representatives; and I thing it's going to be painful, I think it's going to be difficult. And I think that enough Republicans are going to look and say, my goodness, he did win. Al Gore won Florida. I have to follow my conscience and my convictions and vote for Al Gore.

We'll be back to continue this special edition of CAPITAL GANG, looking at George W. Bush acting like a president-elect and Al Gore fighting for his political life; and our outrages of the week after a check of the hour's top news.


SHIELDS: Welcome back to our special one-hour edition of CAPITAL GANG. I'm Mark Shields with Al Hunt, Robert Novak and Margaret Carlson. Our guest is Republican Congresswomen Jennifer Dunn of Washington. Good to have you still here, Jennifer. I'm glad you didn't leave.

Earlier this week, George W. Bush was asked whether Al Gore should concede.


GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: That's a decision the vice president has to make. It's a difficult decision, of course, and I can understand -- I can understand the what he may be going through. It's been a very interesting period of time for both of us.


SHIELDS: Just before the Florida Supreme Court acted, Bush sounded ready to be president-elect.


BUSH: It's time to get on with America's business, and we'll see what the courts decide today.


SHIELDS: I wonder if anybody ever says it's time to get on with candidate's businesses? Margaret, would you give Governor Bush high marks for how he handled himself in this difficult period?

CARLSON: Well, you know, he got over the photo ops in a mock-up of "The West Wing" Oval Office, and he hasn't done that and so in a pass-fail system I give him kind of a pass. He's entertained nicely at the ranch. His dad's cabinet coming to visit in leisure suits -- denim on denim leisure suits with a feather in the hat. But I give James Baker an F for threatening to throw a constitutional tantrum every time a court decision or anything goes against them.

You know, there's never been a moment at which -- in which they've entertained the notion that a Gore presidency could be legitimate. But the burden has always been and Gore and Lieberman have met it that a Bush presidency would be legitimate in the presence of a recount would show they have won.

SHIELDS: Bob Novak, Margaret Carlson makes a compelling point here.

CARLSON: Thank you, Mark. NOVAK: Well, you can tell me.

SHIELDS: I didn't? I notice you were scribbling, Bob. Are you going to pick up the dry cleaning or what?

NOVAK: This is notes so I can figure out what I'm going to say.

SHIELDS: Let's hear it.

NOVAK: First place, all the inside the beltway liberal journalists just like to make fun of George W. Bush like they make -- when I first got here they were making fun of Eisenhower. Then they make fun of Ronald Reagan. They make fun of all Republicans. They make fun of me and because they can't stand anybody who believes in free markets or individual freedom.

So the idea that -- and I thought Jimmy Baker and I've never been chairman...


CARLSON: Jimmy? Jimmy to you.


NOVAK: Yes, I've never been -- Jimmy to me. I've never been chairman of his fan club, as you well know, but I think he has done a brilliant job and very effective and you hate that, and that's why you give him an F. As far as talking about a constitutional crisis, the chief justice -- Chief Justice Wells of the Florida Supreme Court was the guy who talked about a constitutional crisis. He said that the -- these results-oriented liberals who had taken his court away from him were leading them into that kind of a crisis.

So don't blame Baker for that. And I would say that I think that the problem with George W. Bush -- the only problem he really has is that he's a Republican and he may be president. And that's why you don't like him.


SHIELDS: Ten-second rebuttal.

CARLSON: I've only heard that since November 9th Secretary Jimmy Baker has been predicting a constitutional crisis.

SHIELDS: Jennifer Dunn.

DUNN: You know, I've got to stand up here for the man who's going to be president for all of and that's George W. Bush. I think he's handled himself very responsibly. He has a very strong backbone. He has the ability to come to this Congress even in this terrible situation that we have now and work with people across the aisle.

He's going to come in here and he's going to get that death tax repealed bill passed that you like, Bob, my bill. The marriage penalty relief. He's going to do some things on Social Security. He's going to strengthen the military, work on education because he has a strong backbone and he believes he got elected on that agenda.

But also, I want to give a lot of credit to Dick Cheney. It's been a tough situation he's been in and he's been handling the detail of all of this in Washington, D.C. The transition, if we didn't move ahead as we can now, it would be irresponsible. And you end up with a president on January the 20th who doesn't have anybody working anybody for him and that would be a problem.


HUNT: I'm delighted that Bob now quotes the same Chief Justice Wells who two weeks ago he told us is one of the seven hacks on the Florida Supreme Court. So, I don't know -- I'm all for it. You know, we could have a whole segment maybe, of Bob's errors over the last couple of weeks.

NOVAK: Because I'm the one person who admits his mistakes.


HUNT: Because you're a big person, Bob. You and Jimmy Baker both. Look, I think that George Bush has for the most part appeared a little bit out of his element. It's Not because I hate Republicans. It's not because -- and I certainly didn't feel that about Ronald Reagan. There was a certain presence about Ronald Reagan even when you disagreed with him.

I think it's awfully hard to argue there's a presence, so far, about George Bush. And he may prove to be exactly what Jennifer predicts, and have that sort of appeal. He sure doesn't have it now among the rank-and-file. This is a guy who has no appeal among Democrats right now. Obviously, Gore has none among Republicans but Bush has no appeal among rank-and-file Democrats.

SHIELDS: Well, I have to say I'm curious of what Governor Bush does. I thought he had a good week this week. I thought there was a certain magnanimity that was coming in and especially in that excerpt we saw that was sort of a humility and victory. He wasn't doing the Martin Sheen, let's all play president and get my father's Rolodex out, but I'm curious what does he do between those trips to the ranch and the office? I mean, you know, I see him getting into the truck a lot and...


CARLSON: Heavy burdens of office.

SHIELDS: ... and then he goes back to the ranch. I'm just -- does he have an energy problem?

NOVAK: I've told you this many times, Mark, but maybe some of the viewers haven't heard it. And that is that the workaholic presidents, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter damn near wrecked the country. (CROSSTALK)

SHIELD: Reagan.

CARLSON: How about Clinton?

NOVAK: Well, he was -- I like the presidents who don't work too hard. I like Calvin Coolidge. I like Ronald Reagan.


SHIELDS: Why did you like Coolidge?

NOVAK: Because he slept 13 hours out of 24 and you can't hurt the country when you're making Zs.

DUNN: What would you want Bush to be doing? I mean, he's sitting there being the governor. He's working on transition. You know, Ronald Reagan only came up to Washington two times between the time he became elected and the time he took over to talk to the leadership...


SHIELDS: I don't think anybody would question Ronald Reagan was a forceful activist governor of California where the state was dominated by the other party where he dealt with them.

NOVAK: But he worked short hours, though.

SHIELDS: But he had two -- he had big victories and he certainly set the agenda. I just don't get the sense that Governor Bush is much engaged in Texas. He's not engaged in Florida.

HUNT: And you also knew what his agenda was. But in an earlier show today, for instance, Bob Novak asked Governor Pataki how should Governor Bush govern? From the center or with a conservative philosophy because you don't know the answer. You wouldn't have asked that question about Ronald Reagan.

CARLSON: But that's not because of his beliefs, it's because of the situation and George W. Bush knows full well what he's going to do and that's going to make him...


DUNN: We're already putting our coalitions together on these tax issues.

CARLSON: Bob, I think you're going to love George Bush because "The New York Times" got his schedule under the Freedom of Information Act and it showed that he works from nine to five and he takes off two hours in the middle of the day for video games -- video golf and a nap. So, there you go.

NOVAK: Well, I take a nap every day... (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Two hours?

SHIELDS: But with your disposition.

NOVAK: I will say this. The criticism that I began to hear of Republicans and George Bush was not that he didn't work enough, but as it became clear at one point they thought he was going to clinch the presidency this past week, and you'll hear it again if he is that he's not conservative enough and that he's going to have a lot of moderates in his administration and I think he is. But one thing you say about George W. Bush -- and I don't think you can really deny -- he's not Al Gore. You can't take that away from him.


CARLSON: No, you can't take that away from him.

HUNT: You know, that is really good. That's a great insight. And I'll you something else, Al Gore is not George Bush.


NOVAK: That is why people...

CARLSON: This is why that column is syndicated nationwide. For insights like that.


HUNT: Aren't you glad you're here, Jennifer?

SHIELDS: I will say this. He has one big problem, George W. Bush is, and that is that nobody's afraid of him. And I really think that -- I mean, people were scared stiff of Ronald Reagan because Ronald Reagan had just carried 44 of the 50 states and everybody in the House, even though he had a Democratic House at the time, said, my gosh. This guy knows something about the country.

NOVAK: You think anyone was afraid of Kennedy in '61?

SHIELDS: No, I don't think they were.

CARLSON: Not yet. Not yet.

SHIELDS: I think they became -- I think what happened and they became afraid of Bill Clinton after he bested and routed Newt Gingrich. They thought he was a smart, tough guy.


DUNN: What do you want Bush to do? Bush is going to be able to take us from this to this and that's what we need at this time and that's what people want. SHIELDS: How far -- after listening to the radio that's tough. From this to this. All right. Next on CAPITAL GANG, Al Gore hanging on.


SHIELDS: Welcome back. As Democratic morale slumped early in the week, Al Gore still maintained confidence.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't feel anything other than optimistic. I really -- and the team down in Tallahassee feels that way also.


SHIELDS: The vice president for the first time declared his support for lawsuits seeking to throw out absentee ballots in two Florida counties. When the Bush campaign won both those cases, prominent Democrats did suggest the end could be near.

But Bob, what is the level of Democratic support tonight for Vice President Gore?

NOVAK: I think as long as he's still got a shot, the rank-and- file Democrats will support him. They were ready to pull the plug...

SHIELDS: The people on this panel, you mean?

NOVAK: No, no, rank-and-file Democrats in the Congress and the politicians will support him as long as he's got a chance. They were all for him when the Florida Supreme Court came out with the decision yesterday. They were ready to drop him when they thought he it was going to run against him. But they don't like him. And he's an acquired taste and most of the people haven't acquired it yet and probably never will acquire it. And what I hear is give him his shot this time, but never again. We've got to get a good candidate in 2004.

SHIELDS: You know, it's interesting. He's an acquired taste, yet he got more votes than this lovely, engaging, dynamic, winning, personable congenial George W. Bush. How do you figure that out?

DUNN: He didn't get more votes. I mean, if you're sitting down counting votes that weren't votes...

SHIELDS: He did nationally.


CARLSON: He won the popular vote by a quarter million.

DUNN: Well, that's right. Let's just hold that in abeyance. I think the Democrats are going to watch this whole thing. They're going to -- they've got a choice to make. I mean, they are going to see this fellow through.

If he ends up being the president, they are going to lose Lieberman in the Senate. Then we're going to have a 51-49 lead in the Senate. And that will be wonderful. We can get a lot of legislation done if we can get Al Gore to be uniter and sign some of our legislation. I don't think he's going to get that far and I think that Gore is not an acquired taste. He may be an acquired distaste. He does not wear well for people. And I think he's out four years from now. So, it's all or nothing right now for Al Gore.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson?

CARLSON: Whoever wins has the feel of a one-term president. But you mentioned that George Bush is not Al Gore. But has anybody noticed that Al Gore is Ronald Reagan now with the hair and the kind of bearing he's trying to adopt? And they're doing in this -- in this intermittent period a lot for restaurants in my neighborhood like Cafe Deluxe because they're going out all the time and everybody follows them.

NOVAK: Is that a fancy restaurant, Margaret? I've never been there.

CARLSON: No, it's not at all fancy.


CARLSON: But it's a lovely neighborhood place. I recommend it. You know, during this period, I think Gore has handled himself well. He's never suggested that Bush is not going to be a legitimate president when in fact, because of the count he could. You know, we were here election night and Republicans were saying how George Bush was planning to make a big deal out of winning the popular vote.

Al Gore has not done that. This has not been emphasized. And even though it was a razor-thin margin, I mean, the margin of victory in Florida was less than the margin of error in those faulty machines -- everybody agrees they're faulty, spitting out votes at a five times greater rate than the optical scanner machines.

He simply has not gone around saying but I won. I won the popular vote. So, I think he's behaved rather well. And I think the Hill has hung together. We take their temperature every few minutes, but they've hung together for him.

SHIELDS: OK, but I have to say, I think that Democratic support and enthusiasm for Gore was very much on the wane this week and even Friday morning talking to Democrats on the Hill there was a sense that it was over. And after the first two suits came in and Seminole County and Martin County, there was the sense that there was -- it was just over and the whole question was would he concede Friday night and do it gracefully. Now, once the Florida Supreme Court acted and especially with Jim Baker's intemperate reaction, Democratic support became solid.

(CROSSTALK) CARLSON: Totally. No, really.

HUNT: Well, I think you're right. I think that's exactly what I saw this week, too. By the way, let me just quickly say I think that Margaret's right, too. I think if you really judge Al Gore by what he has said and how he's handled himself over the last five weeks, it has been pretty admirable.

But I'll tell you what I think -- you know, as well as that favorable Supreme Court decision, what unites Democrats who otherwise might be willing to throw in the towel. It's very easy. It's Jimmy Baker, as Bob calls him. It's Tom Feeney. It's Tom DeLay. It's Antonin Scalia. I mean, basically, you know, it is in that sense it is Clinton redo.

NOVAK: There's a lot...

HUNT: As long as you and as long as those enemies are so strident, they are so vitriolic, they are so win at any cost, then some Democrats who otherwise would say, hey, we don't really have a great allegiance to this guy, it tends to unite them.

NOVAK: If you think Baker telling the truth is strident, I really feel sorry for you. All the people you mentioned have -- I think Baker would -- should feel complemented being in the same company as Antonin Scalia and Tom Feeney and Tom DeLay, but I think he's performed very nicely. You know, the funny thing is you people really think that Al Gore...

SHIELDS: You people? You people?

NOVAK: May I continue? I think that they really think that Al Gore looked -- well, there's a lot of us who think he's been super obnoxious this week. I think he is -- that's out front. Behind the scenes he has been the mastermind in this plot to take votes away from George W. Bush.


CARLSON: To count. Not to take them away.

NOVAK: Please, may I speak without being interrupted? It is not counting votes. It is taking away servicemen's overseas votes which now a federal judge has order must get counted. That kind of got lost in the traffic.

DUNN: 5,000 felons voting.

NOVAK: 5,000 felons voting and this whole Martin and Seminole County cases which was taking -- attempt to take away votes of people who committed to fault and he supported it.

DUNN: Or count votes that weren't there.

NOVAK: He come out on "60 Minutes" last Sunday. Came out front. So I think he's had a bad... HUNT: May I say one thing?

NOVAK: I am for counting those serviceman's votes. I am glad that Judge Clark and Judge Lewis ruled against the Martin and Seminole case because that recourse would have been terrible. But I also, Bob, I don't pick and choose which voters I'm for. I think African- Americans ought to have the right to vote. I think we decided that over hundred years ago -- or we decided, you know, in 1965...


CARLSON: And more voted than ever.

HUNT: ... and more were disenfranchised than anybody else in that state and I think people who went to the polls and took the time, their votes ought to count. Everybody ought to count, Bob. Not just people who vote the way you want them.

NOVAK: But Gore didn't take that position.

HUNT: I disagree with you.

NOVAK: Gore was behind this whole plot.

HUNT: Nor does Bush want those other people to vote.

DUNN: I think if you look at the scheme of things in context over the last month hat we've been involved since the election, Bush has performed very well. It has been the Gore team that has gone to court. They started it and you know it's a slippery slope. Out of the whole set of decisions he has won two. Those were the Florida state Supreme Court and they've been overturned on one and maybe another.

SHIELDS: But never once did they attack the court or the judges after those decisions. I think -- they didn't. They did not attack the courts and judges and Jim Baker did on two decisions. he's the official spokesman for them. That's the way they do it.

Al Gore has not -- Al Gore spent 30 days, the first three weeks talking to us about democracy rather than about the presidency. That wasn't very believable, but I think he's been better towards the end. And I think he's been rather classy. That's the final word because I had it.

NOVAK: I'm glad...

SHIELDS: Jennifer Dunn, thanks for being with us. The gang will be back with the outrage of the week. I'm sorry it was so short.


SHIELDS: And now for the outrage of the week. Voters in Colorado and in Oregon made history on November 7th when they voted overwhelming to close the gun show loophole. That loophole had outrageously allowed unlicensed dealers to sell firearms without any criminal background check of the buyer. This common sense idea had the strong backing from a new group, Americans for Gun Safety, and the spokesman for that reform group was Arizona Senator John McCain, who characteristically and courageously was not afraid to take on the extremist gun lobby -- Bob Novak. That's one word. Mr. Novak.

NOVAK: Senator Joe Lieberman must be pondering his selfish not to resign from the Senate when he ran for vice president. That would have enabled a Democrat to be elected in Connecticut November 7th to replace him. But now that is possible that a recount could make Lieberman, v.p., he would have to quit and be replaced by Republican named by Connecticut's Republican governor. That makes the difference between a Democratic-controlled or a Republican-controlled Senate. Good news for Republicans but a Lieberman outrage for Democrats.

SHIELDS: Margaret Carlson.

CARLSON: Mark, at first the media's need for a mini-series not "War and Peace" seemed to cry for clean laundry and laundry on their seven-day advance purchase vacation tickets. But it's actually the passion to be first to call a contest even the cost of being wrong as they were election night. Each time they reported polls showing the American people referred to wait for a recount they turned to the next segment's talking head, not Bob Novak and intoned in the name of the American people when will this madness end? Since when has their mission been not to get to the truth but to get it over?


HUNT: Mark, would someone please tell Trent Lott he lost five incumbents last month and isn't in control any more? The Senate GOP leader, according to knowledgeable sources, torn with trying to take away the Commerce Committee chairmanship of Senator John McCain, the country's most popular senator, and he brushes aside Tom Daschle's insistence that Democrats, who hold 50 percent of the seats, should have half the committee assignments and half the staff. If Lott keeps this up, the Democrats can tie up the Senate for the first month of any Bush presidency.

SHIELDS: This is Mark Shields saying good night for THE CAPITAL GANG. Next on CNN, a special Election 2000 report.



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