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Larry King Live

The Bush Victory Speech: Is It the Beginning of Conciliation?

Aired December 13, 2000 - 10:20 p.m. ET


LARRY KING, HOST: We're going to have part two, now, of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll be with you right around to the top of the hour, then Wolf Blitzer will take over. And "THE SPIN ROOM" will air at midnight, Eastern.

Let's begin by welcoming a very familiar face to this program, Senator Bob Dole, the Republican presidential candidate in 1996, the majority leader formerly of the Senate. He spoke with President-Elect Bush today, who you see now leaving the state capitol in Austin to head back to the residence of the governor. He'll be in Washington next week to meet with Al Gore on Tuesday. What did you make of both speeches, Bob? First, Al Gore.

ROBERT DOLE (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I'd give him an A. I think he did a great job, an excellent job, and I'd certainly give him very high marks. And I think the same with Governor Bush. I think they both met the challenge, seized the moment, whatever the praise may be, and they have started this sort of -- I don't say partnership in the true sense -- but they've both indicated their willingness to do whatever it takes to start moving the country in the right direction.

KING: What did he say to you today?

DOLE: The governor?

KING: Yes.

DOLE: Well, you know you get calls from people, politicians and others, and you can sort of have the feeling that they're just calling to say thanks and bye and they sort of want to get off the phone, But I felt today that he really wanted to visit about -- not about me or not about him but about certain people, and we had a very good visit, and I congratulated him, and I can't give you the details of the conversation, but I think he's ready.

KING: Your thoughts on Al Gore. tonight you said you give him an A for the speech and you thought it was good. You know, you know what it's like to lose.

DOLE: I know what it's like to lose. I mean he still has -- what, 40-some days as vice president, and maybe that will ease the transition, but when it's over, it's over. Tomorrow is a whole new -- not a new chapter, a new book. It'll be the George Bush era beginning tomorrow morning. And Al Gore can still play a very vital role in American politics, American life. He's still a very young man. He's got a great opportunity, probably -- I don't know how many opportunities. But he can still have a very strong voice in the party, but more importantly, in the American policy, American life whatever.

KING: So, you expect him to serve his country some more?

DOLE: Oh, I think so. I mean his what -- at his age, he has many, many years. I mean, and he may want to reenter politics. When I lost in '96, I knew that probably age was a barrier. It was a barrier. But to any future campaigning or election or whatever political office. But there are a lot of things you can do. Serving President Clinton, as I have done in Bosnia and Kosovo, World War II memorial. I mean, Gore will have so many opportunities to be a very effective and be very helpful that he probably won't be able to count them all.

KING: Would it be wise then if President-Elect Bush in this mood of conciliation not only to maybe put some Democrats in the Cabinet, but to call on Al Gore for some duties?

DOLE: Well, I would think so. I have always felt that people who have that -- have had that level of leadership, the vice president, president of the United States, should be utilized. Look what President Ford and President Carter forged. They were like brothers. They're a team.

They worked together, and they've done a lot of good around the world, and certainly there areas that I think if Al Gore is willing, he said he was tonight, President-Elect Bush could reach out to him. Reach out to President Clinton as well. I mean, this is about the United States of America, it's not about one person or one party. It's about our future, about our children, about our global responsibilities, and we need all the help we can get.

KING: Now, in a country that's tied, in a Senate that's tied, in courts that were virtually tied, a tie, a famous football coach once said, is like kissing your sister. How is this going to work?

DOLE: Well, it depends on -- I think we had a great start tonight. Both, I think Joe Lockhart said maybe Bush should have waited, but I think we've waited 36 days for this to come to an end, and, I think, obviously Gore -- it was Gore's night in a sense that he was the one who was leading the race, but I think Bush -- I think it was important that he follow on very quickly and say this is what we hope to do general way, and I think this is the beginning.

I'm an optimist, I never look at the -- try not to look at the dark side. I want to look at the positive side. You know, the 50-50 split in Senate or whatever it may end up being, and the very close House division, and that might mean an opportunity for President-Elect Bush. And it might be an opportunity for Republican senators, be a couple on this program later, Senator Breaux and Senator Hatch, who have a reputation of working across party lines to get things done. KING: Earlier, when Sam Nunn was on with us, he talked about bringing people together, and how this is the job that George W. Bush has to do, that the responsibility is going to lay with him. Do you think, though, that this mood of happiness can last? I mean you know -- no one knows it better than you.

DOLE: It can last for a while. I mean, there are obviously going to be differences, and they're going to be elections up in 2002 and people are going to be campaigning, in next -- probably next six, eight, 10 months will all these campaigns start over, but I think it can last probably six or eight months, enough time to deal with prescription drugs and maybe Medicare reform, maybe tax cuts, whatever the priorities may be.

But, obviously, we have different parties. We have different philosophies in a sense, but we also have this responsibility wherever possible, when it's in the national interests, to work together and the thing that struck me about Bush's speech, he mentioned race I think two or three times in his speech.

KING: Yes.

DOLE: Obviously reaching out to black Americans who voted against him, I guess...

KING: Ninety percent.

DOLE: Nine to one, 90 percent. So, I think he's made the right start. I think got a great he got a great push by Vice President Gore at 9:00.

KING: One other quick thing, is Elizabeth interested in coming back to government work?

DOLE: I don't -- well, I don't know. I mean -- she hasn't indicated that to me. I think she's looking for some mission field where she can be of some service to -- generally, I mean, some humanitarian role she might be able to play.

KING: Thanks as always. Great seeing you, Senator Dole.

DOLE: Thank you, good luck. More fun winning.

KING: Bob Dole. Senator Orrin Hatch and Senator John Breaux return with their thoughts on the Bush speech right after this.


KING: Now back with more of part two of LARRY KING LIVE and our dynamic duo returns: Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Senator John Breaux of Louisiana. They were with us in the last hour. Let's start this one with Senator Breaux. We asked Hatch first the last time.

Senator, what did you make of the president-elect's remarks?

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: Well, Larry, we saw tonight a great American tradition of burying the hatchet after the election and not burying it in each other, but rather burying it for the sake of the future of this country. I thought both speeches were very good, right on target. I think country is going to need some healing, however, for a certain period of time. This election has divided the country a great deal and the next few days, I think, are going to be about healing before we can start talking about legislating.

KING: Senator Hatch, your thoughts on the governor -- the governor and the president-elect's speech.

SEN. ORRIN HATCH (R), UTAH: Well, both speeches were very gracious, and I felt like the governor certainly was holding out the hand of friendship. He was introduced by the Democrat leader down there in the state legislature, where he's been so effective in working with Democrats as well as Republicans in bringing them together.

I think he's going to do that, and I really believe that he's going to be able to bring both sides together in good faith and get a lot done.

But it is going to take a lot of effort on both sides to get together, and he covered an, a general agenda. You know, he talked about Social Security and Medicare, education, prescription drug benefits, of course, tax cuts and the military, all of which he would like to reform and strengthen and make better.

And I think -- I can't imagine any Republicans or Democrats who would not want to work with him if he's going to embrace both sides and try to make things work.

KING: Senator Breaux, Senator McCain tonight did speak of campaign finance reform. He thought that should be first on the agenda. One, do you think it should be? Two, do you think it will be?

BREAUX: Larry, my advice to President-elect George Bush would be let's find some areas where we can get an agreement. Let's try and show that we can work together and that bipartisanship is not just a phrase but it's a method of doing business.

In that sense, I would recommend let's not start with the things that divide us the most, but let's start with the things that we have a chance of coming together. I would prefer perhaps starting with education. We came very close to reaching a bipartisan agreement. I think election reform as opposed to campaign finance reform would be a better thing to try and bring, and say, never again will we ever have an election in America like we just had.

I think that would be something that there would be tremendous bipartisan support so that it's more than just a phrase but it's a way of doing business.

KING: Senator Hatch,is election reform high on your list?

HATCH: Well, election reform in the sense of what John is talking about here, John Breaux, I think it'd be a terrible mistake to get into the very combative campaign finance reform issue right after that. I think the leadership will set a time where that can be debated, but it ought to be down the line a little bit, after hearings and after both sides have had a chance to really look at.

Now, of course, John McCain will argue that we've been looking at it for a number years, but that's not the thing to start with if we want to try and reach consensus and get people together and get things going. I think it would be just terrible to start with that.

So I do think the leadership will set a special time for that, probably two or three months down the line after hearings and after we've all had a better chance of seeing what we can do to really get together on those issues.

KING: We ask this of others: Senator Breaux, everything's split in this country. The judiciary's split, the Congress is split, the House, the Senate, the vote, the public. Does this mean moderation -- we asked this of Senator Nunn -- prevails?

BREAUX: Larry, I think that what we've seen in this election is a split on policy differences, but not on the things that I think that are really the most important about how we run our country. And I think that that is the fact that people have sent us a message that's pretty clear, and that message is they want us to work together, that they're tired of the bickering, they're tired of the fighting, they're tired of us playing the blame game in Washington of blaming each other for failure.

While there may be policy disagreements, which showed up in this election, there's one clear message that all of us should take to hear, and that is they want us to work together for the common good of this country. And I think that if we learned that from this election, we have gone a long way to healing this county and bringing everybody back together again.

KING: Your optimism high, Senator Hatch?

HATCH: It is high right now, and I believe that George W. Bush has a reputation for doing this type of bipartisan work and working with both sides, and I'm hopeful that he will.

Look, we all know that we've got to strengthen the educational systems of this country. We've got to solve the problems of Social Security and Medicare. John Breaux on the Breaux-Thomas Commission has done a lot in that area, but we weren't able to get it down up until now, but I think we can with George Bush.

There's no question I think you've got to combine a prescription drug benefit program with tax relief, and we were just told today by Senator Domenici that there's going to be an extra trillion dollars there if we can keep the economy going the way it is, and tax relief's important in that particular -- in that particular end of things.

And of course, the military, we've got to strengthen the military. We can no longer allow it to languish and go downhill like it's been going downhill.

KING: Thank you both very much. Thanks for hanging tough tonight in both segments.

Senators Orrin Hatch and John Breaux. And when we come back, Representative -- Reverend Jesse Jackson will join us from New Orleans and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen will join us from Miami.

That's next on second edition of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Welcome back. We now welcome Reverend Jesse Jackson, the founder and president of the Rainbow and PUSH coalitions. He's in New Orleans. And in Miami, her home, is Representative Ileana Ros- Lehtinen, Republican of Florida.

Reverend Jackson, you said earlier today that President-elect Bush was elected legally but doesn't have moral authority. Did he assuage that a little for you tonight by referring to black Americans twice in his speech?

REVEREND JESSE JACKSON, RAINBOW/PUSH COALITION: First of all, he must be congratulated. He will be our next president.

America is a great nation, and because we also are great with the responsibility for the political and economic stability of the world, we must find some common ground. That means reconciling the extremes and dealing with issues that matter: issues of campaign finance reform so money does not displace common people; the issue of voter reform; patients' bill of rights. Issues that really matter must somehow bring us together.

And then we must be tough enough and honest enough to address the unfinished issues that carry over, because while we speak of healing, you cannot have real healing unless you get the glass out of the wound.

KING: The question was, by referring to blacks -- and he only got 10 percent of the black vote -- did that make you think that he's going to be very constrictive in that area?

JACKSON: Well, I would certainly hope so, but you see in Florida -- and I'll be speaking tomorrow at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Dr. King was killed, because we're kind of getting back to the civil rights issue, which is before us, because in Florida, many African-Americans feel that he won at their expense. He must address that.

I mean, 8,000 notices were sent to -- to remove felons from the rolls: 85 percent were black but non-felons. They were misdemeanors. Many of them lost their right to vote. In Duval County, they removed 27,000 from the rolls and (UNINTELLIGIBLE) protest: 18,000 were black.

So the point is there's a lot of pain. I'm convinced that a president has the power if he has the will to help build these bridges.

KING: Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, does what Jesse just said make a point with you?

REP. ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN (R), FLORIDA: No, it really doesn't. I mean, obviously, George W. Bush has been the governor of a huge state that has a lot of African-Americans, and he's enjoyed a very warm working relationship with them, as he has with Hispanic Americans. And the state of Florida does not have policy to disenfranchise anyone, any minority group.

That there have been some problems with the ballots in Florida, those are problems that will be addressed and properly addressed at the state level. Those are state issues, and I think you will see Jeb Bush, Governor Bush, address those in the state legislature.

But I think that what -- I think that what President-elect Bush just said tonight was very clear. He is a uniter. He want to unify our nations and he wants to work on common grounds. He needs to do that because the legislative session is going to be very tough for him. He's had that kind of record of unifying both parties in Texas, and he's going to do it in Washington as well.


JACKSON: Well, Larry, See I think can he do that and he must do that and we should work with them on that because it's in our national interest to do so. After all, our national interest is greater than the White House. It's greater than the presidency. So we cannot become so land-locked in this tough campaign that we do not see the bigger picture of growth. But I submit to you tonight that what will bring us together in the end will be a sense that there's an even playing field, a sense of all Americans count, and have their role around table. It is he who must in provide that sense of a place around that common table.

KING: Congresswoman, you served with Jesse Jackson's son, the congressman from Illinois, and you have opposite thoughts on many things. Do you expect this Congress to work in the kind of harmony we've heard tonight?

ROS-LEHTINEN: Absolutely. I have every faith that Jesse Jackson -- Congressman Jackson has that type of unifying spirit, and I know that President Bush is not going to sacrifice his principles, but he's also a practical man, and he will try to find that middle ground so we can move legislative agenda that he outlined -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, prescription drugs, education reform -- these are all of the topics he discussed for months and months throughout campaign. He's going to make good with them, and I think you that will see the Democratic leaders if they have heart in right place and I know that they will, we will all work together to get the job done for all Americans. It's time to say the election is over. We want to fix problems that occurred in Florida, but let's unite. Let's work together and let's get the job done.

JACKSON: Larry, Larry, Larry... (CROSSTALK)

KING: Thank you both very much. We're out of time. Jesse Jackson, the founder and president -- we'll see a lot of you -- of the Rainbow and PUSH coalitions and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen...

ROS-LEHTINEN: Thanks, Larry.

KING: ... Republican of Florida. When we come back, our panel will assemble. But we're going to begin by talking with Barry Richard, the Bush campaign attorney who's gotten very famous out of all of this for arguing most successfully most of the time in Florida, and then our panel and Jeff Greenfield will be right with me, Don't go away.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: After a difficult election, we must put politics behind us and work together to make the promise of America available for every one of our citizens. I'm optimistic that we can change the tone in Washington, D.C.

I believe things happen for a reason, and I hope the long wait of the last five weeks will heighten a desire to move beyond the bitterness and partisanship of the recent past.



KING: In a moment our panel will assemble on part two of LARRY KING LIVE. I want to get a few words in with Barry Richard. the Bush campaign attorney. Barry comes to us from Tallahassee. Guess what? Tomorrow night, Barry will be here with us in New York. And we're going to do a first of all they times we've interviewed him. We're going to take calls tomorrow night for Barry Richard. Ralph Nader will also be here.

What does it feel like now, to have it all over?


KING: Were you at all surprised in any aspect of the Supreme Court decision last night?

RICHARD: No, I wasn't really surprised. I anticipated that -- my expectation, although you know as I've told you several times over the last month, I try not predict courts, but I anticipated that the majority would come down that way. I think most of us did because of the earlier rulings and would have been surprised if it had not come down like that. I was assuming they were striving to get as close as they could get to unanimity. I was frankly impressed that they were able to get seven members on at least a portion of the opinion.

KING: Do you think the legislature will have to look at its laws a little here because obviously there was confusing on everybody's part dealing with the court and what it had to say in two different aspects, right?

RICHARD: Yes, and I think virtually every legislature in the United States is probably going to be looking at its election laws, and I think Congress probably is and we're going to probably see some changes, although a lot of the problem which stemmed from the punch cards might go away just because states stop using the punch card machines.

KING: Barry, we look forward to seeing you here tomorrow night. It'll be nice to finally be back together again.

RICHARD: I'm looking forward to it as well. Thanks.

KING: Barry Richard. He'll be here tomorrow night and he will take your calls.

Let's assemble our panel. They are, in Washington: Bob Woodward, he's back with us in part two. Assistant managing editor of "The Post," Pulitzer Prize winner and the author of the best seller "Maestro." Fred Graham's here for another evening, chief anchor and managing editor of Court TV, formerly with CBS and "The New York Times." And our own Jeff Greenfield, CNN's senior political analyst, a veteran of observer of the political scene.

We'll start with Jeff. What did you make of the Bush speech?

JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: I will be blunt with you. I was a little disappointed in it. There's nothing wrong with it, but I was surprised that there was so much leftover rhetoric. Leave no child behind, Laura Bush will be a great first lady, Dick Cheney will be a great vice president -- the kind of thing you can say in a campaign speech.

And I would have thought after 36 days that have left us all battered, that there would have been a completely new tone in this speech, recognizing what we've been through to a larger extent. I think toward the end of speech, when he talked about reconciliation and bipartisan, I thought he hit a stride, but I think that he might have been better served to not use a single line that they had used in the campaign because this such a different universe.

KING: Bob Woodward, what's your reaction.

ROBERT WOODWARD, "WASHINGTON POST": Well, I guess I kind of disagree, because the president-elect was trying to connect the campaign to the transition and what he's going to do next. It was a high-minded speech. It had a lot of anti-politics themes in it. I thought symbolically using the Texas legislature worked where there was a lot of bipartisanship, but the Texas legislature is to the U.S. Congress to the certain extent is ping-pong is to the hammer throw.

It is a very different forum. I recall a couple of years ago Bush's father, President Bush, writing me a letter saying that Washington is like dodge, suggesting they almost shoot you at random. It's a very hard place, and if you just look at Bush's father. When he became president, the first controversy was the John Tower nomination to be secretary of defense, which was very bitter, no one could disentangle them. It went on for months, and it was not until March, I believe, of all people Dick Cheney was picked to replace Tower.

KING: Fred Graham, when we went off the air last night, we were awaiting that decision. Did it surprise you?

FRED GRAHAM, COURT TV: Well, you know, I got that one right. You asked me right before they told us that the decision was about to come out what did I think it was going to be, and I said, well, I could never guess the configuration but I thought it was going to bring finality. And I was right on that one any way.

KING: All right. Are we -- this merry get-together, Jeff, is it all going to work? It's all so -- except for Senator McCain on this program, who said campaign finance reform -- and the other senators kind of put that down -- this is all like let's -- we're buddy-buddy.

GREENFIELD: Twelve years ago, when George Bush the father was inaugurated, he used a line in his inaugural, "We didn't come here to bicker." And he said, "I'm reaching out my hand to you, Mr. Speaker" -- Jim Wright. And that lasted about, you know, three or four days.

I think if there were any time when you could legitimately think there might be a sense of bipartisanship it might be now, because this election was so unusual and also because the stakes are relatively small. I mean, for all that Washington people can make any issue World War III, there's not a lot on the table compared to other eras.

However, against that, we have had 20 years or more of a steadily embittered, politicized Washington, where civility has been a sign of weakness, to quote John Kennedy. And I think when you look at the fact -- you know, Jesse Jackson yesterday, today said this election was stolen; Tom DeLay, the majority whip, said a couple of weeks ago we're witnessing the theft of the presidency -- I'd be very surprised if even this climate can damp down a 20-year habit on both sides.

KING: We'll be back with some remaining moments in part two of LARRY KING LIVE. Don't go away.


KING: Bob Woodward, is this going to be a moderate administration? Are we going to see moderate appointments?

WOODWARD: Well, he's almost pledged that, but you know, there is again this idea that somehow he's going to change the tone of Washington -- I think that would be a wonderful thing. But political fights are not necessarily bad things.

My first take on all of the five weeks of the Florida mess is it was a political fight, no one died because of it. People learned a lot. People got to understand the intricacies of ballots and so forth. No one put a gate on the end of it. It never become Floridagate or Ballotgate. So I think it's -- sometimes it's good to have a political fight.

The good news for Bush, I think, is he's going to have some people in his administration who have a lot of experience. Andrew Card is the White House chief of staff, apparently. Cheney is going to be there, and Cheney is as solid a rock as there is. Colin Powell is going to apparently come in as secretary of state. So there will be lots of advice and people who have seen things come over the hill and know how to pick them out.

KING: Fred, are you, was it fair to say, are you optimistic?

GRAHAM: Well, you know, I think that Governor Bush did a good job tonight, and I really don't agree that much with what Jeff said that the divisions are going to break out right again. You know, it's extraordinary to see the kind of speech that he gave, the first speech as president-elect, and see so much of it was calling for civility and courtesy and cooperation, because you would think that everyone would just assume that that's the way you run a government.

And yet we've had so much acrimony over the past few years that the public has risen up against it. And I think one thing that will be different -- I think this is the area in which Governor Bush is going to be able to show that he can get results and make things work out the way he wants to. One thing that's happening is that he's got Congress the same party as he is, so we're going to see an end to government by investigation. Those Republicans aren't going to investigate him and the independent counsel law is gone.

KING: We're out of time. On a scale of 10, Gore's speech?

GREENFIELD: Eight or nine.

KING: Thank you all very much. Bob Woodward, Fred Graham and Jeff Greenfield, they'll be on frequently, as they frequently are.

Wolf Blitzer hosts the next hour. This has been a two-parter of LARRY KING LIVE. We'll see you tomorrow night with Ralph Nader and Barry Richard, live with your phone calls. Good night.



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