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Election 2000

Crossfire’s Mary Matalin on the latest on the presidential recount

November 16, 2000
8:05 p.m. EDT

Mary Matalin's Photo(CNN) – Florida’s Leon County Circuit Judge Terry Lewis said he will rule at a 10 a.m. hearing Friday on whether Secretary of State Katherine Harris used her best discretion in deciding to ignore recounts of presidential ballots in four Florida counties.

Mary Matalin is co-host of Crossfire, CNN's political debate program, representing the right. Matalin began working for the George Bush for President campaign in 1986, serving as Midwest regional political director in the primary elections and National Victory 1988 director in the general campaign. Upon Bush's victory, she served as chief of staff to the Republican National Committee under Chairman Lee Atwater. In 1992, President Bush named her deputy campaign manager for political operations.

Chat Moderator: Welcome to the Crossfire chat room, Mary Matalin.

Mary Matalin: Thank you, thank you. I wonder what we'll be talking about tonight?

Chat Moderator: Is it time to have uniform voting standards in the United States? Should all counties use voting machines?

Well, not too long ago we were saying, "Would anyone take the office of the presidency seriously after the stain of the blue dress?" The institution of our presidency is long and strong and has withstood worse, but it will be incumbent upon the ultimate victor to demonstrate real leadership, to disabuse any cynicism about the system.

— Mary Matalin

Mary Matalin: This is going to be the great issue for the returning Congress, if it does return with a president in tow. Just kidding! In fact, one of our guests tonight, Senator Harkin, along with one of his Republican colleagues, has put forth legislation to set up a commission to study standardizing ballots, etc.

My view is that the federal government should not impose a standard on the states. They can make recommendations. But the states should have a standardized ballot, so we don't confront what we're seeing in Florida today, where the Palm Beach voters' intent is weighed more heavily than the intent of voters in the rest of the state, which is a federal violation -- equal protection under the law.

Comment from PalmBeachVoter: The American people have already LOST the election. THIS is now a lawyer’s election.

Mary Matalin: I don't believe that. I think this cacophony is a testament to the strength of our unique democracy and its confident people. There are many places in the world where, in such a circumstance, soldiers would be sent in, as opposed to lawyers. Better to be filing briefs than shooting bullets. On the other hand, the vice president is taking this election out of the hands of voters and has put it into the hands of lawyers.

Question from Augusto: Mary Matalin, don't you think the Bush team has made a grave tactical error by not asking for a statewide recount? It could have favored him.

  MESSAGE BOARD
Presidential race 2000
Election 2000
The Election process
 

Mary Matalin: The Bush campaign, which is governed by George W. Bush principles, is principled, and to be consistent with his principles, these ballots will be more accurately counted by the machine. So, he won on election night, he won on a recount, he won on the certification and you can't just keep counting ballots, no matter whose they are, without manipulating the count.

The machine errs randomly and proportionately, meaning Bush probably lost as many votes as Gore lost. But a Bush principle, unlike a Gore principle, is not to win at any cost, to keep counting until he gets the results he wants or to send in the herd of lawyers to win his victory through a loophole in the law.

Question from Curious: As a Canadian and interested in this form of elected government, I would like ask if anyone will take the new president seriously after this debacle?

Mary Matalin: Well, not too long ago we were saying, "Would anyone take the office of the presidency seriously after the stain of the blue dress?" The institution of our presidency is long and strong and has withstood worse, but it will be incumbent upon the ultimate victor to demonstrate real leadership, to disabuse any cynicism about the system. And, of course, I believe Governor Bush, whom I've known for 15 years, can and will do that.

Question from Hi: Wasn't Gore supposed to be listed second on the ballot? Doesn't that mean he should not only be second on the left side of the punch card, but also the second punch hole on the card?

Mary Matalin: This is so overargued, but let's go again. There was a number that comported with the candidate, and the hole that was to be punched. In other words, the ballot said (1) Bush, then the hold for Bush had a (1) in it, and it had an arrow pointing to it. Any confusion by that would indicate to me an irresponsible voter, and indeed, 96 percent of Palm Beach residents were not, not, not confused.

And finally, if you felt confused, all you had to do was go out and ask a poll worker for a new ballot. I talked to a poll worker in Palm Beach County, and she said for the handful of voters who were confused, they asked and she issued new ballots.

  YOU SAID IT
quote
From: Express your Opinion: Presidential race 2000
 

Question from Twbrown: Mary, I am a strong believer that Bush has won this election. I am, however, reasonable enough to see that no matter what happens now, this election is tainted, no matter who wins. What can be done to take away the problems that have been inherent across the country in this election?

Mary Matalin: I believe that Governor Bush -- excuse me, President-elect Bush -- will comport himself in office with a dignity and grace, generosity and unity, that whatever taint left over from this "unique" election will be mitigated.

Question from RhondaVA: Mary Matalin, why hasn't the Republican Party become as dogmatic at winning elections as the Democrats when dealing with close elections? You mention you were the "quiet right" on Crossfire the other night. Isn't it time for the Republicans to become more aggressive?

Mary Matalin: Let's make a distinction between being aggressive and selling your soul. For better or worse, Republicans, and conservatives in general, unlike the Democrats and liberals I know, do not believe in the means justifying the end. We don't want victory at any cost.

Having said that, the team of Secretary Baker and Margaret Tutwiler, who are down there, are some of the most aggressive and brilliant strategists in modern American politics. If by being aggressive you mean sinking to the depths that the Democrats have in recent days, for example, demonizing the independently elected secretary of state, you're right, we don't know how to do that as well.

Question from Shyguy: Mary Matalin, were you as impressed as I was today with the Republican lawyers?

Mary Matalin: Well, I almost had to recuse myself from this, because one of those Republican lawyers is my pre-James, seven-year boyfriend. So, I can't be objective. I thought he was then, and I think he is now, a genius.

Chat Moderator: Should appointed and elected state officials decline to serve as state chairs or co-chairs of presidential campaigns? In this situation, we have a Democratic state attorney general and a Republican secretary of state who have served as co-chairs of their respective party's candidates.

Mary Matalin: Well, and they ran as candidates from their respective parties. A tactic in a campaign to demonstrate strength is to acquire the support of respected officeholders. To suggest that those two should not have signed on to the campaigns would be the same as suggesting no congressman should ever endorse the candidate of their party because of the off chance that they might have to cast a vote for that candidate, as in the case of a tie.

 INTERACTIVE
Key Players
Election Timeline
Previous Close Elections
What They're Saying
 

What I think is wrong -- and has been done by the Democrats -- is to impugn the integrity and question the motive of the secretary of state, when she is clearly following the stated law.

Question from Mike: Mary, a non-spin question. If Bush loses in Florida, will that be the end of it?

Mary Matalin: Yes. And I haven't been spinning earlier, and I haven't been spinning at all.

Chat Moderator: Do you have any final thoughts for us?

Mary Matalin: Who knows? But let me say this: Everybody is overlooking the upside of this election, which is, for those of us who have children or those who know today's children will be tomorrow's leaders, these children now understand, in ways we could never teach them, how important their vote is and how critical their participation in our democracy is.

So, if you're getting exasperated, which I am, I do what I'm going to do right now, which is walk in the door of my home and talk to my 2-year-old and my 5-year-old about the beauty of their great system. Thank you, chatters. Stay tuned.

Chat Moderator: Thank you for joining us today, Mary Matalin.

Mary Matalin joined the Crossfire Chat via telephone from Washington, D.C. CNN.com provided a typist for Ms. Matalin. The above is an edited transcript of that chat, which took place on Thursday, November 16, 2000.



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RELATED STORY:
Palm Beach County to resume recount
11/16/00


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