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Frank Sesno on how the election deadlock has affected Washington

Frank Sesno
CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno  
CNN Washington Bureau Chief Frank Sesno has been observing the developments of the presidential election deadlock and how they're being received in the halls of power and influence in the U.S. capital.

Q: How is the deadlock affecting Washington's political players?

SESNO: Many of them find themselves in a deeply divided city. I've never seen Washington so whipsawed, not even during the impeachment of President Clinton. Impeachment was about Bill Clinton; this is about the institutions of American government, the political versus judicial establishment. This is much more intense than impeachment was -- politically, personally and constitutionally. This is a genuine constitutional morass, where legal scholars and other experts are looking for a way out. It's like being lost deep in the woods with no apparent way out and being forced to look for not just a trail -- but anything that remotely resembles a trail.

Q: What are members of the Gore camp telling you privately about their reaction to the U.S. Supreme Court's order to stay the recount?

SESNO: I spoke with senior aides to Gore who have expressed their extraordinary bitterness toward the U.S. Supreme Court. That mirrors the anger many Republicans have expressed toward the Florida Supreme Court. So the sense here of a perilously divided nation resulting from this deadlock is not going to go away anytime soon. I would say there is deep pessimism expressed privately within the Gore campaign that the stay will be lifted and the U.S. Supreme Court will permit the recount to resume. Based on Justice Antonin Scalia's issued comments and from Justice John Paul Stevens', they're very pessimistic.

Q: We've talked about Washington reaction in the halls of power, but what are you hearing with regard to voter reaction?

SESNO: A number of people within the African-American community -- including the NAACP -- are convinced that the Florida presidential election was fraught with, in their view, significant voter disenfranchisement. It's not possible to underestimate the resentment and suspicion in much of the African-American community that has been fostered by recent events. I've heard a host of stories, most of them anecdotal, that has fueled that sentiment: stories of roadblocks near polling places, confusing ballot designs and the like.

Q: What are your sources telling you about the post-inauguration political atmosphere in the wake of these historic events?

SESNO: Whoever ends up as president will have a Herculean task to establish the coalitions and confidence needed to govern effectively. But having talked with literally dozens of lawmakers and experts in Washington and beyond, there is widespread feeling that national political life will go on. There is likely to be resentment and suspicion, but most everyone says that a modest agenda can proceed. There is even a sense that political leaders may sense an opportunity and a need for statesmanship and, as a result, may exceed expectations.


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Sunday, December 10, 2000

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