Jonathan Karl: Gore speech to be dignified, gracious
CNN Correspondent Jonathan Karl is working the phones in Washington and in constant contact with aides to Vice President Al Gore.
Q: What are you hearing about the speech Gore will deliver to the nation?
KARL: The television networks have been informed that Gore’s speech will take place at 9 p.m. Eastern Time. Running mate Joe Lieberman will be present, but will not speak. We are told Gore's speech will be about an eight or nine minute address.
Gore aides say the speech will be classy, principled, dignified and gracious. All along, in looking toward this moment, they have said this would be Al Gore’s time, not simply to address his supporters in a traditional political speech, but to address the nation. They say will remind people of the principles he was fighting for in this struggle and to say it’s time to come together.
With that said, not even those closest to the vice president know exactly what he is going to say. He very much keeps his own counsel on such matters.
Q: This will be one of the toughest speeches Al Gore has ever delivered. Is he writing the speech himself?
KARL: Al Gore has a very close and small circle of close advisers who he will work with on the speech. This is the guy who wrote much of his own speech before the Democratic National Convention. He’s taking a very hands-on approach to writing his speech for tonight.
But he does have some very trusted speechwriters – first and foremost, Carter Eskew, who is an aide who has known Gore since he was a reporter at the Nashville Tennessean newspaper and one of the few people in the Gore circle who goes back a long, long way with the vice president.
He also has another much younger aide who works on such matters; his name is Eli Attie. Eli is very interesting in this because back in 1993 he wrote David Dinkins’ concession speech when he lost the run for New York City mayor to Rudy Giuliani.
That speech came after an incredibly bitter and racially divisive campaign in New York City. It was a speech that was generally remarked upon and praised for its graciousness. In fact, some people have called it Dinkins’ finest moment as a public figure.
Q: Have Gore aides described the vice president’s demeanor following this tough decision?
KARL: I’ve spoken to several aides who have spoken to the vice president Wednesday and the vice president has been described by all these people as being comfortable with his decision and accepting of what has happened, even though he disagrees with the decision of the U.S. Supreme Court.
He is also very grateful for all the people who have thrown their lives into supporting his campaign. You have people who have basically put their lives on hold and worked every waking hour for the vice president’s recount effort.
Q: Has the Gore campaign given Democrats any guidance at this point?
KARL: There’s been a directive that has gone out to all Democrats from the Gore campaign and from the Democratic National Committee to step back and in the words of one Democratic official, ‘Let Al Gore have his moment.’
The party at this point seems pretty unified behind that statement. Democratic senators have canceled appearances on various television programs. One Democratic senator canceled a press conference he had scheduled in his home state in response to this – to let Al Gore set the tone and speak first.
This comes after a very tough night Tuesday for Democrats when there was the spectacle of Ed Rendell, the chairman of the Democratic Party, calling on Gore to concede almost immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court decision before most people had even read it. Sen. Robert Torricelli (D-N.J.) also said on CNN that the last vote had been counted in Florida.
That angered the vice president’s team and a lot of top Democrats who wanted to at least give the vice president a chance to read the U.S. Supreme Court decision before having an avalanche of people calling on him to concede.
It even prompted a response from Gore spokesman Mark Fabiani that really indicates the bitterness that was felt toward Democrats calling on Gore to concede. Fabiani said, ‘In every party, there are people who are more interested in being on TV than in being fair and reasonable.’