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Bob Dole, Warren Christopher Discuss Unresolved Presidential Election, Florida Vote Recount

Aired November 10, 2000 - 7:18 a.m. ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Once again, live in Tallahassee, Florida, we continue to await the long waiting game for the White House. At this point, unofficially, through the Associated Press, George W. Bush does lead Al Gore in Florida by 327 votes. According to the AP, that's with all 67 counties reported. However, the state says they will not have an official count on the tally countywide until Tuesday the 14th of next week.

I want to go to Washington right now and bring in Sen. Bob Dole, who's with us now to talk about the very latest on this.

And Senator, good morning to you.

BOB DOLE, FORMER U.S. SENATOR: Good morning, Bill.

HEMMER: I want to start with a very simple topic about how the nation pushes forward given what we're seeing right now. Ultimately, how damaging could this process be, in your estimation?

DOLE: Well, I think it's so far so good. But if it continues much longer, than it starts to smell and the American people are soured on the whole process. They start thinking about, you know, who's causing this problem? Why are we doing this? We've had a recount -- we've had a count, we've had a recount, now some want a reelection till they finally get Gore elected.

My view is I think it's pretty much over. I mean, this is an unofficial tally. I think the official tally would give President- elect Bush more votes, and then I think the overseas votes will go -- break in Bush's favor. So I think it's time for Al Gore to look people in the eye and say, well, we gave it our best shot, we had the recount, we may want to wait until we have the final count next Tuesday, and then we're prepared to concede. Because the stock markets are affected, people are going to become bitter, we've got a public campaign going on in the streets in Tallahassee. The campaign ended Tuesday and we shouldn't try to reignite one.

HEMMER: Take me back to the first part of your answer. You say the issue of time is critical. What timeframe are you considering on this? Is this hours, days or weeks?

DOLE: I would say now it's got to be just days. We don't -- if you want to go up to the 17th, that would be a week. But that would bring in all the overseas deadline ballots. But all these lawsuits -- they've said they've filed eight lawsuits and they've found people who were confused. Well, we can find people who were confused in Wisconsin and in Iowa and in Illinois and in Washington State and in Oregon and in New Mexico and probably other states, and they probably would have -- we can find people who probably went home when they heard all the networks say that Florida had gone into the Gore column 15 minutes after the polls closed, when they withheld information on Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and other states that Bush was way ahead in.

So there are a lot of things we could get into. That's why I think this is a quagmire and it's up to Vice President Gore to be the statesman as President Nixon was, or candidate Nixon was, in 1960 and say, wait a minute, the interests of the country come first. We've had our count, we've had our recount, we can't demand a new election.

HEMMER: If the Texas governor does prevail, ultimately, throughout his campaign he has always said that he is a uniter and not a divider. If indeed George Bush is the next president, in your estimation, how can he best unite the country given what we've seen for three days now?

DOLE: I think doing the same thing he's said, bringing in Democrats immediately, not wait until after the inaugural. A lot's going to depend on how Gore goes out of this race. If he goes out on a high plane, it's going to be very helpful to President-elect Bush. And I think Vice President Gore will do that.

I mean, you know, this -- these are two men who had a tough race, it was very close, it's heartbreaking for one side, it would be heartbreaking for the other side, now it's up to both of these men to come together and say, wait a minute, OK, this is it, it's over, let's move America ahead. We've got Mideast peace negotiations pending, we've got countries sort of laughing at America around the world. I don't blame the vice president for wanting the recount. The election was that close. But I think we've had that and once we get the official announcement Tuesday, in my view, it ought to end.

HEMMER: It appears, Senator, what you're saying is that although it could be unfortunate for people who may have double-punched their ballot, that's just, in other words, the breaks of the game in this election?

DOLE: Well, they sort of even out. I mean, you look at -- this is a national election. This is not a Florida election, this is not a Palm Beach County election, this is a national election. And I'll bet you can go to Chicago where it was 9-1 for Gore and find campaign irregularities, and maybe even some, I don't know, I wouldn't say voter fraud, but irregularities where people were bussed to the polls, paid to vote, whatever. You can find these things around the country. Now, even though there's no -- it wasn't a close race in Illinois, why should those people -- why should their vote be counted?

So you could expanded this thing for three or four years. And I assume there are going to be congressional hearings. But we don't need all that. We just need to say, OK, it's fair, George Bush has been fair, Al Gore has been treated fairly, and Al Gore rises to the occasion and becomes a statesman by saying, you know, I'm out of here, I'm going to ride off and do something else for the rest of my life.

HEMMER: All right, Senator, much appreciate your time this morning.

DOLE: Thank you.

HEMMER: Sen. Bob Dole live from Washington. Thank you again, sir.

I want to bring in the former secretary of state now, Warren Christopher, who is with the Gore campaign here in Tallahassee.

Secretary, good morning to you.


HEMMER: You just heard the comments from Bob Dole, and you heard him speaking in Washington. What is your reaction to him saying, basically, Al Gore right now has to, in other words, get on his horse, ride out of town and accept defeat?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, I think it's premature to do that. We're seeking here a full, fair and complete count. It's proceeding in an orderly way. We're anxious to have it done as soon as possible. But what Sen. Dole may not understand or realize is the secretary of state, that is the lady secretary of state here in Florida, has indicated until the overseas votes come in, until there is a official count, this will not be concluded. We're moving just as fast as we can, but the situation is one where we really must try to assure the American people that the will of the people has been counted and accurately observed.

HEMMER: Yesterday, inside this building right behind me here -- I apologize about that. We'll got ahead and get that out of your way. Yes, I appreciate that. We can just talk here.

Yesterday, you said the ballot in Palm Beach County was illegal. What is illegal about a ballot that has already been approved by both parties in that particular part of the state?

CHRISTOPHER: Well, it simply doesn't comply with Florida law which requires the identification of the candidates to be in a vertical column. This was a so-called butterfly ballot, which was obviously confusing to 19,000 voters. This isn't one or two minor irregularities, Bill, this is 19,000 voters who had their ballots thrown out because they found the ballot confusing. It's important to understand this is the only county in the state that tried to do it this way. And I -- Florida lawyers who I've been talking to say it's clearly illegal under Florida law.

In addition to that, as you know, there were 3,800 votes in that county for Pat Buchanan, which he said himself is an impossible result. Those were people who -- many of them at least -- had gone into the ballot box hoping to vote for Al Gore and ending up voting for Pat Buchanan because of the confusion in the ballot.

HEMMER: Now, yesterday, also, you and Bill Daley, the campaign chairman for Al Gore, also indicated that we don't need a president until the 20th of January. That's dictated by the Constitution. But yet that's two months and 10 days from now. How long can the nation continue to stand the confusion and the questions we've seen now for only three days, and we've seen the effect already?

CHRISTOPHER: Bill, our founding fathers fortunately built in a period of time. We want to get this resolved as soon as possible. We understand the need for a transition. But these few days, I think, are very justified in order to ensure that the will of the American people is fully vindicated here in this count.

We came here to Florida, asked for a recount, to take these various steps because Florida was so close and because we saw these irregularities. We want to have this done as soon as possible. I want to just pledge to you and the American people we'll do this in the most professional and expeditious way that we can. I don't think anybody would want to have a conclusion reached that was premature and inaccurate.

HEMMER: Given what we have seen also, if this decision is reversed and Al Gore wins Florida and assumes the mantle of president and goes into office in January, how is it possible for him to govern given what we have seen here with such a divided country?

CHRISTOPHER: I think that he will recognize the need to move out, to reach out to Republicans, to reach out to the center of both parties. Either of these candidates who ultimately is successful I think will have a historic burden. This is the closest election in probably 100 years, and I think that means that we need to try to be more bipartisan, be more understanding of each other's needs and desires to try to pull the country together, to unite it. And I'm sure that Al Gore will do that if he turns out to be the victor.

Those of us who have been working on it here feel that, down deep, if the voters of -- Florida's views are really taken into account, Al Gore will turn out to be the president of United States. He has the largest popular vote. We think he really won here and we hope that will be demonstrated.

HEMMER: Finally, the Republicans in Austin, Texas right now are calling into question a number of different states: New Mexico, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oregon. If they were two issues similar challenges such as the Democratic Party has done in this election, would you accept their complaints?

CHRISTOPHER: We would certainly say that they're right to do that. Indeed, if they think there are enough irregularities there that would make a difference to them, I think they ought to go ahead and do that. I hope they won't just do it out of retaliation. I hope they'll do it only if they think it can make a difference in the long- term outcome.

HEMMER: How long will you stay here in Tallahassee? CHRISTOPHER: Well, it's day-to-day, Bill, but we're going to continue to try to carry out our efforts to have a full, fair, complete count. And if we're gone for a day or two, we'll certainly be back soon.

HEMMER: Secretary of State -- the former Secretary of State Warren Christopher, much appreciate your time this morning here in Tallahassee.

CHRISTOPHER: Thank you very much, Bill. Thank you.

HEMMER: OK, thank you, sir.

Once again, the vote count that we have right now, 327, according to the Associated Press. That is all 67 counties reporting. The state will have an official announcement on Tuesday the 14th. Then the absentee ballot deadline for overseas ballots again is a week from today on November 17.

It is more and more interesting as we look at this issue every day, now into day three and still counting.

Live in Tallahassee, Florida, I'm Bill Hemmer.



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