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Special Event

The Spin Room: How Many Recounts Will it Take to Decide Election 2000?

Aired November 10, 2000 - 11:30 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANNOUNCER: From CNN Washington to our Atlanta news room and all over the United States, THE SPIN ROOM is open.

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: OK, if you're a lawyer, Republican or Democrat, and you're looking for work, why aren't you in Florida? Get down to the Sunshine State!

Good evening, everybody. I'm Bill Press. Welcome to THE SPIN ROOM.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: And I'm Tucker Carlson. I think if you're a lawyer, you probably are in Florida. Apparently, Delta has a new K Street-Tallahassee route.

Stay with us. (INAUDIBLE) lawyers are demanding recounts in every state in the union. It may be late. It is late. But we still want to hear from you. Give us your Spin of the Day. You can call toll-free 1-800-310-4CNN. You can join our live on-line chat at our Web site, cnn.com, or you can send us an email. Our address is spin@cnn.com. We're only half an hour tonight, so scurry over to the computer and get your nominations in for the Spin of the Day.

PRESS: Get those nominations in early. And Tucker, I just have two words for you. This entire election...

CARLSON: Just two?

PRESS: Yeah. This entire election...

CARLSON: I suspect you have more than two, but hit me with the first two.

PRESS: It's going to -- this entire election's going to hinge on these two words. Are you ready?

CARLSON: I'm ready.

PRESS: Hanging chads.

CARLSON: Hanging chads?

PRESS: You don't know what hanging chads are?

CARLSON: No idea!

PRESS: Look, Tucker, you see these butterfly ballots...

CARLSON: I do.

PRESS: ... right? OK, the little hole you punch, the little piece of paper...

CARLSON: Yes.

PRESS: ... that you punch through?

CARLSON: Yes.

PRESS: That is a chad.

CARLSON: Oh!

PRESS: And they -- some of them don't go all the way through, therefore they are hanging chads.

CARLSON: Oh! Ballot nomenclature!

PRESS: The hand count tomorrow is to see how many of their little hanging chads are. The first president may be elected by hanging chads.

CARLSON: Ew!

PRESS: Which raises a whole new question.

CARLSON: I'm not sure that's an honor, Bill.

PRESS: How's your...

CARLSON: I'm not sure I'd want to be president if I were elected by hanging chads!

PRESS: It's a whole new question.

CARLSON: Well...

PRESS: How's your chad hanging?

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Quite low, thank you! Well, that's an attractive ballot!

PRESS: There you go.

CARLSON: But I want to show the ballot that I and, I suspect, millions of other Americans...

PRESS: Yes? Yes?

CARLSON: ... received today...

PRESS: Yes?

CARLSON: ... by email. This is a ballot that's floating around the Internet at the moment. I don't know if you can read it at home. There's a Republican ticket, a Democratic on the left. On the right side, there is the "Moron Party." Underneath the Moron Party, it says, "I am such a complete idiot that although I meant to vote for Gore, I was baffled by this extremely simple ballot. I am clearly too stupid to be included in the process of electing a president."

PRESS: It's about time we got a viable third party. I think this one could make it.

CARLSON: Well, it is viable! A lot of people apparently are voting on the Moron ticket, at least in Florida.

PRESS: But can I tell you -- can I tell you what is happening in Florida? I mean, you know, you've heard of that movie, "The Invasion of the Body Snatchers"? No, no, no. In Florida today, it is the invasion of the ballot snatchers. Jay Leno, I think, showed us all what's happening in Florida last night when he opened up "The Tonight Show." Let's take a quick look. Jay Leno.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "THE TONIGHT SHOW WITH JAY LENO")

JAY LENO: Al Gore -- he's hopping mad, too. Al Gore ordered a huge team of lawyers. Like this thing isn't crooked enough. We're sending lawyers down there. You see the lawyers arriving? Ellen (ph), show the footage. Look. He's air-dropping them into Florida! Look at that! There they are, ladies and gentlemen! Got lawyers flying in there!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: There they go!

CARLSON: That is one of the scariest sights I think I've ever seen, lawyers dropping out of the sky. One of the great things about this story is we are getting, I think, the best emails we've received ever.

PRESS: We have. I'm going to build on the lawyers because Joie Chen...

CARLSON: Oh!

PRESS: ... has been following the invasion of the ballot snatchers in Florida. Let's go to her now in Atlanta.

Joie, how scary is it down there? Are there any hotel rooms left, or do the lawyers have them all?

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: No, it's really scary for me, actually, Bill, because, you know, we're doing this lawyers thing tonight, and that means I have to begin with apologies to somebody at my home address, and he knows who he is.

PRESS: A-ha!

CHEN: It's going to be a little rough this weekend.

CARLSON: Ooh! That is uncomfortable!

CHEN: OK, maybe he's not watching. It's OK. All right. So you know the old joke that a man who acts as his own attorney has a fool for a client? Well, neither George W. Bush nor Al Gore is a fool. And despite what some of you might think -- let's not get catty here -- both of our would-be presidents have some of the best lawyers around to represent their interests in this little post-election spat.

From the lawyers now, a lesson in government, not to mention more than a little spin.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: The purpose of our national election is to establish a constitutional government, not unending legal wrangling.

BILL DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: Our legal team has concluded that the ballot in Palm Beach County was unlawful.

BAKER: Our lawyers have confirmed the legality of this ballot, and we have with us here today relevant copies -- copies of the relevant Florida statutes, if you would like to have them.

DALEY: Well, as I said, legal counsel have indicated that they thought it was not a legal ballot, and I assume that's an issue that will end up in dispute.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: OK, so that is one thing all those lawyers are good at, looking at the very same thing and reaching 180-degree different conclusions. Wonder how they learn that? They're also very good at making veiled threats.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BAKER: The responsible and fair and -- and legally, I think, sufficient and correct position to take would be for -- for us to acknowledge that if we keep going down the path we're on, if we keep being put in the position of -- of having to respond to recount after recount after recount of the same ballots, then we -- then we just can't sit on our hands, and we will be forced to -- to do what might be in our best personal interests. But not -- it would not be in the best interests of our wonderful country and what...

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: Oh, I'm dizzy already. OK, did you get all that? Well, what it means is "You better stop doing what is in your best interests because, if you don't, we will be forced to do what is in our best interests, and that is not in the nation's best interests, now, is it?"

All right, well, we don't have the tape on that one, but it was pretty good. You got to believe me on this.

All right, at this point, anyway, both sides have figured out that it is in their best interests to tone all of this down at least a bit and at least for the moment. But the way some of those folks talk, Bill and Tucker, makes you wonder if they think elections are too important to leave in the hands of us little people, us voters. Maybe next time, we're supposed to send our lawyers to do the voting for us.

Now, the final spin of the night doesn't go to a lawyer, it goes to the poet Carl Sandberg, who wrote, "When the lawyers are through, what is there left?" That's what we got to wonder about.

CARLSON: A lot of dizzy -- I noticed when the lawyers get mad, they speak very, very slowly.

CHEN: And did you see the little "lawyer" -- flashing "lawyer" sign?

CARLSON: I liked that. I think that ought to be required by law. Let's get the FCC on this right away.

CHEN: "Lawyer," "Lawyer."

PRESS: It aloes proves nobody can spin like lawyers.

CHEN: Yeah.

PRESS: Right?

CHEN: Spin till they make you dizzy.

PRESS: Thanks, Joie. We'll be back to you in just a little bit.

CHEN: OK.

CARLSON: Now, I have to say, as I was saying before, we -- the email...

PRESS: Unbelievable.

CARLSON: It's just -- it's a bounty, and here's one of my absolute favorites. It's from Cathy (ph). She says, "What is the difference between saying, quote, `I mean to vote for him' after the election and saying, quote, `I meant to pick those numbers' after the lottery is drawn? Should I soon become a millionaire?" Great question, Cathy!

PRESS: Mine from Erin (ph). I love this one. "Gore wants a hand count. Doesn't he trust computers anymore? After all, this is the man who said he invented the Internet"! (LAUGHTER)

PRESS: Keep your sense of humor...

CARLSON: Clever irony.

PRESS: ... through the constitutional crisis. Speaking of constitutional crisis, we need lawyers to help us through it.

CARLSON: We do! And we have one. Joining us from Tallahassee, Florida, is election law specialist Kenneth Gross. He was Bob Dole's 1996 campaign attorney. He's also worked for the Federal Election Commission under Ronald Reagan.

Mr. Gross.

PRESS: Good evening.

KENNETH GROSS, ELECTION LAW SPECIALIST: Yes. How are you?

PRESS: Hey, welcome to THE SPIN ROOM.

GROSS: I'm not -- thank you. I'm in not so sunny and not so warm Florida.

PRESS: The hand count begins tomorrow in Palm Beach. Can you just tell us, first of all, how many -- what -- how big a sample will be counted tomorrow? And how many irregularities do they need before they say "We're going to count by hand all the ballots in that county"?

GROSS: Well, there has to be a material -- enough where it's going to make a difference in the result. And with the numbers being so close now, I think that there's a, you know, pretty good likelihood we're going to have a further counting of the ballots by hand.

CARLSON: Well, tell me this, Mr. Gross. I'm struck, as I think a lot of people are, by how the numbers change when you recount the ballots. Just how accurate is ballot counting?

GROSS: Well, ballot counting is a precarious process, and we're learning more and more about it every day. There -- we're getting under-counting. We're getting over-counting. And I would wager to say you could put a spotlight on virtually any district in this country and you would find inaccuracies in the way that machines feed ballots. You were talking about hanging chads before -- people who are not properly punching holes on the ballot, thinking their votes count, and they're just not counting.

PRESS: Well, that's one of the things we want to pick up with you when we come back, how many other places might there have to be recounts if this recount in Florida goes through. Mr. Gross, hang in there with us, please, just a little bit -- speaking of hanging chads. We want to come right back to you.

But in the meantime, there has been a lot of other news today, believe it or not, with all of this constitutional crisis. As always, Joie Chen's been keeping her eye on it for us.

Joie...

CHEN: Yeah, I've only got time for...

PRESS: ... please bring us up to date.

CHEN: ... a little tiny bit of news here. It's -- actually comes off the election stuff. The uncertainty of all the mess created by the election results has left Wall Street spinning its wheels. Dow industrials lost 231 points today, blue chips down 2 percent for the week. About the only thing besides election news that investors are looking at are the earnings reports, and a warning from Dell Computer helped send the NASDAQ to its lowest level of the year. So maybe they should call for a recount there, guys.

CARLSON: One suspects they won't, sadly.

(LAUGHTER)

CHEN: It's an idea, though. I mean, we could call...

PRESS: It is.

CHEN: ... for a recount on everything -- ratings, you know...

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: That would be nice.

PRESS: I'm for it! I'm for it.

CARLSON: Thanks, Joie.

CHEN: See you.

CARLSON: We will have more, and especially more with Ken Gross, who will answer such questions as "Why is it so hard to count ballots?" And we'll also read your Spins of the Day. So on the way to the refrigerator, think of one, send it to us by email, or you can call in.

We'll be right back with THE SPIN ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CARLSON: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. I'm Tucker Carlson, here with Bill Press, batting around the news of the day.

PRESS: And ready for your nominations for Spin of the Day coming up. We only have a half an hour. You got to get them in early, 1- 800-310-4CNN...

CARLSON: Yeah, I hope you have. But before we go further, Bill...

PRESS: Yes?

CARLSON: ... I don't normally do this -- I want to call attention to something I'm wearing.

PRESS: No. You're bow-tie?

CARLSON: No, not. My cufflinks. I don't know if you can see them. They say in big letters...

PRESS: Oh, Tucker!

CARLSON: ... "Nixon." Now, I know it's -- it's vulgar and upsetting to you...

PRESS: You are a reprobate!

CARLSON: ... but I put them on -- it dawned on me the other day, this Mel Carnahan victory in Missouri -- it's inspiring to me. Why not Nixon in 2004? I mean, if you think about it, if Mel Carnahan can be elected...

PRESS: No...

CARLSON: ... Nixon, while technically dead, is far more experienced than Mel Carnahan was. I don't know. I think he's a perfect candidate.

PRESS: Well, why wait? Don't you remember the bumper sticker that I saw this year, "Nixon in 2000. He's not as stiff as Al Gore."

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Also true!

PRESS: All right...

CARLSON: It was legal! I mean, I don't know.

PRESS: We have a telephone call now. Michael's calling from New Jersey.

Hey, Michael. Welcome to THE SPIN ROOM. What's up?

CALLER: Yeah. How's it going?

PRESS: Hey, great.

CARLSON: Hey!

PRESS: Thanks for joining us.

CALLER: I just wanted to make a comment about having the re-vote in Florida.

PRESS: Sure. CALLER: What people need to think about is Ralph Nader voters. Nader voters now know he didn't get the 5 percent he needed nationally to get federal funding. If they had a re-vote in Florida, many Nader voters, most of them being Democrats, would therefore change their vote to Gore. They're going to have thousands of people changing their vote from Nader to Gore, and that's not how they voted on election day.

CARLSON: I think that's an excellent -- I think it's an excellent point, Michael, which is why we probably won't see a re-vote there. I mean, it's so -- it's fraught with so many problems like that. And it is, the more you think about it, I think, fundamentally unfair. It's very hard to see the Bush campaign agreeing to that.

PRESS: Whether we need a re-vote or not is another good question for our elections expert, Kenneth Gross, who worked with Bob Dole in 1996, and now joins us from -- again from Tallahassee, Florida.

Mr. Gross, welcome back. Let me ask you...

GROSS: Thank you.

PRESS: ... in the Florida election law, as I read it, it says that you can have a recount -- a whole new election is possible, as long as it's proven that there is reasonable doubt that the election frustrated the expressed will of the voters. Is that the case here in Florida?

GROSS: Well, that is the standard, if there's substantial irregularities that make it impossible to determine the will of the voters. And I think that it is a very difficult standard to meet. You know, there are other situations where you have election challenges, and the judge can throw out a ballot or count a ballot by example -- for example, looking to see if a ballot was properly punched. But when the remedy, the only way to really remedy it, is to actually have a re-vote, a re-election, the hurdle becomes a higher one and almost impossible to meet.

CARLSON: You know, Kenneth Gross, how many -- I mean, there's talk about recounts in a number of states. Realistically, how many states do you think we're likely to see recounts take place in?

GROSS: Recounts, as opposed to re-votes? I think that...

CARLSON: That's right, recounts.

GROSS: ... if the legal challenges -- yeah. I think if the legal challenge continues here in Florida, there is a possibility of recounts in New Mexico, in Wisconsin, potentially in Oregon, Iowa. There are other states around the country that are being looked at by both campaigns in that regard, but mostly the Bush campaign, in response to what's happening here in Florida with the Gore campaign.

PRESS: But we really can't let that happen, can we? I mean -- I mean, is it possible to get the genie back in the bottle once you start -- get outside of Florida and just start popping one state after another? You're going to have to, you know, recount the entire country.

GROSS: Well...

PRESS: And where do you stop?

GROSS: ... this was -- this was an amazing election. We had extremely close elections in New Mexico, in Oregon and other states around the country. And we see that whenever you put the spotlight on the balloting process, you're going to find imperfections. And I don't know where it stops, but it's certainly going now, and it -- there is no stopping in sight.

CARLSON: But do you think, I mean, at some point, that there's a danger that it will be counterproductive, that it'll cause people to lose all confidence in the system itself?

GROSS: Well, I think that's a very good point. I mean, there needs to be a certain amount of finality on election day. That having been said, I'm the last person in the world to suggest that people shouldn't have their due process rights to challenge something that is fundamentally wrong with the election process. And things do go wrong, so there should be a right to redress.

PRESS: All right, Mr. Gross, here's -- here's a thought that one of our viewers has from our chat room, if we could just check the monitor here, which may be the way to settle it. The electors are going to meet, Tucker, on December 18th, so Roger Jones says, "Allow the Electoral College to vote their conscience and settle this." Why not? They don't have a gun to their head. They can vote -- they could say, right, "The people wanted -- voted for Al Gore, so therefore we're going to vote for Al Gore."

GROSS: Well...

PRESS: Right?

GROSS: ... that's not the reality of the system. The system is, is that the electors are party people, and if you're a Bush elector, you're going to vote for Bush. If you're a Gore elector, you're going to vote for Gore. As a matter of fact, in one of the close states, New Mexico, it's a fourth-degree felony if the elector votes his conscience. It's called the "faithless elector," and there are actually penalties in certain states for not going with the bound vote.

CARLSON: Well, there is nothing worse than a faithless elector, as far as I'm concerned.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: Thank you, Kenneth Gross, for being here.

PRESS: Nothing worse than a fourth-degree felony! I'd like to know what the penalty is.

CARLSON: Well, I don't know. Faithlessness is pretty bad. Thank you for the informative...

PRESS: Thanks, Ken.

CARLSON: We'd like to hear your Spins of the Day, and we still have time, though it's a half-hour show. You can call us at 1-800- 310-4CNN. You can join our on-line chat at our Web site, cnn.com, or you can use the preferred mode of communication, email us at spin@cnn.com.

We'll be right back.

PRESS: We've got some great nomination.

CARLSON: We do.

PRESS: Coming back up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PRESS: And we're back, Bill Press and Tucker Carlson, in this shorter-than-ever SPIN ROOM, just a half hour tonight.

But it's time for the most exciting part of any SPIN ROOM show, and that's the Spin of the Day. Tucker, as we get into the Spin of the Days, I just want you to know I also learned during the break that it is also a fourth-degree felony to have a hanging chad, so there it is.

CARLSON: And it ought to be!

PRESS: And it ought to be!

CARLSON: As far as I'm concerned!

PRESS: Here with our first nomination for Spin of the Day is Rose on the phone from Ohio.

Good evening, Rose.

CALLER: Hi.

PRESS: Hi. What's your Spin of the Day, Rose?

CALLER: My Spin of the Day is that butterfly ballot is illegal. The punch marks were to be either to the right, not down the middle.

PRESS: OK, Rose...

CALLER: I don't think anybody's brought that up.

PRESS: Oh, a lot of people have brought it up! It hasn't been determined yet, but that's the charge down in Florida. Not exactly a Spin of the Day, but a comment of the day, I guess, Tucker. You got any...

CARLSON: Good enough for me! Here's one from Stephen, who writes, "Isn't it ironic that all the people in Florida who can't read a ballot voted for Al Gore?" Which I like. You know, Howie Carr, the eminent "Boston Herald" columnist, pointed out that these famously myopic Florida voters...

PRESS: Yes?

CARLSON: ... can probably fill out their bingo cards.

PRESS: You think that's -- you think that's scary, just think, says George -- George says, "Just think, the final vote for president of the United States of America could come down to O.J. Simpson."

CARLSON: That is so...

PRESS: Does he still have a condo in Palm Beach?

CARLSON: That is so chilling! I don't know. I don't read the "National Enquirer" as closely as I ought to, but it's an excellent, excellent point!

PRESS: Pretty chilling.

CARLSON: A similar one from Ronnie, who says, "We can't let a handful of confused voters decided the United States presidency. They have blundered once, and they'll blunder again. Why give them a second chance?" I'm sort of on Ronnie's team on this one.

PRESS: You are? OK. Here is -- a few -- some of these aren't signed. I guess we can still say, but -- "Funny" -- Spin of the Day nomination. "Funny how the Democrats are saying the government in Palm Beach County got it wrong, and the Republicans are saying the government there got it right."

CARLSON: Well, you know. Yeah.

PRESS: Republicans standing up for local government.

CARLSON: Well, that makes -- I can't control myself any longer! I'm going to have to go with...

PRESS: Your nomination.

CARLSON: I'm going to have to go with my Spin of the Day. This is actually a silent Spin of the Day, sort of a silent movie, but it's video. And fore those of you who haven't seen this, you've got to see this. This was video shot today, I believe at the Naval Observatory in Washington, which is...

PRESS: The vice president's residence.

CARLSON: The vice president's home. And here he is. As the presidency hangs in the balance, here is Al Gore playing a completely unscripted, doubtless impromptu game of touch football with his children. What does this remind you of? It looks like something that Ted Sorensen directed. You just expect to see Gore's son playing under the desk in the Oval Office! This is remarkable on so many levels, I don't even know what to say. It's intrinsically spin.

PRESS: Well, I just want to point out that while Gore was playing touch football -- this is family values, by the way. You know, Democrats...

CARLSON: Oh, dragging your kids out into the propaganda machine!

PRESS: Republicans talk about -- while he was plying touch football, George Bush was down there talking about his transition team and meeting with his putative former -- future cabinet members.

CARLSON: Putative?

PRESS: I think that George Bush might have been better off playing touch football than putting his cabinet together.

CARLSON: Especially a putative one.

PRESS: A week from today, it might have been a better time. My Spin of the Day, the spinner of the century, I still say, has to go -- I keep coming back to her -- Karen Hughes, Bush's communications director. Here she is again this morning, just refusing to accept reality. May we please have the lovely and charming Ms. Karen Hughes?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAREN HUGHES, BUSH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: The votes have been counted. The votes have been recounted. There are no allegations of any problems with either the count or the recount. And going down a slope of recounting by hand every ballot would be unprecedented, and it raises a lot of questions about what might happen elsewhere.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PRESS: Now, I think Karen should be put in the lockbox for the rest of this campaign.

CARLSON: You do?

PRESS: Number one, the votes have been counted -- not. The votes have been recounted -- not! There are no allegations of problems -- not! What were we just talking about for the last three days? What planet is she living on?

CARLSON: Well, Bill, to a certain extent, this is mind over matter. But actually, I think she's got the big picture, the theme, correct, which is George W. Bush won the election. Perhaps it's time for the other guy, Gore I think it is, to step back and just sort of, you know, let history take its course. That was her point. I kind of agree with that.

PRESS: By what measure? I mean, Al Gore won the popular vote.

CARLSON: By 359, 357, depending on, you know, Reuters or AP. It depends on who you believe.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: That's good enough for me.

PRESS: The popular vote Al Gore won, I keep repeating. I just think Karen Hughes ought to just -- both sides ought to just shut up, let the people do their job down in Florida, the election -- the election counters.

CARLSON: She's about to become our new White House communications director, I sense, so you better get used to her, Bill.

PRESS: God forbid that we have to listen to her every day! But it's just -- I just ask, and I ask the same when I see people on the other side -- that's why we call it the Spin of the Day -- how people who are so smart can say things that are so stupid.

CARLSON: Yes, but I think, if history does take its course, Karen Hughes -- this is my prediction -- will be the new star of C- Span. She'll be on every day, and I think you will develop a warm spot...

PRESS: Well, you know what?

CARLSON: ... in your heart for Karen Hughes.

PRESS: She'll be on the Spin of the Day...

CARLSON: Yes, she will.

PRESS: ... every night!

CARLSON: Well, that's...

PRESS: And speaking of which, we're out of time again, folks. Thank you very much for joining us. It's been great fun, as always, in THE SPIN ROOM. I'm going to say good night for now, and I'm going to ask Dr. Carlson to let you know when we'll be back again.

CARLSON: Bill, I'd love to do that, but like a Florida voter, I'm confused.

(LAUGHTER)

CARLSON: I don't know when we're going to be back! But we hope we will be!

PRESS: That makes two of us!

CARLSON: That's right. So keep your emails, cards, letters and phone calls coming to the producers, and we'll be back.

I'm Tucker Carlson. Thank you.

PRESS: Thanks, everybody. Good night. I'm Bill Press. Have a great weekend.

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