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The Florida Recount: All Eyes Remain on Sunshine State

Aired November 12, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET


ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: All eyes on Florida, the presidential recount takes new legal twists and political turns. Al Gore's advisers press for hand recounts. George Bush's team sees what it calls "terrible threats."


JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: There are no uniform standards. One county may decide to count a -- to do a manual recount in one way, another county may decide to do it in another way.

WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: It has to be done in a way to make sure that all of the votes are accurately counted. And in a race so close, citizens have a right to avail themselves of the procedures under their state laws.


STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight: legal teams for both sides prepare to head for court as Bush campaign officials try to block several manual recounts.

Today's developments, and a preview of the week ahead on this CNN special report: THE FLORIDA RECOUNT.

Good everyone. I'm Stephen Frazier, at CNN Center in Atlanta.

HALL: And I'm Andria Hall.

As the weekend draws to a close, it is still unclear who will assume office as the next president of the United States. Five days after the polls closed in Florida, George W. Bush holds an unofficial 288-vote lead over Al Gore, based on results of Saturday's hand recount of several Palm Beach County precincts.

FRAZIER: In the morning, Bush and Gore advisers will head to court. That's when a federal judge will hear the Bush team's legal request to block complete manual recounts in four Florida counties.

The manual recount debate is the latest to dominate the issue of who really won Florida. Bush advisers say the hand count is prone to mistakes, or even, mischief. But Gore advisers say a manual recount is simply a matter of law.

With the very latest on today's events and where the race stands now, we join CNN's Deborah Feyerick.

Deborah, good evening again.


The Democrats now have filed their legal brief, it was sent to the judge electronically at about 7:00 tonight and, of course, this is in response to the Bush lawsuit asking for a temporary restraining order as well as a preliminary injunction to stop this hand count.


DOUG HATTAWAY, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: The main arguments are that it is perfectly constitutional for human beings to count ballots and that you don't have to just rely on machines as the Bush campaign contends.

MINDY TUCKER, BUSH CAMPAIGN SPOKESWOMAN: We have concerns about this process, it tends to be inaccurate, there's opportunity for human error. We'll be judging voters' intent, and these counts just aren't as accurate as electronic counts, especially when people are counting ballots that were intended to be counted by a computer and they're now counting them by hand.


FEYERICK: Those are the two sides of the argument that the judge will have to weigh tomorrow when he makes his decision. He's got several options here: he can either dismiss this suit out of hand, say that there's no merit to it, that people's rights have not been violated; he can also say that, you know what? We are going to stop this recount, in fact, people's rights have been violated, or what he can say is, I'm going to take jurisdiction over this matter, I'm going to wait, I'm going to see, and if I need to step in, then I will do that at some point.

Now, ultimately, this outcome of the election here in Florida could be determined by absentee ballots, and today a state Republican talked to us about some of the legalities of these overseas ballots, making it very clear that the Republicans were going to be keeping an eye on it, saying that any attempt at fraud, for example, filling the ballot in after the Election Day deadline does constitute a felony and that's a message that the Republicans -- the state Republicans wanted to get out.

Now, just to let you know where the other counties stand: Palm Beach County, they have decided to go ahead with a full recount. That means all 425,000 votes will be looked at again by hand. And also in Volusia County, they're going to be in court tomorrow because they want to extend their deadline, they are doing a hand recount as well, their deadline is 5:00 p.m. Tuesday; if they don't meet that and they don't get an extension, those hand recounts could be thrown out.

Reporting from Tallahassee, Deborah Feyerick -- back to you in Atlanta.

HALL: Thank you, Deborah.

Of course, you were talking about Volusia County, and in Volusia County, that has moved forward now with its manual ballot recount. The map that you see now is the area that's perhaps best known to vacationers as home to Daytona Beach, and like the other three counties where the Gore team has requested hand counts, voters there are strongly Democratic.

More on that now from CNN's Brian Cabell.


BRIAN CABELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At ground zero of the manual recount in Volusia County, Florida, county workers are examining and tabulating ballots one by one. Local and state police stand watch. Democrat and Republican Party workers have been invited to observe the recounts, but with strict rules.

DAVID BYRON, VOLUSIA COUNTY SPOKESMAN: We talked this morning about the color of pencils that the observers would be able -- allowed to use, and the color of paper that they would be able to write notes on.

CABELL: Special-colored papers and pencils so that nobody confuses the official counters with the observers from both parties. More than 184,000 votes are to be recounted here in Volusia County. Vice President Gore won the county by 15,000 votes in the first two counts, but a series of irregularities led the Democrats to ask for another recount, this time by hand. Republicans aren't happy about it.

REP. JOHN MICA (R), FLORIDA: It appears that we're on a fishing expedition to try to find some magic number for one side or the other.

CABELL: Democrats find no fault with the process.

MICHAEL CROTTY, FLORIDA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: I think it's going at a very satisfactory pace, and we think the Canvassing Board and Division of Elections is doing everything they can.

CABELL: The recount is now moving quickly, but early on, the Canvassing Board was worried they'd miss the Tuesday deadline for finishing the recount.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The board authorized the county attorney to file a civil lawsuit.

CABELL: The county says it will sue the state to extend the deadline. Of course, the big question remains: Will Vice President Gore pick up additional votes and cut the margin on Governor Bush when all the votes here have been recounted?

Brian Cabell, CNN, DeLand, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HALL: Well, strong words from Republicans regarding all the recounts in Florida. They're now talking about taking further legal action if the counting isn't called off.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve explains their objections.


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A black mark on the U.S. election process is how Bush's lead man in Florida describes the manual recounting of hundreds of thousands of ballots there.

Former Secretary of State James Baker hints that if the Bush campaign loses its bid for an injunction to stop the hand counts, it will take further legal action.

BAKER: We intend to vigorously contest their efforts to run these selective manual recounts without any standards whatsoever. And we will continue to vigorously oppose those efforts.

MESERVE: Baker points to the risk of human error and fraud in manual recounts and says conducting them in only a few predominantly Democratic counties could skew the results.

BAKER: One county that may decide to do a manual recount in one way, another county may decide to do it in another way. There are no standards, Wolf, none. And that is the reason that we say that type of process is simply not constitutional. And we ought not to be subjected to that in these heavily Democratic counties, after the citizens of Florida have voted, after there has been a full recount.

MESERVE: Again the Bush campaign offered the Gore campaign a quid pro quo.

BAKER: They should agree with us, OK, we'll stop all these shenanigans. We dismiss our law suit, they withdraw their request for manual recounts, and we both agree to respect the results of the overseas absentee ballot count on November 17th, whichever way it goes as long as it's done properly.

MESERVE: With the Gore campaign showing no inclination to accept that proposal, some Republicans are urging Bush to get even tougher.

SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: The Bush team has got to be aggressive in trying to deal with this. You know, there are other counties, 14 counties in Florida, as a matter of fact, that could still be recounted. If we're going to go through this hand count and special consideration down there in one county in Florida, we probably ought to have a whole new vote in the state of Florida.

MESERVE (on camera): Although the Bush campaign is keeping it's options open in Florida and other states where the race is tight, there will be no actions or decisions until after the ruling on whether the hand recounts in Florida will stop or continue.

Jeanne Meserve, CNN, Austin, Texas. (END VIDEOTAPE)

FRAZIER: Jeanne, of course, with the Bush campaign.

What does Al Gore think about the tense situation surrounding the Florida recount? That's hard to say, because he's not saying anything in public, but his advisers are doing plenty of talking.

White House correspondent John King is with us now from Washington with some of their comments, especially their reaction, John, to James Baker's proposal.

JOHN KING, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Stephen, they reject James Baker's proposal, they say these hand recounts are clearly called for and allowed under Florida state law, and they say the Bush campaign must be worried that a recount of the vote will show the vice president actually carried the state and its 25 electoral votes. They also say Mr. Baker -- if he feels there should be additional recounts that Governor Bush has the right to go out and request recounts of his own as well.

Now, all this legal wrangling playing out, the next big fight, of course, is tomorrow morning in the federal court in Miami. As Deborah Feyerick mentioned, the Democrats have filed their brief, it is 25 pages long, essentially it alleges that this case does not belong in federal court at all, that this is an issue clearly to be decided by Florida state law.

Now, as this all plays out, as you mentioned, the vice president staying quiet, we are seeing him in public a little bit every day, but he has nothing to say about this controversy. Today, he attended church services in suburban Washington with his family, leaving most of the talking and the wrangling to top advisers. Aides believe that's critical that the vice president not say anything inflammatory here in the middle of all this, but what his aides are saying is, look, the state of Florida -- nearly 6 million votes cast, a margin somewhere at roughly 300-400 votes, they say the Bush campaign certainly would have requested a recount had it been this close and they had lost.

The Gore campaign saying this is an open process and that the country should just relax and let it run its course.


DALEY: We have a close election, one of the closest elections in the history of our country, so there is great anxiety of people to see this brought to conclusion, but it has to be done in a way to make sure that all the votes are accurately counted.


KING: Now, many Florida lawyers believe the law is on the vice president's side, one of them a Republican, Don Weidner, who spoke to CNN earlier today -- he believes the vice president is well within his rights requesting this recount. He also thinks, though, that people are being optimistic if they think this might be over by Friday, because the scenario unfolds something like this: many attorneys believe the Bush request for an injunction will fail, those hand counts in the four Democratic counties will continue, then, according to this attorney, Don Weidner, and others, Governor Bush may have no choice but to request some recounts of his own.


DON WEIDNER, FLORIDA ATTORNEY: The hand count is very likely to change the totals. Then the question comes, will the Bush campaign look at it and say, do we have grounds to contest the election and ask the circuit judge to order recounts in other counties that use the same kind of equipment. I think we could be here for a long time.


KING: Now, the vice president is telling top advisers he hopes all this is over by next Friday, but even many of his own attorneys believe that is wishful thinking. Again, the next big decision will come out of the federal court in Miami tomorrow.

And we should also say Secretary of State -- former Secretary of State Warren Christopher and the Gore campaign chairman, Bill Daley, have been called to a meeting in Tallahassee tomorrow with the Florida secretary of state. They say they do not know what the agenda is for that meeting, but one point they will raise is they believe there needs to be an extension of the Tuesday deadline to certify the Florida vote, because they believe these hand recounts under way will likely go on for several more days, if not longer -- Stephen.

FRAZIER: John, with action on so many fronts, we are grateful for you standing by to walk us through all of it, thanks very much.

Now, where does election 2000 stand outside of Florida? Here are some important numbers to keep in mind: Vice President Gore leads in electoral votes with 255, Governor Bush has 246. Vote counts, though, are extremely close in Oregon, New Mexico, Iowa and Wisconsin, so small, in fact, that officials say errors could affect the outcome. In New Mexico, the Associated Press reports Bush leading by just 17 votes, that's 1-7. As many as 370 ballots still need to be counted there.

HALL: Well, when we tell you about what happened today -- well, what about tomorrow? Well, legal proceedings. What's at stake and can this be dragged out in the courts? Two constitutional law experts join our conversation.

FRAZIER: And later, the dueling soundbites, the historical precedent and perspective. You are watching a CNN special report.


HALL: As we mentioned, the Bush campaign begins the week wrangling over election results in court. Its request for an injunction to stop the manual recount of ballots in four Florida counties is scheduled to be heard by a federal judge. CNN's Mark Potter examines the case.


MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The lawsuit was filed on behalf of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and seven Florida residents who voted Republican. The case will be heard in the Miami federal courthouse by Judge Donald Middlebrooks, who was appointed to the bench by President Clinton.

The Republicans are trying to stop the manual recount of ballots in four Florida counties, as requested by the Democrats. Those predominantly Democratic counties are Palm Beach, Volusia, Miami-Dade and Broward.

The GOP's argument is the votes have already been counted, and the election decided. In court papers they say: "The repetitive counting of ballots, especially manual counting, diminishes the accuracy of the count." They also argue: "Further recounts could unnecessarily delay the elections process, potentially leading to a federal constitutional crisis."

Donald Jones teaches constitutional law at the University of Miami. He says this is not a constitutional crisis, and argues the Republicans have little chance of succeeding in court.

DONALD JONES, UNIVERSITY OF MIAMI: For the Republicans to argue that the Canvassing Board should not have the discretion to do its job as it sees fit, you know, absent a claim of bad faith, is a radical argument, and is a dog that won't hunt.

POTTER: Jones says the Florida legislature, not a federal judge, has the right to decide how votes are to be tallied, and predicts the court will agree.

Joshua Rosencrantz, of the New York University Law School, doubts Republicans will win the other argument: that recounting ballots in only four counties violates the due process rights of others in Florida.

JOSHUA ROSENCRANTZ, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY LAW SCHOOL: What you are doing is counting heavily Democratic areas, and there is some truth to that. Is that a constitutional violation? I don't think so. They had the right to ask for a recount in the other 60 or so counties, and they didn't.

POTTER (on camera): The Democrats have assembled their own legal team, including Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe. They will face off against the Republicans in federal court, arguing that Florida's manual ballot recount should continue.

Mark Potter, CNN, Miami.


HALL: Well, will tomorrow's hearing open up a tit-for-tat flood of litigation? And if so, how far could it go in the court system, and how long will it drag out?

FRAZIER: Could be an awful long time really.

HALL: Yes.

Joining us from Chicago to help us with those questions, constitutional law expert Stephen Presser of Northwestern University, and law professor Erwin Chemerinsky of the University of Southern California, who is in Austin, Texas.

Gentlemen, thank you for being with us.

Mr. Presser, let's start with you. We -- as we mentioned, the request for an injunction by the Bush camp goes to a federal judge tomorrow. What do you think likely will happen?

STEPHEN PRESSER, NORTHWESTERN UNIVERSITY: Well, no one can predict for certain, but I do find it a fairly powerful argument that the state procedures have already been fulfilled in that there has been an automatic recount and the ballots for the whole state have been tabulated. It's a very interesting argument that it's fundamentally unfair just to recount a few ballots after these procedures have been followed quite nicely. And it strikes me that it is a bit of an invention and a bit of a fishing expedition on the part of the Gore troops to try to find extra votes.

A federal judge might say, look, the state never really provided for this contingency, I find it difficult to believe that a third, and indeed a partial third recount is necessary, and the injunction could very well be granted. And even if it's not, the Bush lawyers have the option of appealing an adverse decision to them to the 11th Circuit, so we won't probably see the end of things tomorrow.

HALL: Certainly doesn't sound like it.

FRAZIER: And you see the extension of these events as a -- the potential for a political nightmare, is that right, Professor?

PRESSER: Well, it could be a political nightmare. It's important to understand that in this country we have gone a little too far in using the courts to settle what should be disputes settled by other means, and we run a risk also, I think, of really undermining the concept of the rule of law itself.

We've had several body blows to the rule of law -- one perhaps in the O.J. trial, another in the impeachment affair that took place a while back -- and I'm not sure the system can easily withstand protracted litigation here. I think that both the Democrats and Republicans would be well served by finishing things quickly.

FRAZIER: Let's bring Professor Chemerinsky into this conversation. You, on the other hand, don't share that sense that the system has taken some body blows, you seem pretty relaxed about all this.

ERWIN CHEMERINSKY, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA: I agree. The electors are going to vote on December 18, we have plenty of time to resolve this, and where there are disputes, the neutral arbiters return toward the courts. Now, I believe the Bush suit here is frivolous. Florida law clearly provides for the possibility of hand recounts and there is nothing in hand recounts that violates the Constitution. And if the concern is that it's being done in some counties and not others, Bush can take care of that by requesting a hand recount elsewhere.

So I don't see this in any way as a challenge to the rule of law so long as we use the courts, so long as we follow the laws in every extent possible.

HALL: And, sir, you actually say that the framers of the Constitution intentionally set the date of the election one month before the popular -- after the popular vote, that the Electoral College had to come into play because they knew that there might be room to have this type of thing discussed.

CHEMERINSKY: That's exactly right.

PRESSER: Actually, that was because travel took a long time back then.

HALL: The Pony Express.


CHEMERINSKY: But the reality is, everyone is saying there is great urgency, it has to be decided today -- that's not the way the Constitution and federal law are set up. The election was last Tuesday, but the electors in the Electoral College don't vote until December 18. So we have between now and then to count, and the key is to make sure that everybody's vote is counted and everyone is included in the ultimate tally.

PRESSER: There are some things that do need to be said. In a country like ours, the last remaining superpower, to leave uncertain for a long time who our leadership is just risks foreign adventures or other things that could be adverse to us. This is why we've always started transition planning the day after the election, and it's wrong to hold it up for a long time.

CHEMERINSKY: That's nonsense. The ballots aren't going to be open in Congress until January 6 and given how close this is, and the possibility of defecting electors, we're not going to know until January 6 who is the next president. We have a president until January 20, and under the procedures of the Constitution, we'll have a new president on January 20. So we have all of the protections with regard to foreign policy that we need. No need that it gets resolved today or tomorrow, it's much more important to do it right and according to the Constitution than to do it fast.

PRESSER: Now, I can't agree with that, Erwin. Once Florida is settled, we'll know exactly who the next president is going to be and we'll know it relatively quickly.

FRAZIER: One last question, though, for Professor Chemerinsky.

Did I read correct in the "Los Angeles Times" today, Professor, that you were calling for another vote in Palm Beach County, you were comfortable with that idea?

CHEMERINSKY: Yes, I believe there is. There is another lawsuit that hasn't yet been discussed that's going to be heard in state court on Tuesday. The argument is that the ballots in Palm Beach County were constructed in violation of federal law and in violation of state law. With regard to federal law, they violate the right to vote, and with regard to state law, they didn't follow Florida procedure, and that's what accounted for the 3,800 votes for Buchanan. The only remedy I see is to have a new election in Palm Beach County where all who voted on Tuesday can come and vote again.

HALL: Erwin Chemerinsky and Stephen Presser, thank you very much for joining us.

PRESSER: Thank you.


FRAZIER: Thanks, gentlemen.

And coming up, we're going to have a look at the people who have to make the tough calls in one Florida county. We'll look at who makes the decision to count each and every vote by hand.



PAT BUCHANAN (REF.), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do believe that some of my votes clearly were intended to be votes for Al Gore, there is no question about that in my mind, that's my surmise. But the votes for me have to be counted for me, Wolf. Those people who punched the hole for me and left that voting place, they have to be counted for me and I believe they are being counted for me.


FRAZIER: Those votes Pat Buchanan mentioned there were from Palm Beach County. And the decision made there very early this morning, you'll recall: hand count each and every ballot. Their decision prompted by yesterday's manual recount, which showed that Al Gore picked up 19 votes in just 1 percent of the precincts.

More on this whole process now and the people involved in it from CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They are the members of the Palm Beach County Election Canvassing Board.

THERESA LEPORE, ELECTION SUPERVISOR: Team, you all raise them up together one at a time so that the observers can look at them, too.

TUCHMAN: Election Supervisor Theresa LePore, Circuit Court Judge Charles Burton and County Commissioner Carol Roberts oversee the final results of county ballots. But now the three have the potential to shape who becomes the next president of the United States.

CAROL ROBERTS, PALM BEACH COUNTY COMMISSIONER: I move that this board conduct a manual recount of all the ballots for the presidential election for the year 2000.

TUCHMAN: So now, unless a federal court stops it, it appears this heavily-Democratic county will hand count 425,000-plus ballots, likely giving Gore the edge in the Florida vote count.

ROBERTS: All I want to do is make sure that whoever is elected president, there's no shadow on that election.

TUCHMAN: Carol Roberts is a Democrat who says her party affiliation does not affect this decision making. For 14 years, she has served on the county's legislative body. Prior to that, she was a mayor of West Palm Beach.

ROBERTS: It's awing to think about the impact that I and the members of the Canvassing Board are going to have on American history. And it's really scary.

TUCHMAN: Scary, she says, because of telephone threats she has received.

ROBERTS: I was called names that I couldn't repeat. They were saying things like, words that I couldn't repeat but these are not the words that were used, you're not going to steal the election again, you better watch out, you know, if you think you're going to get out of this alive, you need to be careful.

TUCHMAN (on camera): Did you tell the police?

ROBERTS: Yes, I had the police here last night.

TUCHMAN (voice-over): All three members of the board are registered Democrats. There is no law that both major parties must be represented. But member Charles Burton's judgeship is a nonpartisan position, and he was appointed by George W. Bush's brother, Governor Jeb Bush.

JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, CANVASSING BOARD MEMBER: We are to serve as a neutral, ministerial body. And as a judge and a chairman of the board, that has been my attempt, to try and to serve in that capacity.

TUCHMAN (on camera): So the three members of the County Elections Canvassing Board are feeling the heat of the national political spotlight, much to their surprise.

Gary Tuchman, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HALL: Coming up next right here on CNN, the two men spearheading the claims of the campaigns: James Baker and Bill Daley on the manual recount and a proposal by the Bush campaign.


HALL: The latest on the Florida ballot recount: Lawyers for George W. Bush and Al Gore will assemble tomorrow in a Florida courtroom, where a federal judge will hear the Bush team's request for an injunction against any further manual ballot counting in four counties. A recount of 1 percent of the ballots in heavily Democratic Palm Beach County added votes to Gore's total on Saturday.

Unofficially, Bush now leads Gore by just 288 votes out of about 6 million cast.

Meantime, the A.P. reports Polk County, Florida, will update its vote totals tomorrow, adding 104 more votes for George Bush. Now still unknown: how many overseas absentee ballots will arrive by the Friday deadline.

FRAZIER: Aside from the ballot counts and the legal challenges, much of the battle over who wins the White House is playing out over the airwaves, with advisers for both candidates working to shape public opinion.

Here's a sample now of the best arguments from both sides so far.


BAKER: The Floridians have voted, the votes have been counted, Governor Bush was the winner. There was a full recount of those votes that as unchallenged. No one has alleged any irregularities in that recount. That's not to say that there won't be some such allegations made. But anyway, there was a full recount. Governor Bush is still the winner, albeit by a very narrow margin.

Then the Gore campaign said, OK, well we'd like to have a manual recount in four predominantly Democratic counties. And we feel that process, as it is set out in the statutes of the state of Florida and as it is carried out, and as you saw on your own network last night as you watched them in Palm Beach County there, is very confusing. It has no standards to guide the electoral officials. There are no uniform standards or objective standards. They are given the authority to simply divine the intent of the voter and exercising their complete discretion and subjective judgment.

We think that's unconstitutional. We think it treats the other voters of Florida in an unconstitutional way and perhaps even the other voters who voted nationally in this presidential election. And we felt we had no other alternative.


DALEY: Well, the hand recount is not only allowed under Florida law and probably most states in such a situation, it's encouraged if the people of Florida believe there's an anomaly or something wrong with the first recount and they want to question that. It's used in most jurisdictions of America, some means of addressing what citizens believe may be a mistake in a count.

I think it's a normal procedure, and obviously the recounts that are going on right now are not only having observers from both campaigns, but you have CNN, you have news agencies all over. So anybody that's concerned about the process should be alleviated by virtue of the openness of this process. But it's all being down in accordance with Florida law.

There's potential for human error, no question about it. There's potential for machine error, as we saw on Election Day in the count of election. And many counties have already gone -- Seminole County in Florida has already gone to hand count. And that's where George Bush picked up about a third of the increase of his latest count, that those people decided that they would take some of the ballots and hand count them, and where they thought there was a problem replace them with a ballot that thought indicated the intent of the people.

And they went ahead and counted those, and obviously the Bush campaign believes those are accurate counts. So there's a process that's moving forward, and we ought to let it to move forward and bring this to a conclude in Florida.



BAKER: What we ought to do -- what really ought to happen here, is that the Gore campaign ought to agree with us, that we will go with the automatic recount that has been concluded, and by some counts Governor Bush is only ahead in that automatic recount by 230 some votes.

And they should agree with us, OK, we'll stop all of these shenanigans. We dismiss our lawsuit. They withdraw their request for manual recounts. And we both agree to respect the results of the overseas absentee ballot count on November 17th, whichever way it goes, as long as it is done properly.

That is the way -- that would be the best result for the country. That would be responsible. That would be reasonable, and that is what both candidates, I think, should do, and ours is prepared to do that.



DALEY: Well, why won't they accept what happens through these hand counts? They've got observers. It's done in an open, public way. There's a question by citizens of Florida as to these situations in elections, and not all the counties have approved -- have agreed to go forward with these hand counts.

Dade County hasn't even had a hearing yet on it. And so there is still a question whether or not they'll be approved, so I don't know what they're worried about. Nobody has a clear understanding at all as to what will be the end result votewise. Whether it would help the governor or hurt the governor, nobody really knows that.


FRAZIER: Well, this kind of effort by both sides to win public support is not likely to end any time soon. A new CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll finds a little more than half of the respondents approve of the hand recount requested by the Gore campaign. When asked if they would accept Gore as the legitimate president should he be declared the winner, 82 percent said yes, 79 percent said the same about Governor Bush.

HALL: Well in this land of winners and losers, the problem of perceptions after victory is declared then taken back.

That when we return.


HALL: This real-life drama has been closely watched by then pollsters, as well. You see the numbers here. The vote recount from Florida is the most closely watched news event of the decade, going above of the Clinton-Monica Lewinsky matter, the air strikes in Kosovo, the ground war in Iraq and the death f Princess Diana, 87 percent of Americans and I guess people around the world watching this closely monitored event.

FRAZIER: That's what's happening now. If election 2000 becomes one for the history books, in the end it may end up covering several chapters in those books.

So we will turn to historian Carol Berkin now and ask her to join us from New York to talk about that.

Professor Berkin, good evening.


FRAZIER: I understand you believe that the founding fathers would be thrilled by all of these events.

BERKIN: Oh, absolutely. When they were writing the Constitution, they thought the republic might not last more than one generation. And look at what we have. We have been through this crisis about an election. There are no fighting in the streets, no armies taking over Washington, people aren't rioting. They'd be thrilled to see the rule of law -- with a little politics thrown in here and there obviously -- that the rule of law is holding in the republic that they created.

FRAZIER: Go ahead, Andria.

HALL: This clearly is going to be one for the history books. We phrased it as a question in the lead to you, but are you and other historians around the world really taking notes on something like this, I mean keeping note in a journal for perhaps further publications?

BERKIN: Well, sure. This is the most exciting thing that can happen for a historian. Think about what the possibilities are: reconsideration of the Electoral College, the biggest interest in an election in years. And if you're a history teacher, to have students who are sitting up and paying attention, that's an extra bonus.

But I think this will be written about. I think this transition in government, if it runs smoothly and if it runs smoothly and if it runs constitutionally, will be another mark of success of our system. And historians will be debating everything from butterfly ballots to the roles of overseas votes, the role of absentee votes, and I think we'll have a heyday with this.

I hope I'm alive 50 years from now to be one of those who's writing this into our historical past.

FRAZIER: How do you think, professor, you would write about the conduct of the candidates now? How should we perceive them?

BERKIN: Well, everyone is really behaving well. This is politics, but no one is making threats. As I said, there are many countries in the world where a transition like this is marked by my army against your army. We don't see any of that.

And I think that it's interesting given the impeachment process that we went through recently, where the Republicans were saying we should let the process proceed and the Democrats were saying it can hurt the nation, now look at the reverse.

I think the American people are very smart, and they understand that the positions these two parties are taking are politics. And I think they are very pleased that nevertheless Florida is behaving quite well in all of this.

HALL: And what about the politics and the perception after January 20th, after we are clear as to who is going to be running the U.S., and you have one man who's going to have to try and galvanize an entire country -- or at least half of it.

BERKIN: Well, you saw the polls. Most people are going to accept whoever is inaugurated. I think his biggest problem will be the Senate and the House, not the American public. The American public, if they feel they've gotten a fair shake, I think are pretty good about accepting whoever comes into power. They did it with Hayes. He just happened to have been a fairly mediocre president back in the 19th century. They did it with Jefferson, and Jefferson turned out to be a brilliant president.

So I think that you have to have a lot more faith in the American people's willingness to go along with the winner. I don't see a constitutional crisis here. But then I write about the founding fathers, and they're dead. So I could be completely wrong. FRAZIER: No, I think you're completely right. And one of the things you said in the beginning of this conversation, professor, was that they feared that democracy would not survive very long. Why was it so fragile and what has changed since?

BERKIN: Well, they were great students of history, all the founding fathers. And we've just done a documentary about that for the History channel. They all had studied republics in the past. And what had they seen? That republics invariably fall to tyranny or to mob violence, that they didn't last very long, that it was the most difficult form of government to sustain.

And even as they're writing the Constitution and hoping it will endure, they're pretty practical politicians, and they're saying to themselves, this may not go on more than two generations, mob violence or tyranny from someone who gets into power and won't let go. And they were particularly fearful of moments just like this, transitions of power. And they thought, someone could declare himself king. Someone could declare himself emperor, and that that would be the way republics had always gone in the past. And so I think, if there is a heaven for founding fathers, they're smiling on us right now.

HALL: Someone could declare themselves president.

Carol Berkin, historian, and we thank you for your insights.

BERKIN: Thanks a lot.

FRAZIER: Professor, thanks.

Believe it or not, there's news elsewhere. We're going to get to some of that in just a moment.


HALL: Israel's prime minister arrived in Washington today with the fading hopes of ending six weeks of violence in the Middle East. Ehud Barak arrived at the White House just before 7:00 p.m. Eastern time. He and President Clinton are meeting to discuss ways to slow or stop the clashes that have claimed more than 200 lives.

Last Thursday, Mr. Clinton met with Palestinian Leader Yasser Arafat.

FRAZIER: Amidst all the violence in that part of the world, one of Israeli's outspoken leaders for peace is dead today. Leah Rabin, wife of the late prime minister, died of cancer today. She was 72.

More on her life and times now from CNN correspondent Jerrold Kessel.


JERROLD KESSEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Minutes after he had sung this peace song, Yitzhak Rabin was gunned down because of his peace policy. His widow Leah, literally within days of the assassination at that peace rally five years ago, assumed the peace mantle, determined not simply to perpetuate the slain premier's memory.

SHIMON PERES, FMR. ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER: Leah started from the point that Yitzhak was assassinated to carry on with deep conviction and total devotion, without fear in a crystal-clear voice, the need for peace.

KESSEL: But Leah Rabin was also ready to be a thorn in the side of Israeli politicians who might seek to shun that legacy.

MICHAEL BAR ZOHER, RABIN'S FRIEND: Leah always said exactly what was on her mind, she didn't play the political games, she didn't try to make trends and to be nice and good to everybody, so definitely, when she spoke openly, she created reactions which were very unpleasant sometimes and people not always liked what she said.

KESSEL: Much of Leah Rabin's initial fervor was directed against Benjamin Netanyahu, who six months after the assassination became premier himself. She accused him of creating a hostile political climate in which the murder took place and she never forgave him.

Yasser Arafat in a rare tribute, doft his famous headdress when he went to Leah Rabin's home to pay condolences after the murder. She later said she regarded the Palestinian leader almost a family friend, like other leaders, as she criss-crossed the world carrying the peace torch.

But for many Israelis, she was also a divisive figure. Some religious and ultranationalists criticized Mrs. Rabin for distorting her husband's legacy, they've tried to promote Rabin as the super patriot who fought the Battle of Jerusalem in the seminal 1967 Six-Day War. She responded to that criticism.


LEAH RABIN, WIFE OF YITZHAK RABIN: We could easier find a common language with Palestinians, with Arabs, rather than with them, because we live like on two different planets.


KESSEL: In the final weeks of her life, amidst renewed claims that Rabin's Oslo peace legacy was dying in the latest fierce confrontation, Leah Rabin came close to challenging Prime Minister Barak for failing, she intimated, to follow her husband's road map for peace.

Her illness prevented her from attending the rally marking the 5th anniversary of the assassination, but she is said to have taken some solace in the fact that though Palestinians and Israelis are now battling rather than talking, the Israeli peace camp is also battling again.

Jerrold Kessel, CNN, Jerusalem.




FRAZIER: We're coming to the end of this special report, but there's plenty more on the Florida recount coming ahead. "CNN & TIME" examines the twists and turns of election 2000: "Making History." That's next at 9:00 p.m. Eastern, 6:00 Pacific.

HALL: And you can stay with CNN throughout the day tomorrow for all the legal developments and catch up with special reports with Wolf Blitzer Monday at 8:00 Eastern, and Bernard Shaw, Judy Woodruff and Jeff Greenfield at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, 7:00 Pacific.

FRAZIER: And that's all from us. For Andria Hall and all of us here at CNN, good night.



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