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Al Gore Calls for Meeting With Governor Bush, Hands Counts of Florida Ballots

Aired November 15, 2000 - 6:35 p.m. ET


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: And so, we in Washington are waiting a statement by Vice President Al Gore. He's coming in now.

AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This has been an extraordinary eight days for the American people, and I wanted to speak with you briefly about how I believe we should conclude this election.

The campaign is over, but a test of our democracy is now under way. It is a test we must pass, and it is a test we will pass with flying colors. All we need is a common agreement that what is at stake here is not who wins and who loses in a contest for the presidency, but how we honor our Constitution and make sure that our democracy works as our founders intended it to work.

This is a time to respect every voter and every vote. This is a time to honor the true will of the people. So our goal must be what is right for America.

There is a simple reason that Florida law and the law in many other states calls for a careful check by real people of the machine results in elections like this one. The reason? Machines can sometimes misread or fail to detect the way ballots are cast, and when there are serious doubts, checking the machine count with a careful hand count is accepted far and wide as the best way to know the true intentions of the voters.

That is why there have already been partial or complete hand counts not just in two Democratic counties in Florida, but in six Republican counties as well.

We need a resolution that is fair and final. We need to move expeditiously to the most complete and accurate count that is possible. And that is why I propose this evening a way to settle this matter with finality and justice in a period of days, not weeks.

First, we should complete hand counts already begun in Palm Beach County, Dade County and Broward County to determine the true intentions of the voters based on an objective evaluation of their ballots.

Observers and participants from both parties should be present in every counting room, as required under Florida law. The results of this recount would, of course, be added to the present certified vote total and the overseas absentee vote total. If this happens, I will abide by the result, I will take no legal action to challenge the result, and I will not support any legal action to challenge the result.

I am also prepared, if Governor Bush prefers, to include in this recount all the counties in the entire state of Florida. I would also be willing to abide by that result and agree not to take any legal action to challenge that result. If there are no further interruptions to the process, we believe the count can be completed with seven days of the time it starts.

Now, second, I propose that Governor Bush and I meet personally, one on one, as soon as possible, before the vote count is finished, not to negotiate, but to improve the tone of our dialogue in America. We should both call on all of our supporters to respect the outcome of this election, whatever it may be. We should both call on all our supporters to prepare themselves to close ranks as Americans and unite the country behind the winner as soon as this process is completed.

Shortly after the results are known, we should both come together for another meeting, to reaffirm our national unity. If I turn out to be successful, I'll be ready to travel to Governor Bush's home. If I am not, I'll be ready to meet him wherever he wishes.

I would also like to urge all of those speaking for either of us to do their part to lift up this discourse, to refrain from using inflammatory language, and to avoid statements that could make it harder for our country to come together once the counting is over. That is the direction I have given to my own campaign.

I don't know what the final results will show, but I do know this is about much more than what happens to me or my opponent; it is about our democracy. My faith is in the people's will, in our Constitution and in our system of self-government.

Thank you, God bless you and God bless America.

SHAW: Vice President Al Gore making this statement at the vice president's official residence here in Washington. You saw with him his running mate, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman.

Essentially, if you missed the top of Mr. Gore's remarks, he made a proposal. He said that we should complete the hand recount in the following counties, Palm Beach, Dade and Broward and he said all of Florida's 67 counties for that matter. He vowed to abide by the results.

He said would take no legal action, nor would he challenge it, nor would he encourage others or join in participation of a possible challenge.

He also said that he would like to meet with Governor Bush personally to improve what he called the dialogue in America and he ended by saying this is about much more than what happens to me and my opponent -- Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go right now to Austin, Texas to CNN's Candy Crowley, who, of course, has been covering the Bush campaign, and here in Washington CNN's Patty Davis.

Candy, other than the proposal to meet, which does seem to be brand-new, the vice president, as I heard it, is essentially restating what his camp has been saying for the last several days. They want a full count of all the absentee ballots, Palm Beach County, Dade County, Broward County, a count of the absentee ballots -- I'm sorry, a hand count of those three counties plus the absentee ballots. And the vice president says he'll abide by those results.

Now, I don't think you've had time to get reaction in the last moment from the Bush people, but based on what you know, what do you expect there, the reaction would be?

CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're right. The camera is quicker than the phone at this point, so we have to await their official reaction. I think that what you did hear was the vice president trying to set a tone here. You didn't hear a lot different from what their position has always been, which is, OK, let's finish these counts in these four Democratic counties and I'll abide by the rules.

We did hear, if you want to hear a total recount of all the counties in Florida, that would be fine with us, too. I'm not getting into Florida law at this point. You know, woe be the person who does. But the Bush campaign felt that under Florida law the time to ask for hand recounts in any of those other counties has long since passed.

So you know, as far as some kind of communication between the two of them or some kind of meeting, it's an interesting concept. We'll just have to wait and see what the Bush team has to say about it.

WOODRUFF: Patty Davis, was there a sense leading up to this that the Gore camp was looking to sort of come out of the blue, if you will, with a proposal to lower the level of tough rhetoric that's been flying around?

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there has been a lot of tough rhetoric flying around, and the Gore campaign, some of the aides here, are the ones who have been escalating this themselves.

What the Gore campaign feels that they can gain here by saying, hey, let's go with these hand recounts is they really think that they can gain votes in these largely Democratic counties: Dade, Broward as well as Palm Beach. They feel that their candidate can -- can come out ahead.

Obviously, Al Gore wouldn't support this kind of proposal, wouldn't be proposing it if he didn't feel he could come out the winner in the end out of all this, although an olive branch for him as well, saying that he would support a recount in all 67 counties, a hand recount.

So, that's what -- that's what the Gore campaign is saying from this end.

WOODRUFF: Candy, it seems to me for the Bush folks to accept what the vice president is suggesting here with regard to accepting the hand counts in three disputed counties where the Democrats say there is some dispute would be a reversal on their part.

CROWLEY: Well, it would. And also, they -- we heard from James Baker this afternoon, who made the point that they had been making really since last Wednesday, which is, look, we've had a vote. Now they say we've had a recount. We've had another recount. James Baker said by his tally they've had four recounts in Palm Beach County.

They have always said what Patty is alluding to, which is that what the Gore team is not looking for is a fair and accurate reading of what voters want. What the Gore team is looking for is a victory in those heavily Democratic counties.

I think it's a nonstarter to believe that the Bush team will say, oh, yeah, OK, let's just count, you know, these three counties that are in dispute, add in the absentee ballots and call it a day. That's been out there all along for them to accept, and I -- they're not going to accept that as far as I can see now.

In terms of meetings and all of that kind of stuff, I would suggest that probably the Bush team might think it's a little premature to be doing that kind of thing. But again, we haven't heard officially from them how they look at this proposal.

WOODRUFF: Patty, on another point that the vice president made about improving the tone of the dialogue, lifting the rhetoric above some of the tough language we've been listening to, at least half of that tough language has been coming from his own people.

DAVIS: That's right. His own press secretary has called the secretary of state in Florida a hack. She's the one who's in charge of certifying the ballots in the state of Florida. And the question in some circles was, if he really wants to lift up this rhetoric, why doesn't he go on and talk to his own officials, his own campaign aides, and try to get them to tone down their rhetoric? -- Judy.

WOODRUFF: All right, Patty Davis here in Washington, Candy Crowley in Austin; and Candy, I know as soon as some of the Bush people are ready to comment or to react, CNN will be very interested in what they have to say.

And just, quickly, to sum up, we did just hear from the vice president who made a statement, in essence saying that he sticks with the current position of his campaign, that he'd like to see a complete hand recount in those three counties in south Florida. He'd like to see the absentee ballots counted, he's ready to accept that; secondly, he'd like to meet with Governor Bush to talk about improving the tone of all this and also went on to suggest a meeting after the results are known.

We're going to take a break. More of our special coverage after that. TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT


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