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The Florida Recount: New Lawsuits, New AccusationsAired November 19, 2000 - 8:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: Democrats file legal arguments demanding Florida's highest court recognize all manual recount results. And as Republicans prepare their own briefs, they level new accusations.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have found Bush ballots, our observers have found Bush ballots there the Gore piles. Both last night and this morning Bush ballots were found in the Gore pile to be counted as Gore votes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Bush campaign is ratcheting up the rhetoric here.
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SHAW: Also, challenges to the overseas absentee vote. So, which ballots will count and which will be bounced? We'll look ahead to Monday's big legal battle in Tallahassee. And get a glimpse of the political strategies being spun by both sides right now.
This is a CNN special report: "THE FLORIDA RECOUNT." I'm Bernard Shaw in Washington with Jeff Greenfield and Bill Schneider.
Eleven days after Americans thought they were electing a president, it's still up to Florida, and here's where things stand to the moment: Absentee ballots sent in from overseas allowed George W. Bush to put a little more room between himself and Al Gore. Bush's lead increased from 300 votes to 930, out of 6 million cast. Soon after the updated figures were announced, the Bush camp launched a blistering attack on the manual recounting still under way in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
And manual recounts begin Monday in Florida's most populous county, Dade, but with a twist: human counters will look only at machine ballots where no vote for president was registered. And Seminole County entered the fray today, with Democrats there challenging 4,700 absentee ballots over alleged irregularities in the application process.
In Tallahassee today, the secretary of state recorded vote totals from overseas, while the state supreme court collected written arguments on the validity of manual recounts. CNN's Deborah Feyerick recounts the major developments:
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DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The overseas absentee ballots counted George W. Bush had inched closer to the finish line. While those votes trippled Governor Bush's to just over 900, it remains a razor thin margin, considering more than 8 million Floridians went to polls Election Day.
Still both sides are holding their breath as Florida's highest court gets ready to hear arguments on whether new hand recounts should be included in the final total. Lawyers for the Gore campaign filed their briefs shortly before Saturday's 2:00 deadline. In it they argue Secretary of State Katherine Harris in their words "used the wrong legal standard in ignoring manual recounts" and "that her refusal to accept recounts was a an abuse of discretion."
The Bush team must respond by noon Sunday. In a lower court this week, their attorneys argued the state's top election official was following Florida law and upholding Tuesday's deadline and that she was right to disregard new tallies. The Gore and Bush campaigns will face the judge Monday, each side having exactly one hour to lay out their case.
(on camera): And with all the facts before them the judges will decide whether the new vote tallies will count, a ruling that will affect the impact of the presidential election.
Deborah Feyerick, CNN, Tallahassee.
SHAW: We haven't heard a lot lately from the two men at the center of this battle for the ballot. They've been leaving most of the talking to folks they trust, former statesmen, lawyers, other politicians. One of those Gore turns to is Jack Quinn, at one time the vice president's chief of staff.
Mr. Quinn, what basic argument will your side make to persuade the supreme court of the merits of the vice president's case?
JACK QUINN, GORE ADVISER: It's very simple, Bernie. The basic argument is that Florida statute clearly permits the hand recounting of votes and that being the case we will ask the court to a firm what was very power any implied yesterday namely that if you're going to allow the hand recounting to happen, then the results of it should be included in the final tally. That's the sum and substance of it.
You alluded earlier to this change in the tone today and I do think it's important we focus on this and that we all understand that one of these campaigns is going end up losing and that that loser whether it's George Bush or Al Gore and their supporters will have abnormal us responsibility to help heal this nation. The vitriol has to get out of the system. We have got to tone this thing down. We have got to all keep focused on the fact that ad the end of the day, the loser is going to have a very heavy responsibility to help heal this nation.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: That's nice words, but Chris Lehane, the chief spokesman for Al Gore called Ms. Harris, Commisar Harris, when she ruled against him. You have Jesse Jackson comparing this to Selma. Are you telling us that the tone is wrong on both sides -- equal?
QUINN: I'm not trying to point fingers. I'm saying that we all are at a moment in time now when we have to realize that we have a responsibility to stand down to argue our cases. We are pretty confident, the Democratic process will be carried forth that the votes will be counted. We think that's what the supreme court of Florida is going to require.
But at the end of this political administrative and judicial process, we will choose somebody to be president. I think if all the votes are counted and counted fairly and completely, Al Gore will be president. I might be wrong. But at the end of the day, I want to be able to stand up with the other side and say, look, we are going to take some temperatures to heal this nation and that's going to be much more difficult if we keep ratcheting up the rhetoric on both sides.
SHAW: The supreme court Monday -- what do you expect to come out of the hearing?
QUINN: Think it's almost a forgotten conclusion. It's inconceivable to me that the supreme court of Florida would say to these counties and the secretary of state, allow these manual hand counts to continue and then turn around and say, but don't count to votes that result from that in the tally. The supreme court of Florida, I assume and I think there's good reason for this is going to say that the votes that the machines missed that should have been counted and as to this point have not been counted, ought to be counted in the tally.
SHAW: Let's bring in C. Boyden Gray now, who served as counsel to Governor Bush's father during his presidency.
Mr. Gray, what basic argument will your side make to persuade the supreme court on the merits of the governor's case?
C. BOYDEN GRAY, BUSH ADVISER: Well, I just want to make the point that they are going argue procedurally that the court has no jurisdiction to stay, stop the certification which is required by Florida law. Even David Boies one of the most aggressive litigators in America didn't have the guts to ask the court to step into something for which they had no jurisdiction. The courts don't have any say there this until she has certified and there is something to attack.
On the merits I think they will argue just the opposite what Jack suggested. They'll argue that in the absence of fraud or machine failure there's absolutely no ground to do a manual recount; it's a circus that's going on down there. You can't do a hand count of a machine ballot. If hand counts were so romantically preferable, Florida should have had manual recounts with manual ballots. They don't. They have machine counts because they're more fair and they're quicker. And one of the problems is, is that affidavits and evidence of the chaos is going on in these three counties probably won't be entered into evidence because of the premature nature of this entire action in the supreme court.
GREENFIELD: Mr. Gray, let's talk about the tone on your side.
Ms. Hughes -- Karen Hughes, the spokesman, came very close to saying what Bush's supporters are saying in so many words, that Al Gore is trying to steal this election. She talked about the fact this is not only a recount, but a reinvention of a vote. And it doesn't take a linguist to figure out what that means.
Do you think that represents an appropriate tone -- argument to make? Is that what you're saying?
GRAY: I'm not going to argue the tone of the question. I could talk on the other side of the character assassination of Mrs. Harris. One of the sort of more amusing charges leveled against her is this breathless accusation that she is actually hired lawyers who are close to Jeb Bush. Imagine the horror of it.
GREENFIELD: But is the campaign prepared to say that Al Gore is trying to steal this election?
GRAY: No, that's not my understanding but I just want to finish. The law firm that is supposed to be so close to Jeb Bush is Janet Reno's former law firm. So I think everybody needs to perhaps tone down some of the rhetoric and get back to the facts that are on the ground.
GREENFIELD: One more quick thing. If the state supreme court somehow orders the Gore electors certified, if effect, I think you're thinking this could go all the way to Congress next January in a challenge to those electors?
GRAY: If common sense doesn't prevail before then that is entirely possible. The point I think that should be remembered is, this is not a situation where hand counts were anticipated, and what you have is a circus going on in three counties.
SHAW: That was the worst case scenario that Jeff alluded to, but in the near term, how far is this from being over?
GRAY: I don't see what the exit strategy is here because while the Supreme Court has said you can't certify it, the Supreme Court is not indicated when she could certify and if we have a full vote count, say, in Miami, it could take weeks. Now they're certainly going to speed it up, but they're going to be appeals. They're going to protest about individual ballots.
I don't see how this thing is going to get resolved by Thanksgiving. I don't know how it's going get resolved even by the time the Electoral College is supposed to meet, and I just don't see the end of it. That's why we have a machine counting now, is because you have a speeded up process. It didn't -- it used to be March the president would be sworn in. Now it's January.
If Governor Bush -- if Vice President Gore is ultimately decided, he has an easy transition. He walks right in, inherits all the people from President Clinton. Governor Bush is totally paralyzed. Even now he's totally paralyzed. He will have no one in place, no one cleared through the FBI process, no one cleared through ethics and he has no place to go and his first two years would be crippled.
SHAW: C. Boyden Grey, Jack Quinn, gentlemen, thanks very much.
QUINN: Glad to be here.
SHAW: Good to see you this time of night. Thank you.
The Bush camp is pleased the overseas ballots have boosted the Texas governor's lead. But the attack on the manual recount of votes in several counties was stepped up.
CNN's senior political correspondent Candy Crowley is in Austin covering the Bush campaign.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Acknowledging supporters at the gates of the Texas governor's mansion, George Bush showed no sign of wear and tear from this wild ride through the unknown. But inside his campaign, the words told of an increased ferocity in the battle for Florida.
GOV. MARK RACICOT (R), MONTANA: But last night, we learned how far the vice president's campaign will go to win this election. And I am very sorry to say that the vice presidents lawyers have gone to war, in my judgment, against the men and women who serve in our Armed Forces. In an effort to win at any cost, the Democrats have launched a statewide effort to throw out as many military ballots as they can.
CROWLEY: The Bush camp claims up to 1,100 overseas ballots, most of them from the military, were thrown out as invalid in a systematic effort by Gore supporters to reduce the advantage Bush is thought to hold among military personnel.
Florida laws governing absentee ballots are intricate, and both parties questioned the validity of votes that came in. At Bush headquarters in Austin, advisors also put some specifics on their long-standing charge that the hand count process is tainted by Democratic bias, human error, and suspicious goings-on.
RACICOT: Both last night and this morning, Bush ballots were found in the Gore pile to be counted as Gore votes. And a Democratic observer found these and pointed it out. And the Democratic observer later apologized to the Republican counterpart, telling him that the stack of ballots was different last night.
CROWLEY: Taking the lead in the Bush assault on the reliability of the hand count, Montana governor Mark Racicot also told tales of exhausted seniors, counters using flashlights to make out what they're seeing, dropped ballots, mishandled ballots, and chad being taped back over the hole by George Bush's name.
RACICOT: I think when the American people learn about these things, they're going to ask themselves, what in the name of God is going on here?
CROWLEY: The case outlined in Bush campaign headquarters was designed for the court of public opinion, but the argument foreshadows Monday's appointment in the Florida Supreme Court. The Bush camp says it has gathered sworn testimony from eyewitnesses to these events.
CROWLEY: Gore aides dismiss the allegations coming out of the Bush camp as just another attempt to undermine the recount by disparaging the process, and bad-mouthing the citizens carrying it out. The Bush replies it is merely trying to focus attention on what's going on in Florida -- Bernie.
SHAW: Candy, please stay there for a moment. We want to bring in CNN's Chris Black who is monitoring the Gore camp to get their response to these allegations of vote counting improprieties -- Chris.
CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Bernie, the Gore camp is dismissing the Republican charges as politics as usual, and part of a systematic attempt by Governor Bush's campaign to delegitimize the standard recount process.
DOUG HATTAWAY, GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: What we've seen watching on television of the counting of the ballots is civic-minded people carefully observing each ballot. They are being watched over by observers from both sides. I think if they are noting issues, that they're bringing those to the attention of the appropriate officials. I think that's clear to everybody.
The Bush campaign is ratcheting up the rhetoric here. It could be because Governor Bush did not win all votes that they were expecting out of the overseas ballots so now they're trying to cast aspersions on the process. I think that's the tactic at work here.
BLACK: And Florida's Democratic Senator Bob Graham also criticized the Republican attack saying: "I'm extremely disappointed Republicans insist on hurling reckless partisan charges that disparage a lawful process. Injecting these politically motivations is an affront to the citizens of Florida and denigrates the seriousness of the effort currently underway.
The Gore campaign is also denying Democrats deliberately tried to throw out the votes of military personnel overseas. They say that local officials, many of them Republican, watched by both Republican and Democratic observers, made the decision to exclude ballots based on the criteria put forth by the Republican Secretary of State Katherine Harris.
The gore campaign also says it did not have anything to fear from military ballots because many enlisted personnel are members of minority groups and tend to favor Democrats. The Gore campaign took a low-key posture today, letting their legal filings do the talking for them.
In a brief filed with the Supreme Court of Florida, the campaign asked the court to force Secretary of State Harris to accept all lawfully cast and counted votes, including the recounted ballots. The Gore campaign was unphased by Bush increasing his lead today and in fact were pleased that Bush only picked up 630 votes in the overseas balloting. They had feared it might be much worse.
The Gore campaign is also focusing its energy today on the recounts themselves, where they continue to pick up some votes, but the process is extremely slow and Gore operatives are charging Republicans are making frivolous challenges to deliberately slow up the process -- Bernie.
SHAW: Thank you, Chris. Candy, back to you. What will the Bush camp do with this evidence it claims to have in these sworn statements?
CROWLEY: Well, I'm assuming that this was sort of a prologue to what's going to go on in the Florida Supreme Court on Monday. As a non-lawyer, I can't tell you whether that's evidence that would be submitted but there is some reason that they gathered these sworn statements about these mistakes and missteps that they say are happening in these recounting center. So they're obviously going to put them to some use, otherwise they'd just have the people come out the camera and talk, but they have, as they say, sworn statements about some of these abuses.
SHAW: And Chris, is the Gore camp bracing for possibly another legal fight over these allegations?
BLACK: Well, they're braced for just about everything, Bernie. It seems like every day bring a new problem for them and this isn't over, but the battle that is before them on Monday before the Supreme Court is pretty straightforward. They're going to ask the highest court in the state to decide if those recounted votes should be included and hoping that that court will agree with them.
SHAW: Chris Black, Candy Crowley, thanks very, very much.
Due to the legal battle over Florida, the vice president is canceling his plans to travel to Nashville tomorrow. Gore was to attend a family reunion conference, but he's changed his plans and now he's going address the gathering by satellite.
Still ahead, the view from abroad. How overseas journalists view this historic election? And next, the view of the Florida Supreme Court from its former chief justice. Also, a glimpse of the hand recount under the microscope and later, Jeanne Moos shows us the holes in this story. This is a CNN special report.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think our system's messed up at all. I think our system's the best in the world and this is a true sign of how it's going to work to the best of its ability; and the winner's going to come out and the loser's going to come out supporting him. And America is going to come out on top like they always do.
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SHAW: Americans have not seen an election process quite like this one before. It's been complicated, it's been confusing. To help shed some light on this matter, we're joined from Miami by Gerald Kogan, a former Florida Supreme Court justice. He now heads the new alliance for ethical government at the University of Miami. And from Orlando, CNN election analyst, David Cardwell who is a former director of the Florida division of elections.
Judge Kogan, are you glad you're not sitting on the Supreme Court right now?
GERALD KOGAN, FORMER FLORIDA SUPREME COURT JUSTICE: Bernie, quite frankly, no. I wish I were sitting there. This is one of the most important cases that this nation has probably faced in a long, long time and I wish I were really participating.
SHAW: Take us behind the scenes. Right now, what's happening this weekend among the seven justices?
KOGAN: Well, I'm sure that they have received the briefs from the Gore side and I understand that the Bush side briefs are due in tomorrow. So the justices have been reading the briefs over the weekend. They also have their research aides and each one has three research aides, plus they have a central research staff researching the law, writing legal memos for them and everybody is getting ready for the oral arguments that are going to take place on Monday.
SHAW: David Cardwell, your thoughts about that 2:00 p.m. session in Florida's highest court.
DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION ANALYST: What's going to be interesting, I've had several election law cases before that were before the Supreme Court. They were typically just before an election under somewhat of an emergency situation. And it does kind of compress the process, as you saw briefs due from one side one day, from the other side the following day and then the third day, oral argument. So this process is moving along rapidly and I'm sure the court will be prepared.
Florida appellate courts always come into oral arguments prepared, having read the briefs and the memoranda, as Justice Kogan mentioned; so it's going to be a well-prepared court on Monday at 2:00.
GREENFIELD: Judge Kogan, it's Jeff Greenfield; as a matter of law, could the Florida state Supreme Court, once it hears this argument, actually order Secretary of State Harris to count those hand counted ballots from those counties? Would that be within their purview? KOGAN: Yes, it is. I've heard a lot of people talk about that you can't violate the separation of powers, but that's done all the time and it's not a violation. A public official, even though they're granted certain authority by a constitutional document, cannot just do whatever they want and interpret the authority the way they want to interpret it.
So courts always tell public officials whether or not they're exceeding their authority and will also order them to do certain things to bring they in line with what the court feels the law requires.
GREENFIELD: One follow-up for you, judge. On Monday, is there any legal power to the fact that the Bush folks might come into court with a lot of affidavits claiming that these votes are actually being miscounted? Is this an evidentiary process, where the judges will look and consider that?
KOGAN: No, this is not an evidentiary process. The Supreme Court does not take testimony, it only considers evidence that has been submitted to a lower court and examine a finding on the facts made by a judge or a jury in the lower court. They will not initiate their own investigation of the facts.
SHAW: David Cardwell, Monday's showdown -- legal showdown in Tallahassee -- what's your biggest fear?
CARDWELL: My biggest fear is that there will not be a good, clear resolution of the issues and that the three counties that are either engaged in recounts now or, in the case of Miami-Dade, will start on Monday, will not get any clear directions as to how to proceed and it will be somewhat in limbo for a few weeks.
It's possible that the court could say that this case is before them prematurely, that they have not been presented with a situation where the secretary of state refused to accept a new count. She's announced that she would, but it hasn't been presented to her yet and the court could say, come back to us when you finish the recounts and she refuses to take them then. The problem is, that's going to have the process play itself out in sort of a legal no-man's land until at least early December. So I hope, even if the court says come back to us later, they'll at least give some guidance to those three canvassing boards in Dade, Broward and Palm Beach County so that they'll know how they should be proceeding.
SHAW: And back to you Judge Kogan, with my last question. These justices on Florida's high court will not rush to judgment. Therefore, how long do you expect them to take?
KOGAN: Well, remember, Bernie, they've been preparing, probably for the last week, and certainly over this weekend everybody has really been hitting the books, writing the legal memos. And I dare say that they'll come out with an opinion faster than we realize, and I'm not talking about weeks or months, I'm talking about an opinion that may come out within days after hearing the argument or a week at the most. SHAW: Justice Gerald Kogan, David Cardwell, gentlemen thanks very, very much.
CARDWELL: Thank you.
KOGAN: Thank you.
SHAW: Quite welcome.
And next here, our senior political analyst Bill Schneider on the spin war over that Florida recount.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's like "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" to me. I love it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think the process is unfair. I think that it is fixed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: George Bush has won the election count three times and the Democrats need to learn that three is bigger than zero.
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SHAW: We all have opinions on this election 2000 stand-off, and the odds are pretty good that some of those opinions, if not most, were influence by the spin masters in one campaign or the other.
Joining us now with the latest on the spin war, Bill Schneider.
So who's ahead in the spin war?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Bernie, until 4:00 yesterday, I would have said the Bush campaign. That's because Secretary of State Katherine Harris was all set to come out and certify the final vote today, without any of the ballots being recounted by hand, being included. Now, had she done that, we now know what she would have said: Bush wins by 930 votes; and most Americans would have accepted that as conclusive, the polls indicate.
Yesterday, Democrats were desperately spinning projected numbers from the hand recounts -- their experts were calling and claiming that, when the hand recounts were eventually completed in this or that county Gore would be 800 or 900 or 1,000 votes ahead, anything to make it look like the secretary of state's figures were premature. Democrats just love those pictures of people counting the votes. How can she announce a vote total if people are still counting the votes? Those pictures kept public impatience at bay: hold on, hold, they're still counting the votes.
SHAW: Who's winning the spin wars today?
SCHNEIDER: Well, everything shifted yesterday when the Florida Supreme Court banned Harris from certifying the vote, but also allowed that hand counts to go on. Now we're told that the ruling was greeted with whoops and cheers at Gore headquarters. The very minute the hand recounts show Gore overtaking that 930-vote deficit, the whole political equation shifts in the Democrats' favor.
Can the court allow the secretary of state to exclude those votes, which clearly would change the outcome? That would be allowing Bush to, in the Democrat's view, steal the election. Gore has agreed that Bush can ask for a statewide recount. But then Bush would have to give up his objections to the hand recounts. And Bush would then be the one delaying the outcome.
SHAW: So what are the Republican spinners saying?
SCHNEIDER: Well, today Republicans are objecting to the fact that more than a thousand absentee ballots were thrown out because of improper postmarks. They claim that this was an organized effort by the Gore campaign to nullify military votes. And Gore wants to be commander-in-chief, they say.
Now Republicans are telling horror stories about the way the hand recounts are being mishandled: ballots smudged with fingernail polish. Counters shuffling ballots like decks of cards. Chad flying around the room and they've recruited the governor of Montana to give some authority to these accounts.
Republicans are also pointing to stories in the press of felons being allowed to vote -- mostly Democrats, as it turns out. And they're complaining about how sad it would be if the election is taken out of the hands of the people and decided by the courts. Because you know what, Republicans now realize the courts are not their friends -- Bernie.
SHAW: Bill Schneider, thanks very much.
Well, they are still handling and recounting those ballots in Palm Beach and Broward counties. And when we come back, a fact check on what happens during all recounting.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe everybody should have a fair vote and the right to be counted, whether it takes a revote, a recount, a hand count. Whatever it takes to get a nice silver cloud over the person who takes the office so we can all rally behind him. No matter who wins, just want to see a fair vote.
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SHAW: Just what is fair is an issue for the Florida Supreme Court. Updating now, the justices will hear from both sides Monday afternoon, 2:00 p.m. Eastern time before deciding whether or not to allow the results of hand recounts in the final vote tally. Right now, the unofficial tally gives George W. Bush the lead by 930 votes. His lead tripled after overseas absentee ballots were counted. Absentee ballots are also a matter of controversy. One Democratic activist wants 4,700 thrown out in Seminole County, alleging election law violations.
Many of the skirmishes over the Florida recount are being waged in the legal arena. But they're also being fought in the court of public opinion. CNN national correspondent Martin Savidge here with a fact check on the recount spin.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Inside walls built to withstand 200-mile-per-hour winds, the Palm Beach County hand recount drones on. Critics say its fitting the controversial count is carried out in a room designed to cope with disaster. But it's really not a room at all. It's a giant microscope and everyone and everything here is under it.
This is how it's supposed to work. Teams of counters, one Democrat, one Republican count the ballots and look for discrepancies. Over their shoulders peer two observers, one from each party.
DENISE DYTRYCH, ELECTIONS BOARD ATTORNEY: If there is an objection then it will be raised by an observer. It will be noted and we just put it to the questionable stack. And that's really -- it's just tedious.
SAVIDGE: At one point, the elections board chairman pleads with those in the room not to object to a ballot simply to object.
JUDGE CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH CANVASSING BOARD: If it's clearly a vote, it's clearly a vote. We ought not to be playing games by either party. We will all be here until Christmas if this continues.
SAVIDGE: A case in point: in one precinct alone, counters found 144 objections with questionable ballots. But when reviewed by the elections board and attorneys, they found only six legitimate discrepancies. The Republicans maintain that ballots have been tampered with, stealing votes from George W. Bush.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I just think there's a flaw in the system. I mean, you know the Gore observer isn't looking at the ballots the same way today as he looked at them yesterday.
SAVIDGE: But Republicans aren't the only ones objecting. Democrats charge ballots with dimples or dents are not being counted as they should, robbing Vice President Gore of decisive votes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had protested approximately 150. There were clear dents on the number five chad but they were ruled as an undervote.
SAVIDGE: Democrats in Palm Beach County went to court to have those dimples counted. Not surprisingly right after they saw a lot of them for Gore during last weekend's partial hand recount. The political spinners spin off, escorted by handlers to their next interviews. Emerging from under the lens of a microscope only to exchange it for another one, the lens of a television camera.
Martin Savidge, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.
SHAW: And next here, the view from the outside. Jeff Greenfield talking with international journalists about what's happened here with Election 2000.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're watching how the exit polls were conducted. We're watching how quickly estimates are made, and yet these estimates can blow up in your face.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Americans are not used to irregularities, whether it is deliberate or not. They're not used to it, so they just totally panic.
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GREENFIELD: Panic? Us? Surely, our friends from abroad jest; and, surely, they do. And some are taunting and scoffing and jeering, but we'll get to that later. For now, for a look at how we're being viewed from overseas, I'm joined in Houston by Chido Nwangwu, he is founder and publisher of usafricaonline.com.; and Richard Wolffe, he's the correspondent for the "Financial Times" of London.
Mr. Nwangwu, to you first. What are you hearing from your readers, from your editors, about what there sense is about what's going on over here in the United States?
CHIDO NWANGWU, USAFRICAONLINE.COM: Curiosity, some instructive lessons. They are those who also wonder if gold could rust, what will iron do? If we are going to have the kind of complications in the election -- the electoral process in Florida, imagine what will happen in a place like Lesoto, or even in Nigeria.
And there are those who also, rightfully so, underline the importance of the patience, fulfilling of the rule of law here rather than having military personnel or a team of soldiers or ethnic warriors take over the country because their own man or woman did not win the elections. Americans have decided to follow, if you will, a systematic -- in some sense, a psychological tasking process of counting the votes and trying to arrive at the winner of the elections. GREENFIELD: Mr. Wolffe,, let's put some cards on the table. Is there a sense across the pond -- a certain sense of, I don't know, satisfaction that this mighty super power, with all of its nuclear weapons and its dot-com companies and its McDonald's is in this -- is admired in this? A chuckle or two, perhaps?
RICHARD WOLFFE, "FINANCIAL TIMES": I think that's partly the case; but you have to remember that there's really a love hate relationship with America around the world, particularly in Europe. From what we've seen initially was a huge amount of excitement and astonishment at the closeness of the election followed but, yes, a sense of mockery, a disdain for the process and for the candidates themselves.
On the more serious side, papers such as mine have been reporting really quite serious concerns among government officials not just in Europe, but across the world that whoever wins this election may be so weakened by it -- faced, in particular, with a divided Congress, that the world will react strongly whether it's in trade disputes, in military conflict or in a financial crisis. So I think, actually, tinged with that sense of mockery there is actually some pretty serious concerns that the world's only super power might become weakened by this whole thing.
GREENFIELD: Mr. Nwangwu, what about that sense among your readers? Any sense that there is a certain amount of instability in here in the United States that could be bad news for the rest of the world?
NWANGWU: Not necessarily. It is more a concern of the manner of a presidency that will emerge after the votes are counted and tallied and the winner is declared.
For instance, Africans are concerned that Governor Bush of our state here in Texas stated emphatically, ill-advised, I will suggest, that Africa does not count in his area of priority. Africans are wondering, the issue in Southern Africa region, the entire African continent which, Jeff, you have reported on in the past -- the issue, for instance, of oil between the United States and Nigeria and other strategic interests underlining the interests of our two continents, will he sweep all those aside?
Will he set aside the fact that there are probably 5 million African Americans who demand, rightfully so, that their heritage, the African continent be put within the metrics of the definition of Africa's and America's international economic relationships. And as Bill Clinton rightly stated -- I was in Johannesburg when he visited there in 1998 -- that Africa has the highest return on investment in terms of business: 32 percent. How important is that for, if you will, the United States and Africa Growth and Opportunity Act?
So that is a major area of concern for our people.
GREENFIELD: OK, we're going to take a break and we'll be back with our guests in just a minute. Stay with us please.
SHAW: Chido Nwangwu and Richard Wolffe, I heard you express concerns for what's happening overseas here in the United States, but I want to ask you, starting with you, Mr. Wolffe, is there also envy and admiration for the way Americans are doggedly plowing through this election process?
WOLFFE: I think in some parts, but there's a lot of confusion, frankly, about the complexity of this story, particularly when we entered the legal wranglings of this week. There's not too much admiration when lawyers start crawling all over an election. I don't even sense there's much admiration in America for what's happened to the election this week.
So I think some of the parts of it, the kind of meticulous process that we've seen about vote counting is quite admirable, but in large part, there's just a huge amount of complexity and confusion. Look at what's happened -- ignore Florida for one minute.
Look at what's happened in New Mexico. One minute people hear reports about it being a Bush victory by a handful of votes, the next there are votes that have been put in the wrong column, and I think there's more a sense of confusion and bemusement, amazement, that such a thing could happen in America.
SHAW: And briefly, Mr. Nwangwu.
NWANGWU: I do not think that our readers, Africans, are bothered so much by the legal nuances, the (UNINTELLIGIBLE) by the spin doctors and media artists or the politicians. Africans are, rather, defining the issues in terms of this system has the elasticity, a functional latitude that is able to deal with all the pressures without having, for instance, Texas Rangers move down to Florida and possibly count away some of the Gore forces or even other persons who oppose that the vice president becoming the leader. You know, it's a lot more defined in terms of the goal rather than the nuance of the system.
GREENFIELD: Mr. Wolffe, just briefly. You've got a system where the guy, when his party wins, he moves into 10 Downing Street in two days. How hard has it been for you to explain to your readers the Electoral College, the 12th Amendment, the various vagaries of the system that even we are somehow confused about? You must be having a heck of a time with this.
WOLFFE: We are having a heck of a time. We have a lot of readers in America as well. And I think we have to explain it to them as well. And the truth is, that the great impact of this story apart from who's going to be president, is that it's perhaps disabused people around the world. The president is somehow the cold warrior -- a man with a finger on the button who can do anything and is all- powerful.
What we're seeing here is more understanding, a greater understanding that the presidency and the federal government power is shared. There's a huge amount of state control over this election and, you know, the president may be not the powerful man the rest of the world thinks he is.
GREENFIELD: OK, gentlemen, I thank you very much for joining us and you know, when we figure this out, we'll try to let you and our viewers and readers know. Thanks to you both -- Bernie
SHAW: Well, next, Jeanne Moos. Yes, she pokes some fun into the debate over holes.
SHAW: In this election, so much is being made of so little. Those little holes that were or were not punched in those ballots. This prompted an investigation by our own Jeanne Moos. And leave it to her to "Make the Moost" of what she found.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For days on end, you've watched the story. Now we bring you the hole story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a beautiful one.
MOOS: From Swiss cheese to tunnels, from funnels to colanders, other guys may appreciate a hole in one, but Achille Varzi is one with holes.
ACHILLE VARZI, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: This is a prototypical hole. This one. Is this one single split hole or is it two holes? In this case the shape seems to matter a lot.
MOOS: Professor Varzi teaches philosophy at Columbia and he's co-authored a book about holes called "Holes and Other Superficialities." Note the cover.
VARZI: This is a book that comes with it's own subject matter, some samples of what it is about.
MOOS: Imagine Professor Varzi's reaction when ballot counters checking holes ended up being front-page news. The humble hole's not so humble anymore.
VARZI: All of a sudden we realized that the destiny of the United States, if not the destiny of the entire world, depends on our criteria for counting holes.
MOOS (on camera): Down in Florida, they call this the sunshine test, though generally it's performed on ballots, not Swiss cheese.
VARZI: Is this one hole or two, right? Are they two holes that merged?
MOOS (voice-over): After an hour with Professor Varzi, you may never suck a lifesaver.
VARZI: The hole goes out of existence. VARZI: Or munch on a doughnut without pondering the metaphysics of holes. This is a philosopher who finds meaning in Munchkins, the so-called doughnut hole treat.
VARZI: These are the parts that have been removed from the doughnut before it became a doughnut. Now, of course, this is not the hole. The hole is what's not there anymore.
MOOS: But doughnuts pale compare to ballots.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: That have yet to be counted in the state as a whole.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: Did she say hole?
VARZI: And then of course we have the crucial one -- is this a hole or not?
MOOS: Maybe all the talk of hanging chad has your eyes as glazed as doughnuts.
VARZI: Would this be a doughnut with the hole filled?
MOOS: Chad, at least, has fewer calories. Remember how George W. got in trouble referring to a hole?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: He's a major league asshole.
RICHARD CHENEY (R), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Oh, yes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MOOS: At least the hole is something the American public can get behind wholeheartedly.
VARZI: Half a hole or a whole hole?
MOOS: Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
SHAW: I'm not saying a word. That's all the time we have for this special report. One hour from now, Andria Hall brings you up to date on the Florida recount in another special report. And tomorrow, it's "LATE EDITION" doubled with Wolf Blitzer. I'm Bernard Shaw in Washington. "LARRY KING LIVE" is next.
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