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Special Event

Election 2000: Sen. Kerrey Holds News Briefing on Florida Recount

Aired November 21, 2000 - 1:28 p.m. ET

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

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: We want to take you down to Florida. Senator Bob Kerrey, representing the Gore campaign down there, talking about some of the things he has been called in to observe.

Let's listen.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

SEN. BOB KERREY (D), NEBRASKA: They're simply saying that the law, as they read it, allows for a manual recount, just as the law in Texas allows for a manual recount, and they would prefer human beings to machines to determine who the victor is in an extremely close race. This is not going to be a landslide for either Vice President Gore or Governor Bush. One of these men is going to win a very close election, statistically even either way. It's going to be 1,000 votes, my guess is, out of six million, no matter who the winner is declared, and many things that are being said, if they're believed by the American people as truth, will cast a pall of illegitimacy over the vice president if he ends up being the person that wins.

Specifically, having to do with the overseas votes, having been in the military, one of the things that was driven into me when I was in the United States Navy is that failure to get the word is no excuse. Everybody that's in the military understands that. And we should not be playing politics with our military as a consequence of that standard being in place every single day for our fighting men and women. If they have a legal ballot, it should be counted. If it's not a legal ballot, it should not be counted. Men and women in the military should not expect and do not expect to be treated in some fashion that has them being a pawn in a political argument that's very tense and very passionate here in Florida.

I believe that statements that were made yesterday by spokes people for the Bush campaign that said -- that left the impression that the vice president would not be qualified as commander in chief are grossly unfair and irresponsible and should be retracted, because they will make it difficult, if it is the vice president who emerges the winner in Florida, it'll make it difficult for him, as the 43rd president of the United States, to do his job.

So I think that what's happening here in Florida is obviously extremely difficult. The rest of the nation is watching. I watched the court proceeding, every single minute of it yesterday. I'm pleased the Supreme Court has taken it up, it's going to make it much more likely that remedies will be provided to disputes where only the court can provide a remedy.

I have had the occasion to vote at least eight times for laws in the United States Congress that were judged by the Supreme Court to be unconstitutional and overturned as a consequence of the court making that determination, because a citizen said, I don't care if the president signed it, I don't care of Senator Kerrey's for it, I believe it violates my constitutional rights. That's the system in the United States of America. And as a consequence of the court here in Florida taking it up early, I think it's much more likely that remedies that are not possible, because the law is either vague or ambiguous or in conflict, the court will provide those remedies in an expeditious fashion, in time for the electors of Florida to be part of the grand total on the 12th of December.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

KERREY: Let me make -- I heard that proposal -- let me make a counterproposal to them.

First of all, I'm pleased that they see unfairness in the balloting. I will take that as a sign of good hope and good faith on their part. So if they see unfairness in the balloting, people who were treated fairly (sic) because the rules didn't accommodate for their circumstances, then I would urge them to look at what happened in Palm Beach as well and ask themselves and answer the question, are they willing to do the same thing for 85-year-old that simply didn't have the strength to punch through a punch card, that simply didn't have the capacity to get that done.

There are other situations in Florida where the law says this, but the law appears not to be fair. So they have discovered a situation that's not fair, that they believe will produce additional votes for them, first of all, let the court decide. If they want to bring a legal case, let them bring a legal case.

But please don't stand out here and say that votes are being stolen or the vice president is not fit to be commander in chief or there's fraud going on or votes being manufactured. That simply isn't true. If you got a legal case, bring it. But if you're really concerned about the unfairness of the process and you see votes that should have been counted because something unfair was done, I think there's a possible negotiation that could occur between Governor Bush and Vice President Gore on that point, because unfairness is occurring throughout this state, but that unfairness all by itself doesn't result in votes being counted.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE)

KERREY: The right answer is that in the military we accept responsibility for our mistakes, we don't blame it on somebody else. And if I'm not prepared and I didn't get the word and I come to my commanding office and say, "Gee, I'm sorry, Captain, I didn't get the word," my commanding officer will say, "Lieutenant, failure to get the word is no excuse." And if you've got a situation, a fairness situation where the military simply could not have overcome getting a postmark, let's say, but that's not what we're seeing. And the day after these accusations are made what we're discovering is signatures are not there, voter IDs are not there, addresses are not there, witnesses aren't there. It's not just that. And we're discovering that the number of people who were thrown out this time around are no greater or no less than what happened in 1996.

So, again, I think it's a mistake and wrong for people to come out and irresponsibly allege something that didn't happen. But I don't think -- personally, I think the military should not be treated any different than any other citizen, unless there's a circumstance that makes it impossible. We already have a federal law that accommodates their special circumstances. If additional accommodation needs to be made, let's consider additional change in the federal law. But I think what we've got here is a situation where they just -- they are making charges that are not likely to hold up.

QUESTION: Senator, the American people voted. Somebody, somewhere out there, there is a winner. Why is it necessary for both sides to have this ongoing campaign? What should the American people make of this sniping from Austin and Nashville?

KERREY: Well, to be clear on this, I'm not here except I saw irresponsible things being said by the Bush campaign that the vice president was stealing votes, that there's election fraud, that somehow that he's incompetent to be commander in chief. Those are all reckless, they're irresponsible and they're wrong. So I'm here in response to those accusations.

But what the American people should see is an election that is statistically a dead heat, 1,000 votes out of six million. And when the machine recounted the first time, the machines found 4,000 votes that weren't counted the first time around. And the American people should ask themselves, If your live's at stake, are you going to trust a machine to make a determination or do you want a human being to make the determination?

That's why hand counts are allowed, they were permitted in the machine recounts in a limited fashion, they're permitted, in my judgment, under Florida law, they're certainly permitted under Texas law, because sometimes the machine does not make the right decision.

CHEN: Senator Bob Kerrey, the Nebraska senator, outgoing Nebraska senator, speaking in Miami, Florida about the recount under way of course there. The senator is one of those sent down on behalf of the Gore team in the state of Florida, taking a look, observing as well what is going on there, on behalf of the Democratic candidate.

Senator Kerrey encouraging caution and a sense of patience with the ongoing process on the very tight election, which he kept underlining in his statement.

He spoke about a controversy that has emerged in Florida over the past few days, and that involves overseas absentee ballots cast by members of the military, and the possibility that they may be excluded because of certain technicalities and way the ballots were handled.

The Bush camp we know, earlier today, sent out two congressmen to speak on the subject. Now Senator Kerrey speaking on behalf of the Gore campaign, calling comments made by the Bush camp yesterday "grossly unfair" and "irresponsible." His concern, he said, was about votes that were claimed to have been stolen, comments that the vice president might not be fit to be commander in chief. A very well- respected Vietnam veteran himself, Senator Kerrey encouraging a sense of caution, as this dispute goes on.

This is observation from Bob Kerrey, speaking in Miami, Florida on behalf of the Gore campaign, as he is an observer there.

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