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Rep. Asa Hutchison Adresses the Media About the Florida Recount

Aired November 25, 2000 - 10:41 a.m. ET


CAROL LIN, CNN ANCHOR: Asa Hutchinson speaking on behalf of the Bush campaign right now in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


REP. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: ... in this election.

QUESTION: Congressman, it's a much different tone I hear from you today about the work of people upstairs. Senator Dole was very clear that day questioning the integrity of the canvasses saying they were trying to find votes for Gore. What's changed?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I heard Senator Dole and he was right on point. He -- what he said was that they're not counting ballots, they're casting ballots and that is exactly what is happening. Whenever they showed me the ballot and I look on it very carefully and this is after I've observed for an hour or so and I look at that, I cannot discern that the voter voted for anyone. And it goes around and it ultimately might be a vote for Bush or it might be a vote for Gore and I'm saying where in the world do they get that? And so in essence they are casting ballots.

And so I'm not challenge their integrity, although I did see some partisan influences in there and that is disappointing, but I think that's part of whether it's an Arkansas system or a Florida system people who are involved in this review process are people who are active in politics and have points of view. So it makes it very difficult and that's why you don't rely upon people with partisan backgrounds to try to determine a voter's intent. It's an impossible task that's why a machine count is more accurate and reliable and the people would have more confidence in it.

QUESTION: Are you feeling a little more comfortable today now that the vote objections since the state Miami-Dade vote (INAUDIBLE), Palm Beach doesn't appear to be running as heavily in favor of Gore. Do you feel more comfortable thinking that Bush perhaps as this wrapped up even after the hand count is done?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I'm cautiously optimistic that come Sunday night that Governor Bush will be certified the winner in Florida. I think what's important is that it will be a certification that the people of America will have confidence in and that's why the casting of the overseas ballots and their consideration is very important to that credibility.

I'm disappointed that Vice President Gore has already announced that he's going to file an election contest. He basically won his ground rules in the Florida Supreme Court and even though he won his ground rules he has indicated that he is not going to accept the result of that and he's going to file that election contest.

I think it'll be a positive step for America that it will be reviewed by the United States Supreme Court. People in America are used to accepting their result whether you like it or not as final and is credible and something that we will follow and so ultimately I believe if (ph) the United States Supreme Court will be able to stamp with approval the election and the results that we see here in Florida.

QUESTION: Congressman Hutchinson, I'm Arthur Peckler (ph), I represent the Veterans World War II, the Korean War and Vietnam and yet our young men that are defending this county are denied to vote in this state. I voted overseas when I lived in Miami and they counted the vote in the last elections that I was -- when I was overseas. Why can't they do that now? Why does Gore perpetuate that fraud of five pages saying that the veterans -- the servicemen who are defending this county and given him the right to do whatever he wishes to do ...

HUTCHINSON: Well, let me pick up on that.

QUESTION: Thank you.

HUTCHINSON: The reason it is so important, I think Governor Bush was right whenever he challenged Vice President Gore to support us in the effort to have these overseas ballots counted. And it's a different review than what we're seeing upstairs because in the case that we're talking about, about the 1,400 overseas ballots, it's not a matter of the voter doing something wrong or not being diligent. They did it diligently but the postmark might be smeared and so that's a flawed technicality from the postal service perhaps or the military personnel but the voter did everything they could, our men and women who are representing us overseas. So I hope that Vice President Gore will join in the effort to count those ballots.

Let me come back to the media here.

QUESTION: Congressman, you were saying a little while ago that you came here on your own initiative. But Democrats are saying, you know, that's pretty disingenuous of these people coming out here and saying it, because yesterday we had Senator Dole and Governor Engler, and today Governor Engler and (OFF-MIKE). Fo you guys just wake up in the morning and you say, you know what, I should be in South Florida?

Democrats are saying, no, you guys are certainly going up to Bush talking his (INAUDIBLE), you know what, let's put these political heavyweights out here to counter anything else that Gore is saying. I mean is this disingenuous, like, you were saying you woke up and decided to get here?

HUTCHINSON: Well, the media woke up one morning and said there's a story in Florida and you decided to come. And I think in the -- in the same way that this is where the next president of the United States is going to be decided and so I think it's important because it's a national election with great national interest that folks like me are able to come down here to observe.

I think it gives confidence to the people of America when you have that type of observation and a review of what's happening here. But you notice, I mean Senator Kerrey was here, you know Representative Wexler of course who resides in this area so there's many people on the other side from Reverend Jackson to Senator Kerrey who are down here making comment on it and so certainly it's appropriate that we have a Senator Dole. I don't know what motivated them coming down here but I know that in my case, I mean I did let the Bush folks know that I'm coming down there, they helped with some arrangements but it was my initiation I came here and I'm delighted that I did come.

QUESTION: Congressman, could you clarify something for me I'm just not clear about and I suppose it would be ironic if all of this fighting about count -- about the hand count, don't count the hand count, you know what, if the hand count does not put Al Gore ahead does the Supreme Court then become an issue? Does it still get adjudicated? What's your understanding of all this and wouldn't it be ironic?

HUTCHINSON: Well, yes. You know once we have the certification basically under the rules that the Supreme Court of Florida gave to Al Gore, they're favorable to him, you would think at that point that he would say, all right, I had the rules of my game favorable to me and so I didn't win the vote.

If that is the case that he would drop any challenge at that point but clearly he's announced in advance that he is going to file the election contest. If he pulled that back at that point then the appeal to the United States Supreme Court might be mute at that point. But if he persists on then I think because there are very important federal constitutional issues that the United States Supreme Court be there to review any final decision of the Florida Supreme Court. The outstanding issues, of course, will be the overseas ballots that's still at stake.

Secondly, whether the manual recount should have been directed by the Florida Supreme Court, whether that was an overreaching by them into a legislative function.

And then thirdly, of course, whatever issues that Vice President Gore raises as a result of his election contest.

QUESTION: Thank you.

QUESTION: Do you expect him to pull back?

LIN: All right, there you go, Congressman Asa Hutchinson coming to Fort Lauderdale, Florida to speak on behalf of the Bush campaign insisting that all military ballots be counted. That is at the discretion of the individual counties. Protesting Gore's insistence that he's going to contest the outcome should these tallies be certified on Sunday but not mentioning that the Republicans themselves have also filed their own protests in 13 counties.

HARRIS: Thirteen counties.

LIN: Yes, in 13 different counties. It's all in who says what when.

HARRIS: That's politics.

LIN: We'll try to give you some context today.



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