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Election 2000: The Florida VoteAired November 26, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHERINE HARRIS, FLORIDA SECRETARY OF STATE: I hereby declare Governor George W. Bush the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes for the president of the United States.
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ANNOUNCER: Florida officials certify George W. Bush as the winner, and the long Palm Beach hand count didn't count at all.
Democrats say the battle isn't over.
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SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What is at issue here is nothing less than every American's simple, sacred right to vote.
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: The election was close, but tonight after a count, a recount, and yet another manual recount, Secretary Cheney and I are honored and humbled to have won the state of Florida, which gives us the needed electoral votes to win the election.
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ANNOUNCER: Republicans look to the transition and to healing, but a week of court battles could drag out the uncertainty and fuel more partisan anger.
This is a CNN special report, "ELECTION 2000: THE FLORIDA VOTE," with anchor Judy Woodruff in Washington and senior analyst Jeff Greenfield in New York.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome to our viewers in the United States and to our worldwide audience on CNN International.
Florida's secretary of state says the race is over. But Democrats disagree.
JEFF GREENFIELD, CNN SENIOR ANALYST: Hi, Judy. On a night like none of us have ever seen in our political history, a claim of victory, a call for a contest and a presidential election that now moves to the courts and the court of public opinion. And, Judy, it may not be over until 2001.
WOODRUFF: You may be right.
And here are the latest development at this hour: The Florida election canvassing commission certified returns showing Republican George W. Bush winning the state over Democrat Al Gore by a margin of 537 votes. That result gives Bush the state's 25 electoral votes.
The results from the hand recount from Palm Beach County were not included in the certification. The county's canvassing board turned in partial results before the 5:00 p.m. deadline. They finished their count a little over two hours after the certification deadline passed.
George W. Bush says it time to honor the country's laws and, in his words, do the nation's business. And he has named his running mate, Dick Cheney, to head his transition team.
But the Democratic vice presidential candidate, Senator Joe Lieberman, went in the other direction, saying the certification was, quote, "an incomplete and inaccurate count of the votes cast." Lieberman says that he and Gore will contest the Florida vote.
And still head, a number of court challenges by both sides, including you one that will be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday.
Katherine Harris, who is Florida's secretary of state, announced that George W. Bush won that state's electoral vote by a razor-thin margin. Al Gore's campaign quickly challenged that action, saying that it was a certification, as we just said, of inaccurate and incomplete count.
CNN's national correspondent Gary Tuchman reports from Tallahassee, Florida.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the stroke of their pens the Florida canvassing board, led by the now-nationally famous Florida secretary of state, Katherine Harris, certified their state's presidential vote.
HARRIS: Governor George W. Bush 2,912,790; Vice President Al Gore 2,912,253.
TUCHMAN: And then the secretary, a supporter of George W. Bush, paused, hearing crowds of Bush supporters clearing outside the Cabinet room, while in front of the state capitol building Bush supporters also started cheering. The canvassing board certified a vote that unincluded hand counts for Broward County but no hand counts for Palm Beach County, because after days of counting officials there weren't able to complete the vote. And the secretary offered her opinion, making it clear she did not like the decision of the Florida state Supreme Court that allowed the hand count to be certified on this late date.
HARRIS: It was and it remains my opinion that the appropriate deadlines for filing certified returns in this election are those mandated by the legislature.
TUCHMAN: Another member of the board used a famous sports figure's quote to express his opinion.
BOB CRAWFORD, FLORIDA CERTIFICATION OFFICIAL: Yogi Berra once said, it's not over until it's over. Well it's over, and we have a winner and it's time to move on.
TUCHMAN: One of Yogi Berra's great traits when he was a player on the New York Yankees was not giving up, and that's what Democrats say they will do, at least for now.
Gore lawyers are convinced that if the Palm Beach County hand counts were included in the certification and if Miami-Dade County was able to complete its vote that it would be Al Gore being certified tonight. So those lawyers will be in court here in Tallahassee tomorrow at the Leon County Circuit Court, challenging what happened in Palm Beach County, challenging what happened in Miami-Dade County, and also challenging what happened in small Nassau County, where 51 Al Gore recount votes were taken away two days ago.
Now the atmosphere inside this room just across from me where this signing took place today was an atmosphere you would see normally at a peace-treaty signing or a strategic arms signing. There was a hush over the crowd, there were about 100 journalists inside, officials from the state. The public wasn't allowed inside the room, but everyone was very quiet and the flash bulbs were popping as Katherine Harris and her two cohorts signed their papers.
And you did hear a loud cheering after she announced the vote totals. You couldn't really hear it that well on TV, but it was quite loud inside the room. It startled a few people. She continued talking afterwards, and then of course behind me the cheering also continued.
So what it comes down to is this. Nearly 100 million American voted in this presidential election, nearly 6 million Floridians, and it could be the decision of just 537 of those Floridians that gives George W. Bush the presidency of the United States.
Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: All right, Gary Tuchman reporting. Thanks very much. Well the counting finished in Palm Beach County more than two hours after the deadline for submitting results to the Florida secretary of state. Earlier, officials there sent in partial results, and then they went right back to work to finish counting questionable ballots.
CNN's Mark Potter reports -- details the action West Palm Beach.
MARK POTTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After working throughout night and all day Sunday, the Palm Beach County canvassing board came up short. By 800 to 1,000 votes, it failed to recount all the ballots by the 5:00 p.m. reporting deadline. Hoping their partial count would be certified, county elections officials faxed the numbers to Tallahassee. Secretary of State Katherine Harris had turned down the board's request for a brief extension. She explained her decision in a letter to Canvassing Board Chairman Charles Burton.
CHARLES BURTON, PALM BEACH COUNTY CANVASSING BOARD CHAIRMAN: "In accordance with the explicit terms of the decision by the Florida Supreme Court, your request for filing an amended certification after 5:00 p.m. today is denied."
So the secretary of state has apparently decided to shut us down with approximately two hours perhaps left to go.
POTTER: Immediately, Democrats argued the partial count and the remaining vote should still be certified, even though the deadline had passed.
REP. SHERROD BROWN (D), OHIO: There are still votes to be counted. There are 10,000 votes in Dade to be counted, there are 1,000 votes to be counted here, and she is going to declare a winner before the votes are even counted.
POTTER: But the Republicans argued the vote was in and George W. Bush had won.
REP. STEVE BUYER (R), INDIANA: Vice President Gore, what you should do is after this election is certified, place that phone call and concede this election, meet with Governor Bush and unite America. Thank you very much.
POTTER: The Palm Beach County canvassing board refused to give up and continued the manual recount, finishing up two hours later. But when Secretary Harris certified the election, she ignored Palm Beach County's partial hand result, taking instead the last full machine count.
BURTON: It's a slap in the face to all these people who spent a lot of time to do it. As you know, we basically needed about another two hours.
POTTER: Judge Burton also said it's too late to worry now about whether the board should have taken off Thanksgiving Day instead of counting votes.
(on camera): Judge Burton says he doesn't feel the board wasted its time and doesn't know yet if the board will file suit to have the hand count reconsidered.
Mark Potter, CNN, West Palm Beach, Florida.
WOODRUFF: Well the events of this day clearly have not brought closure to the race for the White House. The campaigns of Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore are reacting. Two reports to find out how.
CNN senior White House correspondent John King is in Washington, but first we turn to senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, who joins us live from Austin -- Candy.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Judy, in a setting designed to evoke a presidential image, George Bush was in the statehouse here in Austin when he said he was honored and humbled by the vote certification showing him to be the winner in Florida, and he urged Al Gore to accept defeat.
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BUSH: This has been a hard-fought election, a healthy contest for American democracy. But now that the votes are counted, it is time for the votes to count.
The vice president's lawyers have indicated he will challenge the certified election results. I respectfully ask him to reconsider.
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CROWLEY: Also, the governor said he was appointing Dick Cheney, his vice presidential nominee, to head the transition. Andy Card is his chief of staff, and he said that he will authorize Cheney and Card to contact Clinton administration to begin transition.
It is very clear that while the Gore campaign tries to keep this election open and tries to say that things are not over, on the other handed you have the Bush campaign saying it is over. As the governor said, this is the end of an election and the beginning of a new day.
WOODRUFF: All right. I'm sorry, Candy, slow to pick up on that. Candy, I want you to stay with us, but for right know we want to go to John King, who is here in Washington covering the Gore campaign -- John.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Judy, thanks but no thanks is the Gore campaign's response to all these calls from Republicans tonight that it's time for the vice president to concede. The vice president making clear he will fight on, and he'll spell out his reasons in a nationally televised addresses at noon tomorrow here in Washington. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)
KING (voice-over): The Democrats say it isn't over yet and are calling the latest Florida results a Republican rush to judgment.
LIEBERMAN: The secretary of state of Florida has decided to certify what by any reasonable standard is an incomplete and inaccurate count of the votes cast in the state of Florida.
KING: The Gore-Lieberman team heads back to court Monday to challenge the official Florida count on several fronts.
Point one: that Secretary of State Katherine Harris would not even wait just a few hours more for Palm Beach County to finish its recount.
LIEBERMAN: How can we teach our children that every vote counts if we are not willing to make a good faith effort to count every vote?
KING: Other major goals of the Gore challenge are to win a manual review of 10,700 ballots from Miami-Dade County that registered no vote for president in the machine tally, another look at several thousand ballots in Palm Beach County that have indentations next to a candidate's name but were not counted by the canvassing board during the recount.
DAVID BOIES, GORE CAMPAIGN ATTORNEY: Until these votes have been counted, this election cannot be over. There are votes, thousands of votes, that have never yet been counted once.
KING: This next phase in the legal fight could take a week or two, and the vice president's team says there are no major cracks in Democratic support.
Campaign Chairman Bill Daley and Senator Lieberman are taking the lead in lobbying key Democrats.
SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: There's not a sense of pressure. It's more of a sense of wanting to count all the votes and get them in as soon as we possible can. But it's not pressure as much as it is just information sharing.
KING: The vice president has pitched in with calls to Democratic leaders Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle, to Jesse Jackson and to top leaders like the AFL-CIO's John Sweeney.
Gephardt and Daschle are heading to Tallahassee Monday in a show of Democratic solidarity.
KING: The vice president's case to the American people will be that this can all be down, if the court's give him a new count, that all this can be done in a week or two, plenty of time, he will say, for the electors from Florida and other states to be certified. And, Judy, even as our piece was rolling there, a top Gore campaign official telling us the vice president will speak twice tomorrow, first informally sometime late morning, early afternoon, and then a more formalized address like we saw from Governor Bush sometime tomorrow night -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, John King.
I want to bring Candy Crowley back into this from Austin.
Candy, I don't know -- this may be a small point or a big point, but I noticed at the end of Governor Bush's remarks he said he wanted Dick Cheney to work with the Clinton administration to open up a transition office in Washington. We now know that the General Services Administration, which is charged with the responsibility of deciding who the winner is and deciding to work with them, they're saying, we don't believe there's been a winner yet, and we're not going to be providing space or money for a transition until -- as long as these two candidates are in the courts.
Now what is the Bush camp saying about that?
CROWLEY: Well, one is logistics and one is, you know, politics. You know, they certainly don't think that the president's going to give them a building and give them phone space and give them transition money at this point.
What they do want to do is see essentially what they've been doing all along, which is prepare for a transition. The time grows shorter every day, as they notice and we all notice. And this was another way to say, and by the way, I'm moving forward with this. Again, it's another way of saying, it's over and now we're on to the next step.
So what the Bush campaign is doing at this point is making a political statement, as well as a statement of fact, which is, we've got to get on and so Cheney's going to run the transition and Andrew Card's going to be my chief of staff, things that they have long been rumored to be what George Bush would do.
So this was an effort to kind of push this forward and say, it's over. See, I'm plotting my transition. It's not about building space and transition money.
WOODRUFF: And on that point, John King, does -- how is the Clinton administration -- I'm asking you to put on your White House correspondent's hat for a moment here -- how will they deal with this request from Governor Bush for cooperation at this point?
KING: In terms of office space, they say it's not their call. It's completely up to the General Services Administration, which, as you noted, has said it will not make the space available until the courts finally decide who is the winner.
In terms of cooperation, Governor Bush's national security team can get and does get national security briefings now. The president, we're told, has made his chief of staff, John Podesta, the point person for any transition issues. Should they want help, Mr. Podesta's office says he is available.
But the Democrats, including top White House officials tonight, view this as a bit of political bait from the Republicans to try to see if President Clinton will come out and answer the question, to see if the president will come out and publicly say, oh, I won't cooperate or I won't meet with him because I support the vice president's challenge. They view this as an attempt by the Republicans to draw President Clinton into the fray. He will, of course, be asked about this if we get a chance, but the line at the White House tonight is, this will take another week or so in the courts. Let's let it play out.
WOODRUFF: John King, Candy Crowley, thank you both.
Of course, Florida's ballot certification is one more victory for Governor Bush and the Republicans.
Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter has been in Tallahassee for much of this day, and he joins us now.
Senator Specter, thank you very much for being with us so late this evening. Let me ask you about something that Senator Joe Lieberman, your colleague, said tonight in his remarks. He said, "How can we teach our children that every vote counts if we are not willing to make a good faith effort to count every vote?"
SEN. ARLEN SPECTER (R), PENNSYLVANIA: I would respond by saying there has been a good faith effort. When Senator Lieberman says there has not been a reasonable effort, I would remind him that the Supreme Court of Florida extended the time, I would remind him that when Vice President Gore came in with a special request to order Dade-Miami to have a recount that the Supreme Court said no that they had gone far enough. There was a count, there was a recount, there was a re- recount, and I think the time has come to move on.
WOODRUFF: He also said, Senator Specter, and again I'm quoting, he said, "The integrity of our self-government is too important to cast into doubt because votes that have been counted or others that have not yet been counted and clearly should be have unjustifiably been cast aside."
SPECTER: Well, that can be argued, Judy, both ways. You had a lot of controversy about the chads and about the dimples, you had a county organization taking a stand for many, many years, and that was changed and reversed. And I think that a fair statement is that the Vice President Gore had every opportunity with leniency, with an extension to come up with the votes and they just came up short.
GREENFIELD: Senator Specter, it's Jeff Greenfield in New York.
GREENFIELD: Let me share some news with you that we just learned. According to TIME.com that looked at the Palm Beach County votes, if the Palm Beach County votes -- ballots had been judged the same way as Broward County, Al Gore would have had a net gain, including those famous dimpled ballots, of 846 votes, enough to give him the state and the presidency. As a political matter, won't this give the Gore campaign more fuel to say, look, we've got to go back and look what these votes really said.
SPECTER: Well, Jeff, I don't think it does, because those tabulations are based on projections. And you had the Supreme Court of Florida extend the time and then you had the officials make a determination in Dade County that they could not complete the vote in time. And then Vice President Gore went back to the Supreme Court and asked the Supreme Court to order the Dade County officials to count the votes, and the Supreme Court refused.
And I think this was all done in a context in Florida giving a very generous interpretation for the vice president, and they simply did not have the vote under rules which were changed to benefit the vice president.
WOODRUFF: Senator Specter, it's clear from election results that the country is divided, perhaps not deeply divided but evenly divided right down the middle. We see now in state after state where it was so close in Florida, so close. What do you say to Americans who look at these two men tonight, at George W. Bush and Al Gore and the people behind them, they look ever farther apart -- even farther apart, I should say, than they did on the day of the election? What are the American people to make of this?
SPECTER: Well, I think that Governor Bush made a very good statement tonight, a statement which was conciliatory in tone. And my own sense is that there is no place really for the vice president to go. When you look at a court challenge, it's going to take time to mount a trial, to have a remedy, for a court to make some changes in these tabulations. There has to be some evidentiary base.
And my own feeling is that there's going to be a little turn in public opinion. And I think you start to see that even last week with a number of my colleagues on the Senate, on the other side of the aisle, who were saying, well, it's time to make a shift. And I believe that is going to gain some momentum. And my own sense is that this will not take too long to play out. That's just my opinion.
WOODRUFF: Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania down in Florida to observe this extraordinary process, we thank you so much for joining us.
SPECTER: Nice being with you, Judy, thank you.
WOODRUFF: Thank you.
And when we come back, we will talk with a Democratic member of the United States Congress and take a look at what may be an unprecedented and historic week, as this election goes to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Please stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, "LARRY KING LIVE")
BOB DOLE, FORMER REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Sooner or later, you have to bring closure. And I know it's very difficult. It's a lot more fun winning, as Governor Cuomo knows and certainly I know. It's a lot more fun winning.
But Al Gore is a good person. He's got a good future ahead of him. And it may be determined on how he accepts this.
MARIO CUOMO (D), FORMER GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: He's got from now until December 12. Get in that court tomorrow. Make the best argument you have. Let's bet on the law.
I'm very confident with our legal system. And frankly, I think if you give the court a chance, Al Gore is going to be the next president.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WOODRUFF: The story out of Florida tonight, Tallahassee has certified that state's election 2000 totals, but not without protest from the Democrats.
Joining us now with more, Ohio Congressman Sherrod Brown.
Congressman Brown, thank you very much for being with us.
BROWN: Thank you, Judy.
WOODRUFF: In Governor Bush's remarks tonight, he called on Vice President Gore to reconsider his contest of the outcome in Florida. In addition, we have Bob -- I'm sorry, not Bob Dole but Trent Lott, the Senate Republican leader, majority leader, calling on Vice President Gore to concede the election. How do you as Democrat respond to all this?
BROWN: I as a citizen respond to it that there are 10,700 voters and votes in Dade County, there are more than 1,000 -- there were some 1,000 votes in this building behind me that were not counted today that have not been counted at all. They weren't counted in the first count, they weren't counted in the recount. They have never been counted. It's a little bit like putting a dollar in a machine. You put the dollar in the vending machine, sometimes it comes out. It doesn't mean the dollar's defective, it means the machine didn't read it.
Some of these votes 10,000-plus in Dade County, 1,000 in Palm Beach County, were never counted by the machine. We cannot say, oh, the election's over, forget about those 11,000 or 12,000 votes.
WOODRUFF: So when your colleague in the Senate Arlen Specter says, as he said a moment ago, there has been a good faith effort already to count the ballots, the Florida Supreme Court set a time frame, that's been honored and now we move on, what do you say to that?
BROWN: Well, there hasn't been a good faith effort. First of all, Governor Bush went to the Supreme Court to try to stop the manual counting of these ballots. He had signed a law in Texas two years ago that said in fact that manual counting was more effective and more honest and more correct, if you will, and more accurate than was the machine count. States all over this country, including my state of Ohio, where I was secretary of state for eight years and conducted dozens of recounts, always agreed to by both parties where we did a manual count if they had the punch card ballot.
Clearly they're more accurate, clearly they work. We should do them in all 67 counties in Florida, as Vice President Gore suggested. Then the winner will be certain. And that's what we need to aim towards.
WOODRUFF: One other thing, Congressman Brown. We heard Governor Bush say tonight, if Vice President Gore chooses to go forward, he is filing a contest to the outcome of the election, and that is not the best route for America.
BROWN: The best route for America is in January 20th, when either Al Gore or George Bush raises his right hand and takes the oath of office that every American knows that every vote was counted to make that person the legitimate president of the United States. If 11,000-plus votes were not counted, maybe they would go to Bush. Maybe they would go to Gore. I don't know.
It doesn't -- what matters is that those 11,000 to 12,000 votes need to be counted. Americans then will be confident that whoever raises their right hand will in fact be the legitimate new president of the United States.
WOODRUFF: All right, United States Representative Sherrod Brown of Ohio, we thank you very much for joining us from South Florida. Thank you so much. It looked to me as if it were raining there. I don't if that's the case, but if so we particularly appreciate your being with us.
Coming up on CNN, the election process may have taken a crucial step toward finishing, but the legal maneuvering has just begun begin again. There are court battles scattered across Florida and at least one case headed to the United States Supreme Court.
Well have more when we return.
WOODRUFF: It took 19 days, but Florida finally certified its president election results tonight. But instead of bringing closure to election 2000, this action has polarized the parties even more.
Now, here is a look at what is transpiring. First, the certification: The Florida Elections Canvassing Commission says Bush won by 537 votes in Florida. And then came the protest: Vice presidential hopeful Joe Lieberman said he and Gore have no choice but to contest the election. Up next, the courts: Gore is challenging vote tallies in at least three counties, including Miami-Dade, where vote recounting ended abruptly on Wednesday. And Governor Bush is contesting results in several counties. But the big day for legal wrestling is Friday, when the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments over the legality of hand counting.
Now we want to move on to some analysis of all this, and you might call it a legal chess game, and joining me to do just that, we turn to our senior political analyst Bill Schneider and legal analyst Roger Cossack.
Roger, you know what the folks in Florida did today, the secretary of state and her colleagues on the canvassing commission said it's over, George Bush won. That being the case, is the case before the U.S. Supreme Court even -- is it moot, I guess is my question?
ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, you know, it may very well be, because what the Supreme Court was going to decide was whether or not the post -- whether or not what the Florida Supreme Court did in ordering the secretary of state not to certify the ballots on the 14th of November, what it -- what that did was make them argue -- make that argument.
But in fact what's happened now, it doesn't really matter, because if they go back and say that the secretary of state should have done it, it doesn't change the result of the election, you know, George Bush now has been certified as the winner. So whether the Supreme Court tells them to go back and recount, or whether they just go back and say the count as of tonight, it's still George Bush.
What really is important is whether or not Gore files the contest, which he says he was, and that's what's really going to be the next big legal battle.
WOODRUFF: Bill, at the very least, a strange turn of events?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It is strange.
And I really have a question for Roger, because I don't understand: Does the Supreme Court -- the U.S. Supreme Court is supposed to decide whether a recount is valid under the orders of the Florida Supreme Court -- does that have any relationship to the contests in the three counties being brought by the Al Gore campaign?
COSSACK: I knew you'd ask a tough question.
SCHNEIDER: I don't know.
COSSACK: OK, let me tell you how this -- at least what I think should happen.
COSSACK: What's going to happen now is that -- as we talked about, is that Vice President Gore will file a contest of those three counties that haven't been -- and what he is going to say is, under the statute, the contest is either illegal votes that were counted, or legal votes that were not counted.
So what they're going to argue is there are legal votes out there that were not counted, because Miami-Dade didn't count and Palm Beach and things like that. So the Florida Supreme Court, which has clearly indicated they would like to have all the votes counted, could go back sometime perhaps, listen to Vice President Gore and say, you know what? You are right, all of those votes should be counted. Then the Supreme Court becomes relevant again. Then the Supreme Court can come in and say, well, you know, now it's time for us to talk it over.
SCHNEIDER: So it could be a pre-emptive strike in the U.S. Supreme Court.
But I do know one thing, politically, the Gore campaign is arguing, hey, we're not the only ones who are extending this thing, the Bush campaign has kept the clock running, because they're the people who are bringing the case before the U.S. Supreme Court, so therefore they've reset the clock, not us.
GREENFIELD: Hey, Roger.
WOODRUFF: Go ahead.
GREENFIELD: Excuse me, it's Jeff Greenfield in New York.
Very quickly, I know what the law says, as you've told us, but surely -- or maybe surely not -- I would think that the courts in Florida must be acutely aware that this contest involves something that's never happened before in American history, it's not a county assayer, or a local official, but the president of the United States.
Doesn't that suggest a much tougher test for the Gore campaign to meet than an ordinary contest in Florida?
Well, Jeff, that's true, and let me say that the standard of a contest is a much higher standard -- the first thing they have to do is convince the judge that if they're right it would change the election. I mean, they have to be able to show the judge that there's enough damage there that even if they are correct, that things would happen.
But you are right, it's a higher standard. But, Jeff, look, as a lawyer you know that the one thing the Florida Supreme Court stood for in that decision was, we want the votes counted. I mean, that was unanimous in their opinion, and from day one they kept saying, whatever we're talking about, keep the votes counted, continue keeping votes. So it's not without reason that under a contest they could come up with a decision that says, you know what? We want all the votes counted.
SCHNEIDER: In three counties that were challenged originally by Al Gore -- and he is still challenging three counties, now it's Miami- Dade, Palm Beach, Nassau County, because of the way they counted the ballots, but you know, it's going to be awfully tough to make the argument that those three counties should be contested and then nothing else should be contested -- that's odd.
WOODRUFF: But I still come back to the question, though, about the certification taking place tonight by the secretary of state, when we still have five days to go at least, and longer actually, before we know whether the Supreme Court of the United States upholds this very hand recounting for which the certification was delayed.
COSSACK: But you see, you had the Florida Supreme Court saying to the secretary of state, saying, either you count them tonight, either you certify them tonight, or you certify them tomorrow morning depending on whether your office is open. That was the rules that she had to work under, that was what the Florida Supreme Court told her to do, and she had no option: either do it tonight or tomorrow night.
SCHNEIDER: And that was determined by the electoral vote calendar, by the need to have any contests resolved before December 12, when the electoral vote must be finally certified.
WOODRUFF: But the fact is we could have -- depending on what the U.S. Supreme Court does -- and we have no idea what that will be -- depending on what they do, this whole thing could be -- it could be either ratified or it could be undone in some form or fashion.
COSSACK: You know, there is really not much the Supreme Court can do, even if they uphold the Florida Supreme Court -- well, then, that's what happened. The Florida Supreme Court...
WOODRUFF: But if they don't?
COSSACK: If they don't, it almost doesn't matter. Then they go back and say, OK, Katherine Harris, you should have certified the vote as of November 14, Governor Bush still wins.
SCHNEIDER: Seems to me the consequence is, does Governor Bush win by 300 votes, as she said originally on the 14th, or does he win by 537, which is the count as of the Supreme Court's deadline tonight.
COSSACK: Yes. But what's interesting is that under either scenario that I have given you, Vice President Gore goes ahead and files a contest and says, you know what? Those three counties should have counted the votes and I didn't get it because of that.
WOODRUFF: And once again, in those circuit courts that Jeff Greenfield was asking you about, you expect that these -- this judge, or judges, is going to treat this in a highly expedited, special fashion?
SCHNEIDER: Well, he certainly had better, because in 16 days the electoral vote has to be registered. I mean, December 12 is the absolute deadline, so all the recounting and new counting that Gore wants has to be completed within the next 16 days. COSSACK: Which means it has to get through the circuit court and to the Florida Supreme Court, because you know there will be an appeal either way.
WOODRUFF: And just a question, Roger, about the Gore proceedings: Are we looking at one courtroom in the state of Florida, or a number? Is one court in Leon County, where Tallahassee is, going to be dealing with all this?
There is a -- in the statute that says when there is various counties, when there is diverse counties, it all goes to the county, Leon County, which is where Tallahassee is, so all of the -- whatever the protests are -- the contests are I should say now -- of those three counties will go to the Leon County Circuit Court and then presumably to the Florida Supreme Court.
SCHNEIDER: And there is one challenge that isn't even coming from Gore, and that's from voters in Seminole County who argue that Republican Party officials tampered with absentee ballots by filling in vital information. The county then counted those ballots and I believe there were several thousand of them, most of them went for George Bush, and that suit is not being brought by Al Gore, it's being brought by a voter in that county.
COSSACK: And let us never forget the dreaded butterfly ballots of Palm Beach, you know, that's still out there. There is a constitutional question that those people are saying that, we were denied our right to vote.
WOODRUFF: And that still is unresolved.
COSSACK: That's still floating around like a butterfly.
WOODRUFF: All right, well, we are not floating around like butterflies.
Roger Cossack, Bill Schneider, thank you both, we appreciate it.
Jeff Greenfield in New York.
GREENFIELD: Thank you.
And, Judy, please tell Roger it's a matter of some pride to me that I am not a lawyer.
Anyway, did tonight's decision tilt the political playing field? When come back, we will ask two of Washington's least inhibited journalists.
Stay with us.
GREENFIELD: And joining me now from Washington, from "The New Republic" and from his own Web site, senior editor of "The New Republic," Andrew Sullivan; and in West Palm Beach tonight, Jake Tapper, the Washington correspondent for Salon.com.
Andrew Sullivan, I was struck in Governor Bush's, I guess victory statement by the notion that he wants Secretary Cheney to consult with the Clinton administration to get a transition office.
Was this a bold exercise of presidentiality, or are people going to see this as a little bit of arrogance, what do you think?
ANDREW SULLIVAN, "NEW REPUBLIC": I think I would love to be there for that conversation between Cheney and all those guys in the Clinton White House. I thought he did an OK job. I thought he looked a little lost there, frankly, not that presidential. But I think the bitterness here is so great and the Democrats certainly are still on tender hooks that, that kind of cooperation is not going to be coming, I'm afraid.
GREENFIELD: And yet, Jake Tapper, it does seem that the certification, however much it has to await court battles, I would hypothesize it does tilt the playing field a little bit, it gives Governor Bush at least some credibility to say, yes, I'm the president-elect and I'm now going to be in a transition.
What's your sense of that?
JAKE TAPPER, SALON.COM: I agree with you completely, it gives him the edge both in the court of public opinion, as well as the court of law. It's now up to Gore -- in contesting the election, the burden is on him to prove that something went wrong. You know, I spoke to a Gore attorney earlier tonight and they are actually -- this is the mind set of the Gore team -- he said to me, we won, that's what the Gore team said, and he did the math, 192 votes uncounted from Palm Beach, 157 from Miami-Dade, 51 from Nassau County that were taken away from him. That's 400 right there, they just have 137 to go, and they are going to go try to get them.
GREENFIELD: But, however much that math works, what does tonight's event -- what do tonight's events impose on Al Gore as he speaks to the country tomorrow, do you think, Jake?
TAPPER: Well, I think that -- I mean, he has got to explain to the rest of the country why they need to put up with this any longer, and there certainly is a case to be made that, look, it's enough. And the Bush people have been saying, you know, from day one, look, we won the count, we won the recount, we won the re-recount, et cetera.
Obviously, there are all sorts of other roadblocks that were put up by Secretary of State Katherine Harris and others, but the fundamental point is that now the burden is really on Gore to justify anything more so he doesn't look like -- I mean, he already looks like a sore loser to a lot of people, now to the rest of the country that's getting impatient it's a question of, you know, come on, I mean, enough is enough at some point, and there is going to be a lot of pressure on him. GREENFIELD: Andrew Sullivan, I mentioned a few moments ago that Time.com was reporting that in Palm Beach -- forget Miami-Dade -- if they had counted the so-called "dimpled ballots" the way Broward had, and if Katherine Harris had accepted them, that alone would have given Gore about a 300-vote margin in Florida.
As a political matter, is that going to have any difference in the coming day's debates?
I mean, I think the point is that with an election this close there is so many ifs and buts, you know, if it had happened, if that had happened, anything could have turned this result around. But they have had three counts, the last count was an extended deadline, which Gore wanted, a big victory for him -- if he hasn't done it on these terms, how is he going to do it? That's what people are going to ask.
I mean, I think -- I spoke to somebody very close to Gore this evening and I think the best way to describe them is denial, they really have convinced themselves that they've won this big victory and that somehow these results are just technicalities and eventually they are going to win. I don't think anybody is telling them right now it's over, you've lost three counts, contesting an election is another thing all together than trying to get all the votes in. But I'm afraid that denial has really set in with Gore and he's sheltered enough not to realize that that's what's going on.
GREENFIELD: Jake, is that what's going on? And do you expect in the next day or two there are Democrats who are going to be making phone calls to Bill Daley and company saying, you know, you -- somebody has to tell the big fellow that the fat lady is really singing, or not?
TAPPER: Yes -- I mean, those calls I'm sure have been made, or are being made tonight, and will be made, but they -- look, I mean, the Gore team, for better or for worse, think that they have a legal case to be made, not even including the butterfly ballots, you know, which is however many thousands of votes for Gore -- they think, look, Al Gore won Florida, more people went to the voting booths and -- to vote for Al Gore than voted for George W. Bush, and if you get into technicalities of 846 dimpled chads right here, as you were talking about that Time.com talked about, then these are actual votes for Al Gore. And though he doesn't mention it anymore, but the truth of the matter is, he...
SULLIVAN: Hey, Jake...
SULLIVAN: I think these dimples have really, you know, come undimpled in a way. I mean, I think that when you look at what the "Chicago Tribune" or "Washington Post" have reported, the -- these dimpled chads are hardly counted anywhere else in the country, they'd hardly pass muster for most people in this country as a real vote. I think that when you are resting your contest on dimples, I think people are beginning to just say, look, enough is enough. He fought a good campaign -- well, he fought a terrible campaign -- but he fought a hard campaign and it's time now for him to just say, hey, I lost.
GREENFIELD: Gentlemen, I'm sorry, but I would ask you to both put your dimpled smiles away, because time is up.
SULLIVAN: Two votes right here, Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Yes, thank you very much.
We'll see you probably slogging on through Groundhog Day.
Judy, back to you.
WOODRUFF: Jeff, don't you have a dimple yourself?
GREENFIELD: No comment.
WOODRUFF: We'll see.
Just ahead on this CNN special report, a recap of the latest developments in the race for the White House. We'll be right back.
WOODRUFF: Now for a quick recap of the day's developments in Florida. Secretary of State Katherine Harris certified Governor George W. Bush as the winner of Florida's presidential election. This by a margin of 537 out of almost 6 million votes cast. Harris refused to accept partial numbers from Palm Beach County, where canvassers turned over incomplete results to meet the 5:00 p.m. deadline, costing Vice President Gore an additional 180 votes. They finished counting a little over two hours later.
GREENFIELD: Well, Judy, we've had machine counts, hand counts, certification, contests, and a U.S. Supreme Court hearing in the wings, but we still don't have with finality is a new president and nowhere is that fact more obvious than in your hometown of Washington, D.C., where everyone from cabinet wanna-bes to dinner party divas are in states of suspended animation.
BETH NEUBERGER (ph), GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION: Approximately 90,000 square feet of office space, 540 work stations, about 300 computers.
GREENFIELD (voice-over): Beth Neuberger of the General Services Administration is at the transition office for the new president. This is where Washington hunkered down for the Y2K crisis that never happened. Now they are all ready for something else that hasn't happened yet, figuring out who the new president is.
NEUBERGER: Actually, it gives us more time to get ready for whoever comes in, and I think in the long run that will help the transition, it will be very smooth. GREENFIELD: That is very much a minority viewpoint in Washington.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not taking questions.
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GREENFIELD: A city with unhappy memories of the last transition, one that badly damaged the new president's first term.
MICHAEL WALDMAN, FORMER CLINTON SPEECHWRITER: It really didn't go very well.
GREENFIELD: Michael Waldman was special assistant and speechwriter for Bill Clinton. He is the author of a new book "Podus Speaks."
WALDMAN: I really think of all the missed opportunities in the Clinton presidency, in some ways the transition was not only the first, but the worst.
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WILLIAM J. CLINTON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A cabinet of talented, diverse, and seasoned leaders.
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WALDMAN: He focused too much on picking a cabinet, not enough on picking the White House staff.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The duties of the office on which I'm about to enter.
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WALDMAN: He talked too much.
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B. CLINTON: There are some things that can be done with the income tax code.
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WALDMAN: And made too much noise during the transition.
GREENFIELD: By contrast, Ronald Reagan's transition after the 1980 election is generally regarded as one of the most effective, partly because he was elected with a clear mandate, partly because he had a clear political strategy.
Former White House Chief of Staff Ken Duberstein, now a prominent member of Washington's permanent government.
KEN DUBERSTEIN, FMR. WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Reagan said from day one in the transition, if I'm going to win, I need to cultivate both sides on Capitol Hill. We went about visiting every single congressman, Republican and Democrat alike, and saying, we are the new people in the White House, here is our phone number and we want to start working closely with you.
GREENFIELD: This time, says Duberstein, the uncertainty and the post-election bitterness will make that kind of transition much harder to accomplish.
DUBERSTEIN: I do think that there is going to be a very brief honeymoon for whomever is elected. The problem is the honeymoon may be the equivalent of a honeymoon for a second marriage.
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I made a mistake...
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GREENFIELD: And just think about what might happen when the new president sends his nominees up to the Senate.
WALDMAN: Confirmations are going to be tough. If either of these guys put forward anybody who wasn't absolutely mainstream, there is going to be a fight.
GREENFIELD: "Time" magazine's Eric Pooley says that's only one problem.
ERIC POOLEY, "TIME" MAGAZINE: Every transition period is a sprint from Election Day to inaugural day.
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JOHN F. KENNEDY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: All this will not be finished in the first 100 days.
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POOLEY: You have to remember just about two weeks after the inauguration...
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President of the United States.
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POOLEY: ... the president has to send his first budget to the Hill.
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B. CLINTON: I call on Congress to enact an immediate package.
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POOLEY: There is no time in that two-week period to get everything done, you have to start now.
GREENFIELD: But start where and with whom? Right now, there are hundreds, thousands of men and women who literally do not know whether to start flinging resumes and polishing apples.
DUBERSTEIN: It's the equivalent of hitting the pause button on a VCR and knowing that any day they're going to have to go to fast forward. They don't know who to deal with now, who to be nice to and who not to be nice to.
WALDMAN: People thought about 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning after election night, they might know what they were going to do for the next four or eight years of their life, and instead, they know less than they did six months ago.
GREENFIELD: Now, we can chuckle at the dilemma of a Washington hostess who does not yet know whose posterior to kiss, we can shrug off the vocational dilemma of a Washington careerist, but a president who will take office without a clear mandate and without the time to shape a new administration, that may be no laughing matter.
And finally, if Florida's officials have their way, George W. Bush will win the state and the White House by 537 votes, or roughly, one-half of 1/1000th of 1 percent of the total national vote. Now, in a different universe, we might call the whole thing a tie and run a national do-over, as we used to do when we played stickball in New York; or since nobody got 50 percent of the total popular vote, maybe there would be a runoff, the way they do it in many other countries, and in Georgia and some other states. Maybe the Florida legislature should say, look, it was a tie in our state, we'll divvy the electors up evenly.
But those weren't the rules the candidates played by, and besides, the Republican legislature probably would not want to make Al Gore president, so we'll muddle on. And between the Seminole County court, the Leon County court, the Florida Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Florida legislature, 538 electors, and the Congress of the United States, it will almost certainly be sorted out by Christmas, or New Year's, or Groundhog Day.
And, Judy, we have to stop meeting like this.
WOODRUFF: Or Valentine's Day, and you left out Easter.
Go ahead, Jeff.
GREENFIELD: Well, we may still be there, Judy.
WOODRUFF: All right, Jeff, you are supposed to say something now.
GREENFIELD: I think I'm supposed to say good night for all of us here at CNN -- Judy.
WOODRUFF: Good night, Jeff.
And I'm Judy Woodruff in Washington.
"THE SPIN ROOM" is coming up next.
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