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Congressman J.C. Watts Speaks Out in Support of Governor Bush

Aired November 27, 2000 - 2:44 p.m. ET

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

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, we want to hear from CNN's Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno. He has been talking with public officials about all of the legal wrangling that is going on -- Frank.

FRANK SESNO, CNN ANCHOR: An acute sense of the clock, Natalie, on both sides of the aisle here in Washington -- more impatience than anything else among Republicans and a sense that this plea for patience from Al Gore today and this evening among the Democrats is critical.

Joining us now: J.C. Watts, congressman from Oklahoma, joining us from Norman, Oklahoma -- and also a Republican conference chairman.

Thanks very much for a few minutes of your time.

REP. J.C. WATTS (R), OKLAHOMA: My pleasure, Frank.

SESNO: All right, let's start by -- I want to by asking you the key contention of Democrats today is -- and I am going to quote Dick Gephardt here -- that there are thousands of votes not counted or counted and ignored. And at this late date, with this narrow a margin, even now, they should have not be overlooked. Has he got a point?

WATTS: Well, Frank, this will not be the first time that ballots have been thrown out. I think in the 1996 elections, there was about 150,000 ballots that were not counted. The ballots that I think Mr. Gephardt is referring to, those ballots were counted in the machine count the first time, the second time. The machine spits them out because they're incomplete or they don't make any sense.

Then they went to the hand count. And they hand counted those things a third time. And each of those times -- the first time with the machine, the second time with the machine, the third time with the hand count -- Governor Bush has won.

(CROSSTALK)

SESNO: If I may, many of the votes they're talking about -- many of the ballots they're talking about -- 10,000 or so in Miami-Dade County -- have actually not been counted by hand. And if they were, it was suspended when Miami-Dade suspended its count. The question to you is

(CROSSTALK)

WATTS: But, Frank, I think it's important to note that Miami- Dade, the governor board there, they chose not to proceed with the hand count based on what the Florida Supreme Court ruled about a week ago. So they were following -- or there were still rules in place to govern that based on what the Supreme Court of Florida said.

SESNO: They chose not to proceed based on the Supreme Court, because they wouldn't have the time to complete the recount. The question I have for you then is this.

WATTS: But that was their decision.

SESNO: Does this place you and your party in the difficult position of defending uncounted or undercounted ballots?

WATTS: No it doesn't. You know, we have said -- Governor Bush has said -- we have said all along that we feel like the military ballots -- there were military ballots thrown out that we felt like they should have been counted. It's just not, you know, ballots that were counted that Mr. Gore think were -- that they might have been favorable to him. There are other ballots thrown out as well -- or not counted.

Again, I think this is making a mountain out of a mole hill. Based on the rules that is in place, there has been three different counts. Governor Bush has won on all three counts. And I think it's time for us to move on.

SESNO: So long as Democratic support holds -- as it appears to be holding for the moment -- behind Al Gore, and so long as the courts are considering elements of this, is it not basically a fact that this thing cannot be called, and you and the rest of us just have to live with it?

WATTS: Well, I've heard some of the Democrats say today that, you know, America is a nation of laws. They recite the rule of law. Well, based on the laws that are in place, based on the laws that the governing officials in state of Florida that they have to govern this election, they have done their job.

They have done what was required of them by the Constitution, by the Florida -- by Florida law. I don't -- I think what we see, Frank, this is not about the law. This is about trying to continue to manipulate to try and get enough votes that Mr. Gore will be the winner. And, again, I just don't see how he continues to try to drag this thing on, or why he wants to drag it on, considering the different counts that we've had over the last three weeks.

SESNO: Congressman, when do you think that this is going to be resolved?

WATTS: Well, Frank, don't make any Thanksgiving plans for next year.

(LAUGHTER) WATTS: I hope pretty quickly. I think the American people's tolerance level, I think, is going to start wear pretty thin. I think it's -- this whole process is probably wearing on the last nerve of the American people. I hope that the vice president will do what's good for the country, and you know, say that this thing is over. It has been won fairly. The election has been certified in Florida. And hopefully, we can move on.

SESNO: Congressman J.C. Watts, thanks very much.

WATTS: Thank you.

SESNO: Appreciate your time.

And so, Natalie and Lou, that is just a sampling of what we're hearing here in Washington: that, of course, from the Republican side of the aisle. And we are hearing that comment and that general tone pretty much uniformly from the Republicans here in town -- and from the Democrats just as uniformly the case that has been made today by Dick Gephardt, Tom Daschle in that rather extraordinary and very public conference call with Al Gore and Joe Lieberman that this thing is not over yet, that patience is in order, and that there are these votes that are either uncounted, undercounted or may be even miscounted. So on and on it goes.

ALLEN: All right, Frank.

And we also learned from Dick Gephardt earlier today that you might even have an academic come in and count all those ballots once everything is over.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And the Democratic argument, of course, is: We should know the results now rather than later.

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