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The Spin Room: Trucking to Tallahassee

Aired November 30, 2000 - 11:00 p.m. ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: Trucking to Tallahassee. The ballots are coming. The ballots are coming.

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Right down the highway by Ryder truck. Don't count them again, or the Florida legislature will revolt.

ANNOUNCER: From CNN Washington and all over the United States, THE SPIN ROOM is open.

PRESS: Good evening, everybody, this very special Thursday night edition of THE SPIN ROOM. Welcome. I'm Bill Press.

CARLSON: I'm Tucker Carlson.

It's been a huge news day, or a mobile news day. We know you have a lot to say. Think of us as your very own Ryder truck. Load us up with your comments. You can call us toll free at 1-800-310-4CNN. You can, as always, join our live -- it never stops -- online chat at Or you can send us an e-mail. Our address is

PRESS: That's right. But this Ryder truck won't blow up.

Glad to have you with us, folks. I mean, how many TV shows ask you to jump in, to join in? Well, we do every night by phone, by e- mail, in our chat room.

We've only got a half an hour. We want to get your nominations for "Spin of the Day." So get busy. And we'll put the best comments, of course, right up on the screen for everybody to read them.

Tucker, what a day.

CARLSON: Unbelievable.

PRESS: I mean, the Florida State Police had a field day today escorting this Ryder truck up the interstate.

CARLSON: I'm amazed it got there. I mean, all the way to Tallahassee with those helicopters. It was quite a feat.

PRESS: I really did expect the Bush campaign to hijack it and take it to Crawford, Texas.

(CROSSTALK) PRESS: Hide it in a barn or something.

CARLSON: That would have been fantastic.

PRESS: Watching that true go up the freeway. Did it remind you of anything today?

CARLSON: You know, it did, Bill. It was five years ago -- as we say, it was an impeachment ago. It reminded me of something we saw -- that's how we keep time, Bill. It reminded us of something we saw some time ago.

PRESS: Oh, there it is.

CARLSON: There it is. I think A.C. Cowlings (ph) is at the wheel of both of them. You know, Bill, only one had "rent me" across the front. And for me, that was the metaphor of this entire story. "Rent me."

PRESS: Rent a vote. And did you notice today that, of course, O.J., he was also aware of the significance of this freeway chase today, which was so reminiscent of his own freeway chase. And O.J. spoke out today for the first time about this crisis.

CARLSON: What did he say?


CARLSON: Deep thoughts from O.J.

PRESS: Deep thoughts from O.J. Are you ready? He said, quote, "This is boring," unquote.

CARLSON: If you're O.J. Simpson, if you've done the things O.J. has done, I think this is probably boring by comparison. But I found it exciting.

I woke up this morning and turned it on. There it was.

PRESS: This is sort of -- there he is in the monitor. You know, I think this whole period reminds me, this is sort of like O.J. without the blood or Monica without the sex. It's just pure...

CARLSON: There was no blood or sex. And I have to say, this is one of those stories that was almost postmodern because it was being mocked by the networks even as they were paying for the coverage of it from the air.

PRESS: Now there may not be any sex. But I bet you there will be blood when the Florida legislature gets down to deciding whether or not they're going to go ahead and have a special session and appoint a special set of electors that they want to get together and vote on December 18.

They start hassling today, Tucker. And we were there.

CARLSON: What did they say, Bill?

PRESS: Well, they were both sides of the aisle, of course and on both sides of the question. We were there with our SPIN ROOM cameras. And here's just a little snip-it of a couple of Democrats and a couple of Republicans, what we could expect from the Florida legislature. Here we go.


STATE SEN. TOM ROSSIN (D-FL): One of the citizens who came to testify before this committee said we'd be no better than bank robbers with guns if we steal the votes of six million Floridians. And there is no honor among thieves.



STATE REP. DUDLEY GOODLETTE (R-FL): What I would suggest to you is not at all about stealing votes. This is about I think ensuring that the votes that have been validly cast are counted.



STATE REP. JOHNNIE BYRD (R-FL): Somebody has to step in and make this final. Somebody has to have a solution. The people of the United States of America, the people of Florida, are yearning for someone to bring finality to this.



STATE SEN. BETTY HOLZENDORF (D-FL): I think we ought to have a special session, but certainly not to elect electors. We should be trying to make sure that this never happens again in the state of Florida.


CARLSON: You know, Bill, the Republicans used to talk a lot about devolving power back to the states, concentrating power in local communities. I have to say when I watch this, I start to rethink that idea. I'm kind of happy with our Congress up here in Washington inside the Beltway.

PRESS: What gets me is that if you heard these comments, this hasn't even started yet.

CARLSON: No, it really hasn't.

PRESS: I mean, this is just the preliminary to what we're going to see down in Tallahassee.

CARLSON: You know, but I'm so glad it is starting.


PRESS: God knows where it's going. Tucker, we're already a month into it. It's not just starting.

CARLSON: I know, Bill, but I personally am having a great time. My selfish instinct. And so is every reporter in Florida.

PRESS: Riding the wave, yes.

CARLSON: I suspect, and that's why we invited one here tonight. Well, Linda Kleindienst is the Tallahassee bureau chief at the "South Florida Sun-Sentinel." She's been with the paper since 1981. And she covers the Florida legislature.

Thank you for -- I'm sure you've been crashing at stories all day. Thank you for joining us.


PRESS: Hi, Linda.

KLEINDIENST: Thank you for having me. Hi. How are you doing?

PRESS: Great to have you here. Good.



CARLSON: So I guess the question, this is a little off topic. But it's been bothering me for about the past 12 days. How many lawsuits are there floating around Florida right now? Does anybody keep tally on them? Do you?

KLEINDIENST: Well, actually we heard from one of Governor Bush's attorneys today that there are currently 42 lawsuits flying around the state. I'm not sure where they're all located. But that's a pretty big number.

PRESS: Linda, you've been covering this legislature for 19 years, for which you have our deepest sympathy and admiration.


PRESS: What can you tell us about this gang of people in the Florida legislature? I mean, what are they like? Do they get along? Are they up to this task?

KLEINDIENST: Well, let me tell you, what you saw today in that committee meeting was just a tame example of what we're going to see next week if these folks really do go into a special session, which I'm pretty sure that they will. I mean, we reporters are already starting to take bets on how many gallons of blood are going to be spilled, especially in the House of Representatives.

CARLSON: But I mean, can the Democrats do anything about it? I mean, they seem so outnumbered. What in the end can they do aside from make noise?

KLEINDIENST: Well, not that much really. They have enough members to be able to pull a few procedural moves to stall the action. But in the end, the Republican majority will just roll over them.

I think what they can do is use it as a platform, a public relations platform, for the vice president, try to make a point, try to make speeches on the floor. Who knows? They might even walk out before the vote comes out for the electors.

CARLSON: So how long will it take for them to get steamrolled, crushed, ground under the heel of the Republicans?

KLEINDIENST: Well, probably at least a couple of days.


PRESS: Linda, it sounds to me like the fix is in, like you're telling us that we know the legislature is going to do this. And we know that Jeb Bush is going to sign the bill. So we're just going through the motions, right?

KLEINDIENST: Right. I mean, that's exactly what you're doing. We know what the outcome is going to be. If they do come into special session and if they do take up a bill with their own set of electors, they will definitely vote it out. So -- and Governor Bush said yesterday that he would sign it.

PRESS: Now didn't I read somewhere there are 63 new House members this year? I mean, so like they...


PRESS: ... go ahead.

KLEINDIENST: ... I'm sorry. Yeah, we have term limits in Florida. And this is the first year where it kicked in. So we have a lot of freshmen coming in.

And I think there's a possibility as a matter of fact that you could see some freshmen Democrats, conservatives perhaps, from the panhandle area go ahead and vote along with the Republicans because they want to make peace with the Republicans. They want to do well in the next two years.

CARLSON: So there's really no chance that a sizable group of Republicans will bolt in the end you don't think? I mean, they are united behind this?

KLEINDIENST: Oh, absolutely. I don't think you'll see anybody defecting. CARLSON: Now what has Jeb Bush's role been in this? I know he came out today. But has he been active behind the scenes per se the week before?

KLEINDIENST: He has tried to maintain a pretty low profile throughout all this. He's gone about being governor, going to cabinet meetings, flying around the state making speeches, having appointments in his office.

In fact, he's had a lot of meetings with our new freshmen legislators. But I think behind the scenes, I'm sure he has been active. I'm sure he has been talking to his brother, possibly giving him advice on what to do. And I think Austin has been in contact with the Florida legislature.

PRESS: I mean, let's be honest here. Jeb Bush is calling the shots, right? I mean, we've seen stories he's met with Senator McKay (ph), the Senate leader. And they've talked about the legislation they're going to pass. Jeb has told him privately he'd sign it.

I mean, he may be behind the scenes. But he's calling the shots behind the scenes.

CARLSON: Kind of the puppet master is Bill's question.

PRESS: Yeah, right. I mean, aren't they just basically doing what the governor wants?

KLEINDIENST: Well, I mean, that's possible. But let's remember, they're all Republican leaders. They fought hard to win Florida. They finally got control of the Florida legislature in 1996. And in 1998, they managed to elect a Republican governor. So they want to enjoy the power that they've got now.

PRESS: That's the spirit. We've got power, we're going to use it.

CARLSON: Thank heaven.


PRESS: Hey, Linda, lots more questions for you. So hang around there.

We want to come back. We haven't begun to get to the bottom of what's happening in Tallahassee.

CARLSON: We're getting close though.

PRESS: We'll come back. And this will give you a chance to get your nominations in for "Spin of the Day" by phone. It is a free call, Tucker. We told you that before.

CARLSON: It costs no money at all.

PRESS: Toll free, no money, 1-800-310-4CNN. Or you can join our chat room. It's ongoing all the time, is the address. Or send us your e-mail nominations for "Spin of the Day." That's what we're looking for. Our address is We'll be right back.



CARLSON: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM, or as Bill Press has taken to calling it, THE SPIN ROOM. I'm Tucker Carlson here with the apparently multilingual Bill Press. We're talking about legislatures and courts, and, needless to say, Ryder trucks.

We want your phone calls and your e-mails and your chat comments. So please send them to us.

PRESS: And e-mail galore is what we have. Here's a great one. This, from Mark in Bolinas, California. "Since the popular vote went to Gore, to keep the majority from getting sore, at the coronation, allow one small breach. In Bush's teleprompter, put Al Gore's speech."

CARLSON: That would rattle him.

PRESS: That was written by Ogden Nash.

CARLSON: It could have been if he hadn't been dead for 32 years. But it's an excellent point.

This is from S. Long in Dallas, Texas. "These ballots have now been machine counted at least twice, sorted, handled, shuffled, held up to the light, stacked, re-stacked, placed in envelopes, moved, packed, and now trucked in bulk to Tallahassee in rented trucks. Any found vote for Gore in this cesspool of contamination would be suspect."

It's nice to be reminded that these are not virgin ballots.

PRESS: It sounds like President Bush, sore loser. That's what I would call that guy.

All right, this one unsigned, but it is from our Canadian friends.


PRESS: You know, Tucker, if this show doesn't make it in the U.S., we could always take it to Canada.

CARLSON: Syndication in Canada, we've got a lot of friends north of the border.

PRESS: The "Toronto Globe" had a great cartoon the other day. Two crocodiles were watching busloads of lawyers pouring into Florida. Said one crocodile to the other, "There goes the neighborhood."

CARLSON: Those Canadians, a sense of humor up there. This is from Tim Meisler (ph) of Gaffney, South Carolina. He says: "If the Democrats wanted Gore to be president, they should have voted for impeachment."

You know, Tim Meisler, I made that very same case to them two years ago. But they didn't listen. And look what they got.

PRESS: Should have had -- they had their chance. Now we have a phone call from Jim all the way in Hawaii, as far as you can go west in the United States.

CARLSON: Good morning, Jim. Is it morning there?

CALLER: No, it's afternoon. Bill, Tucker, I own the Jim Rose Circus. And I've never seen a freak show like this.

When George Bush, Sr.'s Supreme Court...

PRESS: Are you talking about this show?

CALLER: ... Huh?

PRESS: Go ahead.

CARLSON: Are you really Jim Rose from the Jim Rose Circus?

CALLER: Yes, but I'm outraged.

CARLSON: Oh, well, that's amazing. I mean, you eat fire. So if this bothers you, it's a pretty high threshold there.

CALLER: Listen, if the Jim Rose Circus, if it's crossing that line, then you know there's a problem. And it goes from George Bush, Sr.'s Supreme Court to Jeb's legislature. I'm telling you, it's too incestuous. If those 10,000-plus votes are not looked at by a real human, this election will always be tainted as a Bush planned shanghai.


PRESS: All right, Jim. I'm telling you, the populace is getting outraged.

CARLSON: That from a man who swallows swords. You know, Jim Rose is a verified cult figure in some circles, tattoo circles.

PRESS: Not in one of mine. Not in mine, but maybe my circles are just not big enough.

My circles are big enough, however, to include a great reporter down in Tallahassee by the name of Linda Kleindienst. She continues with us. She's been following that scene for 19 years now.

Linda, I -- just one more question about the legislature, which is this. They seem to believe that they're supreme. They seem to believe that they have the last word. Did it ever occur to any of them that if they do this that a court could say, "Hey, guys, you acted unconstitutionally."?

KLEINDIENST: Oh, I think they realize that there is that possibility. But they've had their own experts tell them that the constitution gives them the right to do what they're doing.

And one expert even told them today, "Hey, listen, you didn't even have to hold an election in the state of Florida. The legislature could have picked the electors on its own."

So they feel absolutely firm and right. And they're just going to move ahead.

PRESS: Cocky may be the word.

CARLSON: Cocky. Well, speaking of renegade courts, Linda, the Republicans are very concerned. Some of them are very, very concerned about this Judge Nikki Clark in Seminole County. The buzz is that she could just overturn the whole business and hand it over to Gore. Do you think that's true?

KLEINDIENST: Well, I think -- frankly, I think that's a sleeper lawsuit here because that's involving 15,000 ballots. And if those ballots get thrown out, Al Gore is the winner absolutely, no questions asked.

And the Republicans have tried to get her to recuse herself from the case because only a month ago Governor Jeb Bush passed her over for an appointment to the appellate court.

CARLSON: A judge scorned. But do you think it's possible that she could throw them out? I mean, is that considered a legally plausible thing to do?

KLEINDIENST: Oh, I think it is. I mean, those ballots were taken. They were worked on by Republican Party workers. A lot of people are taking a look at that case.

As a matter of fact, there's going to be another case filed, lawsuit filed, tomorrow out of Martin County where the same thing happened. But in that case, the Republican workers actually took the ballots home to put numbers on them.

PRESS: Just what we need...

CARLSON: That was nice.

PRESS: ... another lawsuit. Now, Linda, I want to ask you about the House Speaker Tom Feeney (ph) because, first of all, I read today that he once suggested Florida should secede from the union if the national debt got above $6 billion. And there's this picture that's been running in all the papers. This is the one from the "Daily News" in New York today where he's being dragged away from the microphone by one of his aides so that he couldn't answer any questions.

I mean, what is with this guy? I mean...

CARLSON: I think helped, assisted, is a better word.

PRESS: ... She's dragging him away from the microphone. I mean, can't he be trusted to answer reporters' questions?

KLEINDIENST: I think Tom has been pretty good about that. Tom has always been a spitfire in the legislature. He's a smart guy. He's very strong in his beliefs. And maybe they just don't want to go too overboard with this.

I mean, he's very supportive of both Governors Bush. Governor Jeb Bush, he was Jeb's running mate back in 1994, the first time Jeb ran for governor.

CARLSON: Linda Kleindienst, thank you very much for coming out. I'm sure you have to get up early and hang around a courtroom. So we really appreciate your coming and talking with us.

PRESS: Thanks, Linda.

KLEINDIENST: Well, thank you. It was a pleasure. Thank you.

PRESS: Good to have our eyes and ears on the ground in Tallahassee. You know what I mean?

CARLSON: You know, we have agents everywhere. It's amazing.

We will be back. And some of our agents are you who are watching. We're counting on your "Spins of the Day." So e-mail them or give us a call and tell us what they are. I'll be right back.


PRESS: Love those comments. Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. Bill Press and Tucker Carlson here now for the "Spins of the Day," ours and yours.

Tucker, we've got a couple of...

CARLSON: Spins. But before we do, Bill...


CARLSON: ... I don't know, have we had our mock Florida moment? I don't think we have. Let's make fun of Florida for a little bit. This is...

PRESS: Not yet tonight, right?

CARLSON: ... No we haven't. And I knew something was wrong.

PRESS: Every night we have to make fun of Florida.

CARLSON: That's absolutely right. I got this in my e-mail box today. I just want to put up on the screen. This is a cartoon that I believe says it all. You can see a man trying to beat down a door that says "poll" on it. That is the official West Palm Beach voting place. And that is an official West Palm Beach voter. This explains a lot.

PRESS: Tucker, I watch for the hate mail...


CARLSON: It's impulsive.

PRESS: ... from West Palm Beach.

CARLSON: I know.

PRESS: But there was a voice of reason today in this whole mess, a way to solve it. And I think we have to...


PRESS: ... when we mention this name, Ted Turner. Ted Turner today said that it's -- what it really is -- there he is.

CARLSON: Oh, there he is.

PRESS: Uncle Ted said, "It's a statistical tie. So what we should do is have a run off of the two frontrunners. Get Nader and Buchanan out of it and just have a runoff." Sure, Ted, it's that easy.

We'll tell the Supreme Court tomorrow.

CARLSON: I think he also suggested co-presidents, which would be every bit as easy.

Now before we go any further, we just have one e-mail. And I've got to read it. "Is it true that Bill Press' dog is named Hillary? I've heard that the dog will come to anyone it hears whining loudly or mentioning soft money."

Bill, our viewers want to know. Is it true?

PRESS: I don't have a dog. But if I did, it would not be named Spot.


PRESS: There are a couple of e-mails. "If George W. is so sure he won, why doesn't he resign as governor of Texas?" Excellent suggestion.

CARLSON: It's kind of hard to argue with that.

PRESS: Nomination for "Spin of the Day." ""Judicial Watch is a nonpartisan public interest law firm," said Mr. Larry Klayman to the judge. Ho, ho, ho." CARLSON: "Since Ralph Nader says there's no difference between Bush and Gore and since he doesn't seem to care who wins, maybe he should count the votes." Not a bad idea. But you're not factoring in the hemp factor. It is the Green Party, after all.

PRESS: All right, and now here's from Marjorie (ph) from California with her nomination for "Spin of the Day." Marjorie, go.

CALLER: I voted in California for Al Gore. And I'm outraged that the Florida legislature is planning to disenfranchise not only the voters of its own state but in effect people all across the country by choosing its own slate of electors. Are they still seceding from the union down there?

PRESS: Thanks, Marjorie. Maybe they should.

You see, Tucker, the natives are getting restless.

CARLSON: In California, the natives are always restless.

It's time for our "Spins of the Day." I cannot control myself.

This I want to put on the screen, something that Joe Lieberman said today. And I want you to listen very carefully.

PRESS: The honorable Joe Lieberman.

CARLSON: And I think you'll be as appalled as I was.

PRESS: I love it.


SEN. JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT), VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I do think this action by the Florida legislature really threatens the credibility and legitimacy of the ultimate choice of electors in Florida. It threatens to put us into a constitutional crisis. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CARLSON: A constitutional crisis? The world is fine until they do something we don't like. And then it's, "Oh, a constitutional crisis."

We checked this afternoon here at CNN, the research department, to find out what a constitutional crisis is. Nobody knows. We even talked to Roger Cossack, CNN's own legal analyst. And the essential definition is something really bad.

Here is Joe Lieberman, a decent man, trying to scare American voters. You don't expect that.


PRESS: ... But he's making a point. But talk about making a point. Here is the little brother of W. Haven't knocked him yet, but now is the time.

CARLSON: He's a big guy. He's about six inches taller.

PRESS: Here's Jeb speaking today.


GOV. JEB BUSH (D-FL): I know that the Gore campaign would love for me to basically disown my family. But, look, I'm going to do what's right. And I will uphold the law. And I believe that none of this is really actually probably going to be necessary, that these court rulings will determine that my brother won.

And if it's the other way, I know he'll accept it. And we'll move on as well.


PRESS: Now the translation of that is that, "I will do anything for my family. I will break the law. I will steal the election. I will disenfranchise the voters of Florida. I will put my family over my country." Jeb Bush. That's what this is all about. This is the Bush brothers...


CARLSON: Come on, Bill. You want him to disown his own family. That is awful.

We will be back tomorrow night at 11:00 Eastern for post-Supreme Court spin, perhaps even from the Supreme Court. So join us tomorrow and every night next week.

PRESS: Good night, everybody. See you tomorrow night, 11:00.



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