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The Spin Room: U.S. Supreme Court Hears Arguments About Florida Ballot Dispute

Aired December 1, 2000 - 11:00 a.m. ET


BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: O yea, o yea, o yea, God bless the United States of America and this honorable SPIN ROOM.


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

PRESS: Good evening, everybody. Here we are in THE SPIN ROOM. We're trying to pick up a little bit of the majesty of the Supreme Court tonight from THE SPIN ROOM.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Bill Press.

CARLSON: I'm Tucker Carlson, the one without gloves. And we are here in the cold. The protesters are gone. But we're still here. We're hoping that you'll call us. We want to know what you think of today's big news at the Supreme Court.

You can call as always toll free. That's 1-800-310-4CNN. You can join our live online chat at Or send us an e-mail. Millions have. It's

PRESS: Tucker, don't make fun of my gloves, or I will tell everybody why I have a...


PRESS: No, I'll tell everybody why I have a coat on and you do not.

CARLSON: Well, I didn't think ahead. But those are very pretty gloves.

PRESS: But isn't it exciting to be here at the Supreme Court?

CARLSON: Oh, it's absolutely fantastic. We're the last ones here.

PRESS: But what gets me is why did some people get Palm Beach and we got Washington?

CARLSON: That's a great question. PRESS: When it's 50 degrees outside of you have to have your gloves.

CARLSON: I still think it's better than Tallahassee.

PRESS: Here?


PRESS: Better than Tallahassee.

CARLSON: I would say it is. After all we've said about Florida, I'm glad we're here.

PRESS: I want to go. But, Tucker, before we get started with the Supreme Court, we have a surprise tonight.

CARLSON: Oh, fantastic.

PRESS: Look at this. This came from one of our viewers. It's the first gift we've actually received. Now I've got to get it straight here.

You ready? Let's hold it up so everybody can see it. This is the official Wyoming carpet.

CARLSON: That is terrific.

PRESS: Isn't that great?

CARLSON: We beat up on Wyoming, and look what we get.

PRESS: No, no, no, we didn't beat up on Wyoming.


PRESS: We beat up on Montana.


PRESS: Montana is the state where everybody still lives in log cabins. That's why we beat up on Montana.

CARLSON: Oh, that's right.

PRESS: But here's what Barry said when he sent this. I'll just read this very quickly. "Hey, guys, what a great show. I'm hearing how much you love Wyoming. The Chamber of Commerce has donated this flag rug for your office or coffee table. It was easier to ship than a cow skull."

CARLSON: I notice that's written in crayon, Bill. Did you send that -- thank you, Barry, very much.

PRESS: Thank you, Barry. CARLSON: As long as we're off topic, I just want to -- in other news today, I just want to bring up my favorite news byte of the day, which is a "Miami Herald" story that found that 445 convicted felons in the state of Florida voted illegally, including a 77-year-old child molester with Alzheimer's.

That's not the interesting fact. How of them voted Republican, do you think? Not many is the answer. Seventy-five percent were Democrats. Why is the felon community voting Democrat? You tell me.

PRESS: Because the Democratic Party is the big tent party. Wait a minute. And why are...

CARLSON: If you're a child molester and you have Alzheimer's, we want you.

PRESS: ... And why are felons voting? Because it's Florida, that's why.


PRESS: Very exciting though today to listen to the arguments of the Supreme Court. You know, first time they got those audio tapes out so fast.

And what I found very interesting was the absolute dead certainty with which the attorneys for both sides left the court. I mean, they were sure they knew what happened. Shall we listen to a little bit?

CARLSON: Absolutely positive.

PRESS: Here they are...


PRESS: ... first Ted Olson and then Laurence Tribe.


TED OLSON, BUSH ATTORNEY: I've just worked hard to try to prepare the best case I can. And I don't have an opinion about what they're going to do.



LAURENCE TRIBE, GORE ATTORNEY: It's always nice to have one of these ordeals over. But I have learned from 29 other arguments that you can't always guess anything about where the justices will come out from exactly what they ask.


PRESS: In other words, neither one of these guys has a clue. CARLSON: That's true. And I couldn't tell either watching. We're going to talk to a guest who knows more about the Supreme Court who maybe can fill us in later.


CARLSON: But I have to say I was totally confused by who was leaning in what direction. But I do know this, Bill. If this court comes up with a decision that's in the least bit unfuzzy, that is to say decisive at all, against Gore, over.

PRESS: No. Recount.

CARLSON: Recount.

PRESS: Recount. All right, we are lucky tonight. We don't know anything about the court. But we've got someone who does. She worked on the inside of the court and actually clerked for Justice Clarence Thomas. She's also written a book called "The Hillary Trap," had her own TV show for a while.

CARLSON: And it is a trap.

PRESS: Frequent guest on CNN, Laura Ingraham joins us tonight.

Hi, Laura.


Now I have to reveal something. Tucker looks really cool because he's in a suit, you know, really handsome suit.

CARLSON: Thank you.

INGRAHAM: What's underneath that suit? What is...


INGRAHAM: And now, Tucker, my question, is it silk long underwear?


INGRAHAM: It is silk. It is not polyester. And it's not fleece, it's silk.


CARLSON: Oh, thanks for outing me in under shorts.

INGRAHAM: But the thing is, you still look slender.

CARLSON: Well, thank you.

INGRAHAM: When I wear long underwear, I puff up. (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: Well, we're going to talk about your underwear in a minute, Laura. But let me ask you another question. I notice that there are lights on in the background.


PRESS: Yes. Tell us about that.

CARLSON: Who is working late at the Supreme Court today?

INGRAHAM: Well, this brings back -- I'm having a flashback from our cases. You know, when you're working on a controversial case, you know everyone is going to pick through it for any mistake to any draft opinion you write. And obviously, the clerks are assisting the justices.

The chambers of Justice Kennedy and Justice O'Connor. Justice O'Connor is on the corner there. And Justice Kennedy are the first three windows.

PRESS: And those lights...

INGRAHAM: All those guys are working.

PRESS: ... Those lights are on, which means they're working.


INGRAHAM: They're working.


PRESS: OK, but look at the other side. It's completely dark.

INGRAHAM: Well, you want to know why? Those are the chambers of the retired justices. So they don't have to be in. They don't have to be in this late.

CARLSON: So what are they talking about? What, did you get a sense today?

INGRAHAM: Well, what happens at the court is after the oral arguments, the justices leave the esteemed chamber, walk across the hallway, and actually go into the conference room where they then discuss the argument briefly and then make an actual preliminary vote on how they're going to come down on the case.

And the interesting fact is the junior justice on the court is actually given the role of court secretary. And he has to write down how everyone voted and write little notes to the court.

PRESS: Now let me ask you this. As a court insider, court watcher, could you tell listening to the questions today which way they're going to go? INGRAHAM: I think some justices tipped their hand more than I actually thought they would. I think Justice Ginsburg was like out of the box on the Gore side of the equation from early on talking about how Ted Olson almost impugned the integrity of the Florida Supreme Court in the way he wrote his brief.

PRESS: Right. Right.

INGRAHAM: And Justice Scalia clearly giving a very hard time to his old friend Larry Tribe, pushing him really hard on the way the Florida Supreme Court reasoned below and I think tipping his hand that he's going to vote to vacate in Florida.

CARLSON: What about Kennedy?

INGRAHAM: I was surprised. Actually, Justice O'Connor I think seemed to be pretty, pretty tough on the Gore legal team. I mean, she basically said changing the date is a dramatic change, isn't it, counselor?

PRESS: But she also started out tough on the Bush team. She seemed to be playing devil's advocate with both sides.

INGRAHAM: She did. She's a hard justice to read, as is Kennedy. But I think in the end if you want to guess, it's all a guess at this point. Kennedy and O'Connor, if you want to guess...


INGRAHAM: ... probably for the Bush side.

PRESS: You mentioned Justice Ginsburg, we have a little audio because they released the audio tape right away. This is Justice Ginsburg taking on Ted Olson on that question. Let's listen in case everybody didn't have a chance to.


JUSTICE RUTH BADER GINSBURG, U.S. SUPREME COURT: I do not know of any case where we have impugned a state supreme court the way you are doing in this case. I mean, in case after case we have said we owe the highest respect to what the state says, state supreme court says, is a state's law.

OLSON: This is a very unusual situation, Justice Ginsburg.


CARLSON: Now that doesn't sound like a devil's advocate question at all.

PRESS: No, no, no, I mean, she's...

INGRAHAM: No, I mean, Justice Ginsburg came out and said, "Look, aren't we supposed to give the highest degree of deference to a state supreme court's interpretation of state law? Isn't that what we do 99.9 percent of the time?" Ted Olson came back and said, "Justice Ginsburg, this is one of those special cases where we actually don't take what the Florida Supreme Court said as golden in this case."

PRESS: OK, we have e-mails. We have "Spins of the Day." And we have a phone, the first phoner for the night is Dawn (ph) from Georgia.

Hi, Dawn. Welcome to the Supreme Court. What do you think of all this?

CALLER: Hi. Well, what I'd like...


CALLER: ... I'd like to know is whether or not...

CARLSON: Dawn, what a pretty voice you have.

CALLER: ... Thank you. Will the Supreme Court decision have any effect on whether or not the Florida legislature will still decide to meet?

PRESS: Very good question.

CARLSON: Excellent question.

PRESS: My understanding, the question, right, whether or not the...

CARLSON: Florida Supreme Court...

PRESS: ... action of this court will have any impact on the Florida legislature. My -- what I've heard today and read is that no matter how this court rules, the contest in Florida in the court and the legislature will continue. Correct, Laura?

INGRAHAM: Justice Breyer and also Justice Souter really hammered home the point of whether or not this case is ripe. We call it ripe in legal terms, ripe for review.

You can bet that both Souter and Justice Breyer voted against taking this case. They both tipped their hand I think again that this case just isn't justiciable (ph) under the court's regular procedures.

PRESS: So...

INGRAHAM: Whatever the court does, they argue, won't really affect what happens next week. And Ted Olson came back and said, "Look, it affects the margin of the vote," and so forth.

PRESS: All right, we're going to take a break. Laura Ingraham will stay with us right here.

CARLSON: Glad to know ripe is a legal term.

PRESS: Ripe. CARLSON: I like it, ripe.

PRESS: We only want cases that are ripe.

CARLSON: Ready to drop. And we are ripe for your e-mails and phone calls. To send those, you can call 1-800-410...

PRESS: 1-800-310-4CNN.

INGRAHAM: Give the wrong number out. No wonder you're not going to get any calls.

CARLSON: You know the address by now. We'll be back in a minute.


PRESS: And we're back in this first outdoor SPIN ROOM.


PRESS: Spin outdoors in front of the Supreme Court tonight. I'm Bill Press here with Tucker Carlson.

We want to hear from you, of course, by phone, 1-800-310-4CNN. Join our ongoing online chat room at, or send us your e-mail. Don't forget we need those nominations for today's "Spin of the Day," very, very important spin day. And get your spin nominations in to

Tucker, speaking of e-mail, we've got a whole mess of them. Let's get started.

CARLSON: As usual, they bring up deep, almost metaphysical questions. Here's one from Fred. "I think Gore will concede immediately after Bush is sworn in as president."

Don't bet on it, Fred.

PRESS: This one unsigned. "Wouldn't it be a revelation to the American people if Gore and Bush would argue their own case? Of course then Bush would have to leave the ranch."


CARLSON: Through the miracle of television, he wouldn't necessarily have to.


PRESS: Oh, got it. Go.

CARLSON: From the nasty pile, "I keep waiting for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to end every question with, "my pretty," ala "The Wizard of Oz."

PRESS: Oh...

CARLSON: Flying monkeys descend. I know, that is mean.

PRESS: Insulting justices is not the way to win an argument.

From Sam, "The end is in sight. Both campaigns are running out of new things to say at this point." Oh, no.

CARLSON: But you know who's not running out of things to say? The protesters. And one of the sad things was, hey, we didn't have any protesters. And I'm so glad one showed up. Let the people decide, he says.

PRESS: You know, he probably saw there were no protesters, I've got a chance. And there he is with his sign. I love it.


PRESS: And we have people on the phone at this hour.


PRESS: Mickey (ph) calling from Ohio. Hello, Mickey. Welcome to THE SPIN ROOM.

CALLER: Good evening, thank you. Yes, sir, I just have...

PRESS: Uh-oh.

CALLER: ... I'm sorry. I have a question for you. If they can split the electrical votes -- the electrical college votes, give half to each one, send everybody home, wouldn't that save a bunch of money?

PRESS: Very good question, Mickey. Mickey is suggesting that they split the Electoral College votes in half in Florida just to make it fair because the popular vote in Florida was just about split in half.

There's only one problem with that, Mickey, is if they did that, Al Gore would win, which is why the Florida legislature is not going to do it. Would you agree, Tucker?

CARLSON: I would absolutely agree. Plus, it would be silly.

PRESS: No, it would be fair. That's the problem with it.

CARLSON: Good point. I've just got to read this e-mail. This is from Tony (ph). He says, "I'll bet in high school Al Gore was voted least likely to concede."

I bet that too. You know, I just can't get enough of the nasty e-mails.

PRESS: OK. I've got one more before we go back to Laura Ingraham. This is from Fran. "Classified advertisement: Wanted, fat lady. Job location, Tallahassee. Pay scale, name your own price. Job description, sing."

CARLSON: That is the only classified ad that I've ever seen call for a fat lady.

PRESS: Laura Ingraham is with us to help us work our way through this court decision today, former clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas. Speaking of which, Laura, I have an e-mail for you.


PRESS: Question from Glen (ph). "Justice Thomas must think that silence is golden. Will someone check his pulse, or is he just a spectator whose conservative brain is in Scalia's pocket?"

Now that's nastier than I would say. But maybe. Why is it that he didn't ask any questions today?


INGRAHAM: Well, I don't speak for Justice Thomas...

CARLSON: Oh, go ahead.


INGRAHAM: There is a certain etiquette among former clerks. At least most of us abide by that etiquette. But if I could guess, which I'm going to do all night on the show, is I think he asks questions when he has them. And he asked questions at oral arguments.

And I think Justice Thomas is the type of person that just because people are like poised to look to see if he asked questions today, he's like, "No, I'm not going to." And frankly, I've always been suspicious of those people in class who wanted to talk a lot because it tends to flow out of their own insecurity rather than their own need for edification.

PRESS: Was it unusual today that 56 seconds into Ted Olson's opening statement, Sandra Day O'Connor jumped in?

INGRAHAM: No, it's very customary. I mean, the oral argument is not for the petitioner actually to recite the facts of the case. They've already read the briefs, the justices.

What they want to know is how do you square X with Y? How do you make the statutory construction argument when indeed it looks like the Florida Supreme Court relied on its own Constitution?

So they want to have their really difficult questions answered. They don't care about basically what the petitioner has to argue.

CARLSON: I'm interested...

INGRAHAM: Obviously a Gore supporter.

CARLSON: ... a Gore supporter. All day today there was noise behind us.

PRESS: We should do away with car alarms. Go ahead.

CARLSON: We should take that to the justices. There were protesters here all day. And apart from the publicity factor of being before television cameras, my question, let's actually take a look at some of the protesters who were here.

PRESS: They were both sides.

CARLSON: They were here.

PRESS: Active, very active.


PRESS: Of course, the Gore people on the left hand side of the screen.


CARLSON: They're everywhere.

INGRAHAM: Can I make a point about the protesters?

CARLSON: Let me just ask you this question. Who are they here for? Are the justices ever swayed by this?

INGRAHAM: No, of course not. All the big abortion cases are the only other time that there are that many protesters. And probably, this is as many as we've ever had.

They're there for them. They're there to make their case. They know reporters are everywhere like this guy over here. He doesn't have a job obviously, so he's trying to get his poster held up and for people to look at his web site.


PRESS: Do you have a job?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yeah, I do have a job.

PRESS: What is your job?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Protesting on a constitutional issue.

INGRAHAM: How do you get paid? Who pays your salary?

PRESS: Who's paying you?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Basically I am paying my own salary.

PRESS: He's paying his own salary. INGRAHAM: Anyway, point made.


INGRAHAM: Point made. So the point is that the protesters are out there to get media attention. They want media attention desperately in order to make their own case to the -- the justices, are they swayed by this? No, they're used to this. They're used to these kind of crackpots.

PRESS: Now speaking of spin, speaking of spin...


INGRAHAM: You drew first blood.

PRESS: ... The...


INGRAHAM: This is great, the ratings are going up. This is great.

PRESS: The Bush campaign today was putting out the word...

INGRAHAM: Can't read it on the set.


PRESS: ... ignore him. Please talk to me.

The Bush campaign was putting the word out today in Austin that no matter what happens here at the Supreme Court, they win. Now I know there's a lot of spin. But that's just about impossible spin to believe, isn't it?


PRESS: They could lose here. And if they lose, they lose.

INGRAHAM: ... If they lose, that's a major PR blow. And Bush has been riding pretty well in the last...

CARLSON: Yeah, but what happens really? Legally, nothing bad happens.

INGRAHAM: Legally, not a lot happens. But this has been as much about PR as it's been about law. In the last few weeks, you've seen -- the car alarms go off. No, you've seen the protesters in front of the vice president's mansion, which is something I was going to mention earlier.

You had 500 pro-Bush protesters last weekend, 500, sometimes up to 800. You had 20 across the street for Vice President Gore. Yet the cover of the "Washington Post" on Sunday, huge picture, the Gore protesters, the 20 Gore protesters. It's an important part of the battle.

But the Supreme Court knows the contest goes on next week. It doesn't matter in a sense what they rule. So Gore is going to keep going.

CARLSON: You know, Laura Ingraham, if you can talk through a car alarm, you can do anything. You are my hero.


INGRAHAM: Thank you.

CARLSON: Thank you for coming.

PRESS: Thanks, Laura. Thanks for coming.


CARLSON: We'll be back with the noisiest SPIN ROOM ever.

PRESS: Outdoor television, love it.


PRESS: "Spin of the Day" coming up. They won't stop us.

CARLSON: Send them to us.

PRESS: Those Bush people won't stop us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: ... like to blame me for that car alarm...


CARLSON: Welcome back to this special outdoor edition of SPIN ROOM. We're here, I'm Tucker Carlson with Bill Press, in front of the Supreme Court. We've come to the...

PRESS: Which of course is the citadel of free speech.

CARLSON: It is the citadel of free speech. That...

PRESS: That's why we're here.

CARLSON: ... principle is being tested. But we're here at the end of the show. This is the time when you send us your "Spins of the Day" and we give you ours. That, of course, is the thing that you've seen on television today that is so appalling that you throw your beer bottle at the tube. And there are many, many examples to choose from.

PRESS: And we start out with one from our chat room. This is from Joseph Candelaro (ph). And let's see if we can get her on the screen there.

Joseph Candelaro says: "The new Democratic Party motto is "let's steal one for the Gipper."" Now there's only one thing wrong with that, of course, is the Gipper was a Republican, as we all know. So really...

CARLSON: Yes, but you know, Bill, this spirit...


PRESS: This is the Republican Party motto, "Let's steal one for the Gipper," which is I think what George Bush is trying to do in Florida.

CARLSON: It somehow doesn't work that way. But I see what you mean.

We have a phone call. Eric from California. Eric, are you there?

PRESS: Eric.

CARLSON: Give us your "Spin of the Day."

CALLER: Yes, I believe Al Gore's persistence is a strong trait for president as opposed to G.W.'s sweep-the-chads-under-the-carpet tactics.

PRESS: That's a very good point. You've got to say Al Gore is hanging in there.

CARLSON: He is...

PRESS: Just like those chads.


CARLSON: He definitely -- like Wile E. Coyote, he's stomped by the Acme anvil but he comes back again to get stomped again.

PRESS: All right, "Spin of the Day." Here's one. "Jeb Bush gets the "Spin of the Day" award by spinning Florida to his brother with all of the action in smoke filled rooms and never actually having to go on camera and say anything."

Very perceptive.

CARLSON: See, the problem with that, though, is there are no more smoke filled rooms. These are smoke free rooms.

PRESS: Not in Florida.

CARLSON: Sadly, sadly, sadly. Well, here's one from Santa. "Ho, ho, ho, this is Santa. And I just want to let you know that Christmas may be late this year. After checking all the boxes and tallying them up, I found problems with the results. I can't with good faith go out and deliver presents while knowing I could have made a mistake."

Not who's been naughty or nice. Santa would like it here. It's cold enough.

Well, I can't control myself anymore. It's time for my "Spin of the Day."

PRESS: You ready to go?


CARLSON: I am...


PRESS: Let's hear it.

CARLSON: Patricia Ireland made a statement today...

PRESS: The president of NOW.

CARLSON: ... the National Organization of Women. And I want you to listen to what Patricia Ireland said today.



PATRICIA IRELAND, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN: On a very practical level, having been to the grocery store last night, seeing the scanner pick up most of the prices but every now and then having to have the cashier hand enter a price for an item that didn't go through the machine, I think on a very practical level the Supreme Court of the United States should uphold the Florida court's decision.


CARLSON: Now, did that sound a little bit familiar, because it should have.

PRESS: It sounded very wise to me.

CARLSON: Well, it may have sounded familiar. Listen to this. This is the vice president...

PRESS: You have two "Spins of the Day?"

CARLSON: ... Two. Well, they combine. You'll see. This is Al Gore.

PRESS: All right.


AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Have you ever gone through the supermarket checkout line and they run the scanner computer over your items? What happens when it misses one? Do they give it to you for free?


CARLSON: First of all, neither of these people has been to the supermarket in the last 10 years. But the point is, she is not just a mouthpiece for Al Gore, she is literally a ventriloquist dummy for him. That was the exact same line. This is beyond talking points.

PRESS: I would put it this way. Number one, both of them know what a scanner is unlike the last president of the United States.

CARLSON: Oh, Bill, you know that's not true.

PRESS: He had no idea what the scanner was. You know it is true.


PRESS: And number two, when there is a very good idea out there, sometimes more than one people...

CARLSON: Steal that metaphor.

PRESS: ... more than one person thinks of it, Tucker. It is so obvious that anybody with half a brain would think of that.

CARLSON: Right, I'm sure she just came to it by herself.


PRESS: All right, you've got it. My "Spin of the Day" comes today from the front page of the "Wall Street Journal"...


PRESS: ... press clips today and press releases that they had received. And they found this one from my favorite person in this whole mess, you know Katherine the Great, Cruella de Ville (ph), whatever you want to call her...


PRESS: ... Katherine Harris, secretary of state. Here's what she had the audacity to put out before the election, this statement. "Secretary of State urges patience in predicting winners of the race." This is the same women who raced to the microphones, couldn't wait to get there to say, "We won. We won. Bush won. I get ambassadorship."


CARLSON: ... that press conference where she announced that she was going to be ambassador somewhere. And I say this, and I actually with the caveat that I am in fact president, maybe the sole member, of the Katherine Harris fan club.

But I think this is just an expression of her natural temperance. She is a woman who doesn't move too fast. She's a deliberative person and a wise person. (CROSSTALK)

CARLSON: A deeply fair person, Bill.

PRESS: She says, "You take your time and let me rush to judgment. And let me call it before all the votes are counted." I don't know.


PRESS: But you know what, Tucker? This is the first outdoors, I like it.

CARLSON: I love it.

PRESS: I think we ought to do more of these.

CARLSON: The first of many I...


CARLSON: And we're going to be back Sunday night for a full hour and all next week, indoors sadly, but we'll be here.

PRESS: See you at 10:00 Sunday night. Good night, everybody. Bill Press here.



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