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U.S. Supreme Court Reverses Florida High Court Recount Ruling

Aired December 13, 2000 - 0:13 a.m. ET


BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: As you know, ever since we got word shortly past 10:00 Eastern tonight that Supreme Court of the United States had reached a decision, we have been scrambling to cover this story as broadly as possible.

Let's call in again Jonathan Karl.

JONATHAN KARL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bernie I just got off the phone with Reverend Jesse Jackson for some immediate response to what he sees in this decision. The Reverend Jackson told me that he had been speaking virtually every day with the vice president throughout this process. He has not spoken to him since he heard this, but Jesse Jackson expressing what you could call outrage with this decision. He is saying he would like to make a very major statement about this tomorrow. He is talking about going to Memphis to hold a press conference at the hotel where Martin Luther King was assassinated. He believes that decision was of that magnitude.

Some quotes from the Reverend Jackson on this is, "I think this decision goes down in infamy with the Dred Scott decision. Both disenfranchised black voters." He also said this decision -- quote -- "leaves the candidate," meaning George W. Bush, "without moral legitimacy." And talking as if this is over for the vice president, he said -- quote -- "They seem to have won today, meaning the Republicans, seem to have won by delay and by not counting votes and by relying on an extreme right-wing court."

Jessie Jackson not listening to what vice president told his own aides, which is don't criticize the court when this decision comes down. Jesse Jackson saying he is the third rail in American politics here, not in way we talk about Social Security, but being outside of the two parties and saying that he will go out and this will be his message tomorrow.

He also is saying that the -- I asked him has he talked to vice president yet, and he said today, he has not, plans to talk to him tonight, and he says, look, Gore throughout this process has been saying that he believes he won, he wants to count, and he wants to count, and he believes that although in Jackson's word, the Supreme Court has slammed the door shut on this, they did leave a crack, and Jessie Jackson believes that the vice president, and he will certainly courage him to try to get through that crack, to try to make this -- to try to get this vote count started again in Florida, but not leaving much hope, and saying he is very much going to beat drums on this tomorrow and make a major, major issue out of this questioning, the legitimacy of this court, and questioning what they have done you.

SHAW: Well, you answered the question that I was going ask you, whether he had talked to vice president tonight. You indicate that he had not.

KARL: And what's interesting, Bernie, if I can just interrupt you a second. I had originally spoken with Donna Brazile, who is the campaign manager for Gore, and Donna Brazile had no comment. She simply said, look, I have give 23 months, I can certainly give him another day, meaning the vice president to decide what to do, but then Donna Brazile encouraged no talk to the Reverend Jackson. So while you may not hear anything from within the vice president's inner circle directly criticizing legitimacy of this Supreme Court and its decision, clearly -- they some of them are very eager to point out folks like Jessie Jackson who are more free to do so.

SHAW: And I'm even wondering whether or not President Clinton has talked with the vice president tonight, and if they did speak, what was said, just a question.

Jonathan Karl -- Judy.

JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: Picking up on what Jonathan is saying, clearly more criticism coming of the court, and naturally, that's what you are going to hear after an opinion like this one tonight. The Associated Press quoting Yale law professor Jack Balkan -- quote -- "It leaves them with less legitimacy than they had before." Quoting another constitutional law professor, Richard Lazarus of Georgetown University, saying "By ultimately deciding the election by a 5-4 vote, there is the possibility of the public reacting quite adversely.

Picking up on that and what Jonathan Karl said, I want to go to our senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

Bill, there is the very real possibility of a severe backlash here.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well there certainly is, and particularly he among African-American voters that following along lines John has just described. We have noticed all along in looking at the political reaction to these last five weeks, there is a disproportion between Republicans and Democrats. Bush supporters believe that their man won by the rules, and they are angry at resentful they believe the Democrats, the Al Gore campaign is trying to, as they put it, even in their signs, trying to steal election. There is a huge amount anger. And the majority of the Bush supporters say they would not accept Al Gore as the legitimate president, even if he were declared the winner.

We haven't been seeing that kind of an angry, resentful reaction among most Democratic voters, most Gore supporters. I would describe their views as frustrated, somewhat resigned. Their view is that Al Gore really did win Florida. They just can't prove it, and now the court has made it virtually impossible to prove it, but there is one exception. Among African-American voters, the reaction is more like that of Republicans, angry, resentful, not just frustrate and resigned. Many African-Americans reflect the views that Jessie Jackson expressed, saying he is not just speaking for himself there, and that's what I want to reinforce; he's speaking to the views of a lot of African-American voters, who did not give George W. Bush very much support. "The Washington Post" reported today Bush did very poorly among African-Americans, despite his efforts to reach out to that community. They feel as if this was a civil rights issue, this was about them. Many African-Americans also saw the impeachment issue in many ways as a civil rights issue.

They are angry, resentful. They feel that the Supreme Court has thrown this election to the Bush campaign, representing a power grab by Republicans. They are not likely -- they are likely to protest the legitimacy of this and to treat this as a civil rights issue. So there is at least one important Democratic constituency that's likely to remain deeply aggrieved by all this.

SHAW: Bill, In terms of how the court is perceived, this in heat of the moment, as these judgments are coming, what about the cool distance of history?

SCHNEIDER: Well, we expect these kinds of partisan responses to die down over time, as people -- Americans have a history of gathering, rallying behind a president. This is an unusual situation, however. I mean, this is supposed to be honeymoon period of a new president. Instead, if the new president does turn out to be declared George Bush, and we don't know that yet -- Gore would have to concede -- but, I think he is going to have a very tall task to try to rally the country to try to reconcile, to reach out across partisan lines. But my only point here is that the first line he has to try to reach across is the racial divide. This issue, which had no obvious racial implications outside of Florida, it did in Florida, but has racial repercussions for an awful lot of Americans.

And in Florida, of course, there is a controversy over the placement of certain voting machines. Older, less functional models of machines were in minority areas, and blacks noticed that, and they said they were kept from the polls. And there was deep resentment against both George W. Bush and Jeb Bush, his brother, who tried to end -- who did end, in fact, the affirmative action program in Florida. So it was seen very racially. That's not apparent to the rest of the country, but it is to African-Americans, and that's where George W. Bush I think is going to have to make his first gesture of reconciliation. He has Condoleezza Rice as a foreign policy adviser. He has Colin Powell with him. He and they are going to have to demonstrate their sincere desire to try to draw that line of reconciliation, which may be even bigger than the line between Democrats and Republicans.

WOODRUFF: Bill, just to clarify, you suggesting African- Americans really are among what we think of as traditionally Democratic voters, are most loyal to Al Gore, that most of the rest of the Democratic constituency will pretty much accept go along with what Supreme Court has dictated here.

SCHNEIDER: Eventually, accept and go along. They are very frustrated, and they know that Al Gore won the popular vote. What they are frustrated by is the simple reality of the way this worked. Look, if Gore does turn out to lose election, they know what happened. Ralph Nader took a critical number of votes in Florida and in a couple of other states. They know that the Electoral College system, those rules worked against Al Gore, but said he would play by those rules. He did win about 300,000 more votes nationwide than George W. Bush, but he insists he would play by the rules. He is not going to challenge -- he wouldn't challenge the legitimacy if Bush is declared winner.

And finally, the Florida voting procedures, the Supreme Court has just said, there were not adequate to the task of the recount that they ordered, they did not provide equal protection under the law, and therefore they could not be allowed, and there is no time left for more for better procedures to be put in place. Democrats I think many of them are resentful about this, but not with the to the degree that Republicans are, and the very simple evidence is, about a third of Democrats say they would not accept bush as legitimate president. Most Republicans say they would not accept Al Gore.

WOODRUFF: All of that very interesting, Bill Schneider, in the fact that as we know the popular vote winner is Al Gore by a margin of what, over 300-some-odd-thousand votes, but within that, you're saying that the constituencies are very much divided.

All right, Bill Schneider our analyst here in the studio in Washington.

When we come back, one more report as we continue to examine this extraordinary ruling by United States Supreme Court.



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