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Election 2000: Action Grinding to a Halt in Tallahassee

Aired December 13, 2000 - 11:20 a.m. ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now we are going to bring in my partner Bill Hemmer, who is standing by in Tallahassee.

Bill, I'm sure a lot of action there because this is exactly where Al Gore would have sent down the word to his supporters in that town, call off any recount efforts.

BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Yeah, Daryn, at this time, that action winding to a grinding halt here in Florida. Mention a few names that a lot of our viewers I am sure are familiar with after the past 36 days here. And a number of those people work directly with the campaign.

I talked with Mindy Tucker, the chief spokesperson for the Bush team here in Tallahassee, has been that way since the first part of November. She was on an airplane, or head to the airport anyway about an hour ago. She had a flight leaving, taking her back to Austin, Texas.

For the Gore team, Doug Hattaway says he will be packing things up tomorrow. He is the chief spokesperson for the Gore team here in Tallahassee as well. And he also indicated that Ron Klain, the chief legal adviser for the vice president, is trying to get on a plane back to Washington in order to make it in time for that speech later tonight by the vice president.

In addition to that, there has been a bit of war room set up here by the Democrats at a local hotel here. Just checking on that a short time ago, the doors were locked and the room was dark, and there was no one working inside at this time. Doug Hattaway insists throughout the day today indeed that room will be packed up and moved out as well.

Also there was a protest planned here in Tallahassee, it had been planned as of yesterday, to take place at noon local time, which is about 40 minutes from now. Jesse Jackson expected on the ground here in Tallahassee to lead that protest rally. They had anticipated about 500 people to show up here, and keep in mind, there are hundreds of people still on the ground here in Tallahassee from not only the Gore side, but also the Bush side as well.

So it's likely that rally will continue, but whether or not, they get the 500, though, is an open question. Talked with some of the organizers just a short time ago, asking if that was going to be suspended in any way, given the news that we're hearing out of Washington. They said no, he, meaning Governor Bush, he still has to govern, a clear indication that they'll be watching Governor Bush, if indeed things continue to go the way that we believe they are happening at this time.

But again, Tallahassee trickling now to a close here, and we'll track it throughout the day. Of course, Daryn, the big news, again, is that vice president's speech later tonight, expected 9 1/2 hours from, now from the nation's capital.

At this time, going to bring in a very familiar face also, David Cardwell, who has been here in Tallahassee the entire time. Take us back to last night when the U.S. Supreme Court basically said 7-2, we're not sure of these recounts are constitutional; 5-4, we're not sure if you've necessarily run out of time, given the fact that today is December 12th?

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, the U.S. Supreme Court said that they were basing their decision on the Florida Supreme Court's interpretation of Florida law. And they read that to mean that there was a December 12th deadline, U.S. Supreme Court was deciding on December 12th, therefore no time. And they said, for any recount past December 12th would be unconstitutional.

That gets back to the standard, there had been no standard set. So they sort of boxed in the Florida Supreme Court, where it really doesn't have any maneuvering room. They remanded it back here, but there is nothing much to be done now.

HEMMER: Do you expect anything out of the state supreme court then? And if so, what would they say?

CARDWELL: Well, they could, on their own, without any briefs, without any motion, without any oral argument, they could go ahead and issue another opinion, trying to respond to the U.S. Supreme Court. And as we've seen over the last couple of weeks, we have got dueling Supreme Courts here. They seem to kind of be firing back and forth at one another.

HEMMER: Your thoughts, David, if indeed this is closure here. Your thoughts on the legal maneuvering we have seen now for 36 days.

CARDWELL: It has been fascinating to watch this. There has been some great lawyering done here, and even though there were some bumps along the way, I thought what was really impressive was how our legal system was able to adapt, to respond, you know, bend a little bit, but it managed to stay in place, we worked out all the problems. I think it was a real lesson for the American public to see this happen.

Yes, it -- you know, there were times we got a little tired of it. But it worked its way through the process, and I was really impressed with the work that both the judges and the lawyers did.

HEMMER: And knowing you are an attorney and not a politician, I will nonetheless ask you this question anyway. There are some who believe the legacy out of this may be the following: The U.S. Supreme Court came in and slammed the door shut. Is it possible most Americans will believe that Al Gore lost this race anyway and the U.S. Supreme Court was just putting the final dot on the I, or crossing the final T? or is there a perception that there were politics that came into the bench?

CARDWELL: Well, I fear that there will be many who will think there was politics, in both Supreme Courts, both Florida and the U.S. One of the things, though, I think that is going to mitigate against that is how long the process took. I think, if we were still two weeks after the election, plenty of time until the electors voted, and then the U.S. Supreme Court came in and said: Bam, you know, you can't do anything more, we're just going to take this out of your hand, then I think there would be a lot of people very concerned about it. But I think they've seen the process work its way through, and just about every possible legal argument has been made. I think, as a result, the public said: All right, there's been more than enough time to work this out, let's move on.

HEMMER: We've all learned a lot, have we not?

CARDWELL: Very definitely.

HEMMER: Stand by here in Tallahassee, David Cardwell, we'll talk a bit later today, much appreciate your thoughts once again.

Daryn, there's a lot to analyze here, and certainly we'll be here throughout the day to let you know what we find out, as we, again, watch the trail.

Again, tonight, though, as you mentioned, 9:00 Eastern time, 9 1/2 hours from now, we will hear the word from the vice president, as he speaks in Washington. Back to you now in Atlanta.

KAGAN: It looks like you are soon to be packing up your things, Bill, and coming back to me here in Atlanta.

HEMMER: Could be.

KAGAN: Could be. We'll believe it when we see it.

HEMMER: There you go, see you in a bit.

KAGAN: Before we go, I want to bring Bill Schneider in from Washington. He was listening carefully to what David Cardwell had to say.

And Bill, you wanted to weigh in on that point?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the big question here is: Will people see this as an election that Gore lost or will they see it as essentially life is unfair? I think you could make the argument Gore certainly feels keenly the truth of that adage. Look at all the circumstances that contributed to his apparent defeat. Ralph Nader, if he hadn't run, Gore would have won. The Electoral College system, if it had been a popular vote system, Gore would have won. The rules in Florida, if there had been no butterfly ballot in Palm Beach, it is very likely that a lot of those votes would have gone to Al Gore instead of Pat Buchanan. If voters in Jacksonville, African-American voters had not been misinstructed how to vote, most likely their votes would have been counted for Al Gore, instead of being spoiled, and Gore might have won Florida. If the recount procedures in Florida had been more orderly, the Supreme Court said last night, they might have passed constitutional muster. If Gore had asked for a statewide recount, instead of recounting just a couple of counties, it might have been easier for him to get a recount in Florida.

There are a lot of what-ifs here, but I think the bottom line for Al Gore is: Life is unfair. But where does he go on from there?

KAGAN: It is unfair, but, Bill, they counter that, a lot of people would point out, that's a lot of ifs, and to have to lose that many ifs, and if you can't win a presidency in such a strong economic time, when things are so good, that says something about the Al Gore candidacy in itself.

SCHNEIDER: That is right, there the Democrats I think have mixed feelings. I think, at the moment, a number of Democrats feel bitter and angry that the Supreme Court took the election away from them. On the other hand, a lot of Democrats have been critical of Al Gore, because, you know, every indicator that -- historically we can look at, suggested that Al Gore should win a clean, decisive victory. The economy is good, crime is down, the nation is at peace, people were optimistic, the president's job approval ratings were in the 60s for most of this year. Everything pointing to an Al Gore victory, and yet it was too close to call essentially was the verdict in this election. Does that mean Al Gore ran a poor campaign? A lot of Democrats think so.

KAGAN: It will be discussed for many years to come.



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