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Vice President Gore and President-Elect Bush Call for ReconciliationAired December 13, 2000 - 11:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: this is a CNN Election 2000 special report.
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AL GORE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: For the sake of our unity as a people, and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.
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ANNOUNCER: Al Gore bows-out, making-way for President-Elect George W. Bush.
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GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nation must rise above a house divided. Americans share hopes and goals and values far more important than any political disagreements.
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ANNOUNCER: In this special hour, analysis from our experts, and reaction from public figures in and out of Washington. As the nation begins to move-on, we look ahead, past the transition to the beginnings of the Bush administration.
To our viewers in the U.S. and around the world, welcome to this CNN special report: GEORGE W. BUSH: THE NEXT PRESIDENT. From Washington, anchor Wolf Blitzer.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. It took 36 bitter days, but the U.S. presidential election is now over. Vice President Al Gore tonight formally conceded to Texas Governor George W. Bush. In fact, he made a point of referring to Bush as president-elect.
Just before his televised address to the nation, Gore telephoned Bush to congratulate him. The vice president promised to try to, quote, "heal the divisions of the campaign." The two men agreed to meet next Tuesday here in Washington.
Bush, in his address, went out of his way to praise the vice president, and he pledged to reach out to Democrats. In short, if you missed the past five weeks, you never would have guessed exactly how extraordinarily contentious the situation was.
Gore's speech centered on several key points, all surrounding an overall theme of conciliation and gratitude. He was clear on what he thought about yesterday's Supreme Court decision, but he also made clear he believes this election is over.
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GORE: Now the U.S. Supreme Court has spoken. Let there be no doubt, while I strongly disagree with the court's decision, I accept it. I accept the finality of this outcome which will be ratified next Monday in the Electoral College. And tonight, for the sake of our unity of the people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.
I also accept my responsibility, which I will discharge unconditionally, to honor the new president elect and do everything possible to help him bring Americans together in fulfillment of the great vision that our Declaration of Independence defines and that our Constitution affirms and defends.
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GORE: I know that many of my supporters are disappointed. I am too. But our disappointment must be overcome by our love of country.
And I say to our fellow members of the world community, let no one see this contest as a sign of American weakness. The strength of American democracy is shown most clearly through the difficulties it can overcome.
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GORE: As for the battle that ends tonight, I do believe as my father once said, that no matter how hard the loss, defeat might serve as well as victory to shape the soul and let the glory out.
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GORE: Now the political struggle is over and we turn again to the unending struggle for the common good of all Americans and for those multitudes around the world who look to us for leadership in the cause of freedom.
In the words of our great hymn, "America, America": "Let us crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea."
And now, my friends, in a phrase I once addressed to others, it's time for me to go.
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BLITZER: An hour after the vice president's concession speech, George W. Bush stepped into the Texas House of Representatives, introduced at least as the president-elect. He praise Al Gore and after the bitter election and its aftermath, called for national unity.
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BUSH: The spirit of cooperation I have seen in this hall is what is needed in Washington, D.C. It is the challenge of our moment. After a difficult election, we must put politics behind us and work together to make the promise of America available for every one of our citizens.
I am optimistic that we can change the tone in Washington, D.C.
I believe things happen for a reason, and I hope the long wait of the last five weeks will heighten a desire to move beyond the bitterness and partisanship of the recent past.
Our nation must rise above a house divided. Americans share hopes and goals and values far more important than any political disagreements.
Republicans want the best for our nation, and so do Democrats. Our votes may differ, but not our hopes.
I know America wants reconciliation and unity. I know Americans want progress. And we must seize this moment and deliver.
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BLITZER: As to what he wants to deliver aside from unity, President-Elect Bush promised to work for Social Security and Medicare reform, tax relief and a bipartisan international policy. But even in listing his priorities, the president-elect returned to the theme of unity.
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BUSH: During the fall campaign, we differed about the details of these proposals, but there was remarkable consensus about the important issues before us: excellent schools, retirement and health security, tax relief, a strong military, a more civil society.
We have discussed our differences. Now it is time to find common ground and build consensus to make America a beacon of opportunity in the 21st century. I'm optimistic this can happen.
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BLITZER: You'll be able to see both the George W. Bush and Al Gore addresses to the nation in their entirety during a CNN special report at 1:00 a.m. Eastern, 10:00 p.m. Pacific. Two people who have reported on this extraordinary campaign since day one and who know these two men quite well are CNN senior political correspondent Candy Crowley, and senior White House correspondent John King and they join us now, live.
Candy, first to you. The themes that Governor Bush, now President-Elect Bush, sought to focus on during his brief speech in Texas, conciliation, unity, those are themes that may not sit all that well with some of the conservative, more conservative members of the Republican Party. How much of a concern, if at all, was that to Mr. Bush?
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: One of the things that I have thought all along, as you watch how George Bush campaigned and the people that he was with, and how he's governed here in Texas is he may have more trouble with his own party than he does at least with moderates in the Democratic Party.
And it's really not just the more conservative wing of the Republican Party. Remember, of course, that George Bush is a self- professed conservative Republican, so much of what he wants will be on their agenda. But once you reach the social issues, it's not something that George Bush has always put on the front burner nor I judge will he put them on the front burner now.
But he also has problems with others of the Republican Party -- John McCain, who said tonight I'd really like campaign finance reform to be the first bill out of the box and it took John Breaux to say, gee, I'm not sure that's a great idea. We ought to, you know, work on something that's a little less divisive.
So, you know, he may well have problems with his own party but what George Bush's great strength has been in Texas according to people who have fought against him and with him, is that he does -- is able to form coalitions, and he's going to have to look right down the center of the House and the Senate, and go to the moderates on both sides. .
BLITZER: John King, if you listen carefully to Vice President Gore's speech, as you of course did, and everyone seems to conclude it was very gracious in his remarks towards President-Elect Bush, it was, though, in marked contrast to what some members of the Democratic Party had earlier said, particularly the Reverend Jesse Jackson. How Does gore resolve those kinds of problems? People -- a lot of people around Gore think, of course, that he was robbed.
JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the vice president in his heart, I think, believes a disservice was done to him. I don't know if he would use the term rob. But let's remember here, this is a great moment in history and he knew his challenge was to step aside gracefully. He also knew that he's a young man in his 50s, who might want to run again.
Unlike the Reverend Jesse Jackson, the vice president -- the sitting vice president of the United States right now, a member of the government who will be part of a transition of power in just five weeks. He cannot make public statements like that right now, but he also made clear, if you listen closely, that he would fight on. He said he didn't quite know how yet, and he said one of those groups he wanted to fight for was those whose voices have not been heard, You might translate that into those whose votes, in his view, were never counted.
The big question now: How does the vice president move forward? The next week will be dedicated to that meeting with Governor Bush on Tuesday. Then he will wrap up his tenure as vice president. Twenty- four years he has been on the Federal payroll: eight years in the House; eight in the Senate; now eight in the vice presidency.
He faces very big decisions in the months ahead about whether he wants a rematch in four years and if he does, about how to position himself and most believe he exited tonight in a way that was very graceful to Governor Bush, but also, very graceful to his supporters, and left him openings to come back should he want to try it. It'll be much more difficult, though. Democrats will not give him a pass next time.
BLITZER: Candy, how quickly will President-Elect Bush now start naming Cabinet members and the senior staff, his senior staff at the White House?
CROWLEY: I sense that we will get some maybe Friday. I was kind of waved off the idea that tomorrow the governor might announce a senior staff or some Cabinet members. We know that he is settled on senior staff, and that there are some Cabinet names that he's ready to announce. They're looking for a little, if you will, a transition within the transition.
They want to treat this period were with great respect, for the feelings of not just the vice president, but his supporters. They don't want to sort of overplay and say OK, well that's over with. Now here's the Cabinet and here's the and sort of move quite that quickly.
The one -- the only thing that is on the governor's public schedule as of right now is a prayer meeting at the church that he attends. So that's sort of in keeping with his tone of, let's keep this at sort of a higher level tone and move kind of gently into it. Having said that, they have lost half the time they have for transition. They know that they have to move quickly, because there is another message that the country needs and that is, I'm on the job, you know, we -- despite the fact that we lost 36 days, the government will be in place and we can get moving right after the inauguration.
So, he is sort of fighting twin poles at this point, the need to kind of give us a little breathing room, this period of letting people kind of getting used to this idea, and the need to kind of move quickly, so I sense that we'll get the beginnings of some of this by Friday, but maybe not tomorrow.
BLITZER: John, how serious is all this talk that Bush may seek out a Democrat or two to bring into the cabinet; if it is serious, what names are you hearing? KING: Well, his aides themselves say it's very serious. Dick Cheney has told Republicans on Capitol Hill to be prepared for a Democrat or two in the cabinet. And the Democrats, who Governor Bush has spoken to, Senator John Breaux, Candy mentioned earlier, also say that Governor Bush has made quite clear that he would look to them.
There has been some talk just tonight, Norman Sisisky, a retiring Democratic member of the House of Representatives from the state of Virginia, among those being considered, still early in the process we are told but among those being considered for the post of secretary of veterans affairs. So Governor Bush said to be quite serious about wanting to name at least one, perhaps two Democratic members of his cabinet, the so-called "blue dog," moderate Democrats also being looked at and not just for the cabinet.
One of the key things Democrats looking for when Governor Bush comes to Washington early next week, he will meet with President Clinton, meet with Vice President Gore, meet most likely with Dick Gephardt and Tom Daschle, the leaders in the House, but they are also looking down the road a bit for meetings with the people who will actually have to do the work here: moderate Republicans, centrist moderate to conservative Democrats, the governing coalition, if you will, that great center of the political dynamic that President Clinton so often spoke about. Governor Bush now must seize it if he can govern effectively.
BLITZER: John King and Candy Crowley, always great to talk with both you of, because I always learn something. Thanks so much for joining us.
A concession, and an invitation -- two speeches with lots of reaction. When we return, two political leaders from outside the Beltway give us their take on tonight's addresses.
And later, reading between the lines and looking ahead.
CNN's Bill Schneider gets out his crystal ball.
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LYNDON B. JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.
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BLITZER: A look back at some other famous farewells.
BLITZER: Welcome back to this CNN special report.
Many of the events in recent days have taken place here in Washington, but let's go outside the Beltway for some additional perspective.
Joining me now are Republican Governor Christine Todd Whitman of New Jersey, she joins us from our bureau in New York; and Democratic Governor Gray Davis of California, he happens to be here in Washington.
Governors, thanks for joining us.
And I wanted to begin with you, Governor Davis, were you surprised how the nature of the Gore concession -- a lot of people had been speculating he wouldn't use that "C" word, he wouldn't formally concede?
GOV. GRAY DAVIS (D), CALIFORNIA: I thought it was a wonderful speech, maybe the best I've heard the vice president give in the last year and a half. It was very human, it was very personable, it reached out to the best of us in America, and certainly not the worst of us, and he reached out the hand of friendship to Governor Bush, so I thought it was a very good beginning, and I thought Governor Bush responded to the challenge and I thought those two speeches really said to us that both men seized the moment and they moved us closer together.
BLITZER: And, Governor Whitman, same question to you as far as President-elect Bush's speech is concerned, very conciliatory, reaching out to Democrats; presumably, maybe making some conservatives nervous about the tenure of what he hopes to establish in Washington?
GOV. CHRISTIE TODD WHITMAN (R), NEW JERSEY: Oh, I think we saw democracy at its best tonight. We saw two men who have vied fervently for the greatest position in the land and arguably the world, who stepped outside the partisan politics to reach out to the country to say, now it's time to come together, to seize the moment and to take advantage of the fact that we have an opportunity to move this country forward by bringing people together, by not trying to appease wings -- the far extremes in either party, but to move toward the center and move an agenda that speaks to all people and brings all people together.
I thought both speeches were very good and I thought it shows the very best of what this country is all about.
BLITZER: Governor Davis, some of the close political associates of President-elect Bush are now saying he's going to reach out to people in California, your state, knowing that if he wants to be re- elected in 2004, California could be very, very important. Practically speaking, if he does that in addition to visiting California, let's say, as President Clinton used to do almost every few weeks, what does he have to do to become more attractive to people in California?
DAVIS: Well, as Christie said, and I agree 100 percent with her, America is really looking for centrist problem solvers. We don't want ideologues or extremists. All of us privileged to have been in government have been hired by the electorate to solve their problems, so he will make progress in California if he helps us solve our problems, helps us improve our schools, protect our environment. We in California believe in common sense gun control, we believe in a woman's right to choose. If he can deal with seniors and the need for prescription drugs, if he can solve problems, I think he will not only build bridges to California, but to all America, and I would hope that he would begin by looking to an issue where he can get strong majorities in both houses of the Congress, and get a victory which will get him off to a good start and get the country off to good start.
BLITZER: Governor Whitman, what about you? There has been speculation, you may or may not want to serve in a Bush cabinet. Do you have any interest in doing that if the president-elect came to you?
WHITMAN: Well, that's entirely up to him, but obviously it would be a high honor to be considered for a position like that, to have someone think that you had something that you could offer the country, but I love the job I'm in, so I'm in a very -- actually a very good position, I can't lose from that perspective.
But I'm just delighted to have seen what when on tonight, to see both of these men give the kind of speeches they did and I really believe, we have seen George Bush bring people together before.
I don't think the venue tonight that he chose for his speech is lost on any one. It's reflective of how he has governed, and I am feeling very, very optimistic. I know there is a real potential for a partisan divide, because everything is so close, but there's also an enormous potential to come together and to move this country forward, and I think that's what the American people want more than anything else right now.
BLITZER: All right, Governor Davis, what is the most important thing, the first thing that should be on President-Elect Bush's agenda once he takes office on January 20th?
DAVIS: Well, I think that he has to remember that more people voted for Al Gore than vote for George Bush. So he has to reach out to America and let them know that he's going to work hard to earn their trust, as I's sure he will.
He's going to work with people of all stripes. I believe in California and I'm sure Christy agrees, that I don't care if a good idea comes from a Republican or a Democrat, if it helps us solve a problem, let's get both parties to agree and solve the problem. So, I think humility is in order, graciousness -- both of which I'm sure he'll bring to the task and to reach out to both parties.
BLITZER: Governor Whitman, Senator McCain says campaign finance reform should top the agenda of the Bush administration. Presumably, it won't. They disagree on that issue. What do you think should be atop President-Elect Bush's agenda?
WHITMAN: Well, I think one of the first issues -- he outlined it in his speech tonight and the way he outlined the issues, what his priorities were, he started with education. That's something that extraordinarily important to the future of this country and everyone agrees we want to ensure that no child is left behind.
I believe that as he looks and puts his agenda together, first of all, he's going to do the right thing and he's going to pick those issues where he can build consensus fairly rapidly. I think education is certainly a good one to start on. It's one where there is less contention than some of the other issues. It's one that everyone agrees needs to be addressed and he has some very good ideas to ensure that we have the very best future we can offer anyone.
BLITZER: Governor Whitman and Governor Davis, thanks to both of you for joining us on our CNN special report.
And in a moment, the view from the U.S. Senate in the quest for common ground. We'll be joined by one Republican, and one Democrat. Up next, though, a melancholy moving day, Gore workers pack it up after 36 days in Florida.
BLITZER: A quick update now on the events of this historic night. A little more than two hours ago, Al Gore addressed the nation and announced he was conceding defeat.
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GORE: I spoke with George W. Bush and congratulated him on becoming the 43rd president of the United States. And I promised him that I wouldn't call him back this time. I offered to meet with him as soon as possible so that we can start to heal divisions of the campaign and the contest through which we've just passed.
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BLITZER: About an hour later, George W. Bush publicly accepted Gore's concession. In a speech from inside the Texas state house, he pledged to work with Gore to heal the country, and he also pledged to work for political unity in Washington.
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BUSH: Tonight I chose to speak from the chamber of the Texas House of Representatives because it has been a home to bipartisan cooperation. Here in a place where Democrats have the majority, Republicans and Democrats have worked together to do what is right for the people we represent.
We've had spirited disagreements. And in the end, we found constructive consensus. It is an experience I will always carry with me, an example I will always follow.
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BLITZER: George W. Bush becomes the fourth man to win the White House despite losing the overall popular vote. Out of about 100 million votes cast, Bush and Gore were separated by about 337,000 votes. Bush also becomes the first man to win the White House despite losing both California and New York. Florida's 25 electoral votes gave Bush the 271 vote total he needed.
Many of the people who worked on the Gore effort in Florida are beginning the process of moving on. CNN national correspondent Gary Tuchman on how some are letting go of a dream.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's a house that's now available to be leased after four months as the Florida campaign headquarters for Al Gore.
MARCUS JADOTTE, GORE FLORIDA DIRECTOR: I think we're all surprised at the court's action, and now dealing with the aftermath. It hasn't sunk in yet.
TUCHMAN: This is where the vice president's top lieutenants in Florida and volunteer workers toiled during the campaign and the recount effort. But now everybody is moving out. And many here can't believe it.
TASHA COLE, FLORIDA SCHEDULING DIRECTOR: It hasn't hit me yet. I'm sure, you know, over the next couple of days and weeks, it will probably start to sink in. You know, we have to travel to D.C. And, you know, the Inaugural comes up. I mean, at this very moment, it hasn't sunk in yet that he's not going to be president.
TUCHMAN: As Florida's undervotes started getting counted this past Saturday, many of these Gore workers thought their candidate might be on the verge of the presidency. But then came the U.S. Supreme Court stay and the ruling late Tuesday night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You felt emotional, but you had a sense of pride. You did everything that you could.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Every day I woke up realizing how good I felt about what I was doing, and glad that I was here, and would not trade it for anything, wouldn't trade these three days and this recount, as hard and confusing as they were, for anything.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Most of these people had planned on being here for a while longer to watch hand counts get completed. But now they move on elsewhere, thinking about what might have been.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Tallahassee, Florida.
BLITZER: A new Republican president, and a new politically- divided Congress. Can they work together for the common good? Let's explore this with two senators, one from each party.
Republican Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine has been a leader in building bipartisan consensus on key issues. Democratic Senator John Edwards, a freshman from North Carolina, was himself on Al Gore's short list for potential running mates. Senators, thanks for joining us. Senator Snowe, a 50-50 Senate -- 50 Republicans, 50 Democrats, a Republican vice president who could break a tie. It doesn't look, at least the consensus is, that there's a whole lot of opportunity for bipartisan cooperation despite the conciliatory nature of the two speeches we heard tonight.
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE (R), MAINE: Well, I think tonight did set the right tone for a new Congress, and I certainly want to commend both Vice President Gore and President-Elect Bush for striking the right tenor and expressing the correct sentiments that I think can bring this country together because that is going to be important. We have two choices in Congress.
We can either proceed down the road of harmony or we can proceed down the road of discord, and I think many of us in the Senate want to do everything that we can to overcome the obstacles and the barriers of an evenly divided Senate and to proceed in working a cooperative effort. Maybe tonight end a tumultuous chapter in America's history and ushers in a new era of cooperation, and that's why we created the centrist coalition that John Breaux and I are heading up with more than 26 members of the Senate, almost evenly divided among party lines, which I think is going to be really important and critical not only to advance the agenda for President-Elect Bush, but also for America.
BLITZER: Senate Edwards, are you part of that centrist coalition?
SEN. JOHN EDWARDS (D), NORTH CAROLINA: I am, Wolf, and Olympia is exactly right. I actually think that what we have here is an extraordinary opportunity. The closeness of the presidential election and the fact that we have a 50/50, evenly divided Senate, I think what the American people are saying to us is not that they're deeply divided, but instead that they expect us to work together.
I think they had a difficult time making a decision between Governor Bush and Vice President Gore and that should send a message to all of this. They expect us to lower the rhetoric, lower the partisanship, and find ways to work together, and that's what Olympia and I and the others are doing in the Senate. And I also might add, Wolf, I think it's critically important that those of us on the Democratic side of the aisle now, given that the election is over and Governor Bush is now going to be president of the United States, that we reach out to him and that we be willing to work with him, that we find issues on which we can cooperate. I think that the people of this country expect that from us. And in fact, I think they deserve that from us.
BLITZER: One pocketbook issue, Senator Snowe, that a lot of people think probably is not going to go very far is the $1.3 trillion tax cut proposal that President-elect Bush campaigned on over the past year. Is a 50-50 Senate, a narrow Republican majority in the House of Representatives, likely to approve anything close to that kind of massive tax cut?
SNOWE: Probably not as high. I mean, I think, obviously, the question of a tax cut would be determined in terms of scope and size. And as we know, in the last Congress, we had $792 billion, which was the Republican package, and the president, who wanted $300 billion. And the centrists came between the two with $500 billion. So in fact, today, the moderate Republicans met with Vice President-elect Cheney, and we discussed the issue of tax cuts. And we think that there is support on both sides from some kind of tax cut, including marriage penalty relief and estate tax relief, and I...
BLITZER: But a lot less than $1.3 trillion.
SNOWE: Probably a lot less.
BLITZER: What are we talking about, $500 billion?
SNOWE: Yeah, I would say, you know, somewhere, you know, maybe a little bit more. You know, it certainly is possible. Depends on the surplus, the projections. And also, as Vice President-elect Cheney said today, you know, we do have a slowing of the economy, and so that may be important in creating some impetus in the future. So that certainly will be on the agenda. The question will be, obviously, you know, to what extent we can provide it.
BLITZER: Senator Edwards, what about that, $500 billion, $700 billion tax cut -- is that something you think the majority of Democrats could accept?
EDWARDS: I think that there are -- the majority of Democrats can definitely support a tax cut, so long as it's balanced against the other priorities -- maintaining a balanced budget, paying down the debt, providing a prescription drug benefit, passing a "patients' bill of rights," providing education funding. I mean, there are a number of things that need to be done, but clearly, one of the components is a tax cut. And the whole issue is how much of a tax cut can we provide, given these other priorities and still staying within a balanced budget. And I think Olympia and I actually agree on that.
BLITZER: All right, what about, Senator Snowe, on some of the other big issues that -- that President-elect Bush ran on? For example, Social Security reform, Medicare reform. These seem to be very ambitious agenda kind of issues with a very slim majority that he has.
SNOWE: Well, you know, that's true, but I think, given the narrow margins, you know, in the House and the evenly divided Senate, I think it's going to compel us to work together. I mean, otherwise, if we don't work with President-elect Bush, obviously, those of us like John and I who are centrists in the United States Senate, nothing can happen. With us, a lot can happen. Again, Vice President-elect Cheney mentioned he wants to work with the Senate on the -- on the Social Security, on the tax cuts, on education and all the other issues, and I think it's a matter of time during the course of this year in terms of when we work on these issues. But I do believe that this should not deter us from working on these issues for this country.
BLITZER: Senator Edwards, despite all the very, very gracious talk tonight, are you among those Democrats -- and there are many out there -- who believe Vice President Gore was robbed?
EDWARDS: No, I don't think that sort of -- that sort of talk is healthy. I don't think we should be talking about that, Wolf. In fact, when this whole post-election dispute was going on, during that time, I was saying very publicly that I thought it was really important for people in leadership positions, people like Olympia and myself, and others to tone down the rhetoric, tone down the partisanship, let the process work, and when the process was concluded, as it was last night by the United States Supreme Court, to not only accept what occurred but to move forward and support the president. Governor Bush, President-elect Bush, is going to become our president, my president. And it's very important for the entire country to get behind him so that we can reunite this country.
BLITZER: Senator Edwards, Senator Snowe, thanks for joining us on our special report.
And up next: lessons from history that could apply to the new Bush administration.
And later: what the Supreme Court's controversial ruling might have done to its reputation.
BLITZER: Welcome back.
Let's get some further perspective on this dramatic night. Presidential historian Doug Brinkley joins us from San Francisco to consider several important questions, including this one, Professor Brinkley. How will historians view these past 36 days?
DOUG BRINKLEY, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Well, political historians will find it one of the most surreal, strange times in American history. There's never been anything quite like it for the Supreme Court of the United States to rule in an election to overturn the Florida supreme court. There's going to be a lot of work for historians. I just picture political historians going down now and actually counting these dimpled ballots themselves and books coming out trying to decide who really won the election of 2000.
So it's going to be fodder for historians for a long time to come, and I have a feeling there'll be a -- quite a few books that say that Al Gore not only won the popular vote but really won the Electoral College but lost the battle in the courts of law.
BLITZER: What about the two speeches we heard tonight? How historic will those speeches turn out to be?
BRINKLEY: They were very historic speeches, and I think, in some ways, quite predictable. Al Gore was -- was eloquent and actually funny, and I thought it was a very well-crafted speech. And he always has been a great healer. I mean, one thing about Al Gore, he is a patriot. No matter what we said about him serving in Vietnam in 1970, he went and served for his country, and he served in Congress, in the Senate, and eight years as perhaps the most significant vice president in the 20th century. So he's somebody who believes in public service, and I think you saw that healing gesture.
And Governor Bush made the big gesture of bipartisanship, which he's going to have to continue. I thought it was very wise to make that speech from Austin, in front of all the Texas legislators. It worked very well. And so it's an A-plus for both Bush and Gore for the way they finally resolved this strange election mess.
BLITZER: Everybody seems to agree, Professor Brinkley, that Al Gore was certainly looking ahead in his speech. Even being as gracious as he was, he was looking down the road. Give us an historic perspective on political comebacks of unsuccessful candidates.
BRINKLEY: Well, look, Wolf, you know Washington, D.C.'s filled with formers and ex's. And right now, Al Gore is going to soon to become an ex-Senator and an ex-vice president, while George Bush is going to be the most powerful person in the world. But Vice President Gore is young and energetic, and I think he has an opportunity now to cast himself as the voice of democracy, as the person who says that "I care about every vote in the country." He's perfectly situated for four years to -- to run in 2004, and he may take a post. There's been rumors of him perhaps becoming president of Harvard, for example. And I remember Dwight Eisenhower was president of Columbia University, using that as sort of a launch pad for his 1952 run.
But the most famous comeback of all is, of course, Richard Nixon, who lost by that narrow margin in 1960 and then said -- lost the governorship of California and miraculously won in 1968, you know, eight years after he first lost.
So I have a feeling you're going to be seeing another -- you know, Al Gore at least entering the arena in 2004. And right now, you'd have to say he's the front-runner for the Democratic Party, although surely people like either one of the Senator Kerrys or Dick Gephardt or many others might try to challenge him for that spot.
BLITZER: You know, some people are saying that the fact that Al Gore lost his home state of Tennessee is going to ill-serve him down the road. How important will it be, assuming he wants to come back in 2004, for him to reestablish his Tennessee base?
BRINKLEY: It's going to depend whether he wants to have that base, and I think he does. He loves the state. When he said he was going to go there and mend fences in a joke tonight, meaning the fences on his farm in Carthage and also political fences -- it's an embarrassment and a humiliation. It has to just gnaw at the vice president. If he only won his home state of Tennessee, he would be president of the United States today. So I think he has a lot of work to do.
But you know, his father, of course, lost the Senate seat in 1970 in Tennessee and was very wounded. And his father had served 32 years in the Senate. And Al Gore, Senior, was so -- in such despair after losing, and he -- and his son said, "Dad, don't worry about it. You did the right thing on Civil Rights. You did the right thing about opposing the war in Vietnam. And you had 32 great years." And Al Gore will go down in history, 20th century history, along with Estes Kefauver, the vice president of -- of Dwight Eisenhower, as one of the great Tennessee politicians of the century.
BLITZER: Doug Brinkley, thanks for joining us from San Francisco. A lot to think about.
BRINKLEY: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
And still to come: the impact of the Supreme Court's decision, a closer look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JUSTICE CLARENCE THOMAS: Whatever you do, don't try to apply the rules of the political world to this institution. They do not apply.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What some of the Justices are saying on this day after, as this CNN special report continues.
BLITZER: On a day when healing and unity were the watchwords here in Washington, a few sharply partisan remarks stood out. In a written statement attacking the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to stop the Florida recounts, New York Democratic Congressman Charles Rangel said, quote, "This Court, which has often covered over racism with judicial language, this time could not find the words to hide the injustice of its ruling," end quote.
Republican majority whip Tom DeLay of Texas singled out Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Quoting from DeLay's written statement, "I am compelled to express great disappointment with the dissent offered by Justice Stevens, who suggests, quote, `We may never know with complete certainty the identity of the winner of this year's presidential election.' Justice Stevens is wrong. It is precisely known which candidate has won a majority of the whole number of electors and the presidency."
There was no response from Justice Stevens, but a couple of other Justices were talking today about the high court's difficult role in this presidential election. Here's CNN senior Washington correspondent, Charles Bierbauer.
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Supreme Court, in its decision effectively halting Florida's recount, split philosophically and ideologically. But Justice Clarence Thomas says this is not a political Court.
THOMAS: I plead with you that whatever you do, don't try to apply the rules of the political world to this institution. They do not apply. Now, you can criticize, and there are bases for disagreeing. But it's not the model that you use across the street. They're entirely different worlds.
BIERBAUER: "Across the street" is Congress. Chief Justice Rehnquist, encountering reporters after Thomas's remarks, concurred. "Absolutely. Absolutely." Justice Thomas told visiting high school students the Court's 5-4 opinion was difficult.
THOMAS: The last few weeks have been exhausting, I think, for the entire Court. But in a lot of ways, it shows the strength of our system of government.
BIERBAUER: Justice Thomas said there was passion in the Court's deliberation but no self-interest. The passion was most evident in the four dissents to the ruling. Justice Stevens: "The identity of the loser is perfectly clear. It is the nation's confidence in the judge as an impartial guardian of the rule of law."
RICHARD LAZARUS, GEORGETOWN LAW CENTER: This Court itself is divided quite often, but there's no question division among the Justices in this case was as intense as we've seen in recent years.
BIERBAUER: But is it lasting?
DANIEL MERON, FORMER KENNEDY CLERK: They have a lot of respect for each other, and there's not going to be any lasting damage to the internal workings of the Court. The Justices often decide very difficult cases, and then they move on.
BIERBAUER: The lasting impact may lie in public and political arenas.
LANNY DAVIS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SPECIAL COUNSEL: That is going to be very bitter for many people who believe that this was all about stopping the count from taking place to begin with.
BIERBAUER (on-camera): That bitterness could be reflected when the next president names a new Supreme Court Justice who must be confirmed by an intensely political Senate split 50-50.
Charles Bierbauer, CNN, the Supreme Court.
BLITZER: Straight ahead, our Bill Schneider on tonight's speeches by Bush and Gore. Then a different look at a different kind of speech.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD NIXON (R), FORMER VICE PRESIDENT: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore. Thank you, gentlemen. And good day.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Some good-byes mean good-bye. Sometimes not. Famous farewell speeches as this CNN special report continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALBERT GORE (D), VICE PRESIDENT, PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: For the sake of our unity as a people and the strength of our democracy, I offer my concession.
GEORGE W. BUSH (R), PRESIDENT-ELECT: Our nation must rise above a house divided. Americans share hopes and goals and values far more important than any political disagreements.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Two men tonight, two very gracious speeches.
Joining us now to talk about all of this, CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider.
Bill, despite all the unity and all the graciousness, how badly divided is the country right now?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, Americans are not really divided much over policy. The division we're seeing is over values, and you could see it in the election returns. They reflect really lifestyle differences -- differences by gun ownership and church-going and single versus married people. You could see it on the map. The conservative heartland went for Bush, and the liberal coasts went for Al Gore.
And I think that division comes right from Bill Clinton. Clinton brought Americans together on policy, like Welfare reform and a balanced budget, but his personal values created a deep cleavage in the country. Clinton was the first president to come out of the culture of the 1960s. First impeachment, and now Florida were the latest skirmishes in that long cultural war.
BLITZER: And some are saying that Al Gore's speech tonight, despite the tone, may actually have been his opening salvo looking towards 2004.
SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, everything depends on how President- elect Bush does. If two years from now Americans conclude that electing Bush was a bad mistake, Gore's going to look very good. But Democrats know this election should have been slam dunk for Al Gore. We had peace. We had prosperity. We had a low crime rate. And yet he couldn't make it happen. Why? Well, a lot of Democrats have concluded he ran a terrible campaign.
BLITZER: And as far as George W. Bush's speech was concerned, the setting was very, very symbolic, the tone very conciliatory. He's trying to set a tone for the next four years, as well.
SCHNEIDER: He is. And you know, conservatives may have been dismayed. Conservative Republicans have been patient throughout this entire campaign. They didn't give Bush a lot of trouble the way they did his father or Bob Dole. But now Republicans control Congress and the White House for the first time in almost 50 years, and there's going to be some pressure on Bush for a pay-off. They didn't hear any sign of it in Bush's remarks tonight. They heard consensus and common ground.
But you know, Bush knows this is not 1980, when Reagan got elected and people wanted radical change, or even 1992, when Clinton got elected and they wanted something very different. Bush understands that this year, Americans voted for a change of leadership, not a change of direction. And the Florida struggle made that yearning for consensus in the country even stronger.
BLITZER: So you think George W. Bush can risk alienating the conservative wing of the Republican Party?
SCHNEIDER: He can if he is effective and popular with the rest of the country, which means he's got to create a government of the middle. He's got to carve out something unusual, a coalition of moderate Democrats and most moderate-to-conservative Republicans without the fringe groups on either side and see if he can govern with that coalition. Figures like John Breaux, a moderate Democrat, are going to become very crucial in the new Congress, which is otherwise divided right down the middle along party lines.
BLITZER: You heard Governor Gray Davis of California, a Democrat, and you heard Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, a Democrat, on this program tonight reaching out to Governor Bush.
SCHNEIDER: That's right, and Governor Bush is reaching out to them. You know, Governor Gray Davis is a sort of model of a pragmatic kind of Democrat that Bush can work with. He wants to be a pragmatic Republican. If he can find common ground, then he could develop his own effective base and maybe even create a new coalition in this country that cuts across party lines. That would be remarkable.
BLITZER: Bill Schneider, thanks for joining us.
BLITZER: And just as Al Gore tonight said good-bye to the presidential race, farewell speeches are often best remembered when presidents and personalities step from the public spotlight. But as CNN's Garrick Utley reports, history also reminds us "Farewell" doesn't always mean forever.
GARRICK UTLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's not easy to leave the stage of public attention with style. A farewell is a revealing moment that can take us behind the public face and let us see the inner person, as when baseball great Lou Gehrig had to leave the game in 1939, when he faced a fatal illness.
LOU GEHRIG: Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth.
UTLEY (on-camera): Ever since George Washington offered his farewell address to the nation, well-known figures in the United States have understood the importance of last impressions. They can be important in helping to shape a person's place in the public mind and in history.
(voice-over): That was the goal of General Douglas MacArthur when he offered his theatrical farewell to Congress and the nation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RET. GEN. DOUGLAS MACARTHUR: An old soldier never dies. They just fade away.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
UTLEY: And so do entertainers. Johnny Carson has chosen not to perform on television since his departure in 1992.
JOHNNY CARSON: I bid you a very heartfelt good night.
UTLEY: Carson's ability to see when and how to go was shared by Lyndon Johnson, who understood when it was time to give up not a TV show but the presidency because of the Vietnam war.
LYNDON BAINES JOHNSON, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I shall not seek and I will not accept the nomination of my party for another term as your president.
UTLEY: Sometimes public figures may feel the game is over.
MICHAEL JORDAN: It's time for me to move away from the game of basketball.
UTLEY: But Jordan came back to the game, just as Richard Nixon came back to win the presidency following the bitterness of earlier political defeats.
NIXON: You don't have Nixon to kick around anymore. Thank you gentlemen. And good day.
UTLEY: So there have been plenty of examples and lessons for Al Gore on how to handle and not handle defeat. He may be out of a job, but he doesn't want to be out of the public's mind.
(on camera): A hope which cannot be shared by Bill Clinton, for whom no presidential comeback is allowed, which raises a question.
(voice-over): After eight years of prosperity, domestic peace, scandal and impeachment, it'll soon be time for this president to offer his farewell speech to the nation. What will he tell us?
Garrick Utley, CNN, New York.
BLITZER: And that's it for our election 2000 special report. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. Join me tomorrow night and every night at 8:00 PM Eastern, 5:00 Pacific for a special edition of The World Today. The Spin Room is now ready to whirl! Here are Bill Press and Tucker Carlson with a preview.
BILL PRESS, CO-HOST, CNN "THE SPIN ROOM": All right, Wolf. Thank you. And to mark this special day, Vice President Gore and Governor Bush have personally requested that THE SPIN ROOM be open for an entire hour tonight. We accept.
TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST, CNN "THE SPIN ROOM": And in honor of this emerging bipartisanship, it'll be a full hour of niceness!
PRESS: Oh, no!
CARLSON: Can you stand it? Find out in two minutes. We'll be back on THE SPIN ROOM.
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