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The Spin Room: U.S. Supreme Court Delivers for Bush

Aired December 13, 2000 - 0:30 a.m. ET


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

BILL PRESS, CO-HOST: The nine Supreme Court justices have spoken. Now what did they say?

TUCKER CARLSON, CO-HOST: Luckily, we have an answer.

PRESS: Good evening, everybody. Thanks for joining us at THE SPIN ROOM here outside in front of the United States Supreme Court. Bill Press here with Tucker Carlson.

We have some guests who have been braving the cold to talk with us this evening, Congressman Jay Inslee, a Democrat from the state of Washington, Congressman Mark Foley, a Republican from the state of Florida, Governor Bill Owens, Republican governor of the state of Colorado.

But first, we're going to get the legal inside scoop, Tucker, from...

CARLSON: From one of the sagest legal analysts in Washington, CNN's own Roger Cossack, about to head to the emergency room to have his toes amputated from frostbite. Before you go...


CARLSON: ... Can you tell us, people are saying that Al Gore is going to have to concede tomorrow. Why? Why do you think he's going to have to concede?

COSSACK: Well, because he's not going to get the recount. I mean, you can slice this opinion up 15 different ways. But the bottom line is five members of the United States Supreme Court have said that there was a violation of the federal constitution.

We have now said safe harbor 1,000 times. Where is this safe harbor? It certainly wasn't safe for Vice President Gore.

The violation is that that means that under the Supreme Court ruling that the counting had to be done by December 12. It's now December 12. The counting hasn't been done. That's about it.

PRESS: Roger, let me ask you, did the Supreme Court in effect try to have it both ways, try to duck the responsibility it seems to me? I hate to be so disrespectful right in front of the court...

CARLSON: Oh, go ahead.

PRESS: ... and say, "Look, here's how you guys have to fix it." And yet, under their guidelines, it's impossible to fix.

COSSACK: Well, that's pretty much what happened, Bill. They said, "You have to fix it. You have till December 12 to fix it. Oops, it's December 13, I guess you can't fix it."

There was tremendous division in the Supreme Court. We saw it just in the stay that came down, the notion that there was a majority written for the stay and a dissent to the stay. And, in fact, they were all over the board in what they wanted to have done.

There were seven members of the nine that said there was a violation of the constitution. Five said that there was this safe harbor, the December 12 thing that we're talking about. And two others said, "No, no, no, you can get them recounted. There's a way to do it."

And I think one or two others said, "You know, we shouldn't even be talking about this because there really wasn't a violation of the federal constitution."

And the irony, of course, is that the conservative members of the court, the ones that normally say we should give great deference to the states, are the ones that found the federal violation. And the ones that normally are on the other side are the ones that said, "No, no, we should be looking at the states."

CARLSON: Roger, give us your wildest, kind of science fiction scenario for how Al Gore comes back from this and in fact tomorrow keeps going and wins.

COSSACK: OK, my wildest science fiction is that somehow he gets into a time machine, turns the clock back, and it becomes December 7. He then has, or maybe December 1. He has plenty of time to have the votes recounted. Every agrees the dimples count. He wins the election and marches victoriously down Pennsylvania Avenue. I don't know how he does it.

PRESS: All right, Roger, at the risk that you may have to appear in a courtroom again and face a judge, I have to ask you this question, however, which is that it seems to me from the beginning the Florida Supreme Court says you have to recount. But they don't put out a standard. They basically leave it up to the canvassing boards.

This court says they throw it back to Florida, but they don't give a standard. I mean, why hasn't any court in this whole long process been willing to make a firm, clear, absolute decision?

COSSACK: Well, because there's this notion of -- because the legislature has the full power to deal with how votes are done within the states. The legislature has said the intent of the voter is what carries the day. Well, what is the intent of the voter? When I was in on the arguments the other day, that's clearly what they were talking about, these sub standards.

I wasn't sure whether they were saying, "You know, you could have 67 counties with 67 different standards. And as long as they were all reasonable standards, that would be OK. Or you needed one standard for all 67 counties." But I don't know if we'll ever know.

PRESS: All right, Roger Cossack, thank you so much.

COSSACK: Thank you.

PRESS: You are a brave, brave man. Roger is going to leave now.

CARLSON: Good luck with your toes.

COSSACK: Thank you very much.


PRESS: ... emergency room of George Washington University Hospital to take care of this frostbite tonight. We're going to come right back in THE SPIN ROOM joined by Governor Bill Owens of Colorado and a couple of congressmen standing by to give us their take on this.

CARLSON: A star-spangled panel.

PRESS: It is indeed.

CARLSON: It is indeed.

PRESS: We just round it up in the crowd out here.

CARLSON: We literally -- and we will be back in just a moment.

PRESS: We'll be right back.


CARLSON: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. I'm Tucker Carlson here with Bill Press, a special outdoor edition outside the United States Supreme Court. A little chilly late at night, but big news happening.

PRESS: Let me tell you, folks, it is cold out here. But we're lucky tonight, Tucker and I are both being kept warm I hope you notice by these beautiful...


PRESS: ... hand woven scarves.

CARLSON: Hand woven, hand woven by Mrs. Bill Press.

PRESS: Hand woven by Carol Press. And later in the show, we'll tell you all where you can get one just like it. But we're joined right now...

CARLSON: A shameless plug.

PRESS: ... shameless plug.

CARLSON: Governor Bill Owens of Colorado, who amazingly enough we found right here in the park. And he doesn't have a Carol Press...

PRESS: No, but...

CARLSON: ... We can fix that out of gratitude for joining THE SPIN ROOM.

PRESS: ... We can fix that. Governor, the first question is what are you doing wandering around a park at midnight?

GOV. BILL OWENS (R), COLORADO: Tonight, we had a Christmas tree lighting, which is a beautiful 75-foot Colorado blue spruce which came here directly from Pike National Forest in the Rocky Mountains. So I came here to help Speaker Hastert light the tree.

CARLSON: And we nabbed you.

OWENS: You did nab me.

CARLSON: Governor, if it's true that Vice President Gore is going to give a concession speech tomorrow, what do you think he needs to say in it?

OWENS: I hope he would take some steps to try to unite our country. I know that Governor Bush is going to do exactly that. I think it's time that the process, now that it is apparently over, that these guys come together as Americans and start to bring our country back together.

PRESS: Would you agree, Governor, and I accept -- I'm not trying to second guess this, I'm not looking for any silver lining to this cloud -- but having looked over this opinion, would you agree it's a hell of a way to decide a presidency?

OWENS: You know, I think if they had tried to do it more directly, analysts would have accused them of being political. We would have seen the political court.

This court tried to thread the needle between its role in terms of deciding what is constitutional without appearing to be too political. So I think that it was a narrow decision, narrowly drawn. And it's one that given what we asked them to do is one that's as best as we can expect.

CARLSON: Wouldn't it be more final if it were clearer? I mean, I notice that it took almost two hours...

PRESS: Right.

CARLSON: ... even for the news networks to decipher precisely what it meant and to come to the conclusion that Gore was toast.

OWENS: Well, again, as Bill was pointing out earlier, they were trying to say that they're sending it back to Florida. But you have only until tonight to do it. And again, I think the bottom line is the Supreme Court by a vote of five to four on the important question has said that the Florida recount was unconstitutional, and it's time to stop this process.

PRESS: A quick question before we take another break here and speak to our members of Congress, you answered Tucker's question about what Vice President Gore should say. What does Governor Bush have to do now to try to bring people back together? Can he? What do you think is the first thing he ought to do?

OWENS: Well, I think what he ought to do is reach out to the people who backed the vice president, extend the olive branch. Tell them that this election is over, that he is ready to be president of all Americans. And I think that's exactly what he'll do.

He did it in Texas. He can do it for our country.

PRESS: All right, Governor, thanks so much for joining us.

OWENS: Good to be with you guys.

CARLSON: Glad to find you in the park.


CARLSON: We will be back. We'll still be in the park in just a minute on THE SPIN ROOM.

PRESS: We'll be back in just a minute.


PRESS: Good evening, and welcome back to this special outdoor edition on this momentous, historic evening right here in front of the Supreme Court. Bill Press here with Tucker Carlson.

And if you live in the Seattle area, there's a place called Flying Shuttle in Pioneer Square where you too can get your Carol Press hand-woven scarf.

CARLSON: Yet another shameless plug moment here on THE SPIN ROOM, something we specialize in.

PRESS: Our next guest, Tucker.

CARLSON: Yes, our next guest is Congressman Mark Foley of Florida right at the center of the action, Republican.

Congressman, thank you for joining us, especially at the last minute.

REP. MARK FOLEY (R), FLORIDA: Glad to be with you, Tucker. PRESS: Have you spoken to anyone in the Bush camp?

FOLEY: I have not tonight.

CARLSON: Are they prepared to this? Were they prepared to win in the last couple of days?

FOLEY: Well, you know, the last 24 hours has been quite tense because we waited for the decision. I thought it would be before 11:00. I assumed that they would do it before the legislature started voting today in Florida. And, obviously, when it was delayed, then we expected 4:00 after the markets closed.

And now here we are at 11:40 I believe when the final decision came. And so it probably caught a lot of people by surprise.

PRESS: Congressman, I want to be as kind as I can to the state of Florida that you represent.

FOLEY: Yes, thank you.

PRESS: But wouldn't you have to agree that you've got some work to do down there on your voting machines, on the fact that there is no standard on how to count votes? I mean, can you like maybe straighten this out so we don't have to go through with this again?

FOLEY: Bill, I strongly agree with you. In fact, it was regrettable, in the "Miami Herald" this past weekend, the supervisor of elections, the current one, Teresa Lapor (ph), and the prior one Jackie Winchester (ph) said, "Oh, we've known we had problems. We had a tremendous amount of undercounted votes in the last several presidential elections."

So it begs the question why we didn't fix it. I mean, I'm amazed in a time when we can sell lottery tickets by the millions, everybody can shade in a little number, and every Saturday night at 11:00, we get it right. One person wins, maybe two, but mostly one, through computer technology. And we're selling those through 7-11s.

PRESS: Yeah.

FOLEY: And we can't even get our own election, our own democracy, in order. So it's regrettable.

Florida is going to look at this with a black eye. We're going to have reform the system. We're going to have to pay for technology.

Alcee Hastings and I have discussed working with Asa Hutchinson and others about funding, if you will, state grants. There's a lot of work to be done.

And regrettably, though, after this election, there are going to be a lot of people, Democrats especially, that are going to feel like this election was stolen. And I hope tomorrow when Mr. Gore concedes that he does in fact support strongly George Bush and recognizes that as a nation we as Democrats, Republicans, and independents have to come together.

It's a critical juncture for America. We have prescription drugs. We have Social Security. We have Medicare. We have a tremendous amount on our plates. And it's going to take men of great courage, women of great courage, to rise above the partisanship and make certain in this time we have success.

CARLSON: It's also going to take a tremendous amount of organization. Thousands of people are going to need to move in to new jobs here in Washington. Is the Bush campaign ready for that?

FOLEY: I think they're very ready. I think Dick Cheney is very prepared to lead, despite the allegations that they're all going to be retreads of the Bush campaign in the '88 and '92 cycle.

I think there's going to be a lot of new talent. There's a lot of aggressive, exciting people ready to serve this country.

I think there will be people that will be kept over from the Democratic administration. I think one of the things Mr. Bush is going to probably do is invite people to stay on in Washington who are currently here and are going to make a difference to serve this country.

PRESS: Mark Foley, thank you so much.

FOLEY: Great to be with you. And I see the paid talent gets the heater, and the rest of us freeze.


FOLEY: What about that scarf?

PRESS: Well, there's a little place around the corner here called Heart and Soul in Washington. All right...

FOLEY: Great to be with you.

PRESS: ... when we come back, Congressman Jay Inslee from the state of Washington will be joining us here in front of the United States Supreme Court. We'll be right back from THE SPIN ROOM.


CARLSON: Welcome back to THE SPIN ROOM. I'm Tucker Carlson here with Bill Press outside in batting around the Supreme Court decision waiting for a whole new Washington to wake up tomorrow morning.

PRESS: Our guest joining us now from the other Washington, the state of Washington, Democratic Congressman Jay Inslee. Congressman, you're very brave.

When we got here about 10:30 expecting to go on at 11:00, we ran into you. It's now almost 1:00, and we're finally getting to talk to you. So thanks for hanging around. REP. JAY INSLEE (D), WASHINGTON: You bet. I was doing my congressional duty of offering Roger Cossack a chance to warm up in my apartment across the street from the Supreme Court. But...

PRESS: Thank you for doing that.

CARLSON: Very neighborly.

PRESS: Do you think as a Democrat that it's all over for Al Gore?

INSLEE: You know, I'm not sure that's true. I think these ballots would have been much easier to read in Florida than to really read this Supreme Court decision. It's very complex. There are five separate decisions. It's a bit of a legal Rubik's Cube.

And I really think as a nation we're going to have to spend 24 hours really dissecting this decision. I'll tell you why. I think there is...

PRESS: Yeah, what hope do you see in this decision that I don't see?

INSLEE: ... Well, one interpretation is that the game is up and that there's no appeal further to the Florida Supreme Court. But there is another interpretation that on page 11 and 12 of the decision that laid out a road map for the Florida Supreme Court to design a system that is constitutional. And the Supreme Court today set out that road map if the Florida Supreme Court decided to follow that road.

Now there's one place that suggested it's too late. But there's another place suggested in the decision there it is not too late, that the safe harbor provision was only a legislative wish. And if it's only a legislative wish, perhaps the Florida State Supreme Court would want to go down that road to determine if they could design a system that is constitutional. I think we've all got to take a night to look at this decision.

CARLSON: But in the event, in the likely event, there's still going to be some Democrats -- for instance, Jesse Jackson is holding a press conference tomorrow comparing this decision to the infamous Dred Scott decision. There are still going to be some who are going to say this is an outrage, a miscarriage of justice. Will responsible Democrats, well dressed Democrats like yourself, say to people like Jesse Jackson, "Cool down. Now is the time we need to come together and come behind a new president, even though he's a Republican."

INSLEE: Well, look, I'm a guy who has great veneration for this institution behind us. I don't like this decision. I would have disagreed with it. But we're going to respect it.

I think we have to respect whatever the ultimate decision of the judicial branch. The reason we have a bill of rights is because of people working in that courtroom behind us for a long time. And I don't think we need to show disrespect for the court ultimately. But I think what we need to do is show respect for this process to chew on this for 24 hours before we decide what's the real meaning of it. And I think that's what we should all do.

PRESS: I want to ask whether there's any interest in the Congress, or do you think there will be, in looking at what happened in this election, the fact again that there are no standards nationwide, that there are no standard voting machines nationwide. I mean, Brazil has a better system of voting than we have in the United States. Is there going to be any interest in Congress in fixing any of these problems?

INSLEE: You bet there will...


INSLEE: ... We'll all go to Brazil.

PRESS: Well, you import them from Brazil.

INSLEE: You bet. We will be doing that. And the reason is the court today says if the system used in many if not all of the states is unconstitutional because it doesn't have a consistent standard.

But there are some other things. And I'll express one disappointment it the court's decision, although we have to respect it.

There was a bit of a catch 22 here when the court stopped the counting and came back 48 hours later and said we didn't have time to finish the job. That's disappointing to a lot of folks. We're going to have to respect it. But let's give it 24 hours before we decide that the game is up.

PRESS: Congressman Inslee, we know you're not far away. So we're going to let you hot-foot it back to that apartment and warm up.


PRESS: Thank you so much for...

CARLSON: We may come by your house after.

PRESS: That's right. Thanks so much for joining us, Congressman.

INSLEE: Thank you.

PRESS: Well, Tucker, you know, a momentous moment. Here we are at the studio, right, about two minutes to 10:00 preparing to come over here when suddenly the red phone, as we call it, goes off. And there's Charles Bierbauer running in to get this opinion.

CARLSON: We were in fact going through a stack of Canadian e- mails at the time.

PRESS: And he's sixth in line. And we're just waiting like the whole nation to find out exactly what this opinion says.

CARLSON: And it turns out that the climax builds to an anti- climax, or at least a confusion. And it's not clear for so long what exactly it means.

And I guess my concern about this is that tomorrow morning people are going to wonder -- they're going to know that Gore lost. But they're going to wonder why. And it strikes me that to that extent the Supreme Court has failed.

PRESS: Well, I have to say I'm really disappointed in these justices. Again, they're there for life, right? They can take a hard stand. They can take a tough stand. They can not please anybody and make a decision. And I think they failed to do it tonight.

I just wanted to read you one line here from this opinion when he says, all of them say, agree on this. This is the pro curium part. I sound like a lawyer. "When contending parties invoke the process of the courts, it becomes our responsibility to resolve the federal and constitutional issues the judicial system has been forced to confront."

I don't think they resolved any issues. Basically, they said, "We're sending it back to Florida. If you guys can figure out how to do it, OK. But don't come to us."

CARLSON: Well, in effect, however, they resolved this election. And Al Gore it appears at this point lost. And I think the test will be does he in his concession speech say, "George Bush is president. I wish him well. Let's unite as a country behind him."

Now, those are going to be tough words to speak. If he doesn't speak them or speaks them in a mealy-mouthed way, then I think we can all say, "Thank Heaven he was not elected."

PRESS: Well, I have to say I think Al Gore has conducted himself as a statesman for the last five weeks. I think he will do the right thing. I think he will concede tomorrow.

I think he will try to unite the country. Certainly, he can express his own support for Governor Bush.

I think we can count on him to do that in a very dignified way. And I think it's time for him to do it and then to move on.

CARLSON: If he does that, if he comes out tomorrow and says, "George W. Bush is my president too. All good Democrats, unite behind him," then I will have more respect for him than I've ever had. And I hope he does that.

PRESS: We will be here tomorrow night...

CARLSON: Indeed we will.

PRESS: ... at our regular time at 11:00 inside.

CARLSON: Inside.

PRESS: And we hope you have a "Spin of the Day" for us.


PRESS: Which is?

CARLSON: My "Spin of the Day" is in fact no spin at all. It's a somber note. Al Gore after all this time, after all these many nights here mocking him and saying that I look forward to him losing, I must say deep down inside my tiny Grinch cold heart, I feel sorry for him. And I mean that.

PRESS: And I'm waiting until tomorrow night. But tomorrow night, Tucker, if things go the way we think they are going, tomorrow night I will say those words for the first time. President Bush.


CARLSON: And I will be here to witness you saying it. And that will be a wonderful moment. And we'll be back again and again and again.

PRESS: And you have to realize that you will never have to say President Gore. But the other thing I wanted to say before we go is that these guys who are so loyal to their candidates...


PRESS: ... till the end, they are here.

CARLSON: These are the hardest working protesters in Washington. It's close to one in the morning. And there they are with legible signs.

PRESS: Right.

CARLSON: Bill, we waited for the protesters for a good hour before we came on here. And I have to say, Washington has the best protesters in America. Seattle may have great coffee. Maine may have great lobsters. But we have great sign holders.

PRESS: Well, they all just came back from Tallahassee. I think that's...


CARLSON: On chartered planes with an open bar.

PRESS: All right, good night everybody.

CARLSON: We'll be back tomorrow.

PRESS: Thank you so much for joining us. We'll be back tomorrow night at 11:00 and talking more about this decision and what happens tomorrow. CARLSON: Indoors on THE SPIN ROOM.

PRESS: Good night.



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