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Bush Prevails in U.S. Supreme Court; Gore to Concede, Aides Say

Aired December 13, 2000 - 4:00 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: Al Gore and George W. Bush as each readies himself to address the nation. Their fight for the presidency appears to be near an end.

LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: The United States Supreme Court sets the stage for this possible ending to the election battle. What will be the legacy of this high court?

And hello again. From CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Lou Waters.

CHEN: And I'm Joie Chen. We continue now with our special coverage of the disputed presidential election.

Five weeks and one day after Election Day, the battle for the Oval Office appears to be now in its final hours. Here's the latest: Al Gore has suspended his recount activities in the state of Florida, and he is preparing to speak to the nation. The latest moves come just hours after the United States Supreme Court dealt a huge blow to Gore's bid for the presidency. The justices last night voted 7-2 to overturn the statewide recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court.

WATERS: We, of course, are covering all angles of this story. We're going to hear in the ensuing hour from CNN's Kate Snow on what's being said on Capitol Hill. Our legal analyst Roger Cossack will join us with his thoughts on these latest developments and we'll have reactions from both sides in the battle. Tony Clark keeping watch over the Bush campaign in Austin, Texas. Patty Davis covering the Gore side in Washington.

Let's begin with Patty Davis. What's the latest?

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, aides say the vice president is writing most of his address himself, the address he will give to the nation tonight about 9:00 Eastern time ending his White House bid. Aides say that he will talk of principles -- principles he has been fighting for all along.

One person, one vote; the fact that every vote should count a principle that guided him all these many weeks. Now a statesmanlike address, they are also calling it and also a conciliatory one, where he will be calling for Republicans and Democrats joining together, working together to come together now at the end of all this in the best interest of the country. Aides and many on Capitol Hill are offering up their support for the vice president as he faces a very difficult decision.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REV. JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS ACTIVIST: In the African- American communities you had the most broken-down machines, and the least ability to service people who were trying to vote then. About 80 percent of those who are disenfranchised are African-American. Indeed, there was race. Then in the case of West Palm, you had the case of where a significant number of Holocaust victims punched two for Gore and, in fact, became Buchanan. The Republicans in fact said in Seminole on an intent in spite of contamination. In Miami-Dade and Broward they say unaffect and disregard intent. So the fork -- the road they to choose to fork. They had such overwhelming power in their machinery.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: That was civil rights activist Jesse Jackson, obviously unhappy with the U.S. Supreme Court decision going against the vice president. And now to those Democrats on Capitol Hill who say that the vice president needs some space.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: The man has gone through a lot and for those people who say that he should withdraw, they should walk in his shoes. I think it's a personal decision. It's a political decision and we have to recognize it just doesn't concern him. It concerns our Constitution, and it concerns the feeling of the American people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DAVIS: Aides in Tallahassee are now packing up, that is where the Democratic Recount Committee, that is the group that was pushing for the recount for the vice president, that's where they were headquartered. They're now packing up. They got word earlier today from senior officials in the Gore campaign that indeed they would be folding their tent and the vice president would be giving an address to the nation.

They say it's a very emotional time for them. Some tears after that announcement came, but they say that they are leaving with their heads held high, that they stood up for what they believed in -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Patty Davis covering the vice president for us. And in the face of apparent victory, the Bush campaign keeping a very low profile today. Here is CNN national correspondent Tony Clark with the latest from Austin, Texas -- Tony.

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, there's no big celebration here, you know, as we just heard from Patty, tears from the vice president's side, but there is no gloating. In fact, it is very low key. The Bush family, the governor know what it is like to be defeated. So, they don't want to put any additional pressure on the vice president. When the governor speaks tonight, he will speak from the state capitol.

A lot of symbolism there. He will go to the House of Representatives's chamber. It has been a House of Representatives that has been dominated by Democrats throughout the Bush administration. The symbolism there, that he is able to work with Democrats. In fact, the speaker of the House of Representatives will introduce the governor when he speaks tonight. The tone will be of uniting the country, one president for all of the county.

It is the tone, it is the theme that Governor Bush has tried to carry on throughout his campaign and throughout this five-week long battle over the votes in Florida. When asked today whether or not -- who he had talked to, the governor said he had talked to his parents today. He had talked to key staff members throughout the day. He is working, we are told, on his speech.

It is being tweaked today, so that it sets the right tone. In the days ahead, he will roll out the names of various White House staff members, Cabinet members, but tonight, it will be focused entirely on setting the right tone, trying to bring the country together -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Tony Clark in Austin, and the right tone will attempt to be sent at 9:00 p.m. Eastern time when Al Gore delivers speech to the nation from his executive office. At 10:00 p.m. Eastern, the live coverage of George W. Bush's speech to the nation from the Texas House Chamber.

CHEN: These latest twists and turns in the presidential election are, of course, are getting a lot of attention in Congress.

CNN's Kate Snow joins us now with the latest from Capitol Hill -- Kate.

KATE SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Joie, a lot of talk here today on Capitol Hill about last night's Supreme Court decision and what it all means. Republican senators pointing to that saying this is closure. This is the end. Many of them telling me in talking today that they feel like the fact that seven of the justices went onboard and said that the counts had to stop in Florida they think that that's indicative that it is simply over. Republicans not surprisingly calling for Al Gore, the vice president tonight to concede. Many Democrats here on the Hill now starting to join that chorus as well.

Dick Cheney, George W. Bush's running mate spent a good part of the day here on Capitol Hill, roaming the halls. Cheney had made plans to be on Capitol Hill much earlier and he followed through with those plans for meetings with Republican leaders. Also a lunch he attended with five moderate Republican senators.

Cheney spoke very briefly saying we are moving forward with the transition. Senator Majority Leader Trent Lott said Cheney plans to meet soon with Democrats here one Capitol Hill as well. One of the Senate's more conservative Democrats says Cheney and Governor Bush will need to reach out to the other side of the aisle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: The message from this election, among many others, is they want us to quit fighting, quit bickering and start working together. And I think that we will take the lead from Al Gore, and I expect him to step up to the plate and do not only just the right thing, but do something that is going to be extremely important for the future of this country. He has the capacity to do that. I expect him to do it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SNOW: Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott speaking just after that, saying that he feels it's not going to be easy to get people to work together up here, especially after all of the bitterness of this long election battle.

But he is already looking ahead. Senator Lott talking about priorities that he discussed with Dick Cheney today. He said they talked about energy policy, defense policy, education being a priority, Medicare reform, and maybe even trying to look towards the Democrats to come together on a patients' bill of rights, something they've been trying for, for a long time -- Joie.

CHEN: CNN's Kate Snow for us on Capitol Hill. More reaction now from the lawmakers. We're going to hear this hour from two of them, a Democrat and a Republican. First this hour, we're going to hear from U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas. We appreciate your being with us, senator. What do you want to hear Mr. Gore say tonight?

SEN. KAY BAILEY HUTCHISON (R), TEXAS: Well, I think that Vice President Gore will do very well. I think he will show a big picture. I think he will show his best side, and I think he will start the uniting of the American people behind our President-Elect George Bush.

CHEN: But are there particular words that you think will be important for him to say, particularly, I concede or I lost?

HUTCHISON: No, I'm not looking for particular words. I think that this is a very tough night for him, and I think that he will be conciliatory. I think he will say why he wanted to wait and make sure that he pursued every right that he had. But then I think he will reach out to Governor Bush and say he is the president-elect of our country, and he will ask the people of our country to support him. I have every confidence that Vice President Gore will rise to the occasion tonight.

CHEN: But what is it important not necessarily for you, the lawmakers, those inside the system to hear, but for the public? What is the importance for all of what we hear?

HUTCHISON: That all of us put the good of America first; that all of us want America to have a smooth transition, to show that the Constitution works and that all of us put everything that is right for America above our personal futures.

CHEN: How do the events of the past five weeks change the legislative agenda, particularly for Republicans, as you set priorities? How does all this change what you do now?

HUTCHISON: Oh, clearly, we are going to have to all rise above ourselves. We're going to have to reach out to the other side. We are going to have to realize that, if we wrote every bill the way we wanted it, they would not pass. But we will take some changes. We will not get everything we want. But the important thing is for the rest of the world to see America get through this time in a peaceful way, and show that we do know our place in the world, that we do have a strong democracy, and that we will have a smooth transition of power. And Congress will work, even in these very divided times.

CHEN: But, Senator, even though you say that it's important maybe perhaps to be flexible in some of the writing of legislation, I mean, after all, the Republicans will control both the Senate, the House, and now it appears the presidency. Why would you need to be flexible in that sense? After all, don't you have the upper hand here?

HUTCHISON: A very, very small upper hand.

CHEN: But the upper hand, nonetheless.

HUTCHISON: Well, we have to realize that this country spoke in very even terms, that the presidential election was the closest that I've seen in my lifetime, that the Senate has never been 50-50 on a long-term basis, and that the House is also very close. And I think, especially in the Senate, where everyone is free to jump up and offer an amendment on any bill without regard to germaneness, we're going to have to come together to determine what we can pass. And we're going to have to work very closely with the president.

CHEN: What do you think, then, would be the first priority, and what area of legislation do you think that you will work first?

HUTCHISON: Well, first, I think there will be some foreign- policy initiatives that President Bush and Vice President Cheney will put forward, because there are some hot-spots in the world. And I think showing that we have a leader who is going to work with Congress, and that America is going to speak with a united voice, is going to be the first step.

(CROSSTALK)

CHEN: So you think those kind of issues, rather than, say, tax reform or medical care?

HUTCHISON: No, I think -- I think tax relief is a huge area where we can come to a consensus pretty quickly. In Congress, we have passed tax relief. We have passed across-the-board tax relief. We have passed marriage tax penalty relief. We have passed death tax relief, none of which have been signed into law. So I think that, when President Bush comes in and he wants to have tax relief, that we will be able to pass tax relief -- and probably pretty quickly.

CHEN: Looking ahead for all are us here, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, thanks for being with us. Later on in the program, we're going to get a Democratic viewpoint from Congressman Ed Markey. We'll hear from him shortly -- Lou.

WATERS: Has the United States Supreme Court picked our president? We'll talk with CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack about the impact of high court on this election when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATERS: We invite to you stay with CNN this evening. At 8:00 p.m. Eastern: a "SPECIAL REPORT" with CNN's Bernard Shaw, Judy Woodruff, Jeff Greenfield, Larry King. That's to be followed at 9:00 p.m., of course -- as you know by now -- by Vice President Al Gore's address to the nation. Then at 10:00 p.m. Eastern, from Texas, we will hear from Governor Bush. After that, we'll hear lots of reaction and analysis as well, of course.

Also today, legal briefs filed with the state Supreme Court in yet another challenge to absentee ballots: A voter from Bay County in Florida's Panhandle alleges absentee ballots were cast illegally there by folks who could have voted in person. The suit contends the state Republican Party encouraged allies to vote absentee without explaining all of the requirements.

Now, for legal analysis of that and other subjects: CNN's legal analyst Roger Cossack.

First of all, are there any other legal options for the Gore people in Florida, Roger?

ROGER COSSACK, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Lou, I think not.

I think that the Supreme Court -- at least the majority of the Supreme Court -- made it very clear that it was impossible for Vice President Gore to comply with what they felt was required, which is that famous safe-harbor act, and which meant that it was due December 12. You know, interestingly enough, the Supreme Court decided that the Florida legislature had enacted or signed up for the safe-harbor act.

And they pointed to a decision that the Florida legislature -- or that the Florida Supreme court had -- had made, in which they say that. But as lawyers, one of the things we look at is what a holding is and what a dicta is. And dicta is called things that are inside the opinion, but aren't the holding of the opinion. It's my opinion, at least, that the Florida Supreme Court never indicated that they felt that December 12 was the drop-dead date. But the United States Supreme Court felt that they did. And the United States Supreme Court has the final word, of course.

WATERS: What is your opinion of a statement by a presidential historian I talked with this afternoon, who said the founding fathers never intended for the courts to pick a president?

COSSACK: Well, although I never had the opportunity to meet the founding fathers, Lou, but I would say that -- at least whatever my limited knowledge of them through the Constitution and through the documents that lawyers read -- I think that's absolutely true: that they never intended for courts to pick a president. Having said that, I think they did intend, though, for courts to settle disputes -- and particularly those that are of constitutional dimension.

In this case, the United States Supreme Court -- which should be our most independent part of the -- of our three branches of government -- was called upon to decide this constitutional dispute. We leave it up to them. They made a finding. They said: We find this to be of constitutional dimension. We believe that what the Florida Supreme Court has done violates the United States Constitution. And we believe, therefore, as part of our remedy, that there is no way that this can be done in time to comply with the safe- harbor act, which, as you know -- and has been said a thousand times now -- requires the electorates to be chosen by December 12.

Yes, they end up picking the president. They didn't ask for the case to be sent to them. But, nevertheless, they were. But the founding fathers did have in mind that the United States Supreme Court would be the final arbitrator, particularly of when there are disputes between other branches of the government.

WATERS: And the court apparently is sensitive to this matter. We have Thomas and Chief Justice Rehnquist today going out of the way to tell reporters that politics played absolutely no part in this decision.

COSSACK: Yes, I'm always a little surprised when you read things like that. That always reminds me of when the owner of the team says that: I have complete confidence in the manager. You know in about two weeks, the manage is about to get fired. So, you know, what Shakespeare said, maybe doth protesteth a little too much. When they have to come out and tell you how they really didn't think at all about politics in this situation, it always makes me think that down deep in their heart, they were worried about how it's going to look politically.

WATERS: All right, Roger Cossack in Washington -- Jody -- Joie.

CHEN: Whoever.

(LAUGHTER)

CHEN: Unsettled by all the turmoil the past five weeks have been the markets. Susan Lisovicz joins us today to see how things are working themselves out now -- Susan.

(FINANCIAL NEWS BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATERS: Joining us now from Capitol Hill, Congressman Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts. Welcome, congressman. I know that Al Gore is a good friend of yours, have you spoken with him today? REP. EDWARD MARKEY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: I have not spoken with him today. I know he's deep in the business of writing his statement for this evening.

WATERS: We also understand that he's not at all delighted by the Supreme Court ruling. He still deeply believes he won the popular vote in Florida. So, that makes the job for him tonight even more enormous from those of us watching from the sidelines. What does the vice president have to accomplish tonight?

MARKEY: Well, he knows that he won the popular vote nationally. He knows that if all the votes had been counted that he would have won all the votes in Florida necessary to get those Electoral College votes and he knows that the Supreme Court of the United States last night voted by 5-4, a one-vote margin, to not overturn a Florida state statute that had an equal protection violation in it, but instead allows the state legislature to evoke a safe harbor to protect that equal protection violation from being corrected.

So, today is a tough day, no question about it. He really does believe justifiably that he would have won the election. But he'll be gracious. He's a class act. He's a patriot. He clearly wants our country to work together, and as a result, not only his speech, but George Bush's as well -- he has to be magnanimous.

Now he's won on a very controversial one-vote margin in the Supreme Court with millions of Americans believing that their votes haven't been counted as a result of the decision in Florida. So, he has to reach out to them as well and let them know that whether it be Medicare, an HMO bill of right, rebuilding schools and in the cities, that there will be the money for it there, and that the tax cut won't be so large than an agenda that reaches out to all Americans can't be agreed upon.

WATERS: I'm sure you know the debate going on, Congressman, of whether the vice president tonight should concede or withdraw. I don't know if that's -- there's a difference there. Some say there is, including Trent Lott, who a little while ago said he didn't know if he should concede or not, but he should make it clear that George Bush is the winner. But there are some Democrats who want to leave the door open for objecting to the Florida electors before Congress. Lincoln Chafee, a Democrat from Rhode Island, is one of those people. What would you say to those Democrats who are suggesting that?

MARKEY: Well, Lincoln Chafee is a Republican from Rhode Island.

WATERS: I'm sorry, yes.

MARKEY: And I don't think that Democrats really want to win with faithless electors. That's not the way in which this should be won. We have to unfortunately accept the Supreme Court. It is the highest court in our land. I very much disagree with their reasoning, their rejection of these equal protection claims of the voters in Florida, not granting them any relief even though there's six days left. That's not a good decision, but we have to stick by it. I don't think it's wise for us to try to convince electors in other states to switch their votes. That, I don't think that would be good for the country.

WATERS: So, you think this should be a concession tonight?

MARKEY: Well, I think that whatever he says will be classy, and I don't know what words he's going to use. This is without question the most difficult speech, address of his life, but I've known him for 25 years.

I've sat next to him in Congress for eight of them on the same subcommittees, I know that whatever he says tonight will be from the heart and it will be something that will have the effect of trying to unify country. What words he uses explicitly I don't think are going to be as important as the tone and the intent to bring all of us together.

WATERS: Congressman Ed Markey, thanks so much -- Joie.

CHEN: A couple of quick notes on Florida now. That state Senate met briefly this morning without taking action on the alternate slate of electors adopted by the Florida House. State Republicans say a concession by Al Gore would cancel out the need for a separate slate of electors loyal to George W. Bush. The Republicans say they can reconvene their special session if the vice president does not concede tonight.

So, what will the legacy of Election 2000 be? Well, for one thing, none of us may ever look at a ballot the same way. Chad, hanging chad, pregnant chad, all these terms we've learned. What's been called that butterfly ballot. How will Election 2000 change the way we pick our leaders in the future?

We consider that question now with CNN election law analyst David Cardwell. He joins us now from Tallahassee. David, we've talked to you about so many things and I'm wondering as you look back on the whole process, do you see our faith shaken in the election system? After all, I don't think any of us ever really considered as much about balloting, voting, casting a ballot as we have in the last five weeks?

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, the voting system has probably now gotten the attention it should have gotten a long time ago and had it been more carefully examined and updated, perhaps we could have avoid some of the problems we've just been through in the last few weeks here in Florida. I hope the citizen's confidence or faith in the voting system has not been shaken. Maybe it's been stirred a little bit where they will take -- pay more attention to it, and particularly state and local officials will do a lot that needs to be done to upgrade our systems and improve our procedures.

CHEN: You talk about state and local officials, but do you see an opportunity for sort of a federal process for balloting so that you can standardize this across the nation?

CARDWELL: Well, I do think there will be an increasing centralization of our election systems both at the state level and at the federal level as a result of what we've been through.

As you know, there already have been bills filed in Congress to look at voting systems that are used in federal elections. There's already talk here in Florida about changing parts of our election code to streamline the administration of the election and to pick up on some of the glitches and correct them that we found over these past few weeks.

But most importantly, whether it's federal money or state money, we need to get some dollars into the right places to purchase much more modern equipment and get rid of equipment that we've seen over the last few weeks that we had problems with.

CHEN: I want to give you an opportunity to speak on behalf of your state. After all, Florida has been sort of much maligned over the past few weeks, and I wonder if you can tell us if you think that things are very different in any other state in the Union.

CARDWELL: Well, I've said before that I think the other 49 states are all saying, you know, thank you, Florida, because but for the grace of god go we. I think we could have had this same problem in any state, and I'm not trying to, you know, pass it off to anyone else, but we are a large state, both in population and in geography. We're very diverse with, you know, the range of voters from the Panhandle to South Florida, and we've put a great deal of demands on our voting system over the past few years.

This was a close election. It was a good turnout, and when that happens, you're going to have some problems.

I thought the system responded remarkably well. There were several times that it could have just completely broken down. It didn't break down. It was bent a few times and twisted a little bit, but basically remained intact.

CHEN: I've got to ask you a quick question here. What happens to those disputed ballots? Are we ever going to see them? Will they be destroyed? Will somebody have an opportunity to count them and how?

CARDWELL: Well, under federal law ballots in a presidential election have to be preserved for one year, but under Florida state law, those ballots are preserved for two years. They'll be kept in the county supervisor of elections office or in their warehouses where they store their equipment for those two years, and then they'll be destroyed.

Now, the disputed ballots from Miami-Dade County that were introduced into evidence, those 9,000 ballots that were introduced into evidence in Judge Sauls' courtroom in the contest trial, those may very well remain in Leon County, because they are part of the court record and they may stay here and never make that long trip back to Miami-Dade.

CHEN: We won't see that caravan. David Cardwell, thanks very much... CARDWELL: You bet.

CHEN: ... for being with us yet again -- Lou.

WATERS: CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATERS: Day 36 following the election and here's where we stand: Vice President Gore is to address the nation tonight, 9:00 p.m. Eastern. He's expected to quit the race for the White House in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last evening, ruling out further recounts in Florida.

Aides say Gore will stress national unity in his address from the Old Executive Building in Washington. After Gore speaks, he -- we will hear from Governor George W. Bush. Reports out of Austin say the mood in Bush's inner circle today is serious rather than festive. Bush sent Dick Cheney to Capitol Hill today to meet with Republican moderates in the Senate. Also the Florida State Senate met briefly this morning without taking action on the alternate slate of electors adopted by the Florida House. Republicans say the slate will be unnecessary if Gore concedes as expected.

CHEN: As expected, but you never know for sure.

Joining us now from Washington to put it all together, CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider.

I guess it is expected, Bill, but how strong does the language have to be? We hear Al Gore is writing for himself this evening.

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the question is, will he use the words "I concede," because the words "I concede" mean "I lost." And he has never acknowledged that he lost. He's, of course, ahead in the popular vote nationwide. That has no constitutional standing, but he also believes he actually won. He really won Florida if only the votes were counted.

So he may withdraw from the race and say he's not going to stand in the way and he acknowledges -- he will have to acknowledge that Bush will be president of the United States. But he does not want to say, "I lost this election."

CHEN: He may not want to for his own ego, but beyond whatever reconciliation might come from an acknowledgment, why would it be important for him to do that?

SCHNEIDER: well, it's not just a matter of ego, but he has taken a stand on a principle, and the principle is every vote must count. So it's his way of saying "We fought this for a real cause. The cause was not just me."

"The cause was the principle of democracy," he once said -- that every vote has to be counted. So by saying "I don't believe I lost this election, but I'm willing to stand aside," he's saying, "I'm going to continue to stand on principle."

CHEN: Does he also set himself up for campaign 2004?

SCHNEIDER: It's a long way away. Certainly, if George Bush is unpopular, an ineffective president and people think they made a mistake by electing him, they may turn back to Al Gore. On the other hand, there are an awful lot of Democrats out there who think Al Gore really should have one this election easily. All the historic indicators -- the president's approval rating, the economic condition of the country, the fact that we have peace in the world, that crime rates are down -- all of that should have pointed to a clean Gore victory.

He didn't win, and a lot of Democrats say he should have won -- he should have won -- run a better campaign.

CHEN: Does that mean that he's locked out from a future bid?

SCHNEIDER: It doesn't mean anything at all. It really depends on what happens...

CHEN: We've learned to hedge our bets here, right.

(LAUGHTER)

SCHNEIDER: We don't know. You know, Yogi Berra said, never predict -- "Never make predictions, especially about the future."

You have other Democrats out there. You have Joe Lieberman. You have, oh, the U.S. senator from New York. You have the governor of California, lots of good Democrats. But much really depends on how President Bush does.

CHEN: About the legislature. Excuse me.

SCHNEIDER: Goodness.

WATERS: OK, Bill, she was going to -- I think she was going to ask you about the legislature and how -- how can it work -- how can we have a government work effectively now under these circumstances.

SCHNEIDER: Oh, it's entirely possible. I mean, what Bush has to do is indicate that he can work with both Democrats and Republicans. It was a very, very close split at all levels. I mean, this election was about the closest we've ever had: not just for president, but also in Congress. Even the state legislatures are more closely divided now than they've been since any time since 1952.

Does that mean a recipe for sharp partisan conflict? I don't think so. I think voters were saying they didn't want to give either party a clear, strong mandate.

And on the other hand, Republicans come in and they say: Look, my goodness, we control the White House, the House of Representatives, and eventually the Senate when Dick Cheney becomes vice president for the first time in almost 50 years. Isn't that a partisan mandate?

Well, actually, no, it isn't, and I think if Bush assumes it is, he's going to get into some trouble.

What people want is government of the center, and I believe it's possible for him to try to carve out a majority of Congress among moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans that could help him govern, if he's careful about it.

WATERS: Is this -- will it be possible for Americans to put this election behind them? Or will we be hearing this drum beat from various factions about the unfairness, the fact that the Supreme Court had to make a decision to elect a president? Will it ever go away?

SCHNEIDER: Well, I don't want to say it will never go away, but I think the resentments and the anger are going to be there for some time. There's a constituency of Democrats who feel embittered by this, particularly African-Americans, who respond viscerally to the notion that every vote must count, because they've struggled for 200 years to make every vote count, to even get the right to vote. And they feel as if some of the things in Florida had civil rights implications, voting rights implications.

So I think it's not going to disappear overnight. It'll take some time. There has to be some healing. Both Al Gore and President- elect Bush could make -- could help make that happen, and they have to make an effort to make that happen.

But no, this was a very bitter experience, but the interesting thing is the source of the division was the election itself: not a war, not a scandal, but the election itself. That both makes it easier, because there's no bigger issue out there. On the other hand, it does raise questions about the legitimacy of the new president himself.

WATERS: All right, Bill Schneider, and the healing begins tonight with the two speeches, 9:00 and 10:00 Eastern, and we'll hear more from Bill Schneider throughout the evening. And Joie is all right.

We'll be back with more after a break.

CHEN: For the moment.

WATERS: Yes.

CHEN: Thanks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATERS: For the past 36 days, Tallahassee, Florida has been the center of the political universe, what with its circuit courts and its supreme court. There should be some more hotel rooms available in Tallahassee starting tomorrow. Here's CNN's Martin Savidge.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you're absolutely -- absolutely right, Lou. I think that there's going to be a massive exodus. In fact, there already is one.

Let me tell you first about the Florida Supreme Court. We have been anticipating that perhaps today there would be some sort of official statement coming from the court, maybe from the justices themselves, pertaining to the decision last night by the U.S. Supreme Court, the case being remanded back here.

The podium has been removed from in front of the court. That's a clear indication that they are pretty much done for the day as far as any official statements.

We know that the justices had been reviewing the order that came down from the U.S. Supreme Court, but if they have anything to say, they are not going to be saying it today. So, that particular intrigue -- about the only one still remaining here in Tallahassee -- is continuing at this hour.

As to the exodus, it's interesting. After all the legal challenges that went on in this particularly capital for so long, the biggest challenge now is to find a seat on an airplane to get out of town, and that is a bipartisan challenge at the moment. Both the Democrats and Republicans, their legal teams, their campaign advisers, all leaving Tallahassee. The Democrats getting the word from the vice president's office that essentially they needed to cease and desist all legal action and attempts to have the recount continued. So they are heading out of town as well.

Now, as far as the Senate, they have sort of ceased and desisted for the moment here at the Florida legislature. They did convene at 1 o'clock to pick up the issue of the slate of electors, which is something that the House had worked on and passed earlier in the week. They started at 1:00 and then instantly went into recess, and apparently they're going to remain there until they hear exactly what the vice president has to say on national television.

It is believed that they will continue to be in recess. They will not adjourn but stay in recess through the remainder of this week just to be sure there are no other challenges that could come up against Florida's 25 electors.

And then this moves us through the process of Monday, 12:00 noon, where inside, we believe on the Senate floor of the Florida legislature, the 25 electors -- all representing George W. Bush -- will be gathered and will sit down and sign six certificates each, and thereby officially casting Florida's 25 electoral votes.

So, that is what is expected to happen. It's possible, due to the large nature of the crowd, they could move it over to the House side, because the gallery is a little bigger.

One other point, the ballots will be reviewed. In fact, "The Miami Herald" apparently has first crack at them. It is possible they may get to look at these disputed ballots as early as tomorrow. If not, there will be court proceedings in which the state essentially has to explain why no access as yet. We know the ballots right now are still in the Florida Supreme Court.

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: All right. Martin Savidge, you stay put in Tallahassee until the last dog dies.

Joie, what's next?

CHEN: Also looking to the court, but the Supreme Court this time, the nation's highest court. CNN's legal analyst Roger Cossack rejoins us.

Roger, you are the "Eveready bunny," talking to us about everything all day long. I know you haven't gotten any rest. But I want to talk -- I want to talk...

COSSACK: Are you feeling OK?

CHEN: I'm feeling a little better, thank you. I think you're holding up better than I am at this point.

(LAUGHTER)

But I want to talk a bit about the attitudes and the reputation of the court after all this. Justice Thomas, Justice Rehnquist today signaling that look, this was a very difficult decision for all of us, but hey, this does not mean that we're a political body, we're above that, we're really not that way.

That's the message they're sending. Should we buy it?

COSSACK: Well, me doth think that the lady protesteth too much. You know, it's -- you know, should you buy it? Maybe you should, maybe you shouldn't. I mean, I'm sure they felt that this was a very difficult decision, but look, let's not kid ourselves: Their decision stopped the Florida Supreme Court, who believed as the highest court in the land in Florida, that the voters had not -- the votes had not been counted and voters had not their votes counted.

The United States Supreme Court said, you know what, you violated the federal Constitution, we're not going to let you count those votes.

CHEN: It's not just the decision itself, but the very sharp words in some cases used, in particular, in the dissents.

COSSACK: That's right, and I think that's really in a sense why we had this sort of defensive note by Justice Thomas today, because look, Justice Stevens talks about the idea that voters will not have their votes counted. What could be more central to the notion of democracy than one man, one vote? And the idea that there are people who attempted to vote, who are not going to have their votes counted because the state of Florida ran out of time to have it done, you know there is no suggestion from anywhere that a standard could not have been set up which would have been constitutional. The suggestion is that there's no time to do that.

Well, you know, there are those who might feel that perhaps you bend the time a little bit when we're talking about counting votes, that you give the state of Florida time to come up with a constitutional standard that would meet constitution muster.

But that wasn't to be. The Supreme Court said that can't happen, the "safe harbor" provisions kick in, you didn't get it done -- sorry.

CHEN: But the sharp language that we've been talking about in those dissents and the nature of a very difficult -- and no matter what anybody says, it is a decision about politics in the end, after all. Does this show us that this really is a court as part of a nation truly divided in half?

COSSACK: Well, look, look at -- look at this vote in this country for president. You know, at the very best you call it 50/50, and it went right down to the courts, and at the very best, it's a 50/50 United States Supreme Court.

I mean, I know CNN has been saying it was a 7-2 decision, and that's correct. There were seven justices who found that there was a constitutional violation in what the Florida Supreme Court did, but of those seven justices, only five felt that there could be no recount. Four felt that there could be a recount. Two felt that the United States Supreme Court shouldn't even be involved in it. It can't get any closer than that.

Is this a divided country? Yes. Is it is a divided court? Absolutely. Is it divided -- is the court divided on perhaps the most important issues of all? Yes, they are.

But you know, they're the Supreme Court and they've got to make these tough calls and they're the ones that are supposed to be independent of the executive branch as well as the legislative branch. And as Harry Truman says, you know, the buck stops there.

CHEN: And it did. CNN legal analyst Roger Cossack, thanks for being with us.

Roger, of course, experienced the very cold weather in Washington last night. We saw him bundled up in his fine down jacket. Up after the break, we'll talk about another place where it's very cold, deeper in the South tonight. Yes, they are sliding in Memphis.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CHEN: Now time for a look at some of the other stories in the news today. At least five Palestinians have died in clashes with Israeli troops. Four were killed overnight in a shootout in Gaza. A fifth man is not expected to survive his injuries. And a man thought to be a member of the militant Hamas movement died near Hebron in a second clash with Israeli soldiers. Also today, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is another step closer to becoming a candidate for his old job. Today, Israel's Knesset passed a preliminary version of a bill which allows anyone to run for prime minister, not just sitting members of parliament, which had been the law up to this point. Netanyahu wants to run against Prime Minister Ehud Barak in a special election scheduled for February. Barak resigned on Sunday, but also hopes to regain his office in that election.

The USS Cole is back home in the United States. This morning, the damaged destroyer arrived at the Mississippi shipyard where it was built. Next month, it goes into dry dock for more than $150 million in repairs.

In October, suicide bombers in Yemen attacked the Cole as it entered the port at Aden. The blast killed 17 sailors and left a 40- foot hole in the ship's hull. In January, at least three Yemenis will go on trial in connection with that attack.

WATERS: A fond farewell for a longtime Southern California lawmaker. Congressman Julian Dixon was buried today in Los Angeles. A number of his congressional colleagues made the trip from Washington to California to attend his funeral. Dixon died of an apparent heart attack Friday. He spent 22 years on the Hill as the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee and a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. Congressman Dixon was 66 years old.

What caused an Alaska Airlines flight to plunge into the Pacific last January? A four-day hearing now going on hopes to answer that question. Flight 261 was en route to San Francisco from Mexico when it went out of control and crashed into the ocean on January 31st: 88 people died, passengers and crew. Investigators suspect controls in the MD-80's tail are to blame, but have yet to assign a definitive cause to the tragedy. That probably will happen after all the information has been studied and gathered before and during this special hearing now still going on in Washington.

Ice and sleet have created a big mess in Memphis, Tennessee. Northwest Airlines had to cancel nearly 170 flights this morning because there was too much ice on the planes, and a little too much for these vehicles. You can see a kind of a layer of black ice that these vehicles are trying to navigate. Officials had to shut down one bridge over the Mississippi River because it was too slippery to cross safely. The nasty weather also kept a number of Memphis-area schools closed for the day. And I dare to venture that there wasn't one unhappy Memphis school child about that.

CHEN: No, I suppose not, but you know, that's the kind of weather that makes things crazy elsewhere in the South, and Atlanta as well when we have it. And there are other cold, wet places here in the South today.

(WEATHER BREAK)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

WATERS: Well, we think we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. That'll do it for this special election 2000 report.

I'm Lou Waters.

CHEN: I'm Joie Chen. Please stay tuned. "INSIDE POLITICS" is up next.

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