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Mr. Bush Goes to WashingtonAired December 17, 2000 - 10:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Mr. Bush goes to Washington. And the President-elect says tomorrow he'll make his case for a broad tax cut.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT-ELECT OF THE UNITED STATES: I look forward to discussing my vision of tax relief with the parties.
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ANNOUNCER: Today, another historic move from the next commander in chief: the naming of the first woman as National Security Adviser.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BUSH: Dr. Rice is not only a brilliant person, she is an experienced person, she is a good manager. I trust her judgment. America will find that she is a wise person.
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ANNOUNCER: A new poll says Mr. Bush's words are making Americans more confident. But the public fears deep divisions in the country, and Congress may lead to grid lock. And now that this election is finally over. A look ahead to the next run for the White House. Will it be Gore in four?
Welcome to this election 2000 Special Report, "George W. Bush, The 43rd President: The Transition of Power," with anchors Andria Hall and Brian Nelson at the CNN center in Atlanta.
ANDRIA HALL, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening.
It's been another busy day for the incoming Bush administration. Here's a rundown of the latest developments as President-elect George W. Bush prepares to take the reins of power. He arrived in Washington tonight just a few minutes ago, his first visit since the election. This week, will meet with President Clinton, Vice President Gore, Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and congressional leaders. Before leaving Texas, Mr. Bush made three more high-level appointments, naming his national security adviser, white house counsel and counselor to the president.
Look for Mr. Bush on the cover of "TIME" magazine soon. The magazine said the hard-won election and work ahead led it to name the president-elect its man of the year. One of the issues that could come up this week is the Bush campaign pledge to cut taxes. Mr. Bush says he wants to meet with Fed Chairman Greenspan before saying more about possible cuts.
BRIAN NELSON, CNN ANCHOR: A closer look at those developments now. As we mentioned, President-elect Bush will begin a week's worth of meetings tomorrow to advance his transition to power. Before leaving for the nation's capitol, the president-elect announced three major appointments, continuing efforts to name a diverse leadership team.
CNN White House correspondent Kelly Wallace joins us live from Austin, Texas, with more on Mr. Bush's day.
Kelly, good evening.
KELLY WALLACE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Good evening, Brian.
Well, George W. Bush is hoping to heal some wounds in Washington after the bitter postelection battle but also indicating he will hold firm on his legislative agenda and that includes $1.3 trillion tax cut package over ten years. Now, as we've mentioned, the president-elect and his wife, Laura, arrive at The Washington Hotel, where they will be staying just a short time ago. It is there first visit to Washington since Mr. Bush became president-elect.
The Bush's arrived at Dulles Airport just outside Washington just about an hour ago. And on Monday, Mr. Bush will discuss the economy with Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan and then he heads to Capitol Hill where he meets separately with Democratic and Republican Congressional leaders. A big focus of those meetings is likely to be Mr. Bush's plan to pursue his tax-cut package, which he says is an insurance policy against an economic downturn, but Democrats argue the package is just too large and benefits the wealthy. Further, they say, the close election means Mr. Bush must compromise when it comes to tax cuts. The incoming president says that the Democrats should give him time to make his case.
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BUSH: I look forward to discussing my vision of tax relief with the parties. It doesn't seem to make much sense for people to be drawing lines in the sands until we've had a chance to discuss things.
WALLACE: And before leaving Austin Mr. Bush announced that some familiar faces on the presidential campaign trail would be playing key roles in the Bush administration.
(voice-over): Not a surprise, but another historic move. President-elect Bush names Condoleezza Rice, his top international policy adviser during the campaign, to be his National Security Adviser, the first woman, and only the second African-American, chosen for the post.
BUSH: I trust her judgment. America will find that she is a wise person.
WALLACE: Rice, like Secretary of State nominee Colin Powell, served in Mr. Bush's father's administration as a top Russian Affairs Adviser on the National Security Council. The 46-year-old former Stanford University professor, talked about growing up in segregated Alabama, a message perhaps aimed at African-Americans who overwhelmingly voted for Al Gore.
CONDOLEEZZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER-DESIGNATE: ...that he will have an administration that is inclusive, an administration that is bipartisan, and perhaps most importantly, an administration that affirms that 'united we stand and divided we fall.'
WALLACE: In addition to Rice, Mr. Bush announced key White House roles for two long-time loyalists, Texas Supreme Court Justice Alberto Gonzales becomes White House Counsel. And one of his top three advisers during the campaign, Karen Hughes, becomes a senior adviser, Counselor to the President. Naming minorities and women early on, the president-elect appears to be touting his goal of building a diverse cabinet. He described the message behind Sunday's announcements this way.
BUSH: That people that work hard and make the right decisions in life can achieve anything they want in America
WALLACE: And in Washington, Mr. Bush will also be interviewing some possible candidates for his team. The word from Vice President- elect Dick Cheney, is that a Democrat will definitely be included in the cabinet. Brian.
NELSON: What does the president-elect have on his schedule tomorrow; I understand Alan Greenspan is first thing in the morning, noting the importance of the economic message, I guess, but what else does he and his wife Laura got in store? .
WALLACE: Well, absolutely right. He starts off with a breakfast meeting with Mr. Greenspan and then he heads to Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional leaders and then his schedule is fairly open. We understand that's when he is likely to be doing some interviewing of possible cabinet appointments. He may also swing by the Bush-Cheney transition headquarters. As for Mrs. Bush, she will make her way to the White House one day before her husband. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has invited Mrs. Bush for tea Monday morning. As we know Mr. Bush will head to the White House Tuesday. He will pay a courtesy call on Mr. Clinton and will also be meeting that day with Vice President Al Gore. Brian.
NELSON: Thanks Kelly. Kelly Wallace in Austin, Texas. Andria
HALL: Well, you just heard Kelly lay it all out for you. President-elect Bush will included meetings with Congressional leaders during his Washington trip. Mr. Bush has an ambitious legislative agenda and a Congress almost evenly split between the two major parties. CNN's Christy Feig on plans to advance the Bush agenda.
CHRISTY FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President-elect Bush's chief of staff made the talk show rounds Sunday, laying out his boss's legislative agenda.
ANDREW CARD, BUSH WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We think education reform should be the first issue addressed by Congress, and we'll be working hard to make sure that happens. We also want to start the process of social security reform, Medicare reform with prescription drug element to it.
FEIG: With the Republicans holding a slim majority in the House and the Senate split down the middle, moving the Bush agenda through Congress will take skillful negotiating. Item one: education, with Democrats and Republicans divided over vouchers for private schools.
SEN. TRENT LOTT (R-MS), MAJORITY LEADER: The media keeps using that word voucher, because it perhaps has some negative connotation. Maybe the word should be scholarship.
FEIG: Social security is also an issue for the early days, especially Mr. Bush's pledge to privatize part of the system. Another piece of unfinished business on the Hill: prescription drug coverage for seniors. Among other things Mr. Bush would let each state work out its own coverage plan.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: We can't set up 50 individual systems as the original Bush campaign proposal would have us do.
LOTT: We'll have to, again, work through the best way to do that. Different states have different needs.
FEIG: Perhaps the most controversial task: what to do with Mr. Bush's massive across the board tax cut package. The Democratic leadership favors targeted tax relief.
DASCHLE: Child tax credits, tuition tax credits for college, marriage penalty, even estate tax. But to take a tax cut of that magnitude would really destroy the fiscal responsibility that we've seen so ably demonstrated over the last several years.
FEIG: Even Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert has suggested tax reform should be gradual, as a way to make a bipartisan appeal.
But Lott says Mr. Bush should push his agenda.
LOTT: Certainly, when you have a new president, you give him a chance to make his case; you see if you can find a middle ground.
FEIG: Mr. Bush has often referred to himself as a unifier, a Texas Governor who brought Democrats and Republicans together. Now as president. he has to try to do that in one of the toughest Congressional environments ever.
Christy Feig, CNN, Washington.
NELSON: A particular challenge to the Bush agenga is the split in the U.S. Senate. When the Senate goes into session, there will be 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. The GOP will have a slight edge because the Vice President-elect Dick Cheney holds the tie-breaking vote. But that isn't stopping Democrats from asking for parity in committee chairmanships and staff members, but Republican leaders aren't yet agreeable.
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DASCHLE: All we want is equality. All we want is a real effort at recognition that the membership in the Senate itself, 50-50, ought to be reflected in the membership of committees and ought to be reflected in the way we handle our legislative process and ought to be reflected in all the other aspects of the Senate operation.
LOTT: Different times for call for different procedures and if the Senate is 50-50 plus one, the vice president, 51-50 and there is going to have to be a greater equity in how things are handled, and what money is available to do committee work, all of that. The key is we don't want to set up a situation that is guaranteed to fail
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NELSON: Well, as we've been repeating, Mr. Bush has said that he hopes to be able to work with members of both parties and pull the nation together after the fractious election.
HALL: But, the question is, will he be able to do that? People around the country are expressing the way they feel about the interesting way election 2000 turned out.
CNN's senior political analyst Bill Schneider joins us from Washington with the results from a brand new CNN/"USA Today" Gallup poll.
Bill, it's always good to hear you. Question for you. Do you think that most Americans believe, when all is said and done, that George W. Bush won this election fair and square?
WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know what? Americans are divided over that. Just about half think he won fair and square. A third say, he won but on a technicality. That's what most Gore supporters say. And 18 percent, that's one in six, believe Bush stole the election. In fact, about one in six remain unreconciled to Bush's victory and, one in six don't accept the Supreme Court ruling. One in six do not accept Bush as the legitimate President. Those are hard core partisan Democrats, including a lot of African-Americans and minorities.
Kelly just pointed out a minute ago, that Bush's first appointments were all minorities and woman and that's no accident. Guess how many Americans feel angry and bitter? One in six. Most Americans don't, but they don't feel thrilled or pleased either. When we asked Americans, how do you feel about Bush's election, his designation as President?
The prevailing response for most Americans was, relieved. I will second that.
NELSON: Is his personal popularity bloodied in any way? In other words, does he come into office with less goodwill from the public than any of his predecessors.
SCHNEIDER: Actually, no. He comes in with awful lot of good will. For instance, look at this. 59 percent say they have a favorable opinion of President-elect Bush. 36 percent unfavorable. Those are almost exactly the same numbers Bill Clinton had just after he got elected back in 1992. This is sort of a honeymoon without a wedding but these days that's not so unusual. Most Americans say that Bush's actions and statements over the last few days have made them more confident in his ability to serve as president even though they feel the country is more divided right now than it's been in the last few years. The election campaign and the recount were divisive forces but most Americans see President-elect Bush as a healing force.
HALL: Well, let's see how far that healing will go. Here is a question for you, Bill. There's been much adieu about togetherness and Congressional harmony now. Do Americans believe that George W. Bush can effectively work together with Democrats in Congress?
SCHNEIDER: You know, Andria, most Americans are pretty realistic, that comes from experience. They do not believe that Bush and the Democrats in Congress will be able to put politics aside and work together -- I mean put politics aside, come on, these guys are all politicians. Actually, the Bush voters are pretty optimistic. Most of them think bipartisanship will be possible but not the Gore voters. Their view: ain't going to happen. That is why the President-elect is trying to reach out to Democrats and we just heard he's likely to have a Democrat in his cabinet.
As for Bush's agenda, there is one piece of good news we can report for the President-elect; that comes from another poll, a CBS news poll taken over the weekend. And it showed that over 60 percent of Americans say that they support Bush's idea for an across the board tax cut. Now that the economy is getting a little bit shaky, a big tax cut sounds better and better, especially at Christmas time.
NELSON: Bill, final question: the voters in the electoral college will be gathering in all 50 states tomorrow to vote for George W. Bush presumably. Do you see any surprises there? Do the polls tell you anything or does your instinct tell you anything?
SCHNEIDER: It's likely to be no surprises. People wonder, if there will be any faithless electors that won't vote the way they are supposed to vote. Well, we interviewed a Bush elector. You know, electors are chosen from the party faithful. They are not faithless and I remember this guy said -- we asked him, would you ever consider voting for Al Gore and he thought about it and he said, they could set me on fire. I would never vote for Al Gore. That's your typical elector.
NELSON: Thanks, Bill.
HALL: Bill, thanks a lot. We appreciate it.
NELSON: When we come back, electors, as we said, across the country get ready to cast their votes and we'll check in on one of the sites.
HALL: And Gore in 2004? We have the buzz around the belt way coming up.
NELSON: And a little later on:
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are told he called Governor Bush and congratulated him on winning the election.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The vice president has recalled governor and retracted his concession.
NELSON: We will have a look back at election 2000: the sites and sounds of it, when we return.
NELSON: Well, if you thought the presidential election was over, think again. Tomorrow, state electors meet across the nation to cast their votes for president, presumably to affirm George W. Bush's victory. The state of Arizona's eight electors are pledged to Bush. They're scheduled to vote at about 4:00 p.m eastern in Phoenix. And that's where we find CNN's Jennifer Auther this evening. Jennifer.
JENNIFER AUTHER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brian, we are standing in the room where the eight electors will meet on Monday to go ahead and sign for George W. Bush. And I just wanted to give the viewers a picture -- a shot here. We have had this made up for us. This isn't an actual one because an actual one won't have a seal on until after all of the names are signed.
Each of the eight electors will place a signature and hand it down the line to the next elector. So the electors will be seated here in alphabetical order and we just so happen to have two electors that came out on this Sunday night to talk with us about casting that historical vote and the first person I want to introduce you to is Frank Strekka. Thanks so much for joining us.
Just wanted to say your district chairman for Arizona Republican Party for north central Phoenix, primarily in charge of volunteers in the area?
FRANK STREKKA (R), ARIZONA ELECTOR: Correct.
AUTHER: How are you selected?
STREKKA: Back in May, the state party chairman called and asked if I would be interested in serving as an elector to represent George W. Bush if he were to carry Arizona and represent him as part of the electoral college that meets sometime in December.
AUTHER: We should just say that these eight people -- basically your social lives revolve around the fact you are loyal Republicans and you don't expect any surprises here?
STREKKA: No, I don't.
AUTHER: None at all. Tell me how you view your vote tomorrow.
STREKKA: I view my vote as an honor to represent the state of Arizona. The state of Arizona, the majority, voted for George W. Bush. And to represent them as part of the Electoral College to vote my vote for George W. Bush.
AUTHER: All right, Frank Strekka.
We should say that when 51 percent of the Arizona electorate went for George W. Bush, next to his name were the names eight names of the electors in the state of Arizona.
Now the second elector to join us is Sergeant -- I am so sorry, Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
JOE ARPAIO (R), ARIZONA ELECTOR: You demoted me. That's all right.
AUTHER: I would never demote you. Let me just say, you are an elector. This is your first time as an elector.
AUTHER: You were telling us earlier about something that you said a few months back caused a little bit of a problem, made people think that you might be one of the electors who would switch over.
ARPAIO: Well first of all, I received 1,000 phone called today, plus many letters FedExed to my house. And a lot of people are calling trying to get me to change my vote.
I supported George W. Bush in the primary against our great U.S. Senator, McCain.
AUTHER: So there was a time, though, where you said you expected fully to vote for George W. Bush when this day of December 18th rolled around. And somebody took the word "expect"?
ARPAIO: Yes, I said "expect" to a national newspaper, because the reason I said expect, I could get hit by a car or I could get killed today -- by the way, if I don't make it here tomorrow, I'll still vote from heaven for George W. Bush. So I'm committed to George W. Bush, regardless of all the rumors, all the Web sites, all the phone calls, everybody else trying to convince me to change my vote.
AUTHER: What do you make of these people that are trying to get you to upset this apple cart? As I understand it, if just two electors were to defect, that it would in fact upset what everybody thinks will be an eventual George Bush presidency.
ARPAIO: Most of the letters I'm receiving are civil in nature, but they were concerned about the vote, the popular vote versus the Electoral College, which I support. And also some were concerned about the Supreme Court ruling. But they all said, be patriotic, forget the party, vote your conscience and that type of thing. Well I am going to vote my conscience, That was there almost a year ago.
AUTHER: You're a man of the law, 32 years before this with the DEA. Tell me, is there any law on this book, because I know there's a little bit of a debate about whether or not electors here are bound.
ARPAIO: Well, I don't see any law. But it's academic anyway, because we're all going to vote for George W., and I would hope the other electors in the nation follow suit.
AUTHER: Thank you very much.
ARPAIO: Thank you.
AUTHER: Sheriff Joe Arpaio, we have run out of time.
I'm Jennifer Auther, reporting live, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.
HALL: Jennifer, thank you.
Bush electors have been flooded, as you just heard the gentleman say, with requests urging them to switch their votes because Al Gore won the popular vote.
Joining us from New York to talk about the possibility of that actually occurring is Robert Erikson. He is a political science professor at Columbia University with an interest in American political behavior.
This political process in America has its own personality. It seems like that personality has changed drastically this year. Before you get to the question if you think people might change their vote, how would you say personality of the process has change?
ROBERT ERIKSON, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: During the course of the campaign you mean?
ERIKSON: Well, we've seen the process start out with a normal election, it's going to be a close election. and of course we saw all the turmoil in Florida, all the ups and downs, and now we'll have a very probably very quiet Electoral College vote tomorrow, where before we thought there my be a lot of drama to it. HALL: But, Mr. Erikson, nothing in this election has been predictable. Many things have happened that no one ever expected. Are you certain that -- I mean, it's only going to take two, according to Jennifer -- that no one will switch over?
ERIKSON: That's right, and in the past electors there have been electors who have been unfaithful, who have voted for somebody else. The last time it happened was 1988, before that 1968. So you can imagine an elector having a temptation to do that.
But this is different because they would know that only two votes could change the outcome and put it into the House of Representatives. So they know that the consequence of a protest vote would not be not just to cast a protest vote but possibly, if there was a second elector that was thinking exactly as they were, simultaneously, two or more would throw the election into the House of Representative.
But that is not going to happen, I don't think anybody believes. And even if it did, of course, the House would just simply certify George Bush. So the outcome should not be in doubt at all.
HALL: Let's talk a little bit about the electoral process. I think up until this point many Americans really had no definitive idea of how people really won elections. I mean, they knew about the Electoral College, but they didn't really understand it. Do you favor that process being changed?
ERIKSON: Well, it's a mixed bag. There's arguments for and against changing the Electoral College. The most obvious alternative would be direct election of a president and so that we could have just simply a popular-vote winner. That might seem like a sensible reform, but there are problems with it. For example, we'd have to have federal control of the electoral machinery for that to happen, because we couldn't have the states deciding how to cast elections.
Remember the problems we just had in Florida with counties having a lot of autonomy in how they counted votes and how they -- what kind of ballots they used? And if we had a national election of a popular votes where we'd have one national popular-vote winner, we'd probably have to have one national standard, perhaps federal control of the electoral process.
We could also imagine what would happen if we had a very close federal election, a national election. So what if the national popular vote was decided by few thousand votes or less, as Florida was. And then if we thought we had a meltdown in just one state, large state of Florida, the meltdown would be several magnitudes higher if we had a very close vote for the nation as a whole. So it might be a desirable thing to do to have a popular-vote outcome, but you'd have to look very carefully at some of the consequences.
HALL: Would you at least admit at this point, when we see in different communities we have completely different standards on how people vote, because some of them have the butterfly ballot and some of them have machinery that's not working, some have a hand ballot where they fill it in, do you think that at least, at the very least, standards should be across the board and uniform?
ERIKSON: I think that will happen, particularly within states. I'm sure Florida is on the road toward developing a uniform ballot and uniform procedures across the counties, uniform ways of counting ballots, all the things we've heard about. All the problems we've had are presumably going to change, and I'm sure other states are taking a look as well at dog the same thing.
So we'll see a lot of change at the state level. This will not take federal action, but maybe some federal legislation short of a constitutional amendment will speed the process along.
HALL: Well, Mr. Erikson, if for strange twist of fate you are wrong about the electors, we'll have you back on tomorrow and we can have you eat those words.
ERIKSON: OK, fine.
HALL: Thank you very much, Robert Erikson, for being with us from Colombia University. We appreciate it.
ERIKSON: Thank you.
HALL: Well, as state electors meet across the nation tomorrow to cast their votes for president -- and there should not be any surprises -- CNN will deliver state-by-state coverage. And we will, of course, bring that to you beginning at 7:00 a.m. Eastern.
NELSON: And still ahead in this election 2000, the women who will be the next president's national security adviser. We'll get a close-up look at Condoleezza rice.
Plus, it is not winter yet, but you could have fooled much of the nation this weekend. We'll get a check on the conditions and the national forecast in just a few moments.
HALL: The latest now as President-elect George W. Bush prepares to take the reins of the nation.
Bush has arrived in Washington for several high-level meetings this week. Tomorrow he meets with Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and congressional leaders.
On Tuesday, Bush has an appointment with President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore.
Earlier, Bush announced three key White House appointments. He has chosen Condoleezza Rice to be his national security adviser, Texas Supreme Court Justice Alberto Gonzalez to be White House counsel, and Karen Hughes has been named counselor to Bush.
Bush's intended national security adviser is no stranger inside the Beltway. Condoleezza Rice sports an impressive resume from international relations work at the Joint Chiefs of Staff to special assistant to President George Bush Sr.
National Security correspondent David Ensor has a portrait of this Bush appointee.
DAVID ENSOR, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You can hear it when she plays Brahms. Condoleezza Rice exudes confidence and control in everything she does, from music to national security policy. She always has.
Growing up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, at the height of the civil rights movement, she was taught by her parents never to allow racism to hold her back. Among the four little girls killed in 1963 when a white racist's bomb destroyed a church was a onetime playmate of Condi Rice. If there are scars from that upbringing, they do not show.
BRENT SCOWCROFT, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I see no distortions from the kinds of things she endured and suffered as she was growing up. I don't see it reflected unless it is the drive to succeed.
ENSOR: Under President Bush, Brent Scowcroft was her boss on the National Security staff. As the Soviet Union was disintegrating, Rice was the top exert on that at the White House.
Forty-six, single, a professor at Stanford University, Rice shares George W. Bush's view: The Clinton administration has stretched America's military too far.
At the Republican Convention that chose him, she was a star.
RICE: He recognizes that the magnificent men and woman of America's armed forces are not a global police force. They are not the world's 911.
ENSOR: If she has a weakness, it may be, that up to now her career has focused somewhat narrowly on the former Soviet Union.
(on camera): On other issues: Iran, Iraq, bin Laden, Rice and for that matter Governor Bush, have remained deliberately vague.
(voice-over): And unlike the music she loves, national security teams are not always harmonious. Rice must now help a new president choose between sometimes unattractive options in a murky, undependable world.
David Ensor, CNN Washington.
NELSON: Not all of national attention is going to Cabinet appointees. A national news magazine is shining its spotlight on man himself. "TIME" magazine has named George W. Bush its "Man of the Year." It says the recognition comes not only because of his dramatic win in the battle of the White House, but the editors say they chose the president elect for the office that he won and for the tough job ahead.
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WALTER ISAACSON, MANAGING EDITOR, "TIME": It's George Bush, and we selected him for a couple of reasons, one of which is that he's going to be the next president. He's going to have a huge challenge, a challenge to unite us as a nation and, as he put it, to gain the respect of the people not only who voted for him but those that didn't.
And I happen to think he has the certain personal traits that may make him well suited to uniting the nation in reaching across party lines. But whether he does or he doesn't, for better or for worse, he's not only the next president but a symbol of a constitutional contortion of an election the likes of which we haven't seen since 1876 and something we'll be citing a century from now.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NELSON: And "TIME" magazine also issued another award. It named Gore's campaign attorney David Boies as "Lawyer of the Year."
And just as the challenges are clearly laid out ahead for George W. Bush, the future, though, is not so certain for his former opponent Al Gore. Gore supporters question what his chances are to lead the Democratic presidential charge in 2004.
CNN's Kathleen Koch checks the party sentiment on the idea right now.
KATHLEEN KOCH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was the silver lining in a dark cloud: that Al Gore would have another chance at the presidency in 2004. But not a week after losing the election, other potential candidates are being quizzed about running.
SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: And the answer is, this is -- boy, is this too early to begin that process. I'm focused on re- election in 2002.
REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT (D-MO), MINORITY LEADER: We just got the last election over. My single and only goal now is to solve the problems that the American people want us to solve together with this administration.
KOCH: Also looming large, President Clinton. His youth, popularity and money-raising prowess position him to dominate the Democratic Party as no other recent ex-president.
SEN. CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: President Clinton will certainly be an outstanding spokesperson for the Democrats. I have never met a politician in my lifetime who is able to take an issue and break it down so it's so understandable. And we need somebody like that.
KOCH: Al Gore has yet to announce his future political intentions. Aides say he has earned a top spot in the party.
CHRIS LEHANE, FORMER GORE CAMPAIGN SPOKESMAN: Al Gore is going to be one of the major leaders in this party. He won the popular vote in this campaign.
KOCH: But there is bitterness amongst party loyalists.
DOUGLAS SCHOEN, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: I think that there's a sense among some Democrats that we should have won this year, that with a popular president, with a strong economy, that this was Al Gore's election to win.
KOCH: And on Capitol Hill, leaders won't commit to backing Gore in 2004.
SEN. TOM DASCHLE (D-SD), MINORITY LEADER: It's too early to tell. It's a long way off. We've got to govern a lot before we get into the next election.
KOCH: The buzz-word now: group leadership.
REP. SHEILA JACKSON-LEE (D), TEXAS: I believe Vice President Gore will be an articulate spokesperson, along with the rest of us to not diminish our issues and to fight for what we believe in.
KOCH (on camera): A final wild card: Hillary Rodham Clinton. New York Democratic officials are already suggesting their junior senator would make an imposing presidential candidate.
Kathleen Koch, for CNN, the White House.
HALL: 2004's a way's away.
NELSON: Stay tuned.
HALL: I know, really. Isn't that the truth. But we want you to stay tuned also, because have you ever wondered what it was like to be a member of the Electoral College?
NELSON: A real live one joins us just ahead on this CNN special report.
NELSON: And later...
HALL: And later...
BROOKHEISER: Go ahead.
HALL: We'll squeeze five weeks into five minutes, as we look back on the historic events in election 2000.
Stay right there.
NELSON: As the 538 members of the Electoral College prepare to cast their votes for president tomorrow, Georgia's B.J. Lopez will be among them. And she joins us here in Atlanta to tell explain the process and to tell us about her past experience as an elector.
Nice to see you. Thanks for being here.
B.J. LOPEZ (R), GEORGIA ELECTOR: Nice to see you.
NELSON: First of all, are you excited about tomorrow?
LOPEZ: Excited would be an understatement. I'm extremely excited, a little anxious. I'd like this to be over.
NELSON: How do you view your responsibility for voting the next president into office?
LOPEZ: I think all of us -- we had a meeting just a few hours earlier, and I think all of us are very mindful of the gravity of what we do. We're representing -- for us in Georgia, we're representing all the people in our state who cast votes in the presidential election. And collectively, the 538 people are selecting the next president of the United States. And that is the most powerful office on the face of the earth. So it is a very important role.
NELSON: Now you've done this before in 1996.
LOPEZ: That's correct.
NELSON: Why don't you briefly give us a run-through, very quickly, about what happens?
LOPEZ: OK, we will assemble tomorrow at 12:00 noon at the state Capitol here in Georgia in the Senate chambers. And it is a formal ceremony. And one of the electors will be running the session, and someone will appoint -- a secretary will be appointed. And then we will go through a call to order, and we will have a roll call by our secretary. And then you will have the official casting of the ballots. And these will be distributed, and the electors will choose first the president, and then we will choose the vice president. And the ballots will be tabulated in between those times.
NELSON: In all the documentation that you have here, you have something that really explains how well -- explains very well the fact that you are who people are voting for in Georgia.
LOPEZ: That's correct. I think -- we have here...
NELSON: Yes, sure, go ahead.
LOPEZ: We have here what is called the Certificate of Ascertainment of the Presidential Electors. And this is a document which is very official sounding, and it's being certified by the governor of the state. And the governor is saying who actually got what vote count. And it's based on percentages and numbers and actual votes. And, of course, it lists our electors. And in '96...
NELSON: So how many votes did you get?
LOPEZ: In '96, we each received 1,080,843 votes, and the state of George was carried for Bob Dole and Jack Kemp. Of course, they didn't win the national election, but we did win Georgia.
NELSON: Now in this election, do you have any qualms at all about voting for a man who didn't win the popular vote -- I know he won the popular vote in Georgia but didn't win the popular vote nationwide?
LOPEZ: Absolutely not, because our system is an electoral system. And just as I don't go to Congress and vote on the laws -- I elect someone to go and do that for me -- that's what the Electoral College is doing. We're electing people to vote on our behalf. I have no qualms.
NELSON: Have people been trying on get you to changes your vote?
LOPEZ: There have been some calls, yes. And early in the process if I didn't recognize a number on my caller ID, I either got a message on the recorder or I didn't answer the phone.
NELSON: How many calls did you get, do you think?
LOPEZ: I probably got -- early on, I probably got maybe five to 10. And then in the ensuing days, I've had about three or four more.
NELSON: Were any of them particularly rough or particularly seductive? In fact, did anyone offer you money to change your vote, for example?
LOPEZ: No, I wasn't offered anything like that.
NELSON: So, do you expect there to be any faithless electors among the crew in Georgia?
LOPEZ: No, we are rock solid. We have always been rock solid. And we took a vote that if anyone even contemplated they would be summarily shot, so -- jokingly.
No, we're all very proud to vote for George W. Bush and Richard Cheney for president and vice president.
NELSON: But since you're so involved and in this, you watched what had happened in Florida, do you think the electoral system in this country needs an overhaul or any change? And I have to ask you to be quick about this.
LOPEZ: No, our founding fathers knew what they were doing. Because if we went to a plurality you could have someone win an election with a very small margin of votes. And that could be dangerous. It's a fail safe. And I think that it's not broken and we shouldn't fix it.
NELSON: Well thank you very much for being with me.
LOPEZ: Thank you for having me.
NELSON: B.J. Lopez, an elector in the state of Georgia, and you'll be in the limelight tomorrow for a second time.
LOPEZ: For a second time -- thank you.
NELSON: All right, thank you.
As the state electors meet across the nation tomorrow to cast their votes for president, CNN is going to deliver state-by-state coverage. And that coverage begins at 7:00 a.m. Eastern time in the morning.
HALL: Well, I think it's probably safe to say you can unbuckle your seat belt. It has been an amazing ride these past few weeks.
Next up, a look back at presidential election that kept going and going and going.
But first we'll switch gears. It may not officially arrive for a few more days, but winter is definitely here in one sense -- a very chilly forecast just two minutes away.
Please stay with us.
HALL: Our coverage of election 2000 continues in just a few minutes.
NELSON: But first a check of the nation's weather right now.
A 300-mile stretch of Interstate 90 is once again open in Minnesota and in South Dakota. Blowing snow reduced visibility so much yesterday, officials closed the highway overnight. Wind chills were reported at 23 blow zero in some parts of Minnesota today.
HALL: Freezing temperatures hampered rescue efforts in the aftermath of a series of tornadoes in Alabama. The storms are blamed in a dozen deaths, 11 of them in the Tuscaloosa area. Federal disaster teams have been dispatched to tour that destruction.
HALL: Well finally, George W. Bush arrived in Washington just a few hours ago. He is preparing for his first meeting as president- elect with leaders of both major parties.
NELSON: It has been an exciting and sometimes frustrating five weeks.
Here now is a look back at all of it.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) WOODRUFF: George W. Bush and Al Gore are indeed locked in a race that may be too close to call for hours.
In Indiana, Pennsylvania, Texas...
BERNARD SHAW, CNN ANCHOR: ... California, Tennessee embarrassing Vice President Gore by snatching his states 11 electoral votes.
WOODRUFF: A big call to make, CNN announces that we call Florida in the Al Gore column.
BUSH: I don't believe they've got enough evidence to be able to call the state.
SHAW: CNN right now is moving our earlier declaration of Florida back to the too-close-do-call column.
At 18 minutes past 2:00 Eastern time, CNN declares that George Walker Bush has won Florida's 25 electoral votes, and this should put him over the top.
KING: We're told he called Governor Bush and congratulated him on winning the election.
CROWLEY: The vice president has re-called the governor and retracted his concession.
WILLIAM DALEY, GORE CAMPAIGN CHAIRMAN: And until the results -- the recount is concluded and the results in Florida become official, our campaign continues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A vote count in the state of Florida shows Governor Bush winning that state by more than 1,200 votes. They're still counting -- they're still counting, and I'm confident when it is all said and done we will prevail.
KAREN HUGHES, BUSH COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: I watched it this morning on television, some excerpts, and I thought that maybe it had all been a dream. Then I realized I was awake the whole time.
BUSH: We have asked former United States Secretary of State James Baker to travel to Florida on our behalf.
GORE: We agreed to ask Warren Christopher to play a key role in the process from here forward.
HARRIS: Governor George W. Bush 2,909,661; Vice President Al Gore 2,907,877. A difference of 1,784 votes.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: Several hundred protesters gathered outside the Palm Beach County elections office.
JACKSON: This ballot is fuzzy.
JAMES BAKER, OBSERVER FOR BUSH CAMPAIGN: It is a ballot that was approved by an elected democratic official. DALEY: It appears that more than 20,000 voters in the Palm Beach County who, in all likelihood, thought they were voting for Al Gore had their votes counted for Pat Buchanan or not counted at all.
We'll be requesting a hand count of ballots in Palm Beach County as well as three other counties.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: With due notification to the secretary of state, any pending manual recount and may thereafter file supplemental or corrective returns. The secretary of state may ignore such late- filed returns, but may not do so arbitrarily.
HARRIS: Confirming my discretion in these matters, I'm requiring a written statement of the facts and circumstances that would cause these counties to believe that a change should be made.
I've decide it is my duty under Florida law to exercise my discretion in denying these requested amendments.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court, on its own motion, enjoins the respondent, secretary of state and respondent elections canvassing commission from certifying the results.
GORE: I'm very pleased that the hand counts are continuing. They're proceeding despite efforts to obstruct them.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These Democratic counties are no longer recounting; they are reinventing.
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dimpled chads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hanging chads, pregnant chads.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The swinging-door chad.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: Chads that fall to the ground.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The court holds that amended certifications from the county canvassing boards must be accepted by the election canvassing commission through 5:00 p.m. on November 26.
BAKER: Today, Florida's Supreme Court rewrote the legislature's statutory system.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Military votes count! Military votes count!
BUSH: Our men and women in uniform overseas should not lose their right to vote.
LIEBERMAN: Al Gore and I want everybody who voted to have the maximum chance to have their vote counted.
UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Let us in! Let us in! Let us in!
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: Republicans scuffle with police in South Florida; the issue: proposed changes in the Miami-Dade recount.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is the unanimous decision of this canvassing board that we will not be proceeding further with a manual recount.
DALEY: We will immediately be seeking an order directing the Dade County board of canvassers to resume the manual recount.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: They've been at this for days and they've been only sleeping four of five hours a night for the days leading up to the marathon they're in the middle of now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So the secretary of state has apparently decided to shut us down, with approximately two hours, perhaps, left to go.
HARRIS: I hereby declare Governor George W. Bush the winner of Florida's 25 electoral votes.
GORE: I have decided to contest this inaccurate and incomplete count.
BUSH: Now that the votes are counted, it is time for the votes to count.
UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: ... we propose that the ballots be received in accordance with our emergency motion and that the court review of contested ballots begin.
UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: George W. Bush's lawyers called on the court to vacate the ruling of the Florida Supreme Court that extended the manual vote recount.
DAVID M. SOUTER, ASSOCIATE JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES: Why should the federal judiciary be interfering in what seems to be a very carefully thought-out scheme?
UNIDENTIFIED JUDGE: The evidence does not establish any illegality, dishonesty, gross negligence, improper influence, coercion or fraud.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The recounts shall commence immediately. In tabulating what constitutes a legal vote, the standard to be used is the one provided by the legislature: "A vote shall be counted where there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter."
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have stayed the recount at this point until we hear from the U.S. Supreme Court.
SHAW: CNN has just learned that the United States Supreme Court has reached a decision.
CHARLES BIERBAUER, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: The judgment of the Supreme Court of Florida is reversed.
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.
BUSH: The presidency is more than an honor. It is more than an office. It is a charge to keep, and I will give it my all.
Thank you very much, and God bless America.
HALL: And we thank you very much for joining us for this special record.
I'm Andria Hall.
NELSON: And I'm Brian Nelson. Thank you for joining us.
"CNN SPORTS TONIGHT" is up next.
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