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Bush Campaign Appealing Florida Supreme Court Ruling to U.S. Supreme Court; Democrats Suing Miami-Dade County for Halting Manual Recount

Aired November 22, 2000 - 2:59 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Again, the news from the past two hours is we've just learned George W. Bush and the Bush team appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court. But as you heard from David Cardwell, the Supreme Court (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a great deal of deference to the states, keeping this a state matter. And we still, of course, have the appeals court here in Atlanta that may hear the case as well.

Also in the past two hours, we learned that Broward County will not recount any more votes, and that is something the Gore team will appeal.

STEPHEN FRAZIER, CNN ANCHOR: That was actually Miami-Dade County which changed its mind about its recount.

ALLEN: Sorry about that.

FRAZIER: So let's go back to Frank Buckley, who was there filling us in on that decision and what has happened since.

Frank, sorry about that.

FRANK BUCKLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Stephen, it's a little difficult to hear you, because if I could have William -- just pan over, William, and I just want to give you a sense of what we're up against. There is a great crowd of protesters here. They're constantly making noise. So it is a little difficult for us to hear you, and so I apologize if you're asked a question. I couldn't hear it.

But the bottom line here is that Republicans have been elated over the decision by the canvassing board to simply go with the certified vote that they had gone with before. Joining me now is Congressman Steve Buyer of Indiana, a Republican, who has been here as a chairman of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel. You were particularly concerned about the military ballot. Give us your reaction to the decision here by the canvassing board.

REP. STEVE BUYER (R), INDIANA: Well, you are right. I came down to Florida because I was concerned about the disenfranchisement of the military who are serving our country overseas and American citizens living abroad by the state of Florida. They were in violation of a consent decree rendered back in 1980. So, I have been down here working on that issue. Yesterday I observed some of the counting that was going on, began to pay attention to the canvassing board. Then, when the Supreme Court ruled, I think that decision put a lot of pressure on this canvassing board. There were thousand, tens of thousands of ballots yet still to go through. They actually looked at many of these undercounted ballots that were actually going to come to them and there is only so much that actually a human can do in looking these ballots that are meant to go through a machine. They were never really meant to be hand counted.

So, when they looked at the logistics in time and the constraint that the Florida Supreme Court put on them, they made a rational decision.

BUCKLEY: Thank you very much, sir. Thanks for joining us.

Steve and Natalie, we'll get back to you.

ALLEN: All right, Frank, thanks again.

The news that broke just a few moments ago, George W. Bush filing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court on the ruling last night handed down by the state Supreme Court allowing for manual recounts until this Sunday.

We also have just received more information that the request would ask the Supreme Court to consolidate the Florida Supreme Court ruling and the an earlier case begun in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta.

And you had just asked that of David Cardwell, how that would play out.

We've also learned here that the Bush team plans to make a three- pronged argument.

We want to bring back in David Cardwell to look at each one of these points.

And here is what we have, David.

The first point of the argument: The state justices violated the U.S. Constitution's separation of powers by determining electoral deadlines and the recount process that federal law invested solely in the legislature.

Your comments on that?

DAVID CARDWELL, CNN ELECTION LAW ANALYST: Well, the federal law invested the legislature the determination of the electors. And the legislature did take that authority and pass the statute, which says the electors are selected at the November election.

The argument can be made by those that would support the Florida Supreme Court decision that the November election took place when it was supposed to. In fact, that was part of the basis for the judge here in Palm Beach County finding that there was no right to a revote.

But those who would say the Supreme Court was correct would say that, well, the November election is not final. You go through the state process to get to your final returns. So, that is what is happening here.

What they are going to have to show is that somehow or another the Florida Supreme Court, by extending deadline on its own, has somehow or another gone beyond what the legislature intended.

FRAZIER: David, it's Frazier here with the second prong of this Bush legal team three-pronged argument. This one goes to all of the flipping and flopping and changing of what constitutes an actual vote on the ballots. It says that the court ruling and the alternating recount standards in the three counties violate a federal law that forbids changing election rules after the election itself.

CARDWELL: Well, I'm not sure this is changing election rules. That statute goes to the actual process that's followed on Election Day. It's always been left -- it's always been left to state election officials to determine what the actual vote count was, but there again, there has been a lot of questions raised about the changing positions that the county canvassing boards have been taking.

ALLEN: OK, David, and finally here is the final argument that the Bush team plans to take to the U.S. Supreme Court and its about the different standards and the different counties. It says the recounts are so selective and unevenly carried out that they violate both the equal protection and due process clauses of the Constitution.

The effect of the court's opinion will be that voter's votes are being evaluated differently in different parts of Florida some votes were cast legitimately may be offset by votes that were not. That is from the statement from George W. Bush.

What about that. That is certainly at the core of what is left to be argued here in these two counties that are counting.

CARDWELL: It's slightly worded differently but that's basically the argument that the Bush campaign made in their court filing in the U.S. District Court in the southern direct of Florida that Judge Middlebrooks ruled on which is the subject of the appeal to the 11th Circuit. So, I'm not surprised they want to consolidate it and the 11th Circuit case, get it up to the Supreme Court as quickly as possible. And that is really probably the primary argument they are going to rely upon, because that was the argument that they raised first when they went to court in federal district court a few days ago.

ALLEN: Well, we need to get Supreme Court correspondents up next to talking about this.

Do you have any experience, David, with opinion on how quickly or not so quickly the Supreme Court could take up this matter?

CARDWELL: Well, they have shown in the past when there were real emergency situations they could rule very quickly. If you recall through some of the constitutional crises in the past, that they have ruled literally overnight. Courts can move quickly when they need to and election law cases very often move very quickly.

So, certainly, if the court is aware of the importance -- and I'm sure they will be -- of getting this decided quickly, we will get a quick decision from them.

FRAZIER: David Cardwell, very helpful as he walks us through the electoral machinations here of this last steps, the legal steps.

We are going to take a little break now and when we come back, the political angle once again and a visit to Austin, Texas, and the Bush campaign.


ALLEN: Again, bringing you the latest development in Election 2000 and that is that George W. Bush is appealing last night's state Supreme Court ruling allowing for manual recounts, appealing that decision to the United States Supreme Court. This is news we have just learned.

We have CNN's Bob Franken on the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, so we will be talking about this appeal and how quickly it may be heard. We will also be talking with our correspondents in Austin, Texas, and Washington D.C., those correspondents covering both the candidates.

We want to tell you more about what the arguments will be that the Bush team says it will bring before the U.S. Supreme Court, that the state justices violated the U.S. Constitution's separation of powers by determining electoral deadlines and a recount process that federal law invested solely in the legislature, that the counties are violating a federal law that forbids changing election rules after the fact and it will argue before the Supreme Court that the recounts are selective and unevenly carried out.

So, this is a new development and we will continue to dissect it this afternoon.

For more, here's Stephen.

FRAZIER: Natalie, all last week we had Bob Franken at the 11th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in Atlanta covering the movement of a Bush lawsuit up to that court. He is already at the Supreme Court now. We mentioned he was there. He's actually already there and he can fill us in on how things are going to go there.

Bob, one question for you first, what would happen to what is before the 11th circuit judges if this is filed directly with the Supreme Court now? Would the Supreme Court take this on and sort of violate the chain of command?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they can. They can ask for an expedited action. You will recall that that was a request that was made frequently during the Monica Lewinsky matter. The Supreme Court could decide in the interest of time to take this on right away. And then, of course, a decision could be made by Justice Kennedy who is over the region that includes the Florida area, the 11th circuit area, whether he would issue that temporary restraining order which would stop the hand counts.

The Supreme Court could also decide whether it was going to, in fact, take the case. The term is called grant certiorari. You hear it sometimes grant cert. That could happen, or the Supreme Court could say it does not need to in fact hear this on an expedited basis, that the process is well underway at the 11th Circuit Court in Atlanta and allow the court of appeals down there to take it on. And in that connection, the Atlanta court has in fact set up a procedure that includes possibility of oral arguments in this particular case by the middle of next week.

Now, Natalie's description of what the Bush camp was talking about may sound familiar to you if you have been following this. They had argued -- the Republicans had -- at the appeals court level and at the district court level that this was a constitutional violation. And that is why it should end up in the federal court, even though elections are mainly state matters.

They were claiming that, because people were being treated unevenly in Florida because of the way that the recounts were being conducted in some counties and not others, that, because of that, it was violation of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which has the equal protection clause in it: that is say, some citizens of Florida were not getting the same protection as others -- also some First Amendment questions having to do with the right, freedom of expression, as manifested in the vote.

So those are the issues that are being presented by the Bush Republicans. They're now going to go to the Supreme Court, apparently, and ask for this expedited treatment. It will be up to the justices of the court to decide whether or not they want to grant that -- Steve.

FRAZIER: Bob, as you know, this is an august body, which normally moves very slowly. But they have to have anticipated the possibility that this suit would be filed before them.

FRANKEN: If so, they are not familiar -- if not, they are not familiar with what is going on. As I said, there are procedures in place. Yes, they do move slowly. But they also have the ability to move quite quickly, as we have found out sometimes in matter of capital punishment, for instance. So they are set up for quick action.

FRAZIER: And their -- have they been paying any attention, do you think to what has been going on in the 11th Circuit, or is their docket so full that they have got to focus on matters before them?

FRANKEN: Well, some of them must watch television.

(LAUGHTER) FRANKEN: Although they would claim that they do not, I suppose. But certainly they are aware of what has been going on, on the 11th Circuit.

FRAZIER: Bob Franken at the Supreme Court. Bob, we will talk you to you again. Thanks very much -- Natalie.

ALLEN: So let's check in now with the campaigns. Tony Clark is in Austin, Texas for us -- Tony.

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, the governor has been closely involved in all of the decisions that are being made in Florida, all of the legal moves. And we are told that the governor has signed off on the idea of going to the U.S. Supreme Court. He has told his legal team that he agrees, that, if they want to, that is the -- that is all right for them to proceed to appeal the decision by yesterday's decision by the Florida state Supreme Court.

Remember, earlier today, the governor stood before the television cameras and leveled a stinging blast at the Florida state Supreme Court. He said that he believed that he and Dick Cheney won the election in Florida, and that the Florida Supreme Court was being used to try and overturn that, that they have overreached authorities, that they trying to rewrite the law. And so that is why he has given his legal team the authorization to go ahead and go to the Supreme Court, the U.S. Supreme Court to try to appeal that.

We expect some formal announcement from the campaign later today on that. In the other area that has come up today -- the Miami-Dade board's decision not to continue with the recount -- a source close to the legal team in Tallahassee said they found it unbelievable that the Gore team might appeal that. They said that they felt the Gore team is now suing their own people, calling it very transparent. And they said that the Bush team is 100 percent behind taking some sort of action to try and strengthen position.

The Gore team, they say, is just doing just the opposite of what they have been talking about before, giving a free hand to their people there -- the Bush legal tomorrow -- as I say now -- getting the authorization from Governor Bush to go ahead with an appeal to the Supreme Court.

And, Natalie, we expect some sort of formal announcement about that approach later today -- Natalie.

ALLEN: So they haven't said anything informally about it -- too much about it. I'm just wondering if anyone has said anything about the timetable here they are up against. Now we are looking a holiday and a weekend before us.

CLARK: Natalie, it is so hard now to judge. Things are moving so fast. As I said earlier today, this has been much like a roller- coaster ride, both with Dick Cheney's health situation today, the decision last night from the Florida Supreme Court, Miami-Dade decision today. Everything keeps moving. Everything is so fluid that it's just -- it is hard to keep up with the changes. But again, the latest move, we anticipate some sort of announcement later today about a decision to go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

ALLEN: All right. We will of course carry those comments when we hear from Bush team officially. Thanks, Tony Clark, in Austin, Texas.

FRAZIER: Our Bill Schneider has been watching all of these developments very closely from Washington. And it's hard to keep up. But he has been keeping a running tabulation of what things are happening.

Bill, what is the American public likely to think of all of these last-minute changes?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, if they are as bewildered as we are, then I hope they're keeping up. These things are happening very thick and fast. I think they are becoming a little bit discouraged, however, by all the partisanship that has broken out into the open.

I mean, you have Democrats rushing to court, case after case. You have Republicans -- including Governor Bush now -- really accusing Democrats of trying to steal the election. And then we saw something I never thought I would see in my lifetime: a near riot by Republicans. I mean, this is something we don't see very often in American politics. And I think the American public is probably very discouraged by it all. They want it over.

FRAZIER: Now, those were the Republican counters who were angry about the fact that some of Miami-Dade's recount may take place where they couldn't observe it themselves. Is that right?

SCHNEIDER: That's right. They were angry because they weren't able to see them recounting, as they proposed to do, those untabulated ballots. And right now, they have suspended the entire recount. So the Democrats have gone to circuit court to try to get an order forcing the county canvassing board to resume the recounts, which they claim they can't do by the deadline.

FRAZIER: Now, what do you think about this latest development, Bill? Some of what of we have been talking about earlier in the day was happening on the ground at the recounts. And that's very much sort of the precinct level -- almost the ward-healer level, we used to say in the old days -- of politics, where it really does get kind of murky sometimes, and a lot of fun.

But there is a certain respect accorded to the Supreme Court of the United States. And if you are going to take an argument before that, that has to be the real deal, doesn't it?

SCHNEIDER: Well, it does. The Supreme Court has ultimate authority on any constitutional matter. The question is: Will the court -- the federal court get involved in this? Electoral counts are really a state matter, even though this involves the president the United States. The federal courts have always deferred to state court -- that's my understanding -- in matters of electoral procedure. So there is a real question whether any federal court, even the United States Supreme Court, will actually get involved.

FRAZIER: Bill, we have heard campaign surrogates doing a lot of the water-carrying during all of this, coming out before the microphones, making the statements. You are there in Washington now. What is happening in Congress? What are the members of Congress who are not actually active in the campaigns thinking of all of this?

SCHNEIDER: They watching with amazement and some anger on both sides. Each side now feels as if the other side is trying to pull a fast one, steal the election or worse. And I think there's a certain amount of plotting done by the hard-core partisans in both camps, really, about the ways that they could develop what some call a nuclear strategy.

In other words, if this whole thing blows wide open -- there's no electoral count from Florida -- there is no electors certified by December 12 -- they don't vote on December 18 -- then it falls into the hands of Congress. And they're thinking about what the options. Memos have been e-mailed back and forth among members of Congress exploring the various options.

And both parties are involved in that, because, ultimately, the authority for counting the electoral votes falls in the hands of the United States Congress in January. The House has a small Republican majority. And the Senate, according to latest count, could very well end up being 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. I would like to see them get a decision out of a Senate that is equally divided.

FRAZIER: Bill, you are giving us some sense of developments yet to come which dwarf everything that is happening today.

SCHNEIDER: Well, that's the nuclear strategy: that if Florida can't sort it out, they cannot certify a slate of electors; if they do not vote from December 18 with the electors from all the other states, then Congress is thinking about what it might do. But that's down the road a bit. First they have to see if Florida can possibly sort this thing out.

FRAZIER: Bill, thank you. Our senior political analyst, Bill Schneider, in Washington today, thanks very much -- Natalie.

ALLEN: We continue now with two representatives from the state of Florida: Republican Congressman Joe Scarborough -- his district incorporates parts of the Florida Panhandle -- and Peter Deutsch, the Democratic congressman from Florida's 20th District. That is including parts of Miami-Dade Country.

First, gentlemen, let's talk about this appeal to U.S. Supreme Court.

Congressman Scarborough, what you think about this development? REP. JOE SCARBOROUGH (R), FLORIDA: Well, obviously, the Bush team is very concerned with the Florida Supreme Court decision last night, which basically, you had the seven judges on the Supreme Court disregard clear legal intent of the Florida legislature and the clear intent of the executive branch.

And so, obviously, we are concerned about that. And as you heard earlier, the Bush team believes that this Supreme Court violated the separation of powers that the United States code clearly and unequivocally says that the state legislators will make these determinations and not Supreme Courts, who are legislating from the bench.

So I think the Bush team's going to have a very strong argument before the United States Supreme Court, because this court last night didn't follow the law and the statutes of this state. They made up new rules, new guidelines, new statutory deadlines. And it was just an egregious error that's going to be corrected.

ALLEN: Let's find out what Congressman Deutsch thinks of that argument that the Bush team plans to take to the Supreme Court -- Congressman.

REP. PETER DEUTSCH (D), FLORIDA: Well, you know, again, the Florida legislature passed the law that provided for manual recounts. Now it appears that Governor Bush doesn't like the fact that the Florida legislature passed the law that provides for manual recounts.

Let's be real clear about this: The Florida Supreme Court didn't rewrite any law. They did what Supreme Courts in every state in America do and obviously Governor Bush didn't like the decision, but Supreme Courts in every state in America are the ultimate authority of what that statute means.

And they did exactly what they their job is supposed to do, real clear. Obviously, Governor Bush doesn't like the authority and again, what's disappointing is his statement earlier today.

First of all, his misstatement saying the executive determines the law. That's not accurate in 50 states in America, although he said it earlier in his comments. Obviously, the Supreme Court of the state does that, but his statements and his inference of really almost willing to use extra-legal methods, which I obviously agree the American people won't stand for.

I heard Bill Schneider's comments earlier. You know, once the American people understand just how wacky these ideas are and how out of extra-legal they are, I just cannot contemplate any scenario where the American people would accept it. All the American people want is a fair and accurate count and when that count is done it's done.

ALLEN: Representative Scarborough, we heard from one of our experts on elections law that the U.S. Supreme Court usually likes to leave these matters up to the state. Are you concerned about that and the appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court? SCARBOROUGH: Well, no. because Title Three of the U.S. Code clearly says that the United States Congress has passed laws and they give great deference to state legislatures and they give great deference to state legislatures to write the laws and great deference to state executive branches to actually interpret laws that the legislative branch passes. Peter talked about and other Democrats are talking about this concept that hand recounts are allowed for in the statute.

Well, they are, but there is a definite deadline, a drop dead deadline that says counties shall -- it's mandatory language, not permissive -- shall have recounts done, shall have all the votes in by seven days after the election. And that didn't happen here.

Volusia County and other counties did the manual hand recounts within that time frame and so they were accepted. But last night the Supreme Court said, we don't like the deadline that the state legislature enacted, that over three million Floridians voted for in the state legislative races. We don't like the way the secretary of state followed the letter of the mandatory language.

The secretary of state received over three million votes and here you had seven Democratic judges appointed by Democrats saying, we don't like the law. We don't like the deadline. We don't like the way they've applied the deadlines. So, we're basically going to usurp the legislative and executive authority and we're going to take this matter into our own hands. And that is a clear violation of the most basic concepts in American democracy, the most basic concept of separation of powers and I do think that will be reversed.

ALLEN: Congressman, let's talk for a movement about...


DEUTSCH: Can I just interject for a second because it really is and "Alice in Wonderland" argument. Literally, Governor Bush, Secretary Harris did everything legally, extra-legally and politically to stop these countywide recounts. And now they say, well, they didn't happen fast enough. You know, we would have been done a week ago in Broward County and in Dade County and in Palm Beach County had Governor Bush and Secretary Harris literally tried to do everything they possibly can to stop what was going on and now they're complain it didn't finish fast enough.

Obviously, the Florida Supreme Court was able to determine, you know, the facts. Again, the Florida law provides for manual recounts and if you remember the Supreme Court discussions yesterday, some of the justices specifically asked why would the legislature provide for manual recounts if they couldn't be done in the seven-day period?

I mean, so again -- I mean, it's pretty obvious that the legislature provided for manual recounts as are provided for in a number of states in the country, and in fact, it's sort of interesting. There was just a manual recount that was completed in the state of Texas just within the last couple of days that used the dimple standard and was done successfully in the state of Texas under a law signed by Governor Bush.

ALLEN: We're going to leave this just for a minute to talk about absentee ballots, if you don't mind. We only have time for one more question, and I know Congressman Scarborough that a lot of these questionable ballots about whether they're going to be counted or not because of the postmark debate. A lot of those in are in your district. Today, George Bush said that the Al Gore team should allow these to be counted. We heard Bill Daley said, hey, we only want those counted that are within the law. Where does this stand as you see it?

SCARBOROUGH: Well, I'll tell you what. I think, as we look back on this two or three months done the road, I think most observers and historians are going to recognize that the area where the Gore- Lieberman team stepped over and really stepped out of bounds with the American public was when they sent out a five-page memo before the hand recounts --the absentee recounts and had their lawyers shipped in from all over the country to come into small Florida counties and do everything they could to disenfranchise the vote of military men and women overseas.

So, they're obviously -- they've made this mistake. You've got the same people that are trying to have ballots counted in the most liberal counties in South Florida four or five times doing everything they can to stop the ballots of military servicemen and women from being counted one time. And, you know, the idea that the very men and women who are willing to give all to their country for our right to vote being denied the right to vote based on legal technicalities that -- some of those technicalities aren't even in the U.S. Code.


ALLEN: OK, let's get a response from Congressman Deutsch because we're running out of time.

DEUTSCH: Yes, it's the most outrageous statement that I've heard in my entire life that Al Gore tried to stop military men and women from voting. The five-page memo that was sent out by the Democrats was matched by the memo that was sent out to the Republicans in the 67 countries in the state of Florida. And again, the people who decided not to accept those ballots as in Joe Scarborough's area in Escambia County were the canvassing boards, not the vice president. And I don't, you know, say that those people on that canvassing board who rejected ballots are evil people who tried to stop servicemen and women from voting.

But let me point -- Joe and I do have an agreement. There does seem to be a conflict between Florida law and federal law regarding stamps on ballots and I agree with Joe completely that every one of those ballots -- in Broward County, of over 300 ballots rejected, only two fit that category. Those ballots absolutely should be counted. There is no person in America that thinks that a service person's vote should not count.

ALLEN: We will leave it there on where you all agree because like that period of agreement. SCARBOROUGH: It's doesn't happen much.

ALLEN: I know, so let's just stop it. OK. Thanks so much. We appreciate you joining us, Representative Deutsch and Joe Scarborough. Thanks a lot. Now to Stephen.

FRAZIER: And to Washington now for a reaction from the Gore campaign to all of these last minute developments, let's go to Chris Black, who's been there for us all day. Chris, hi again.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Stephen. The Gore campaign was not really surprised that the Bush campaign is going to appeal this issue to the U.S. Supreme Court. But they had made a decision a long time ago in the Gore campaign that the case had no merit, that it was not basically within the jurisdiction of the U.S. Supreme Court.

I just spoke to Doug Hattaway, a spokesman for the recount effort in Florida, and he said the Florida Supreme Court unanimously rejected this argument and we hope the U.S. Supreme court will see an appeal has no merit. There's no way counting people's votes can be unconstitutional. Remember, the Republicans went to federal court in Atlanta before and tried to make the argument under two federal points, including the 14th Amendment.

At that point, the Gore campaign successfully argued that this was a matter for the states. Federalism in the U.S. Constitution makes it real clear that the federal government has some responsibilities and the states have others, and one of the states' responsibilities are the taking care of local elections -- Steve.

FRAZIER: Chris, did you get a sense that they were ready with that response, that they maybe had geared up for it or were they thinking that fast on their feet?

BLACK: They're thinking real fast on their feet, Steve. But also, this is not a total shock. The Gore -- the Bush campaign have been sending very strong signals that they will go as far as they can to stop this recount from taking place in Florida. So they were not exactly shocked. They don't think it has merit. They don't think it will work. They think the Rehnquist court will just dismiss this out of hand.

FRAZIER: All right, Chris Black with the campaign's reaction to these judicial developments. Let's turn once again now to the legislative branch of government and talk to our Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno about something, Frank, that we heard a moment ago from Bill Schneider, the kind of nuclear winter that he described in Congress should the election get thrown to them.

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, sure. I mean, that is the nuclear winter. It is the one -- you know, I'll tell you, Stephen. I've been talking to people all day long and in virtually every office that I've touched base with they've got staffs that are studying up on legal precedent. They've got memos that are being put together on how the Constitution works and what's provided for in this and they know that they're dealing with in some cases totally unprecedented situations.

This is deja vu all over again. It's like talking to these guys two years ago when they were dealing with impeachment, dusting off their "Federalist Papers" and their Constitutions. But let me tell you what is really remarkable. We don't need to get the nuclear winter to have some nuclear fallout. The folks, especially the Republicans on Capitol Hill in this town, are furious. There is more outrage than I have ever heard, far more than during impeachment. I'm hearing profanity-laced conversations from just about everybody. They're flat-out saying that they believe the Democrats are trying to steal the election.

There was a conference call earlier today, Stephen, with the Bush campaign, several senators and others on the line, it was sort of a rally-the-troops kind of phone call, but many senators made this case, that this thing is being stolen out from under them, they believe, and they urged George W. Bush to fight on through the courts, the Supreme Court and through the Congress.

FRAZIER: Frank, let's peg that bitterness meter one more time. You have been there covering an awful lot of events where bitterness seemed to run very high in Congress, the Contract With America, impeachment. Where would you put this that you're encountering now?

SESNO: Off the charts, really off the charts. It's very, very serious. Here is how one person put it, he's putting it this way. Look, during impeachment, nerves were very raw and we were in, you know, what for all people living were uncharted waters, but to a very large extent, Stephen, impeachment was about sending a historical and political signal. Most Republicans knew that in the end Clinton probably would not be removed from office.

This, they say, is much more visceral than that. Many Republicans feel that they, that their man is being deprived the office. Right, wrong, or otherwise, that's how they feel.

And I talked to one person who would pass as a party elder, and he said he's very worried that this is sort of spiraling out of control. He said he was approached by a party elder from the other party, someone suggested the two of them author an op-ed piece together to kind of call for peace. He said now there is no point in writing it, there is nothing really to say.

FRAZIER: That's a doomsday scenario. Frank Sesno, thanks for those insights today.

SESNO: It's very bleak.

FRAZIER: We'll be talking with you again later -- Natalie.

ALLEN: All of this drama continuing to unfold and riveting this country here on Thanksgiving eve, as we are trying to just sit around the table, enjoy good food and family and all that which we are thankful for.

That said, Jim Hill is talking with a lot of people that are heading somewhere for the holiday at Los Angeles International Airport, talking with them about the events that unfold with this election -- Jim.

JIM HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Natalie, you can imagine the pressure people are under here today, the busiest travel day of the year, or one of them certainly -- 185,000 travelers expected through Los Angeles International Airport keeping one eye on the long lines, another on the unfolding events in Florida. Some have agreed to talk to us now. The latest development, of course, that George Bush -- George W. Bush is appealing the issue of last night's Supreme Court ruling in Florida. appealing that to the U.S. Supreme Court -- good or bad?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that's unfortunate. I think the Supreme Court's decision should be allowed to stand. The counting of the votes is essential in determining who the next president should be, and I think we should allow the hand counts to go forward and whoever becomes president after that, we'll all rally around the president at that point.

HILL: OK, thank you, Chris Halami (ph) of Los Angeles.

Albert, Albert Revinovic (ph), you are a Nader man, what do you think about this recount and the court action now going to the U.S. Supreme Court?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it supports my view that the Republicans and Democrats have basically become indistinguishable and the fact that there needs to be a recount sort of confirms that. My view is that the count should have been decided the first time around and these repetitive counts just are another example of wasted time and money.

HILL: OK, thank you very much.

A third person who has agreed to join us, this is Roy Phillips (ph). Roy, you say you are a Democrat. How do you feel about the George Bush decision to go to the U.S. Supreme Court to try to overturn the Florida Supreme Court ruling of yesterday?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it's an unfortunate deal. I think that, you know, we should stick to what America was based on, basically. And the validity of the voting is come into question in Florida, and I think that's part of the big problem that America has with it. I think a lot of things aren't being handled correctly right now. But hopefully, in the future, they can take from this and we won't have to go through this again.

HILL: When we talk about a recount, we are talking in some cases about evaluating ballots, hanging chads, swinging-door chads, is that a good thing to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think so. I personally feel like that the ballots that have been already gone through, we shouldn't have to continue to go back and forth with this situation. This has drawn on -- this has gone on for too long now, we should already have a president elected and should -- America should just go on with it.

HILL: Thank you very much, Roy. Happy Thanksgiving to you.


HILL: Natalie, that's it from Los Angeles International Airport.

ALLEN: All right, I am sure all airports are buzzing right now as this news spreads out. People talking about the holiday and the election.

FRAZIER: It's good. I am sorry that we saved the comments of average voters until the last minute, so we are going to step away now, Natalie and I, and we're going to turn over to "TALKBACK LIVE," which will have comments from a lot more viewers, and also the comments and the insights of two legal experts on everything that's happened so far today.

ALLEN: We'll be on standby to bring you live developments, we may hear more about Dick Cheney's condition, he's in good condition. We're expecting an official announcement from the Bush office in Austin about this U.S. Supreme Court appeal. And also we're expected to hear from a judge who may make a ruling on whether to count dimpled ballots in Palm Beach County. There is much more ahead. Stay right there, please.



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