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U.S. Supreme Court Rules in Bush's Favor; Gore to Concede, Aides Say; Bush Campaign Expresses Quiet Satisfaction; Cheney Visits Capitol Hill

Aired December 13, 2000 - 2:00 p.m. ET


NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: With election 2000 coming to an end, the real work begins for this man, George W. Bush: reuniting the nation and repairing the damage.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we lost a lot of credibility, I really do, allowing it to go on like that, and it's sad that the presidency had to be fought in court.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think that we will, as a country, we will come together after all these weeks of what we've been going through.


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: And inside the vice presidential residence, Al Gore ponders his words to the nation. He's promised a primetime address tonight.

And it's 2:00 p.m. on the East Coast, 11:00 a.m. out West. It's Wednesday, December the 13th.

ALLEN: From CNN Center in Atlanta, hello, everyone. Thanks for joining us. I'm Natalie Allen.

WATERS: And I'm Lou Waters. We welcome our international viewers. And here's what's happening: Vice President Al Gore is set to address the American people tonight. All indications are he will formally end his fight for the presidency tonight.

George W. Bush, the Texas governor and son of the 41st president, apparently will win the White House with a single electoral vote to spare. He becomes the first president to lose the popular vote in 112 years.

Dick Cheney is up on Capitol Hill, where he's been all morning, meeting with Senate Steering Committee. He's now talking with reporters. (JOINED IN PROGRESS)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: ... transition-related business, had an opportunity to meet with the Senate Steering Committee, as well as with the group of moderates led by Jim Jeffords and Olympia Snowe, and had some meetings over on the House side as well, too, with Denny Hastert, Chris Cox, chairman of the Policy Committee.

And, as always, enjoy very much coming back to the Congress. We're moving forward on the transition. Things are going well. I really don't have anything else I can give you at this time. I know you've got a lot of questions, but I'm going to have to defer until later this evening.

And at this point, I'll turn it over to my good friend and colleague, the Senate leader, Mr. Lott.

LOTT: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is the governor going to be coming up here at some point?


LOTT: Well, ladies and gentlemen, I believe now that we can expect that you've just heard from the next president of the Senate, which is the highest of the titles he will have, obviously.

But hopefully now when the Electoral College meets on December the 18th, it will be made official that Governor George W. Bush will be in line to be president-elect and that Dick Cheney will be vice president-elect. Of course, we still have to see how the events play out today.

I do want to say that I've been very proud of the way Governor Bush has handled himself during this interim period -- period of uncertainty. He's always exhibited a very calm manner, a very reassuring demeanor that I think has served him well, and I believe has been well received by the American people.

But now, we do have work to do. We've got a lot of work to do. Once we hear from Vice President Gore, I know that the transition team, which will be headed by, then Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, will have to go into overtime. And, in fact, they're going to have less than half the time normally available for a transition period. I think they're going to have to be prepared to get through the transitioning very quick, and get into governing very soon.

But we need to be prepared to work very closely with them. I think it's very important that former Secretary Dick Cheney is willing to come up to Capitol Hill and meet with the Senate and House members.

Once a final decision is known, I know he will also be quickly coming up and meet not only with Republican leaders but also with Democratic leaders in the Senate and in the House. I'm absolutely convinced that George W. Bush will be the right man for the difficult times we find ourselves in. I think he is going to reach out. He's going to try to bring this country together.

I think he is going to ask for the people's support and their help, and I think that will be well received.

But in the Senate, we also have to deal with the realities of where we are. I call on my colleagues in the Senate to work with this new administration that will be coming in next year.

And while obviously I pledge my commitment to Governor George W. Bush, as he becomes president-elect and president, I want to assure my colleagues in the Senate that I want to work with them also so that we can take up some very important issues that the American people expect us to deal with.

It may not necessarily be a long agenda, but it will be a very important agenda and I will do everything I can to help facilitate that possibility.

QUESTION: There seems to be a question, of course, whether Vice President Gore will use the word "concede" tonight. Does that make any difference to you? What is your opinion?

LOTT: Well, I've tried not to say a whole lot about all of this throughout the last four or five weeks, because I knew that whenever it was over I was going to have to deal with what was left and with the people that were going to be in charge. I don't know that it makes a great difference. I wouldn't expect him to have to say a particular word, but I do think that the vice president's tone will be extremely important. I've seen other senators say that the most important speech perhaps at this juncture will be the one that is made by the loser rather than the winner although I think they're both going to be very important.

I would expect Vice President Gore to step up to this task and do what's necessary and say what needs to be said as he can best determine. I expect he will be magnanimous. I expect he will ask the American people to join him in supporting the next president of the United States.

But I can't put words in his mouth, and we'll know soon exactly what he's going to do and when he's going to do it and what he'll say. But I expect it will be an appropriate statement.

QUESTION: What do you want to hear from Governor Bush?

LOTT: I want him to make a very positive, unifying sort of speech, as I just pointed out. I think that he needs to reassure the American people. I think he needs to ask for their help and their support. And I think he'll need to make some commitments of his intentions. I think he, too, will rise to this occasion.

These are extraordinary circumstances, and they both really need to do an unusually good job in addressing the American people. QUESTION: If it needs to be a healing process, was it your recommendation to Cheney that he come up to -- Secretary Cheney that he come up and meet with Democrats or was that his own idea?

LOTT: I think they've been intending to do that all along, but I've urged him to do it all along. As a matter of fact, I remember back right after the election, I think it was November the 9th -- 8th or 9th -- Governor Bush called and said, we were talking about what was going on with the election. And he had realized that Tom Daschle from the Senate was going to be in Austin to give a speech at the Lyndon Johnson School of Government -- or something like that -- and he said, you know, "Would it be appropriate or should I consider giving him a ring, and say, come over, let's have a cup of coffee?" And I said, "Absolutely."

Well, as it turned out, things, you know, devolved into a very uncertain situation. And, Tom, I think fly in and fly right back out. It didn't work out. But that's the kind of attitude that he'll have and had, even as far back as November the 8th or 9th, whenever that call came in.

QUESTION: Senator, do you have any advice for Cheney -- Secretary Cheney about how they might proceed with the new Congress and legislative agenda to facilitate this healing process?

LOTT: Well, the first thing we could do to facilitate a healing process is complete our work on the remaining legislation this week and leave town, and go be with our constituents and our families and celebrate this season that we have before us.

I'm planning to go to Pascagoula, Mississippi, and be in some good places like Biloxi. And I hope that they'll be senators from Kalamazoo to Sioux City and we'll go all across the country and think a little bit about this situation, get a little rest, and come to terms of where we're going to be.

Then I think that in that period of time, even during the holidays and right after the first of the year, that Governor Bush and Vice President-elect, hopefully, Dick Cheney will be communicating with senators, House members, leadership, average members, that they will seek counsel as to who could be in the Cabinet and other positions -- just a lot of reaching out.

And then also, there's got to be a lot of input exactly what will be early in the agenda and what will be on the agenda, legislatively. I think we need to look for some bills early on that have broad bipartisan support and try to address those.


LOTT: I'm working on that nomination at this time, but I'd rather not say it now. I'd like to develop it and pass it on to the transition team, to Governor Bush, and let them think about it. It's their call, in a lot of respects, and not mine. But we'll have input going both ways.

QUESTION: How much has all this post-election acrimony affected your agenda -- the Republican agenda and what it wants to get through?

LOTT: I don't think that the experience we've had the past four or five weeks is significantly affected or changed what we might like to do.

We had an election. Our candidates talked about issues and they talked about a lot of the same issues. I don't think you have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that we have developing energy problems in this country -- rolling brownout, blackouts. What are we going to do for the future to have a national energy policy? We've got to do something about that.

We're going to have to take a good, firm look at our defense and foreign policy operations to make sure we get the right people in there and to make sure we have reforms, if they're needed, make sure that we have a strategic plan, make sure we have what we need.

Now, you would expect to hear that from a Republican; now, let me say some things that you wouldn't necessarily expect to hear from a Republican.

There is broad bipartisan and almost universal agreement that education system in America today is not doing all it can do. We need more accountability. We need more parental involvement. We need choices that lead to better education. We need higher test scores. There's a whole list of things in that area that we've heard a lot of talk about. Governor Bush is absolutely committed to that, he showed that when he was in Texas. That probably ought to be high on the list.

Medicare reform, this is not a question of will we do it; we're going to have to do it. Now, exactly when it would come and how it would be done, should we go back to the Medicare commission, should we have another Medicare commission, what do you do about prescription drugs -- big, important, fundamental questions.

Patients' bill of rights, that came very, very, very close, two or three times, to being completed this year. It could be something maybe we can complete without a long protracted battle this time.

So, I mean, there's a list of, you know, several things that I think we can take up. I don't know exactly in what order or what would be President-elect Bush's choice as far as order or how we would make sure that the Democrats have input.

But, look, the things I just mentioned, I took particular pains to mention things that we really have talked about and care about, but also some that our colleagues on the other side specifically have talked about and that was not an all-inclusive list. I mean, Social Security...

QUESTION: So none of this...

LOTT: No, no, no. Bill O'Reilly would want me to say this is not a spin-zone. This would be a spin-free zone. Look, the reality is this was a close, tough election. It went into three overtimes and the court decisions and all that's gone on has made it very difficult. There's a great potential for people to have resentment or say, you know, "We're going to resist this in every way." But it shouldn't be that way. It doesn't have to be that way. And I'm not going to start out by saying, "Woe is me, it's negative, there's no hope." I'm going to say, "Look, the glass is half full, it's going to be tough, but we're going to make a yeoman's effort to deal with it."

I've met with Tom Daschle on a regular basis for the last several days. I'm absolutely convinced he wants to do some positive things for the country. I think it'll be a loser for either party that is perceived to be just trying to have their way or block things.

WATERS: An optimistic Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott running down what he considers a bipartisan list of problems that the Congress can attack in the new administration. Included in that number: education, energy policy, military and international policy, Medicare reform, patients' bill of right.

He said the work will begin after we get home and rest for the holidays, have some time to think about it, but the political bonding has begun up on Capitol Hill with the apparent vice presidential-elect Dick Cheney up there today meeting with members of Congress, telling reporters simply that we have the transition under way.

It's going well even though Trent Lott says we have work to do because George Bush and Dick Cheney have less than half the normal time to get that transition together. So, that's what's happening up there with the candidate and the Congress.

CNN's Patty Davis now can begin our coverage on what looks to be closing chapter of this historic election. Patty's in Washington. What's going on?

PATTY DAVIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Lou, Vice President Al Gore is here at his official residence working on the address that he will give to the nation around 9:00 Eastern time this evening, effectively ending his White House bid. Aides say that he is writing most of that speech himself, a speech that they call statesmanlike.

He will be calling for one person, one vote to stand by that principle as well as counting all of the votes. Also, he will say that it is time now for Democrats and Republicans to come together for the best -- for what's in the best interest of the country.

A telephone call this morning between the vice president and President Clinton who is traveling overseas. Aides that in that telephone call, quote, "comforting and consoling in nature." Words to that effect.

Legal advisers now telling me that they were up all night scouring for any possible option for the vice president. They said they did find some viable options perhaps. What they were looking at was one option that the U.S. Supreme court misinterpreted the Florida Supreme Court in its deadline, that the legal advisory saying indeed the deadline that the Florida Supreme Court was referring more to safe harbor provision not a -- it wasn't a mandatory deadline.

Number two those voter intent, the standards that the U.S. Supreme Court was so concerned about. The Gore campaign legal advisers saying that indeed that there could have been another standard set, but the Gore campaign decided then that the U.S. Supreme Court probably that would not pass muster under the equal protection clause of the Constitution.

Now, the mood at the Gore campaign very gloomy. There were said to have been some tears among the Gore team when Mr. Daley came out with his statement saying that the recount committee was being dismantled and the fact that the vice president would be giving a statement this evening -- Lou.

WATERS: All right, Patty Davis at the vice president's residence in Washington -- Natalie.

ALLEN: Well, a moment ago we heard Trent Lott sounding very positive about the future. He was also asked whether Al Gore should concede tonight. He didn't really have an opinion on that, about whether it mattered. Some key Democrats are urging Al Gore not to officially concede.

Chris Black is standing with a Democrat from Congress right now. She's joining us -- Chris.

CHRIS BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, this is a day Democrats knew could come, but they're not happy about it. And in fact, a number of Democrats on Capitol Hill are saying that the vice president should not concede, he should withdraw. They say this was a tie election and he shouldn't give George Bush that satisfaction.

But just a few minutes ago, Senator Byron Dorgan, who's a Democrat from North Dakota, said in no unequivocal terms that Vice President Al Gore, a good friend of his, should make it clear and should concede tonight.


SEN. BYRON DORGAN (D), NORTH DAKOTA: I believe that there should be a concession speech. As difficult as it is, I believe that George W. Bush at this point is the winner and Al Gore is loser. Now, you know, that's difficult for some to accept.

But that's the fact. That what comes from this process and from the institution of the Supreme Court decision last evening, and I think it's appropriate at this point for Al Gore -- Vice President Gore to give a speech tonight that is a concession speech.


BLACK: We have another Democrat with us right now, Senator John Breaux, a Democrat from Louisiana. Senator, Senator Dorgan says that Al Gore should make it clear tonight, should not beat around the bush, should concede. What do you want to hear from Al Gore?

SEN. JOHN BREAUX (D), LOUISIANA: Well, Chris, this is Al Gore's speech. None of us should try and give it for him. He has to give the speech of a lifetime. It's not just the most important speech to Al Gore, it's probably one of the most important speeches in the history of our country because what he says tonight is going to set the tone probably for the next four years. You know, it's easy to give a victory speech, but it really tests one's character to give a concession speech. It's going to be very important.

BLACK: Well, you've been giving Al Gore advice through this entire process and been more outspoken than many Democrats in saying that at certain point he would have to pack it in. What have you been telling him?

BLACK: Well, you know, Chris, I said that a definitive Supreme Court decision should bring this to an end. I was hoping for 9-0 decision, not a 5-4 decision that had to be interpreted by a Philadelphia lawyer instead of the average person in the country.

So, it's unfortunate it wasn't as clear as I was hoping it was going to be. But I think that it's clear enough to say that the end is here. Al Gore, I think plays an incredibly important role tonight when he gives his remarks because, you know, if he sets the tone as positive for the next four years we can get something done and I hope he does that.

BLACK: Do you think, though, that Democrats here on the Hill will take a cue from Al Gore because as you know, for the last two years in particular this has been a very partisan place?

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

BLACK: Now, George W. Bush called you. What sort of advice did you offer him?

BREAUX: The same thing I was suggesting to Al Gore, and that is, I mean, we got to start working together. We got to be bipartisan in what we are going to try and do. Otherwise, we are not going to get anything done. I mean, essentially, this is a tied election. The presidential election is tied. The Senate is absolutely tied. And the House is almost tied. So if we don't work together, we are not going to be able to get anything done. This is a unique opportunity I think we have.

BLACK: Well, you're beginning to reach across the aisle yourself and revive the centrist coalition that you had created with the late Senator John Chafee. How is that going?

BREAUX: It's going really well. We had over 27 members in our first meeting from both parties, senior members, as well as some of the people who have been around here for a very long time, who are saying, for the first time in a long time, that we are going to work together. And I think that's good news for Trent Lott, who we just saw, as well as for Tom Daschle, who I think are encouraging us to do more of that. We can't do anything by ourselves. Bipartisanship is not going to just be a political theory. It's a political necessity.

BLACK: Now, the great mentioners suggest that Senator John Breaux might make a good secretary of energy in a Bush administration. What do you think of that?

BREAUX: Oh, I don't think I would be good in any administration. I think being in the Senate is a unique opportunity. I can't imagine a better place to be than in a Senate that is 50-50 tied, with a number of people who are willing to work together across party lines. I mean, this is the ultimate challenge, I think is right here. Would I talk to anybody about that? Certainly. I would never not talk to somebody about anything.

BLACK: Is that a no?

BREAUX: That's not a no and it's not a yes. It's a willingness to talk to anybody. I want to be helpful to whoever it is. And I think I can be particularly helpful just by being in the Senate.

BLACK: And that's from Senator John Breaux, Democrat from Louisiana, saying he thinks he should stay in the Senate and try to be bipartisan.

Chris Black, CNN, reporting live from Capitol Hill.

WATERS: Well, the Bush camp is keeping low key today. They're mostly out of sight, at least until the vice president officially ends the contest tonight. CNN's Tony Clark is at the governor's mansion in Austin.

Tony, what's going on there?

TONY CLARK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Lou, the governor and his staff are trying to do exactly what Senator Breaux was just talking about: reaching across the aisle. When the governor speaks tonight at 10:00 Eastern, he will speak from inside the state capital in the House of Representatives' chamber, symbolic because that was a Democratically- controlled chamber when he took off six years ago. And he reached across the aisle to work with them.

In fact, he will be introduced by a Democrat, the speaker of the House today: again, a sign that he is eager to work with Democrats, to reach across the aisle. His theme tonight: to be a one of unity, of bringing the country back together again. The governor returned to the governor's mansion a short time ago after going to the gym working out, as he tends to do every day about this time over at the University of Texas.

Meanwhile, aides are working on his schedule for the next, not only hours, but days ahead, because he does have a lot to do in announcing both staff members and Cabinet members: that expected to be rolled out in the days ahead, not tonight, because the theme tonight, again, will be one of unity -- the governor expected to emphasize diversity in creating both his staff and his Cabinet. Aides say that he really wants to include a Democrat, some Democrats in high-level positions, because he says he thinks that is an important sign.

When the governor was at the capital today -- he spent about 2 1/2 hours there today -- he was on the phone a lot, working a lot, talking about transition, because he knows that is the important next step -- Dick Cheney, his running mate, in Washington working on transition, meeting on the Hill today with moderate Senate Republicans because, again, the emphasis by this campaign -- and now what appears to be the next administration -- is one that knows it is going to have to reach across the aisle because of the rifts over the past few weeks, the contentious campaign, and also things like the 50-50 split in the United States Senate.

So, for this administration to be successful, they are going to have to reach out. In terms of actually calling on Democrats, they are waiting on the vice president's speech tonight. It is, they think, not the appropriate time to be calling on Democrats before the vice president actually gets out of the presidential race. And so that's something that will happen in the days ahead. Also on tap, talk of the governor going to Washington, having a courtesy call with President Clinton, and perhaps making some of his announcements, whether it's about White House staff or Cabinet positions, perhaps in Washington, some perhaps here.

That is, we are told, a very flexible situation. That is something we expect to hear in the next few days. But, tonight, whole tone: bringing the country together.

Tony Clark, CNN, live in Austin, Texas.

ALLEN: So let's talk about last night's decision from the divided Supreme Court. Senior Washington correspondent Charles Bierbauer is at the court, where he was last night -- Charles, hello.


ALLEN: Well, in this story, everyone has had a reaction and more reaction. I think one Bush aide last weekend said he just didn't have any more reaction. The one body you wouldn't think that would have reaction would be the United States Supreme Court. But now I'm told that you do -- you do have reaction from them. We have heard from a couple of the members of court about this.

BIERBAUER: I talked with the chief justice himself. And we've also heard from Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Thomas was speaking a short while ago to a group of high school students who had come to meet him, something that had been planned a long time. The justice said their timing was certainly good. And while he didn't take direct questions about the case that the court ruled on yesterday, Justice Thomas did say that it had been two exhaustive, but also instructive weeks. And he went on to say that there was so many issues, that they were not only exhausting and complicated, but that the justices had strong opinions. He said, you know, people here are human beings. They are passionate, and yet went on to say as well that, in this, his tenth term at the court -- these are his words now -- "I can honestly say the effort here is not to be self-interested. It is to fulfill our oaths"

And when one of the high school students asked Justice Thomas what role politics played, he had this answer. He said: "We don't try to apply the rules of the political world to this institution. They don't apply. It's not like across the street," meaning across the street in Congress. "The last political act is our swearing in." And then he went on to say that, in nine years, he had not encountered partisan politics.

When Chief Justice Rehnquist walked by asked a few moments later, he was asked about Justice Thomas' comments about no politics here. And the chief justice said: "Absolutely, absolutely," denying that politics plays a role in their decisions. Many justices have said that in the past. But this was unique hearing it just after this remarkable opinion. And then I asked the chief one other thing, Natalie.

I said: "Say, what about the audio tapes? Any sense of how well that played out?" And the chief justice said he was quite surprised how interested the public had been in hearing those audio tapes. "We are not going to use them every time for every case," he said, "but in rare cases." So I think a very positive effect as well took place, with the court making itself a little bit more available to the public -- Natalie.

ALLEN: So the justices being defiant that politics not being involved, because they are taking a lot of heat today. But I would imagine these justices are used to that, considering every issue that comes to them is a heated one.

BIERBAUER: Well, everything is political in one sense. But what they are saying is that the law was their determining factor. They had differing opinions on the law. Chief -- Justice Thomas, rather, said that the law is what governs his opinions, and that people can differ honestly about the law. And that's what takes place inside this court among these nine justices.

ALLEN: And, finally, Charles, from this opinion last night, did it suggest that -- or could anyone conclude that there was anything that Gore's lawyers could have done differently to cause a different outcome from all of this, to cause a hand recount to go forward in Florida?

BIERBAUER: I would say that, from this opinion, it was not so much what Gore's lawyers could have done, but what the Florida Supreme Court could have done. These are not instructions to Vice President Gore's lawyers. These are instructions to the court, which said that they had not met the tests of equal protection. And in defining those rules that might apply, the justices said that there had to be a uniform vote-counting standard across the state.

So they were directions to state courts -- and state legislatures, for that matter -- as to how to proceed, if not in this case -- although they say that pertains to this case -- this will be looked at by electoral institutions across the country on how to proceed now.

ALLEN: All right, Charles Bierbauer again at the Supreme Court. Thank you, Charles -- now to Lou.

WATERS: Well, coming up: Vice President Gore may be ready to bow out, but some of his supporters vow to fight on. We'll have that story coming up.



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