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Election 2000: Gore Prepares to Address Nation After U.S. Supreme Court Sends Case Back to Florida Supreme Court

Aired December 13, 2000 - 2:31 p.m. ET


LOU WATERS, CNN ANCHOR: Congressman Julian Dixon died Friday of an apparent heart attack. His funeral is today in California. Several of the Democratic elite are out attending that funeral, and CNN's Jim Hill is with one of them now -- Jim.


We are here at the Julian Dixon funeral with one of the dignitaries attending, this is Congressman Charles Rangel, Democrat, New York, here on difficult circumstances.

But what we'd like to ask you about is the speech tonight by Al Gore, whether he should concede or stop short of conceding, perhaps withdraw.

REP. CHARLES RANGEL (D), NEW YORK: Well, that's up to his advisers. I don't think there's any need for him to rush into anything if there's a possibility that electors may not be supporting George Bush and a could of those electors could be flipped, and that's a decision he has to make. I don't see where America is so anxious to close this saga until we fully appreciate everything that has taken place. One thing we know is that Al Gore got the popular votes. We had every reason to believe that he had them out of Florida as well.

HILL: You seem to be saying that you do not want him to out and out concede.

RANGEL: Well, when the time is appropriate, and I'm not privy to the advice that he's getting from his lawyers. But if they said the time is not yet ready for him to do this, then I would strongly support it.

You know, reporters have been saying that America is tired and Democrats are running away. We've never been stronger, and I think a lot of it has to do with the way we've been treated, the way we've been treated by the courts, and the way we've been treated by the people in Florida.

HILL: Can the country come together under these circumstances that you're spelling out here?

RANGEL: I hope so. A lot of that has to do with the next president. He will have to make an extraordinary effort to be bipartisan. The Cabinet will have to reflect it. Meetings have to be held with our legislative leaders: a common goal and objective, even though it might not be as expansive as we would want.

It can be done, but it's going to take an extraordinary effort. And the most important thing is how does it start. If it starts off on the wrong foot, it's going to be a very, very difficult two years, and people like Julian...

HILL: Well, the first step will be at 9:01 tonight when Al Gore makes his...

RANGEL: Well, we don't know.

HILL: ... presentation to the American people. What do you think he will say?

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

HILL: OK, thank you very much. Congressman Charles Rangel, Democrat of New York, saying that Al Gore should perhaps not concede out and out in his speech tonight.

I'm Jim Hill, CNN, reporting live from Los Angeles.

Lou, back to you.

WATERS: All right, Jim, thanks.

Natalie, what's next?

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, a rally in Tallahassee today against the Florida legislature, which was prepared to name a slate of Bush electors. Let's see what they are going to do now, if anything.

Here is CNN's Martin Savidge.

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Natalie, before we get to the rally that is going on, we wanted to talk about the busiest place in Tallahassee. It's interesting that after some 30-plus days with all the activity in the courts and in the legislature, the busiest place now is the airport in a most bipartisan way, as the election campaign teams that have been camped out here in Tallahassee and the legal teams are trying to now leave. The Democrats apparently were given the orders from vice president himself to cease and desist, so they are making their plans to leave. Difficult to get out of town, though, these days for many of those political people, because the flights are all booked.

As to the rally that is taking place right now, about 250 people have gathered to listen to Jesse Jackson speak as well as a number of other political people. This is primarily a rally in favor of the Democrats here, and it had originally been planned several days ago to protest against the actions of the Florida legislature; of course, with the ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court last night, it takes on a whole new meaning. And as you see by the signs, it is still very much in the belief that every vote counts and they would like to have every vote counted, as unlikely as it may seem at this particular point.

Regarding the legislature in Florida here, the Senate did convene at 1:00 as they said they would, then immediately went into recess. Essentially, what the leaders are saying is they are going to wait to hear what the vice president has to say in his national speech tonight, so they have now not dissolved -- and that's the important thing to know -- they have simply gone into recess. They say that they are ready and able to immediately once more resume the process of affirming the slate of electors, that is the same slate that was approved by the House and the one that they could approve, which would essentially mean that there would be another slate of electors for George W. Bush albeit with the same names.

And then finally, the Florida Supreme Court -- we have not heard anything from them as yet. We do know that the podium is out in front of the courthouse, although that's sort of de regur (ph) anymore now. It is possible -- and we have heard from spokesman Craig Waters -- that the Florida Supreme Court may have some sort of statement here today in regard of the case that was remanded back to them by the U.S. Supreme Court, although it's not clear exactly what the court may say.

But if there is any sort of pins and needles left in this story, it is perhaps located in the building behind us, we will wait and see. In the meantime, as we say, many people here preparing to leave, perhaps even the justices planning to take some sort of vacation after all of this.

Martin Savidge reporting live in Tallahassee.

WATERS: And we are joined now by our CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider in Washington.

Despite what Charlie Rangel out there in California just said about the possibility that a couple of those electors may be flipped, as he put it, this seems to be over, does it not?

WILLIAM SCHNEIDER, CNN SR. POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you know, as the kids would say, this is so over, but it may not be entirely over in the sense that we don't know whether Al Gore is going to actually say, "I concede," because for him to say "I concede" carries an important message -- he would be saying, "I lost."

I'm not sure he believes that and I'm not sure he is ready to say that. He doesn't believe he lost the election, he believes they didn't finish counting the votes and that eventually the votes may be counted and it may show that he did lose the election. So he doesn't want to acknowledge something that he doesn't believe. I think he will probably say he suspends his campaign, he withdraws, he is not going to be president of the United States, but he just doesn't want to say, "I lost," even though there's no hope for him at this point to become president except the possibility, remote as it is, for a couple of faithless electors to not vote for Bush, but to vote for Gore -- very unlikely.

WATERS: We are all wondering what's going to happen next. I spoke with presidential historian Rick Shenkman about an hour ago and he said the founding fathers never conceived of a situation like this, where the courts would pick the president of the United States. So now it appears that the American people will have to somehow be given confidence that the systems of government are going to work for them.

SCHNEIDER: That's right. And there is every indication Americans know what this was all about, it was an election that was too close to call, essentially it was a tie. Gore led in the popular vote. The official vote count certified in Florida shows that Bush won that state and therefore leads in the electoral vote. Americans know that the margin of error of any vote count, whether it's by hand or by machine, is going to be greater in Florida than the margin of victory. So therefore, no method was perfectly reliable and they understand what the Supreme Court was trying to say, we should count all the votes, but there was no constitutionally acceptable way for to us do that. And therefore, there is always going to be a lingering cloud over this election result and the courts in the end had to resolve it, because there was no other way to do it.

WATERS: And to effect that confidence, what does George W. Bush have to say tonight to compliment what Al Gore would say in order to get the country working as one unit again?

SCHNEIDER: Well, the first thing he has to do is offer reconciliation, he has to make a gesture to show that he is not going to regard this as sharply a defined partisan mandate. This is not Ronald Reagan in 1980, the electors -- the voters of the country were not saying that. It was a very closely divided election at every single level. Even the courts are closely divided over this election outcome. I don't think that's a vote for division, I think it's a vote for a government more or less of the center, and that's what Bush has to acknowledge.

There's some evidence of perhaps irrational exuberance on the part of some Republicans who are excited by the fact that they will control the White House, the House and the Senate eventually, when Dick Cheney becomes vice president, for the first time in almost 50 years. Is that a big mandate to pass their agenda and to finally pay off conservatives? I don't think so. If they make that mistake, they are going to get their heads handed to them at the next election.

WATERS: Bipartisanship is a hyphenated word we hear more and more. We just heard Trent Lott talking about it and all the issues that, not only both candidate campaigned on, but issues that are of interests to both parties, and issues that they could work on together. And we are also hearing that the Bush administration may have some Democrats in the administration. Does that really matter: that there are Democrats in a Republican administration?

SCHNEIDER: Well, symbolically, I think it makes a statement. I don't think it is going to heal the partisan division, because the issue is very fundamental. It's the principle that every vote must count. The election itself became the issue. This wasn't an election that was divided by a war or a Watergate scandal or a Civil War or anything like that. The division was not nearly as great on November 7 as it is on December 13.

That is because the election itself became the issue. And that's got to be healed by the actions of the politicians. And I think that, most of all, George Bush has to make a gesture. And including Democrats in his government would be -- would go some distance toward reconciliation. But it's also going to be the style of government that he promotes and the program that he offers. Her can't offer -- he can't see this as a partisan mandate. That doesn't mean he has to be a weak president. I think he can be a strong and decisive president.

For instance, all Americans want something done about prescription drugs. But the secret is to do it in a way that isn't harshly partisan.

WATERS: Bill Schneider, CNN senior political analyst.



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