Al Gore: Whatever happens, both sides know that it's going to end up in the Florida Supreme Court.
Lesley Stahl: No matter what the ruling if it goes against you, you're going to take it on? This would not be the end of it.
Gore: Well, of course. And likewise the other side would take it to the Florida Supreme Court. That's pretty well expected.
Stahl: Make your best case. You're talking to the American people tonight. Make your best case for why you should go on with recounts, assuming these court decisions do go against you and you want to proceed. Whats your best argument.
Gore: Well, it's not a recount. We want a first count.
There are thousands of ballots that were legally cast that have never been counted at all.
When people go to the polls and cast legal ballots, we count them. We don't arbitrarily set them aside and refuse to count some of them, but count others.
Stahl: You make it sound like they never were counted. They did go through the machine count and came up that there was no vote. That doesn't mean they didn't go through the process.
Gore: They were never counted. It means that the computer.
Stahl: You don't know that. There could have been votes that weren't cast.
Gore: The experts, including those called by Gov. Bush in the court hearing, said the only way you can count ballots is to count them by hand.
Stahl: Let's say you get the count or the recount, whatever you want to call it. Lets say you come out the winner. Do you think that George W. Bush will say, Okay, I lost, bye-bye, I concede as simply as that?
Gore: I think that that's what he should do. I think that whatever the other steps remaining in the process are that he feels are open to him hed have a right to take.
But at the end of the day, whichever one of us wins, the other one should step forward and help to rally the country toward unity.
Stahl: Don't you this think the Republicans are going to say you stole it? Just yesterday their lawyer in court said you want three times up at bat. Other Republicans have actually said you're trying to steal this election. You don't really think that theyre going to go quietly?
Gore: That will be for them to decide.
Stahl: You're not really reaching the public with this argument. You have been making it over and over. Every vote has to be counted. There is more a sense that you're asking to change the rules of the game. Can you go on if you lose the public?
Gore: The public I think has shown a remarkable amount of patience and a determination to see that all the votes are counted. Of course it is split
Stahl: But it's slipping.
Gore: This isn't easy for any of us in this country. And I know hat the Bush family, same as my family, is wanting this to be over. And I know the American family wants it to be over.
But as strongly as people feel about that, they feel even more strongly that every legally cast vote should be counted.
Stahl: I'm going to quote something you said along these lines because you've been saying these same things over and over and over.
Gore: It's a simple point and it bears repetition.
Stahl: Fair enough. But Im not sure if youre persuading people.
If the Florida votes are not counted again, you have said that it would, quote, Present a serious risk to Bush bringing the country together again.
Gore: Regardless of how is comes out, whoever is sworn in as president on January 20th should have the support of the all the people, and if that's not me, I will not question the fairness or legitimacy of the final outcome.
Stahl: Even if you didn't get recount?
Gore: Absolutely right.
Stahl: Even if it comes about through the Florida legislature selecting a slate electors by themselves?
Gore: I can't imagine they would do that. At the end of the day -- let me just cut to the bottom line -- on January 20 if the person standing up before the capitol taking the oath of office is George Bush and not me, he will be sworn in as my president, too, and I will spare no efforts in saying to people who supported me, let's not have any talk about stealing the election.
Let's not question the legitimacy of the election.
Stahl: No matter through comes about?
Gore: That is correct.
Stahl: You didnt get your count.
Gore: That is correct. And for one simple reason. The nation's interest has to come first. I hope that Gov. Bush will make the same pledge.
Stahl: Have you set a deadline?
Gore: When the votes are counted.
I think this is going to be completely over with by the middle of December.
Stahl: December 12?
Gore: My expectation is it will be over on or about then.
But expectations have turned out to be not always accurate in this matter.
Stahl: The Supreme Court hearing -- you sent your four children to listen. Youve heard the tape I assume.
Gore: Part of it.
Stahl: Did you think they were leaning with you or against you -- you couldn't tell?
Gore: I have no idea. Could you?
Stahl: It was interesting. I thought questions went right along ideological lines.
Gore: It was fascinating. I thought it was great that the country could hear that.
I think incidentally this whole thing has had kind of a silver lining in the sense that all of us have gotten a great lesson in American history and the electoral process, kids in school are focused on it.
Stahl: I have to stop. Let's be honest. I mean you're sitting here they call this house where we are buker.
Gore: Who does?
Stahl: Everybody. Then you're wrapped up in this and want to present this picture to the public that everything is okay and its a great civics lesson. You have to be angry, you have to be angry at what's happening? I mean you do think you won the election, don't you?
Gore: I think I do. I think the majority of the people in Florida who went to the polls, intended to support Joseph Lieberman and me.
Stahl: Is there no emotion here?
Gore: Anger is not -- What point would there to be feeling that? I'm concentrating .
Stahl: Those emotion that -- What about Katherine Harris? Weren't you angry at her?
Gore: I don't... that it serves any purpose.
Stahl: Have you given any thought, any thought to what would happen if it doesn't work out for you?
Gore: Very little because, you know, coming up to the election, I was pretty well prepared to win, somewhat prepared if it didn't work out. What I was not prepared for was neither outcome.
Stahl: This has to be so hard?
Gore: Well there was a cartoon in one of the papers this morning that showed both George W. Bush and me running as sprinters toward the finish line and the finish line was being held by two other runners and it keeps on getting farther away. It won't last forever. I'm expecting that it will be over with within the next two weeks.
Stahl: One way you could win this election if the absentee ballots in Seminole County and Martin County are thrown out. People say that's a huge contradiction because you're arguing every vote counts and now people's intended votes wouldn't be counted. Why haven't you repudiated the lawsuit to invalidate those legitimate
Gore: I decided not to join that lawsuit. But what has come out in that other lawsuit since I decided not to join it has been very interesting. Apparently the Republican supervisor of elections threw out all the Democratic ballot applications that were missing this number they're talking about, but let the Republican Party workers with their computers come roght into the courthouse, apparently illegally, and change the Republican applications through away the Democratic ballot applications, and accepted the Republican ballot applications. That certainly doesnt seem fair to me.
Stahl: Sounds like you like that case.
Gore: Well, I just told you why. I think it's unfair for them to throw out ballots from one party and keep them from the other when theyre exactly the same.
Stahl: I want to read something in todays New York Times: 'Whichever man ends up having to concede is going to feel tormented, rejected, humiliated, victimized, angry, cheated, ashamed, lonely, and bone tired.'
Oh, my. Now I know why youre fighting so hard.
Gore: I've been getting seven, eight hours of sleep a night.
I'm not bone tired
Stahl: But you don't think you're going to concede. They're saying if you end up having to.
Gore: If you want know anticipate a situation that I don't think is going to happen and then project my feelings into it, I'll do my best by telling you that have course I would be vulnerable to such feelings. But I do believe that with my family and with my faith I would find a way to come out on top of that and not to surrender to those feelings.
We can choose.
Stahl: You have been described by people who have seen you as a lost soul in deep denial wracked by 'what ifs.'
Gore: Is that the person you see before you?
Stahl: That's not the person I'm seeing but I don't see you behind the scenes. Are you in deep denial?
Gore: No. No. I deny that.