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<i>FTN</i> Transcript - Nov. 12

Bob Schieffer, CBS
News Chief Washington Correspondent:
Today on Face the Nation: who will be our next president? The recount in Florida counties has begun, but the Bush campaign has gone to court to try to stop it. Why? We'll talk to former Secretary of State James Baker, who is now heading the Bush efforts in Florida. We get the other side from Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley. How is all this affecting the nation, and what will be the impact on the next Congress? We also talks with Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle and Senator John McCain.

We begin this morning in Tallahassee, Florida with the former Secretary of State James Baker, who is heading up the Bush forces there. Mr. Secretary, welcome. Thank you for coming. You have asked a federal judge to stop election officials from this hand recount of votes there in Palm Beach County. That decision on whether to do that by the judge could come as early as Monday. If you lose, do you plan to appeal that decision, or will that be it?

James Baker, former U.S. Secretary of State: Bob, I can't really answer that question for you beyond saying that before we ever filed that suit - as we were talking about the slippery slope we were moving into as the Gore campaign supporters filed eight lawsuits here in Florida, and as they continued to ask for recount after recount - we simply said when we announced the filing of our suit we would vigorously contest further recounts of the votes in Florida.

We've had one full recount. We ought to live with that. Both parties should live with that. It showed a very narrow margin for Governor Bush and there are votes to be counted from the overseas absentee ballots. What I did say - and a proposal I've made on behalf of Governor Bush, which I believe has been turned down by the other side - is we would agree to abide by the result of the count of those overseas absentee ballots, provided they are counted in an appropriate and legal way if the other side would agree to do that. And suspend the manual counts, which give rise to so many opportunities for human error and, indeed, even mischief. And we would promptly dismiss our lawsuit.

Schieffer: Mr. Secretary, former Senator Sam Nunn, who you know very well is retired and no longer in the Senate. But he put out a statement today. I want to read a couple of things. He said, "The two men who would lead America must now act in a manner worthy of the office they seek." He went on to say, "Vice President Gore should make it clear that he would concede the victory to Governor Bush if he loses Florida after the more scrupulous recount and the counting of the absentee ballots. And Governor Bush should instruct his lawyers to drop their lawsuit and let the state and local Florida officials do their duty under the law." What would be your response to that?

Baker: My response to be to ask Senator Nunn what he meant by the more scrupulourecount. If he means the automated recount that we had as required by Florida law - which is, indeed, more accurate than a manual recount, given the full discretion, subjective discretion given to the electoral officials. If he means that, then we would agree with at. And we would do that.

Schieffer: I think he means the manual recount.

Baker: I think he does, too.

Schieffer: Let me go on to something else. We have a recount of New Mexico. It looks like it will go to Governor Bush rather than to Vice President Gore. That was a hand recount. Are you going to say that shouldn't have happened?

Baker: No, Bob, we're not condemning every hand recount. What we are saying is that the process here is constructed in such a way as to create the kind of confusion you saw last night on the television, as you watched electoral board in Palm Beach County trying to divine the intention of the voter. There are no standards, no uniformed standards, no objective standards, no standards to guide the local officials. And when you just have a hand recount in four selected counties that are predominantly Democratic, you are not treating the other voters of Florida equally and you're proceeding in a manner that, in our view, is unconstitutional. That's what we mean.

Schieffer: Former Republican leader of the Senate, Howard Baker, said this morning that this should be settled by the voters. And his words were "lawsuits almost never settle anything." Isn't there somewhere along the line here where you're going to have to step back and say this is the way it is and you can't tie this up in the courts for a matter of months?

Baker: Absolutely. And this would not be tied up in the courts for another hour if the Gore campaign would simply agree to abide by the results of a proper count of the overseas absentee ballots. According to some counts, Governor Bush in the automatic recount is only ahead by 232 votes or something. I mean, I'm not suggesting that's the accurate number, but that's what some counts say. Why won't the Gore campaign agree, okay, let's pull back here? No more recounts, no more legal challenges, let's receive the overseas absentee ballots and both agree to abide by the results?

Schieffer: Mr. Baker, thank you so much for that this morning. We'll obviously be following this.

Baker: Thank you, Bob.

Schieffer: With us now in our studio, the Gore campaign chairman William Daley. I guess I'll just ask your response Mr. Daley.

William Daley, Gore campaign chairman: What we say is that the laws of Florida ought to be followed and the laws in the proper administrative processes that are moving forward in the hand count ought to be completed, then we'll have an honest understanding of exactly the numbers in the election. Is it confusing to some people? It is obviously upsetting to all of us that this election was not clearly determined n Election Day and this process has to move forward, but those are the laws are Florida. The people of Florida have a right to have their laws followed.

Schieffer: Mr. Baker said over and over this morning - here and on other broadcasts - that there is no objective standard to enforce hand counts across the state of Florida - and so that's why they're against the hand recount.

Daley: Secretary Baker seemed to indicate when the hand count in New Mexico went there their way, that's fine. No one knows how this is going to go, there is all sorts of speculation. Nobody knows what is going to happen at the end of the hand count.

Borger: When you go to court Monday morning, or when they take you to court Monday morning if the judge allows for the hand count, which you want, will you abide by the results of the hand count in the state of Florida?

Daley: Obviously if the hand count is completed, that's the end of that recount process. Then have you the overseas ballots that have to be counted and that will give a clear determination of exactly what the vote was in the state of Florida. Now on top of that, there are people in Palm Beach, obviously, who believe very strongly, and they have filed lawsuits on their own because of the terrible situation where 19,000 people believe - or many of them believe obviously at this point, enough to file at least five lawsuits - believe their rights were injured and they're asking for some redress.

Gloria Borger, U.S. News & World Report: Let me get this straight here. You have the recount, you get all those ballots in, and then you say you still get the absentees, you get all those ballots in. You're saying that's not the end of the process.

Daley: Well, that's the end of the process as far as Florida is concerned, as far as the administrative process in Florida to determine who actually won the vote.

Borger: You're not ruling out further legal action on behalf of the Gore campaign?

Daley: We stated last Thursday we would look at all options here and we have talked to lawyers, talked to supporters in Florida. As I mentioned, five individuals on their own have filed their own lawsuits in Palm Beach. The decision has not been made yet, a final decision on whether or not a lawsuit would be filed. But that's being looked at right now.

Schieffer: Do I understand right what you're saying right here, if you win in Florida, if it goes your way, that's the end of it, but if it doesn't go your way, you plan more legal action?

Daley: I didn't say that at all. I'm saying we have to let the process go forward - have the hand count in the counties following the procedures in the laws of Florida. The overseas ballots have to be counted and then there will be a determination after the process. The lawsuits that have been filed - and whether or not we would file a lawsuit - is yet to be determined. We will wai and see exactly what happened.

Schieffer: If you told those people to back off who filed the lawsuits, obviously that would have weight in the courts.

Daley: To be honest, whether it would have weight in the court is unclear, because those individuals are asking the court for relief to an injustice to them, not to the Gore campaign. It's to them as voters in Florida. It may or may not have any impact on a court. I'm not sure of that, to be honest with you.

Schieffer: James Baker said what is unfair about this is that the Democrats have selected heavily Democratic districts. Would it be fine with you if there were hand recounts heavily Republican districts or in fact in the whole state?

Daley: The people of Florida have a right under their laws to request in any county that the county officials look at the ballots and make a judgment if there are anomalies enough to have justify a hand count. Floridians went into four counties and asked the county governments to look at this. It hasn't been determined in all four whether there are enough anomalies to move forward with full counts. But that's the right of the people. They have every right in the world to do that.

Schieffer: Do you think in some way they should have a vote again in Florida?

Daley: That's a remedy that some people have requested in Palm Beach because of the terrible injustice based upon the ballot that was used in Palm Beach County - the only county in the state that used such a ballot that confused, based upon the results where you had 19,000 people do double punches, 10,000 people not vote at all, and 3,700 people vote for Pat Buchanan when even Pat Buchanan said most probably thought they were voting for al Gore.

Schieffer: Do you have any kind of an estimate on a time frame when this will be complete?

Daley: The hand count and absentee ballot count can move quickly. There was confusion as they began the process yesterday. This is going to be the most open and observed hand count probably in the history of America, the way you've got CNN or your stations - all your reporters in the rooms, you've got all sorts of observers. So there is no question that this is, I think, going to be done in a quick and open and fair way. That's all the laws of Florida allow.


Schieffer: And joining us now from Cottonwood, Arizona, Senator John McCain. From New York, Senator Tom Daschle. First to Arizona. Senator McCain, did the Bush campaign do the right thing in trying to stop this hand count of votes that's going on in Florida right now?

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.): Well, I think that it obviously makes them very uneasy when three of the four counties that were hand recounted were heavily Democrat districts. I don't think that it's fair in that respect. And I think maybe every county that Republicans would like hand recounted should be included n that as well. But I was very disappointed in Secretary Daley's comments that even if they resolve the Florida issue, they're not willing to abide by the decision. That's rather disturbing and I hope that what we really need to do here, Bob, is next Friday, the absentee ballots will be counted, hopefully the hand recounts will be completed and both side then agree. Whatever the voters have decided in the state of Florida, it's over. I think the nation is growing a little weary of this. We're not in a constitutional crisis, but the American people are growing weary. And whoever wins is having a rapidly diminishing mandate, to say the least.

Schieffer: That brings me to my question. What do you think this is doing to the presidency and what will this do to the next president and his efforts to deal with the Congress in Washington?

McCain: The next president is going to have to reach across the aisle to the other party. He is going to have to send a message of inclusion. If this is settled by litigation - remember back in 1984 there was a seat in Indiana that Republicans, I think directly believe was stolen by from them by a federal judge. That's why litigation is not the answer here. And I believe that unless the new president sends an entirely different message and that same message has to be sent by the Congress, we're in for gridlock and the American people deserve a lot better.

Schieffer: Let me ask a question, because a lot of people are saying that the next president has to make a grand gesture to the other party. One thing being perhaps, if it's Al Gore, put more Republicans in his Cabinet than he normally would. If it's George Bush, put more Democrats. If Al Gore came to you, if it turns out that he won, and said, "John McCain would you be my Secretary of Defense?" - what would be your answer?

McCain: I would respectfully decline. I would be honored, but I would respectfully decline. I don't agree with the Clinton-Gore approach to national security issues, and I think I could serve the country better remaining in the United States Senate.

Schieffer: Senator McCain, there are lots of other states, as you well know, that are very, very close, in which the Bush campaign might well demand a recount - Iowa, Wisconsin come to mind. Do you think the Bush campaign has essentially handcuffed itself by saying no hand recount in Florida, but gee, you know, what about Iowa and Wisconsin, maybe we'd like them there? And New Mexico, we liked it there because it came to our benefit?

McCain: I think we have to have an end point here. There's been other elections in history - 1960, 1976, other times - when we could have proceeded with litigation or recounts forever. The American people are very patient and I don't think that there is any kind of crisis right now. But they are growing weary of it. They want a resolution. Next Friday would be an excellent time for verybody to agree that they will abide by the decisions, even if it might be that there's possibilities of changes - and I think that everybody agrees that Florida is the key here.

Borger: The Congress is coming pack for a lame-duck session next week. This is an odd environment for Republicans and Democrats to return. You don't know who is going to control the Senate at this point. It could be 50-50. How should Congress behave in this situation?

McCain It's time that Congress, members of Congress decided to do something rather than be somebody. We could embark on a reform agenda right away - reform the tax code, moving forward on an HMO patients' bill of rights, prescription drugs for seniors. We could start reaching across the aisle to each other. The Senate cannot do business the way that it has for the last few years. It's been driven by partisanship and it's not acceptable to the American people. Gloria, we just had barely a higher voter turnout in this election than in 1996 - the most contested political scenario that any of us have ever heard of - and yet the Americans are being more and more cynical and alienated by the way we act in Congress. That's a political gridlock. We need to do business differently in the United States Senate than we have in the past.

Schieffer: Let me stop on that note, Senator McCain and go to Senator Daschle. Can you do that, Senator Daschle?

Sen. Tom Daschle (D-S.D.): I think there is a possibility for real bipartisanship. I think it is important that we find a way to do that. You know, John is right. There is no way we can survive the gridlock and the bitter partisanship that has existed now for the last couple of years. We need to see inclusion, we need to see a power-sharing arrangement between Republicans and Democrats. I think we need to start on that right away. We don't have to start on the next Congress. Let's do it in the lame duck.

Schieffer: Let's talk about the lame duck a little bit, because we haven't had one in quite a while. These are the people who were in office whether we had this election, some of them will be gone. What can you possibly get done in this environment, Senator Daschle?

Daschle: Bob, there's a lot of issues on the table. Whether or not we pass a meaningful minimum wage, whether or not we can really make a commited number investment in education in the coming months and the entire fiscal year, frankly - and school construction, hiring 100,000 teachers, reducing class size, having after school programs. All of those things are on the table. This could be the single most important commitment we make to education in our nation's history. It could be historic. We also have a tax bill and a very important Medicare reimbursement program that's still on the table. The foreign sales credit corporation is still there. So there's an array of issues that have to be addressed. I don't think we can eave without having addressed them.

Schieffer: Let's get back to what is going on right now down in Florida. Is this damaging the presidency? Is it going to make it more difficult for the next president, whoever he may be?

Daschle: Bob, it is regrettable. I think it's unprecedented. Obviously, all we're trying to do here is follow what the law requires. And I think that the American people, according to the most recent Newsweek poll conducted in the last couple of days are far more concerned about fairness than they are finality. What they want is an accurate count. What they really want is to ensure that however we count the votes, we count them as correctly as we can. You have about 30,000 disenfranchised voters that we know of, 19,000 votes who were miscast - and maybe another 11,000 who is votes were not counted right now.

Borger: Excuse me for interrupting, but I wanted to ask about this recount. If it goes through, if the judge allows is the recount to go through, the hand recount, should the Gore campaign and the Bush campaign abide by the results of the recount?

Daschle: Well, I think it's important that we get the most accurate recount that we can. And whether that entails going to additional counties is really something that should be either negotiated or resolved by county and other officials. But clearly I think you have to look at what happened at the end. I don't think it should be who won that determines whether or not you take other actions. I think it's really critical to try to determine what is the fairest way to bring this to resolution? Obviously, we'll know a lot more in a week. We have to count the absentee ballots and count those that have been miscounted or not counted and see what happens. But I think we really ought to be very cautious and very, very concerned about taking this matter to the courts.

Borger: But what you seem to be saying though is that if this is not resolved by next Friday, you'd like for it to be resolved by next Friday, but you do see how it could continue beyond that if the Democrats do not believe that this has been done fairly and then you would extend it perhaps to go back to Palm Beach, where there are these 19,000 contested votes. Is that accurate?

Daschle: I really don't know, Gloria, whether it's necessary to go beyond Friday. I think that it's possible to count most of the manual ballots by then. I should say count the ballots by then manually. I think it is entirely within the realm of possibility that within the next week to ten days we could have this counted. Keep in mind, the Electoral College doesn't meet until the third week in December. We don't have the inaugural until the 20th of January. This isn't unprecedented. We have had many occasions in the past in very, very tight elections that have required that we really move the process forward. But we do so accurately and fairly. I think thats all anybody is asking. Can we ensure that we do this as accurately and fairly as possible knowing what's on the table, knowing what consequences there are in this and really setting precedents for future elections.


Schieffer: The long presidential campaign is coming to an end. We don't know who won, but we will. We have had delays before and the country survived, and it will survive again.

One day soon, the counting will be done and the men who sought the presidency will accept the results - and the one who loses will congratulate the other.

Far from being easy, it may be the hardest thing either man has ever done. But I believe it will be done because both of these men are honorable men - and they will recognize their first duty is not to party and partisans, but to the country.

The advisers may well give contrary advice - and the partisans are never satisfied. But eventually, both men will thank the advisors and excuse the partisans and look within themselves and there find the answer to what they must do.

I hope the one who loses heard former President Gerald Ford the other night when he said, "As one who has lost a close election, I can tell you there is life after Inauguration Day."

The crowd loves the winner of the moment. But in history's long view, it is not always the winner of the moment who proves victorious.

One battle lost does not spell defeat nor the end of life.

The true leader is not always the one who wins, but the one who shows us what is right.


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