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THE MCLAUGHLIN GROUP



HOST: JOHN MCLAUGHLIN



JOINED BY: GERARD BAKER, MICHAEL BARONE,


TONY BLANKLEY, AND ELEANOR CLIFT



TAPED: FRIDAY, DECEMBER 8, 2000


BROADCAST: WEEKEND OF DECEMBER 9-10, 2000



.STX



 


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THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT.


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MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue one: The parachute opens. On Friday afternoon, in a stunning ruling, the Florida Supreme Court opened Al Gore's parachute, interrupting his election free-fall. In a sharply split ruling, 4 to 3, the Florida high court ordered manual recounts to begin immediately of approximately 9,000 Miami-Dade ballots contested by the vice president.



In addition, the 215 Gore votes in Palm Beach and the 168 Gore votes in Miami-Dade County that had been previously tabulated, but were excluded because of a missed deadline, were added by the Gore -- by the court to the Gore total, which, if certified, reduces the 537-vote Bush margin to 154.



The high court also ordered a manual recount of so-called undervotes. Those are ballots that registered no presidential vote in machines, must be counted by hand in Florida's other 65 counties. The total of these votes is estimated early and loosely at between 60(,000) and 80,000, and perhaps higher.



Question: Does this recount mean that Al Gore has triumphed? I ask you, Michael Barone.



MR. BARONE: Well, I don't think it necessarily does, John. I think this was a reckless decision by a trial lawyer vote of 4 to 3, judicial activist Supreme Court, and has thrown this thing open.



But John, I think the decision clearly violates what the U.S. Supreme Court said -- that they're supposed to take into account Title III, Section 5, of the U.S. Code, which requires that you don't change the rules after the election. This rule -- this decision changes even more rules than they had before. Florida law does not contemplate a partial hand count being taken by one group of people, as it was in Miami-Dade, and then doing these other things with these other votes. You have, as Judge Sauls noted in his opinion, a changing standard on dimpled chad that has now been accepted in Palm Beach County, that was applied in Broward County, which they're not going to go back and look at, and in Miami-Dade. These all move in the direction of the political party affiliation and the trial lawyer backing of the Florida -- four-member majority of the Florida State Supreme Court.



I think the Supreme -- U.S. Supreme Court's going to look long and hard at what Justice O'Connor called -- when there were -- dramatic changes. These are even more dramatic changes. I think this decision is vulnerable to United States Supreme Court review.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor Clift?



MS. CLIFT: Well, clearly this was a victory for Al Gore. The court saw the legitimacy of his position, that you count the votes that were tossed out by the machines and you go through them by hand, which is what we do in virtually every contested election in this country.



But, it is not over yet. The Bush campaign is going to quickly appeal to the Supreme Court. And the justices, if you listen to the arguments, expressed some skepticism as to whether they should have been involved in this case in the first place, and I think that now it's up to the Supreme Court to see if they can find reasons to toss out this court (sic).



But it seems to me it would be very difficult for the U.S. Supreme Court to order a stop to counting the votes.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Mm-hmm. (Affirmation.)



MS. CLIFT: So this was the right decision made by the Florida court.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Anthony?



MR. BLANKLEY: Well, no, obviously, it's not a Gore victory and it's not a Bush victory yet, but what it is, is an almost-certain descent into the danger zone of a constitutional crisis where the question is, Who decides the final decision? And we don't know whether it's going to be the Congress, the U.S. Supreme Court, the Florida Supreme Court, the Florida legislature. We are now into, I think, the nightmare scenario that some people thought was alarmist when it was discussed two and three weeks ago.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Can we define a constitutional crisis as when one branch of the government is in direct conflict with another branch, which could take place, as we shall see after we get to the next segment, if there is a legislative slate of electors and there is a judicial slate of electors?



MR. BLANKLEY: It's not that there's a conflict between the two branches, it's that it's ambiguous within the Constitution as to who resolves the conflict, and that -- where the seams of the different branches of government meet, there's a little gap, and now we're going to explore whether there's any light between those gaps.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Welcome, Gerard Baker. What occurs to you from this decision, and would you, if you feel inclined to do so, move us into the direction of the hurdles where the Florida Supreme Court has driven this process?



MR. BAKER: Well, there is no victory for Gore, but it's an incredible reprieve for him. I mean, there we were, all writing his obituaries, examining when exactly he was going to come up and make his concession speech this weekend. That's all off now, clearly,



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And that was particularly true after the rulings came down shortly before the Supreme Court ruling in Florida --



MR. BAKER: In Seminole and Martin.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- from Martin County and from Seminole County, which were in favor of Bush.



MR. BAKER: That's right. They obviously went in Bush's favor. I think, to be fair, I think they were always pretty long-shot cases, but they did go in Bush's favor, and they did increase the sense of momentum behind Bush in the sense that Gore was probably going to have go.



But I think, it's kind of the equivalent of -- what the Florida Supreme Court has handed him is the equivalent of a -- kind of when you throw a "Hail Mary" pass and it's not caught in the end zone, it's caught on about the two yard line. And this is now going to -- and so we're now into the final stages where we're going to have to see what, you know, whether or not he can actually get enough from this recount to push it over.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: The obvious hurdle, of course, is the timing. He's got 72 hours from midnight Friday night in which to count, if the court's ruling is to be followed, 60 (thousand) to 80,000 votes in counties that are not geared up to do this at all and, presumably, there will be, quote-unquote, "special masters." How is that all going to be handled, do you think?



MS. CLIFT: Well, if they had won on the lower court, they had counting teams, 25 people each, ready to step in. The Florida Supreme Court is calling in, you know, retired justices to oversee the process. Look, we could do this. They're not counting every ballot, they're just counting the disputed ballots. And frankly, these ballots --



MR. BARONE: John.



MS. CLIFT: -- are going to get counted at some point, by academics, by the media. Better to count them now --



MR. BARONE: The question is how --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let her finish.



MS. CLIFT: -- before a president is seated and before it gets to the next stage.



MR. BARONE: The question is how you count them. The fact is that what Al Gore has been trying to do all along is get himself counted into the presidency by dimpled chad, by non-indentation, by things that -- with the embarrassing, for Bush, exception of 14 counties in Texas and one court case in Massachusetts -- have never been counted as votes before in the United States. That process has already taken place. Five-hundred-plus dimpled chad ballots were cast for him in Broward County by the compliant accomplices that he had for the process there. Those 168 in Miami-Dade County were counted by the same standard. What standard are they to be held now? These standards have been changing, too.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. So the court laid out the standard, Tony -- just to stay with this -- and I want you to respond to this. It said, "In tabulating what constitutes a legal vote" -- this is the exact language -- "the standard to be used is the one provided by the legislature." Quote: "A vote shall be counted where there is a clear indication of the intent of the voter."



Now, we know from Palm Beach County and the judge who was leading the canvassing team there that in most instances, these undercounted votes, you cannot identify the intent of the voter. And he developed a scheme. Do you remember what that scheme was?



MR. BARONE: He developed a scheme where he said a dimpled chad for president counts only if a dimpled chad for other votes did.



MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah, but look --



MR. BARONE: That's certainly much more defensible than what they were doing in Broward County, which is counting dimpled chads as dimpled chads.



MR. BLANKLEY: But look --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Before I go back to you, I want one point to be made clear by you, since you study all this and you put our your renowned almanac. Is it possible that if a vote were totally tabulated of all of these under-votes, whether it's 80,0000, 100,000, whatever, that Bush might win?



MR. BARONE: It is possible. Certainly if they don't count dimpled chads, it is overwhelmingly likely. But if you look at the portion of Miami-Dade County that was not hand-counted in that hand count, that portion -- the portion that was hand-counted was 76-24 Gore of the two-party votes. That's where they found these extra votes for Gore. The remainder of Miami-Dade was 52-48 Bush among the --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that's interesting.



Now, yes, go ahead.



MR. BLANKLEY: Let me make an important point, because there's another hurdle that Gore's got to get through in this recounting. Once they finish, let's assume they finish the recounting in the 72 hours, then either side could challenge that in the federal courts as to whether it was properly counted, whether it was uneven, in different standards, in different counties, within the same county. The 11th Circuit case, about the manual count, that Bush had brought and lost, was lost because it wasn't timely. Now it may be timely. So --



MR. BARONE: And the U.S. Supreme Court may very well --



MR. BLANKLEY: -- it could be litigated past the 72 hours even if they do the initial count within 72 hours.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, that backs into the question of, when they arrive at midnight of Monday night, Tuesday morning, that's when the curtain drops, the iron curtain. Right?



MR. BAKER: Well, even --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Now if the --



MR. BAKER: Is that absolutely clear?



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, yeah.



MR. BAKER: Then that is absolutely clear?



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, yes, I don't think they're going to fool around with that. I think that would really --



MS. CLIFT: Yes, that's a deadline --



MR. BARONE: Well, they would have to change their previous decision. But they've already changed their previous decision in one respect here. They said Palm Beach County's and Miami-Dade County's votes had to be in by November 26th. They've just willy-nilly changed the rules --



MS. CLIFT: You know --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, they will reach a point where the provocation to the United States Supreme Court would be intolerable --



MR. BARONE: Yeah.



MS. CLIFT: You know --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- and the United Supreme Court presumably --



MR. BARONE: They've changed their own -- they've changed own -- judge-made rules --



MS. CLIFT: You know, Michael Barone is only --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, let's --



MS. CLIFT: Michael Barone is only happy when the court's decisions go Bush's way.



MR. BARONE: I'd like them to obey the law that was passed by the legislature.



MS. CLIFT: You know, there is a legitimacy -- this -- these are seven people who are duly qualified, and they've split 4 to 3. They're -- reasonable people can differ in interpretations. And the way our society is set up, we accept these interpretations.



The next step -- if the Bush side wants to appeal, they should, and then we'll all abide by that, and we don't demonize everybody in the process.



MR. BARONE: I don't -- I think you demonize the people who deserve demonization. I think we have some candidates here.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Let me ask you this, Gerard Baker. Doesn't it strike you that the Supreme Court of Florida, despite the tribute paid to it by our distinguished panelist Eleanor Clift, is totally politicized?



MR. BAKER: No, I don't think that's right. And in fact, I think the fact that it was a 4-3 decision does indicate that there was certainly -- they clearly didn't vote -- I mean, what we've heard all along, particularly from the Bush campaign, was that oh, this was a -- they're all Democratic appointees; they were all, you know, partisan; they're all going to vote the same way. They didn't. They voted 4-3.



MR. BARONE: I think it indicates they were on such weak ground that they couldn't even get --



(Cross talk.)



MR. BLANKLEY: Well, look, what you can say is that at least four of the members were driven to get to a conclusion that they wanted to get to. Whether that was out of intellectual consistency or out of partisanship, we'll never know without a psychological analysis.



MR. BAKER: But frankly, Florida law is very clear that it does say that if there are a number of votes which haven't been legal votes, that haven't been -- that could place in doubt the outcome of the election, then the right thing to do is to ensure -- that is the standard by which a contest is upheld. And I'm sure that's essentially what they've done. It is very clear. Even the most partisan person could acknowledge that there are a number of votes -- several thousand votes, probably -- of whom -- and it doesn't just require dimpled chads.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But surely --



MR. BAKER: We've now introduced another 50(,000), 60(,000), 70,000 votes, which could be hanging. We're back into the chad -- (inaudible) -- hanging chads and swinging chads --



(Cross talk.)



MR. BARONE: We have --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gerard, but surely you heard -- surely you heard the irresistible argumentation against the positions you're taking by Barry Richards. He simply eviscerated the arguments presented by Boies.



MS. CLIFT: Well, he's a very good lawyer, but he lost in this instance.



MR. BARONE: Well, there's -- the fact is --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Wait a minute, I want to hear you. Hold on, Eleanor.



MR. BARONE: There's nothing peculiar about these particular ballots. They have gone through the machine counting and the recounting process and so forth. Judge Sauls ruled that there was no basis in the two witnesses -- rather weakly -- that the Democrats brought in to try and justify this. This is a -- to me, this is a decision --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, we haven't heard from -- we haven't heard from Tony. We have to respect our friend here, who has very nice threads on today. (Laughter.)



MR. BLANKLEY: (Laughs.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What do you say to all this?



MR. BLANKLEY: Well, I'm not prepared to say that every panelist on the Florida Supreme Court acted out of partisanship. I do believe that at least four of them were trying to get to a conclusion, and they have run roughshod over what appears to be the law.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit --



MS. CLIFT: They --



MR. BAKER: I think that the law is pretty clear. They have -- as you say, if there are enough votes -- what we are now down to is the gap between Gore and Bush in Florida is now, on the basis of legitimately counted votes, 154 votes.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Yeah.



MR. BARONE: I wouldn't -- (inaudible) -- Broward County.



(Cross talk.)



MR. BARONE: We've got 60(,000) to 70,000 votes out there. How could anyone be --



MR. BARONE: Not those cast in Broward County.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, do you think -- don't you think these -- many of these -- that many of these canvassing boards are rigged, don't you think, politically rigged --



MR. BARONE: Broward was.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- I mean below the level of conscious --



MS. CLIFT: Oh, no --



MR. BAKER: To be honest, I mean, maybe I'm very naive, but I actually don't think that -- I mean, I think -- I watched quite a lot of the Palm Beach --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You don't see --



MR. BLANKLEY: Of course they were.



MR. BAKER: I watched quite a lot of the Palm Beach counting, and so, interestingly, did people like Christie Todd Whitman, who went down there and observed the process.



MR. BARONE: But Palm Beach wasn't so bad.



MR. BAKER: Well --



(Cross talk.)



MR. BARONE: And Broward was a -- Broward was a travesty.



MR. BLANKLEY: She came out to --



(Cross talk.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Well, what we have -- we have Bob Dole, we have Governor Keating --



MR. BARONE: And he said Broward was a travesty. It was like -- and the initial hand count in Miami-Dade County was a --



(Cross talk.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, and Keating -- Keating sat there for four hours and, you know, he didn't --



MR. BLANKLEY: He constantly



MR. BARONE: I think the Palm Beach people acted in good faith.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You know, he didn't -- he did want to --



MR. BAKER: The secretary of state certified the results from Broward County. She did not -- she did not -- (inaudible) -- them, but -- (inaudible) -- challenge --



MS. CLIFT: The American -- the American public --



(Cross talk.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right, hold on. Hold on. I want to hear from --



MS. CLIFT: It's my turn this time. The American public --



MR. BLANKLEY: It's always your turn. (Chuckles.)



MS. CLIFT: I think it's my turn now.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.)



MS. CLIFT: The American public watched a lot of this unfold on TV. They watched the observers. The counting that's going to proceed is going to have, you know, judges watching, it's going to have people from both parties --



MR. BAKER: We'll have to have -- (inaudible) -- count.



MR. BLANKLEY: Let me -- let me --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony, quickly.



MS. CLIFT: This is as fair as you can get in this environment.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Quickly. We've got to get out.



MR. BLANKLEY: It wasn't a coincidence that most of the votes were two to one. Maybe it wasn't a coincidence the Republican was voting one, and it wasn't a coincidence the Democrat was voting two --



MS. CLIFT: No, you guys haven't even lost the election yet, and you are such poor losers.



MR. BARONE: Broward -- Broward --



(Cross talk.)



MR. BLANKLEY: We're going to win! Don't worry about that.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question.



MS. CLIFT: Maybe you'll be better winners. I'm sure you will.



MR. BAKER: The Democrat board in Miami-Dade actually abandoned the count completely; apparently, at the time, handing the election to George W. Bush. Is that a --



MS. CLIFT: (Inaudible.) (Chuckles.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Exit question. Will Gore pull this off? Michael Barone.



MR. BARONE: Very iffy. I think the U.S. Supreme Court may put a stop to this nonsense.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: So that's a no. He will not pull it off.



Eleanor?



MS. CLIFT: If the votes are counted and there were more votes cast for Al Gore than George W. Bush, he will prevail.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: (Laughs.) Thank you for that keen grasp of the obvious.



MS. CLIFT: Well --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Would you give me an answer? Will he pull it off?



MS. CLIFT: It is unknowable at this point, John. You have --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, it's not unknowable. You can see the massive amount -- the massive number --



MS. CLIFT: Oh, it is not. You have a partisan legislature, you have a partisan Congress. Lots of people could still get involved. You have a Supreme Court mostly appointed by Republicans. I would respect their decision, but they haven't weighed in yet, either. It's too soon to celebrate on either side.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You can estimate -- you can estimate the hurdles and the degree of difficulty and then reach a legitimate conjecture.



What do you think?



MR. BLANKLEY: I think when you look at the number of hurdles that Gore has yet to overcome, which includes decisions by a Republican-controlled House and a Supreme Court and a Florida legislature, you have to say --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: And the timing.



MR. BLANKLEY: -- the odds are still against Gore, but the odds have tightened up after this.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are the odds?



MR. BLANKLEY: They're about 55-45.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That close?



MR. BLANKLEY: I think so.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Really?



MR. BAKER: Yeah, the answer is no. I mean, I think the answer is no, that it doesn't mean Gore is going to win. But I agree with Tony that probably maybe that proportion is about the right degree of probability I would attach to it.



The problem: obviously, he does have extraordinary hurdles. The Florida legislature is one, and the House of Representatives, the U.S. House of Representatives, is another. And that, ultimately -- it's pretty clear also that for all the talk about Gore doing anything to win, it's absolutely clear that the Bush people are absolutely determined to go as far as it takes, and if that requires them to go all the way to the House of Representatives, that's what they'll do.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I think that the Florida high court has embarrassed itself terribly. I think this is a politicized decision, and I think that Gore will not prevail.



When we come back: Will the Florida legislature open the Bush parachute?



(Announcements.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Issue two: Insurance politics.



MIKE FASANO (Republican leader of the Florida House): (From videotape.) An insurance policy meant for the people of the state of Florida. For the 6 million people who voted on November 7th, there's a very good chance that if we continue with court action after court action, that the people won't be elected -- won't be represented in the electoral process on December 18th.



LOIS FRANKEL (Democratic leader of the Florida House): (From videotape.) This legislature has now become the political arm of the George Bush campaign. They are predetermined to make sure that George Bush wins this election at all costs.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Florida's Republican-dominated House and Senate met Friday for a special joint session, and it was contentious. The goal: to select 25 electors who will cast Florida's votes in the Electoral College.



George W. Bush currently trails Al Gore in electoral votes, 267 to 246. So those 25 votes will put George Bush over the top, with 271 votes, one more than needed for the presidency.



The legislators are naming these electors early to make sure that Florida does not lose its electors by missing the national deadline of December 12. So the Florida legislators' move will put a safety net under Bush if Florida's courts try to trump the process and thus upend the U.S. Constitution, which says "each state shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors."



Question: Will the safety net under George Bush, created by the Florida legislature, hold up under this new pressure? I ask you, Tony.



MR. BLANKLEY: Probably, but I sense --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: What are you saying by that?



MR. BLANKLEY: Well, what I think the House in -- the state House, I think, is definitely prepared to vote the Bush delegates, even if there's a final judicial determination of the vote. I'm not quite sure whether --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Why don't you use the word "legal," a legal determination of the vote --



MR. BLANKLEY: No, I mean "judicial."



MR. BARONE: He means --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: I know he does.



MR. BLANKLEY: I mean "judicial," as opposed --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Oh, he does --



MR. BLANKLEY: I mean "judicial," as opposed --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean the high court?



MR. BLANKLEY: The high court. But I'm not --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You mean all this apparatus works over the next 72 hours.



MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah. Yeah, but there has been some talk in the Florida state legislature that they were only -- the Senate -- that they were only going to act if there was an incomplete action on the judicial side. Now that's -- it's unclear, but if you're looking for a danger zone for Bush's safety net, it could be in the state Senate.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: All right. Let's clear up a few loose pieces here. The slate has already been named by the legislature, correct?



MR. BARONE: By the certification of Katherine Harris, pursuant to the Supreme Court decision November --



MR. BLANKLEY: By the certification. It's in the National Archives.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: It's in the National Archives.



MR. BLANKLEY: Yes.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: That's number one.



Number two, the special session that's been called of the legislature and been in existence for about, well, a certain number of hours -- since Thursday afternoon, I guess? --



MR. BLANKLEY: Yeah.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- that that will continue in session right up until Tuesday, which is when the iron curtain drops at midnight of Monday night, Tuesday morning.



MR. BLANKLEY: And then they will act on Wednesday -- is the proposed day. They believe they can act on Wednesday, after midnight Tuesday, to determine whether there's been a final resolution.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Okay. Now it's quite possible that the legislature's slate will be up against the slate of the judiciary. It's possible -- not quite possible, it's possible. I don't think it's going to happen. I don't think they can pull it all together.



Now what happens then?



MR. BAKER: Well, the Constitution is pretty clear that the legislature has the right, ultimately, to determine the slate of electors for the state.



Now, the question is whether or not politically that is going to be an acceptable state of affairs where you have one set of electors who essentially, although it's a judicially determined thing, have their authority rooted in the fact that they got more -- that their candidate got more votes than the other one.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: We have very little time. But if it goes to the Congress, where you have 51 in the Senate Democratic, from the 3rd to the 20th, and you have the House, which will vote for Bush, and the Senate will go for Gore because the vice president will be the president.



Now, what resolves that?



Quickly!~



MR. BARONE: Well, what happens is -- the question is can the electors be rejected by both houses, and the answer is the electors will not be rejected by both houses. I think that, obviously, Democrats will not like it and think it in some way illegitimate if the legislature elects electors. But the fact is that they have the clear right under the Constitution to do it.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: But there is also law governing this. If the two houses are in opposition, then the determining factor is the signature of the governor --



MR. BARONE: Signature of the governor.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- of the state of Florida, the brother of the --



MR. BARONE: Which is currently sitting on the electors who are in the National Archives, as certified by Katherine Harris.



MS. CLIFT: If they count the votes and the votes are there for Al Gore, and the Florida legislature and/or the Congress tries to take it away in what's a naked power grab, good-bye to Jeb Bush's political future. Republicans would be seriously damaged.



MR. BARONE: Right. Right.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Your point is extremely well taken. I want a quick answer to this exit question. We're almost out of time.



Will the GOP pay a heavy political price if the Florida Legislature does pick the electors for Bush?



MR. BARONE: It will pay some political price.



MS. CLIFT: Yes. Backlash, big time. (Laughs.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Will it have the stench of politics to it?



MR. BLANKLEY: It would also pay a price if it doesn't act.



MR. BAKER: The Republican voters in Florida --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Bear in mind, the Constitution gives plenary power to the legislature --



MR. BAKER: They have the power --



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: -- but it will still have the stench of politics, will it not?



MR. BAKER: Yes, there'll be a heavy political price to be paid, and I suspect Jeb Bush will be the biggest payer.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: You're absolutely right, Gerard. That hits it right on the nose -- a heavy political price with Jeb Bush paying the onus of it.



We'll be right back.



(Announcements.)



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Predictions. Very fast.



Michael?



MR. BARONE: Look for Medicare reform, if Bush wins.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Eleanor?



MS. CLIFT: President Clinton will act to save the Tongass Forest before he leaves office.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Tony?



MR. BLANKLEY: The Republican Congress will share a fair amount of power -- Senate -- with the Democrats for fear that they may soon have to be on the losing side in the Senate.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Gerard?



MR. BAKER: The U.S. economy will shrug off all this concern about the election and come in for a perfectly smooth soft landing.



MR. MCLAUGHLIN: Europe is moving with exceptional speed to field an autonomous all-Europe army. I predict the Bush regime, or Gore regime, will ask why does the United States need NATO, especially when we will have inevitable military actions of our own to be executed and we want them to be executed under unambiguous U.S. command.



Next week: Critical mass.



Bye-bye.



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