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Florida 2000
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Text: Bush Adviser Praises Fla. Result
Sunday, November 26, 2000

Following is the transcript of former secretary of state James A. Baker III, a campaign adviser to Texas Gov. George W. Bush, on the Florida election results.

BAKER: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.

Shortly after I arrived here some 19 days ago, I said in this very room that the election process in Florida and the country as a whole needed to conclude with fairness and with finality.

I suggested that everyone step back and pause and think about what was at stake. I warned that there might be no reasonable end to the process of counts and challenges and contests if it slipped away from us. So here is the account of the past three weeks.

Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney had more votes on Election Night. They had more votes after the automatic recount.

They had more votes in the election returns submitted by all of the counties on November 14, following additional recounts.

They had more votes after the overseas absentee ballots were counted.

They had more votes under the standards first applied in selective manual recounts in predominantly Democratic counties by Democratic election boards that were oftentimes divining the intentions of the voters.

And now, once again, they have more votes, even after the application of a very loose standard for manual recounts of dimpled ballots.

The Florida Supreme Court provided 12 additional days for these manual recounts, almost tripling the statutory time period mandated by Florida's legislature.

So here's where we stand tonight. The Florida State Elections Commission has certified Governor Bush as the winner of the presidential election here in Florida. Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney have won this election under rules established by both Florida statutes and Florida's judiciary, including both procedures in place before the election and different ones in place after the election.

Now the Gore campaign lawyers want to shift from recounts to contesting the election outcome. And they propose to do this notwithstanding the fact that America has never had a presidential election decided by an election contest in court. And they propose to do this notwithstanding the fact that there also has never even been a statewide election contested in court in the state of Florida. Make no mistake, this approach is extraordinary. It cannot be justified simply as business as usual.

I hope that the arguments of the Gore campaign's lawyers are not the last word of guidance from the vice president and the Democratic Party. I have heard other views.

On November 15, when Vice President Gore was stating his case for a manual recount, he told the nation that if its results were added, "I will abide by the result. I will take no legal action to contest the result."

Senator Lieberman said four days later that if the Florida Supreme Court allowed a hand count to go forward, "It is much more likely that we will accept the results as the last word."

Ladies and gentlemen, at some point--at some point--there must be closure. At some point, the law must prevail and the lawyers must go home. We have reached that point.

Now, after almost three weeks of turmoil, we as a country have another opportunity to step back, to pause, and to think about what's at stake.

I don't believe that the people of America want this national election turned over to lawyers and court contests. I can certainly understand the pain and the frustration of losing an election so very, very narrowly, but it is time to honor the will of the people. It is time to let the orderly process of transitioning go forward.

No one underestimates the challenge of uniting the country to face the issues that await the next president and the next Congress. For the healing and uniting and governing to begin, this election must be brought to a conclusion.

Yes?

QUESTION: Secretary Baker, can you tell me if a plan is in place for transition? Will we see a very straightforward sign of that? Will we hear from Governor Bush shortly?

BAKER: I would expect that you would hear from Governor Bush this evening. Now, those are questions that you would properly direct to him.

Yes?

QUESTION: Does Governor Bush, at this hour, consider himself president-elect?

BAKER: I would expect that you would hear from Governor Bush this evening, and based on what he says, you can make that judgment.

(CROSSTALK)

BAKER: Just a moment, just a moment.

QUESTION: What will this do to the Supreme Court hearing this Friday? Are you going to press on with this?

BAKER: Absolutely.

QUESTION: Why prolong that, sir? If you say we have all this legal haggling, it should stop, why continue on with the Supreme Court hearing?

BAKER: Well, we have no assurance that the other side will stop. In fact, their lawyers, as I indicated in my statement, have said they intend to contest the election result--something very different, of course, then asking for recounts. So, obviously, we cannot dismiss our request to the Supreme Court.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in the case before the Florida Supreme Court, your lawyers argued that the appropriate way for Vice President Gore's team to challenge this election was to do a certification contest. Now that they've lost, according to the secretary of state of Florida, you're saying that that's an inappropriate way for them to contest the election.

BAKER: I didn't say it was inappropriate, and I didn't say it was not provided for in the statutes of Florida. I did say that it was an extraordinarily unusual approach, that we have never had a presidential election in this country go to a court contest of the election outcome. In fact, we've never had a court contest of a statewide election in Florida.

QUESTION: If I could follow up?

BAKER: And what I did say was that we've had count after count after recount. We've had postponements imposed by the Florida judiciary, all of which we have respected. And under all of the rules, those existing before the election, at the election, and even after the election, every time there has been a count, Governor Bush and Secretary Cheney have won.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... to contest the results. Will you do so?

BAKER: We would not file contest of the election results, except as a defensive measure, perhaps as a counterclaim in any contests that the other side might file.

But I would hope, as you could indicate from my statement, that we would not--that the country would not be put through the trauma of contest of the election results.

Thank you very much.


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