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Text: Vice President Gore Interviewed on CNN
Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Following is the transcript of Vice President Gore's interview with CNN's John King

JOHN KING: Well, let's get to the basics. The Republicans, every day now--it's been 22 days since the election--and Secretary Cheney again today, you know, trying to deliver a public message to convince the American people this is over, saying it is time for to you step aside and stop fighting in the courts an election, they say, you lost at the polls.

VICE PRESIDENT GORE: All the votes haven't been counted yet. And our democracy depends upon the principle of each person who wishes to vote, and is eligible to vote, and casts a legal vote, having that vote counted. The idea that people in charge of the election machinery can arbitrarily decide that some votes from areas where it might make a difference that they don't want to see make, and just arbitrarily set them aside, that's wrong--or for whatever reason they might decide to set some votes aside and just not count them.

That's wrong. The principle I'm fighting for, John, is that every single vote that's legally cast must be counted. And that--you know, that--it seems so simple and clear to me. I feel strongly about it.

KING: But they would argue you're asking for special treatment in the sense that those ballots--let's take the 10,700 in Miami-Dade County--that they were run through the machines and that the machines registered no vote for president. They would argue this happens, and that you're asking for all those to be manually inspected is asking for special treatment, not

(CROSSTALK)

GORE: Not at all. No. The law requires that when they are--when they have to be counted by hand--the machine doesn't pick them up, they have to be looked at and counted. Let me ask you this. Have you ever gone through the supermarket checkout line and they run the scanner computer over your items? What happens when it misses one? Do they give it to you for free?

No. They do a hand count of that item. And those computers are far more sophisticated than these Votomatic machines. That sounds like something out of the" Jetsons." And in fact, those machines are much more statistically likely to be found in low-income areas, with populations that don't have the big tax base to have the fancier up-to-date machines that don't make very many mistakes.

KING: There is a political battle going on, of course, during your legal challenge. And some ask if you feel so strongly that you won the election--and obviously, you do. Why not just come out and turn the tables on them and say: I believe I won the election. And I believe they are trying to steal the election?

GORE: Well, I've never used the phrase" steal the election." I think that's an intemperate phrase. And I think that both Governor Bush and I have an obligation during this period when the votes are yet to be counted to try to pave the way for whichever one of us wins to be able to unify the country.

You know, the only way to avoid having a cloud over the next president is to count all the votes. Because our country is based on the consent of the governed, and the consent of the governed can only come through a vote by the people. And all the people who vote legally have to have their votes counted; that's the basic principle. If all of the votes are counted, that's the best way to confer legitimacy on the outcome of the election.

And, you know, in a close race, which by definition is usually one where the passions are running high and the feelings are very strong, it's even more important than in any other kind of race to make sure that the outcome is one that's determined by the will of the people, by the votes cast by the people, not by politicians who have control of the election machinery and who decide, for whatever reason, to let some votes in that are legally cast and take other legally cast votes and exclude them.

That's wrong. And if the election is determined that way it would present a serious risk for the ability of whoever is the winner to bring the country together.

KING: Let's--I want to you to take me a, if you will, inside one aspect of your legal strategy. Your attorneys have been pushing and are now appealing to the Florida Supreme Court to speed up the process in the contest through which the judge would bring the ballots into the courtroom and start looking at them: the ballots from Miami-Dade County, as well as the 3,000-plus from Palm Beach County.

There is a legal argument there, but is there not also a political argument in the sense that you know what the public opinion polls say, you know it's been 22 days and we are an impatient society, how important is it to you politically, as part of that legal strategy, that the American people actually see, see they're still counting the votes; therefore this election is not over?

GORE: No, it's not a--that's not a political move. I mean, all of this is, of course, in part because I want to see an outcome that I think will declare that Joe Lieberman and I won the election. But more important than that, really more important than that is the principle that every vote should be counted, and that's important for our country, regardless of who the winner is.

Now, on the legal matter, I'll refer you to David Boies for that.

KING: OK, there--it has been 22 days, though, and if you look at the polling and 6 in 10 Americans say--even Americans who believe you and think that you won the election, 6 in 10 say it's time to move on?

GORE: Well, this is not an election about the election. This is a legal question. It's a question that goes to the heart of what America is all about. When votes are cast, they're counted. This is America. When you have people legally casting votes, you can't arbitrarily, or for whatever reason, just refuse to count them and set them aside.

And remember, there are far more than enough votes that have never been counted in this race to determine the outcome. There are more than 10,000 that have never been counted and the margin is a few hundred, and smaller than that if you look at the votes that have--that were counted and that the other side has filed lawsuit after lawsuit to try to keep out.

And remember, that's the cause of the delay here. We had the lawsuits filed by Governor Bush's team, they were first to go into the courts on this, they went to the U.S. Supreme Court, they filed delaying tactic after delaying tactic. They had people inside the building where the votes were being counted in Miami-Dade. These delaying tactics are wrong. We have to count the votes, that's really the most important point.

KING: I want to repeat something to you that came to me from a very close friend of yours and a longtime adviser, who said," Al believes passionately in this. Al believes he won and I believe he's right, but I do worry that we may reach a point where he's hurting himself," and that if it appears that this is slipping away, we reach a line where the 2004 calculation, your own viability comes into play.

Does that enter into your mind at all, that if this turns out in a way...

GORE: No.

KING: ... that is adverse to you, is there a point at which you need to think about your own future should you want to run again? And would you run again if this went the other way?

GORE: Look, you know, they started speculation about the 2000 race probably three years beforehand and it's not over yet. So, I mean, I hope that I'm going to be in a position to consider running for re-election in 2004.

But to answer your question seriously, John, whatever concern that I might have about myself is not even on the radar screen compared to the obligation that I feel to the 50 million people who supported Joe Lieberman and me, who believed in the agenda that we put forward, who gave us more votes than any Democratic ticket ever in the history of this country, more votes than any ticket with the exception of Ronald Reagan in 1984.

But a higher obligation still is the obligation I have to the Constitution and to the country to insist that the election have integrity and that it not be something that ends with a cloud of illegitimacy, and there is one way to do that and that is to count the votes.

And there are thousands and thousands of votes that have never been counted even once. The other side said, well, they've been run through the machine, but it's like that supermarket scanner: if the machine doesn't pick it up and you know that they don't pick up a lot of them, you look at it by hand. That's what the law says. That's what the law that Governor Bush signed in Texas says. So if you just use the Texas standard that Governor Bush supported and signed into law there, this would be the way to go. And under Florida law I think it's very clear that when the machines have this kind of error rate and they don't count votes, they have to be counted by hand.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KING: What do you think of everyday when you think of sustaining American public opinion through this? Because that's obviously important if you are to win and if you are to govern, and even if it turns out another way, just so the American people have faith in the process that you want them to stay with you with--stay with you through, I guess.

What do you think when you get up everyday in terms of when they--you know, out for interviews like this, or out in public statements, in terms of trying to convince the American people? You have talked about counting every vote, is there, in your mind, sort of a timeline in here that you have to get to? Even some Democrats saying they are with you, but this can't go on forever.

GORE: I think it's going to be over with by the middle of December for sure. But in terms of strategy tactics, all that, you know, it's really beside the point. I'm just focused on one simple goal and that is to insist that the votes that have been cast be counted. If people legally cast votes, they shouldn't be arbitrarily set aside, or set aside for any reason, they should be counted. Isn't that a simple principle? I think it is.

KING: This is obviously uncharted waters, unprecedented territory. One of the things happening as the legal challenge unfolds is the Florida legislature, controlled by Republicans, is having a process of hearings now, and they've been quite open about the possibility that if you succeed, if your challenge, your contest is upheld, and if they count those votes and the courts say, Al Gore won Florida, that they will regardless of that send to Washington a slate of Republican electors directed by the state legislature to vote for Governor Bush. What happens then?

GORE: I can't believe that the people of Florida want to see the expression of their will taken away by politicians. The people of Florida have the right to select the candidate for president that they--that they want.

If the politicians ever try to take that away from the people, I think you'd see--I think you'd see quite a negative response to it.

KING: This has been a town in turmoil for the last few years: the impeachment debate, relations between the Clinton-Gore administration and the Republican Congress. Even the impeachment debate aside not always great.

Do you see this going to the United States Congress? Do you have a sense of how the country would deal with that?

GORE: I can--I do not. I think this is all going to be over with by the middle of December.

KING: Let me ask you to follow up with that: Let's assume you succeed. You will take office on January 20th with a Republican Senate, very narrowly, but a Republican Senate, and a Republican House--again very narrow. They will make the case that you stole the election. Tom DeLay--do you think you can govern in that environment?

GORE: I think that the best insurance for our country against either side feeling that the outcome was not legitimate is to put it in the hands of the people. That's why it's so important to count every vote. If the people of the United States of America in their individual states--in this case in Florida--make a judgment through their votes, then that can't be overturned. That's not to be questioned.

And again, when the elections are close and hard fought, it's even more important than in any other time to leave the final decision not with the politicians, not with the people who control the election machinery, but with the people. That's what our country is all about.

The revolutionary breakthrough more than 200 years ago that led to our nation, the greatest in the history of the world, was the brave decision by our founders to place ultimate trust in the people of this country. And whenever the decisions about who's going to lead America are made, they're made by the people. And anybody who tries to tamper with that is running against the American spirit, the will of the people, and everything this country is based on.

KING: Two more quick questions: You were in this room, very room, a short time ago with your running mate, Senator Lieberman...

GORE: Right.

KING: ... Roy Neel, your longtime friend and adviser, talking transition.

GORE: Right.

KING: Where are you in that process? And are you ready--obviously, you know, the public part of that at least delayed by the contest of the election...

GORE: Right.

KING: Do you have a Cabinet in mind? Do you--where are you?

GORE: Yes. I've made a lot of progress. Joe and I have been working very hard on it, and we've tried to keep it a private process.

And I said the other night that I thought it was time for both Governor Bush and I to move forward on this process. I choose to do it in a--in a way that doesn't put a lot of names out there. He can choose his own way of doing it. I'm not criticizing whatever approach he takes there.

But I think it's in the national interest that both of us be thorough and meticulous in preparing for the transition that's going to take place for one of us on January the 20th. And I will be ready.

KING: We have in this conversation talked about politics and polling, lawyers and legal briefs, courts, votes, counts. This has to be emotionally a pretty amazing roller-coaster, having gone through the campaign and being exhausted at the end. We spoke near the end of the campaign. It's a tiring ordeal.

GORE: You were, too.

KING: I sure was. And it's 22 days later, and you know, you win one day, you win one decision, it seems just hours later something goes against you. Then you win another one and something goes against you...

GORE: It's an incredible story, the way it's unfolded, isn't it?

KING: What--what goes through your mind and who do you reach out to when you want to get away from the lawyers and the consultant to just have a little bit of personal peace?

GORE: My family, and faith and family, as I've said to you before, is really the center of my life. And this is some--it is an unusual time, because you prepare yourself to win. You prepare yourself for the possibility that you won't win. You don't really prepare yourself for the possibility that you flip the coin in the air and it lands on its edge and you get neither outcome.

But it's a heck of a lot of easier than the campaign schedule, I'll tell you that. It's nice to sleep in the same bed every night and to be surrounded by my family and to get seven, eight hours sleep and exercise every day. So in many ways, it's much more relaxing and much easier than the campaign trail.

KING: Relaxing? The uncertainty doesn't drive you crazy?

GORE: It's all relative. It's relative. I said more so than the campaign.

KING: All right. We Would appreciate your time.

GORE: Playing with my grandson, for example, that's--which I've been doing a lot of lately, that's--that's pretty relaxing.

KING: What will your grandson's eight-grade history book say about this?

GORE: That the--that the Gore-Lieberman administration was a great success following one of the most exciting and closely fought election contests in American history. That's what I hope it'll say.

KING: We will see.

GORE: Yes.

KING: Thank you very much.

GORE: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you.


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