12/05) Lieberman asks Democrats for Continued Support

Tuesday, December 5, 2000

Following is the transcript of Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's news conference on Capitol Hill. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt introduced Lieberman.

REP. RICHARD GEPHARDT: Al Gore and Joe Lieberman enjoy strong support with our caucus for what they're doing to try to get every vote counted in Florida. They have strong support for their effort to go to the Supreme Court of Florida and to get a full review of the decision that was rendered yesterday in the circuit court.

And I'd like to now call on Joe Lieberman to give you his view of where we are, but I wanted all of you to know that the Democratic Party is strongly supporting everything that's being done in this contest by the Gore-Lieberman ticket.

Joe Lieberman?

SEN. JOSEPH I. LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Dick.


Thank you. Thanks from the bottom of my heart to Dick Gephardt and to all the leaders who are here today, for their friendship and their support throughout this campaign and for the tremendous support that was just given in this meeting by them and by the rank and file of the House Democratic Caucus.

This was a most encouraging meeting for me, and I will certainly convey the substance and the spirit of it to Vice President Gore. I think the members of the House Democratic Caucus feel, as Al Gore and I did, proud of the race we ran, proud of the principles we ran on, grateful for the support we received throughout America, winning in the popular vote, as of today, 267 electoral votes, and confident that a majority of those that went to vote in Florida intended to vote for Al Gore for president of the United States. And that simply principle, as you know, is what we are continuing to pursue in the courts of Florida.

We have always said that the final arbiter of the contest over the election in Florida would not be any of the candidates for president or vice president, or not even the secretary of state of Florida, but the Florida Supreme Court.

This is the court that we took our substantive argument to; they responded favorably. Their judgment has been frustrated by the actions of various parties along the way.

Yesterday, of course, Judge Sauls' decision was a disappointment. But with all respect, we believe and our lawyer certainly believe that that decision was wrong on the law. And we, therefore, go to the final arbiter, the Florida Supreme Court, the system of justice, the rule of law for a judgment in this case, which we think will be the final judgment, and we hope, and sincerely believe, will be a favorable judgment for us.

We're also confident that this can be done expeditiously, both the judgment of the Florida Supreme Court and the count of that ballots that we hope and believe will result from that judgment.

So, most of all, it was a very good meeting. It was a positive meeting. In fact, members of the caucus had very good ideas and arguments on our behalf to keep this cause moving forward successfully.

And the word we heard was "adelante." Forward.

QUESTION: Senator, the Florida Supreme Court, is that it, win or lose, for you?

LIEBERMAN: We said that's the kind of decision and judgment that will be made by the vice president. But we've always said that the Florida Supreme Court will be the final arbiter.

And if, as I hope and believe, we win in the Florida Supreme Court, there aren't many other places to go. We won't need to go anywhere else. And I think the Bush campaign and the Republicans will not have anywhere else to go, certainly not within the judicial system.

So I think we can conclude this in a timely way. This is an unprecedented situation, the closest election for president in American history. It has, in that sense, been an unprecedented test of our democracy. But I think every American and both political parties should feel, at this moment, encouraged and proud of the way we are dealing with this.

If you talk to people as I have in recent days from outside of the United States of America, they're impressed by the way we're dealing with this. We settle these kinds of disputes with the rule of law and civil procedures, not with civil wars or violence, and that's the way we feel about this next step.

QUESTION: Are you confident that the votes that you want to be counted will be counted?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I'm hopeful. You know, the Florida Supreme Court essentially said in its decision a while ago that the ballots should be counted in those three counties where there were questions.

That was what Florida law required. Once a judgment was made by the county canvassing board that there was evidence to justify the hand count, then the hand count had to go forward. As the law says, it's a mandatory obligation. So we were surprised and very disappointed, for instance, when the Miami-Dade County board decided not to fulfill its obligation to count those votes. When the secretary of state refused to accept the votes counted by the Palm Beach board just because they were sent in two hours late, when she had discretion to send them in, we think, in each of these actions, the decision of the Florida Supreme Court, interpreting the law of Florida, making an essentially an order that these votes be counted by hand, was frustrated and blocked.

And, therefore, essentially what we're asking the Florida Supreme Court to do is to enable its previous decision to be implemented and for the votes to be counted. And, of course, we will all live with and abide by that decision.

QUESTION: Do you feel like the public patience is running out on this? Do you sense that?

LIEBERMAN: I honestly don't. As I talk to people--and this is all impressionistic--you know, there are people who feel intensely, in parts of both camps. But I think the great majority of people are watching this with interest. They're patient. They know that there's no crisis in the United States of America, that the government is proceeding and stable. And, frankly, I think as the weeks have gone on, a lot of them have, in the fullness of their common sense, turned to other mattes, such as preparing for the holidays.

So I think that we're talking here about days to reach a conclusion that a majority of the American people can feel, as time goes on, was fair, and people around the world can look at and say, "Look, the United States, even in this test, met the test."

Dick Gephardt made a point the other day that I think is so important to keep coming back to, that next year, someone--some university or a group of students--will under a Freedom of Information action in Florida go in and gather these ballots and count them.

And it will not be good for our country, it will not be good for whoever is president then, if the result of that count would justify the seating in office of someone other than the one who was there.

So let's end it as best we can, in the most credible way that will give the most legitimacy and authority to our next president. And then, win or lose, all of us will unite and go forward for the betterment of the country.

Thank you very much.