December 13, 2000
Four politicians discuss the political fallout from the presidential election battle.
Note: This segment aired before the national addresses by Al Gore and George W. Bush.
IFILL: We test those political waters now with two Republicans, Senator
Olympia Snowe of Maine, and former Congressman Vin Weber of Minnesota;
and two Democrats, Congressman Harold Ford of Tennessee, and former New
York Governor Mario Cuomo.
Senator Snowe, you spent part of your day meeting with Vice President-elect - it would seem -- Dick Cheney up on the Hill. He met with five moderate Senators. What was the purpose of that meeting and what did you take away from it?
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE: Well, the purpose was to talk to Vice President-elect Cheney about our group and in wanting to work together in a constructive way on an agenda that is going to be important to the future of this country and particularly under these very difficult and arduous circumstances. And the fact that Vice President-elect Cheney was willing to come to the Hill and to meet with us, I think it's an indication of how President-elect Bush and Vice President-elect Cheney intend to approach the issues that are going to be critical to this country.
GWEN IFILL: Senator, do the circumstances of this election make the prospect of unity more difficult, or does it make it easier?
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE: Well, I think that in fact we could argue that given the narrow margins in the House of Representatives and the course of the evenly split Senate that it will require if not compel us to work together in a bipartisan way to make sure that we achieve legislative results, and I was encouraged last week when our centrist coalition of which I'm a co-chair with John Breaux, the Democrat from Louisiana, in which 26 members of the United States Senate, almost a third of the membership attended the meeting and indicated a willingness to meet on a weekly basis throughout the Senate session in order to develop issues that are important, to be a constructive force in making sure that we can overcome the impediments and the obstacles that would exist under this evenly divided Senate. So I take heart in that. And there was a real strong expression of interest on both sides of the political aisle that we should work together in a way to achieve early success in issues such as education and of course on the budget resolution.
GWEN IFILL: Governor Cuomo, you've given an important speech or two in your time. What is it that Governor Bush and Vice President Gore need to say tonight?
|Themes instead of programs|
MARIO CUOMO: Well, I think they need to talk in terms of themes instead of specific programs. That will be an advantage for Governor Bush because Governor Bush it seems to me by a confluence of circumstance here has lost most of his agenda. Certainly after the performance by the Supreme Court, you can forget about anybody challenging Roe against Wade with a new judge of the type of Thomas or Scalia who were advanced as icons by Governor Bush. That is gone. So the abortion issue is gone. The big tax cut is gone. And probably the Social Security privatization is gone. So Governor Bush's problem is he is going to be limited to some issues that are mostly Democratic. He is going to have to talk about education, delighted especially if you spend some money; he'll have to talk about the patient's Bill of Rights which he boasted he had done in his own state; but his own agenda has disappeared and to the extent that it turned on a conservative bench, that is going to be some fun, watching him try to add to Thomas and Scalia. So he'll have to be thematic and he'll have to be obvious.
GWEN IFILL: What about Vice President Gore?
MARIO CUOMO: Vice President Gore, who has done extremely well here not just because he won the popular vote but because he has a Senate now that is 50/50 and because he has a House that is much closer and to some extent you have to give him credit for that. So he is in a strong position. He should be generous, he should be obvious again saying thank you to the people who helped him and by pledging absolute support for Governor Bush. I would love to see them come together for Christmastime and get together and make a present to the whole United States of America; they are going to work together. He'll do it I think well.
GWEN IFILL: Mr. Weber, could you respond to some of Governor Cuomo's comments about the degree to which George W. Bush is limited and also to the larger issue that some Democrats have raised today about the legitimacy of this presidency?
VIN WEBER: First, I think the presidency is legitimate once the president stands up and takes the oath of office. I think most Americans will agree with that. There are certainly going to be some people that will have an interest in questioning that legitimacy. I don't think it will be the majority. I don't think it will be most people in either party. In terms of the agenda I don't quite agree with Governor Cuomo. I certainly think that Governor Bush, President-elect Bush perhaps, will come into office cognizant of the fact that the Congress is very evenly divided and that the country was very evenly divided. But to say that everything he talked about in the campaign is sort of washed away by that leaves you with nothing. The fact is that there has been bipartisan support for many of the things that the governor talked about in the campaign. And he needs to talk to people like Congressman Harold Ford and like Senator Olympia Snowe and talk about the way in which he can assessable a bipartisan coalition on behalf of some of the initiatives he did talk about in the campaign. And he has to display a flexibility and a spirit of compromise in approaching those, but if you wipe that agenda away, you are really left with nothing.
GWEN IFILL: Congressman Ford, after all the talk or the signals being sent from the Gore camp that the vice president should be statesmanlike tonight, there are a lot of Democrats who are questioning this election, who are questioning the outcome of this election. Will Democrats ever embrace George W. Bush as president?
|A prolonged presidential battle|
REP. HAROLD FORD, JR.: We are a great nation and I thank my colleague for urging the governor - the president-elect to reach out to me. We are a great nation, a resilient one, an enduring one and I'm confident that Democrats will be able to work with this president, work with his administration but without a doubt there is a lot of frustration. As Governor Cuomo mentioned, Al Gore was the winner of the popular vote. He might be the winner of the popular vote in Florida. The court has spoken though. We respect the rule of law. This campaign does and certainly my colleagues in Congress do. I think two things that Governor Bush could do right away that could help allay some of the concerns and allow an agenda to be pushed forward in addition to some of the issues that Governor Cuomo raised - one would be to push immediately or to promote an electoral reform which would allow for voting machines to be modernized and to even take a hard look at the Electoral College. And two would be to perhaps grab on to Senator McCain's idea of campaign finance reform. One is non-controversial; the other is somewhat controversial, but I think it would send a clear message to Democrats and Republicans that he is willing to work across party lines and even willing to take a look at some of the things he said during the campaign and even broaden his perspective on those issues. So it's my hope that Olympia Snowe's organization, the Senate, the group that we formed in the House will be able to work closely with President-elect Bush and Vice President-elect Cheney, if I can in fact be so bold as to speak about what may happen in a few hours, and look forward to actually doing something on behalf of the people in Tennessee and all across this nation.
GWEN IFILL: Senator Snowe, how -- should Vice President Gore have fought so long and so hard? Should he have prolonged this election the way he did?
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE: Well, you know, I don't fault him for that. I mean, he had every right and prerogative to pursue the political and the legal course, that was extended to both candidates. I think everybody understands that. This was a very difficult and arduous process and in complex to say the least. So I think everybody understands exactly why he pursued the course he did.
REP. HAROLD FORD, JR.: I think it's important to note the court stipulated there were votes that had not been counted and their remedy was one which the majority offered was one they did not believe could be accomplished in time to meet this safe harbor period, to preserve this safe harbor period. So I heard one of the earlier guests indicate that the vice president ought to be apologetic. There were votes that were not counted and he sought to have those votes counted. I can live with this outcome; I don't mean to sound bitter at all, and I don't think my colleagues in the House, Democratic colleagues, are going to be bitter but it's important to note that he was only trying to ensure that all voices were heard and all votes would be counted. And the irony is all the votes are going to be counted at some point, and I just hope that the person who does occupy the White House actually received the most votes in Florida.
GWEN IFILL: Governor Cuomo do you expect that Democrats over the next two years are going to use the way this election turned out as an issue against Republicans?
|Judged on how he performs|
MARIO CUOMO: You know, I don't know that you can actually specifically relate backward and say you know, they stole the election or we won the popular vote. I think we are so current oriented, we're such a dynamic nation, so much is happening, we are now global and every day new events will occupy our attention, and I think we won't have time to look back and consider how Bush got there. He'll be judged on how he performs. He is going to make some appointments and he will be judged on that. He'll deliver his inaugural address and he'll be judged; the state of the union, he will be judged. He'll meet with Netanyahu or Barak, et cetera, et cetera, and so I think he has a good opportunity to function. He is going to be limited in his agenda; again, I think Congressman Ford is absolutely right, the reform agenda will be available to him and the Democrats will be delighted to participate in that. Education will be available. Healthcare will be available. But his big pieces are gone. He is not going to be able to do anything about Roe against Wade; that's clear. He is not going to have his big tax cut - not just because it's so close in the Congress but because of where the economy is at the moment. The idea of giving a $1.4 trillion tax cut is now a mirage. Nor is he going to be able to privatize Social Security, and Vin Weber is right. That does leave him with nothing in terms of his own agenda. And he is going to have to get down to where the Democrats are. And I'm delighted with that prospect.
GWEN IFILL: Does that make the year 2002 and 2004 a real challenge for Republicans?
VIN WEBER: Sure, it is a challenge for Republicans; it's a challenge for Democrats. I just have to again dissent a little bit from Governor Cuomo -
REP. HAROLD FORD, JR.: Do you respectfully dissent?
VIN WEBER: I respectfully or very respectfully dissent. The governor's agenda is alive, is that flexible - certainly -- does he have to reach out to Democrats and moderate Republicans as he puts the details together around any plan on Social Security and taxation? Certainly, but to say that that agenda which he talked about and which was supported in the polls is dead is simply not the right way for this governor -- this president to proceed in my view.
GWEN IFILL: Senator Snowe, I heard you trying to get in.
SEN. OLYMPIA SNOWE: That's correct because I somewhat disagree with Governor Cuomo on the fact that President-elect Bush has lost some of his agenda. In fact, to the contrary, education was a centerpiece of his campaign. He talked about what he did in Texas and what he wanted to do at the federal level to improve the quality of education in America as well as ensuring that there was accountability -- and to deliver more funds for education. In fact, Vice President-elect Cheney said today that they intend to pursue an education agenda. Our conversations in the centrist coalition said that in fact we weren't that far apart between Democrats and Republicans in fashioning legislation on the issue of education early on in the session so that we can demonstrate to the American people that there is a strong group in the Senate, there's a strong group in Congress who can work on these issues that are important like education. And the same is true for example with Social Security and prescription drugs, those are issues that he talked about during the course of the campaign and tax cuts. It may not be the size but clearly as Cheney indicated today, they do intend to pursue particularly - tax cuts - particularly because there is a declining economy, and all the more important and I know Democrats are interested in passing some tax cuts concerning marriage penalty and estate tax relief as well.
MARIO CUOMO: I agree if I may. Again. I think we are all agreeing now and I'm particularly pleased. You are absolutely right. Now he is going to spend money on education, that is very much something that appeals to the Democrat and Vin Weber is right maybe that the polls agree with him but let's keep it clear. The Electoral College makes George Bush president but the votes were still with the Gore agenda; more people voted for Al Gore's agenda than voted for Bush's agenda. You can't neglect that.
GWEN IFILL: We are going to have to continue this conversation another time. Thank you all for joining us.