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Sunday, 19 November, 2000, 13:25 GMT
Gary Hart and Warren Hoge
BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW
GARY HART, FORMER USA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, AND WARREN HOGE, NEW YORK TIMES NOVEMBER 19th, 2000 Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used DAVID FROST
Well although this is an election like no other, we're delighted to be joined by a man who tried to win the nomination for the Democrats, of course, Gary Hart, the Democratic senator for Colorado withdrew from the race in May 1988, then six months later George Bush Snr went on, of course, to become President. And we welcome you now, great pleasure to have you with us. Your reflections on the latest news, first of all. GARY HART
Well it's democracy in action. I think the American people are taking a deep breath, they're not put off by this at all. And I think our friends outside the United States should take the same point of view. Irregularities occur in every democratic election in any country. They just happen to be important in this case because the race is so close. DAVID FROST
And in fact, you think it's a good advertisement rather than a bad advertisement for democracy? GARY HART
In the long run, yes, once the decision's made. And it will be made I would say fairly quickly. This has been a transparent operation, the recount. People can see what's going on, both in the courts and in the actual recount halls, so there are no secrets. So I think, I think on balance it's a, it's been beneficial. DAVID FROST
And without having to put any cash on your answer here, but I mean, do you think it will be resolved on Monday or Tuesday or not? Or do you think it's going to run and run? GARY HART
If the Supreme Court of Florida permits the hand recount, personal recount to go forward and that recount begins to show an increasing Gore vote it could go on for a while. I don't think that will happen. DAVID FROST
You think that in fact the Florida court will rule out the hand ballots? GARY HART
I think there's more than even probability that will happen. DAVID FROST
And can the President in that case, George Bush Jnr, can he be a strong President? I mean people tend to say, oh, he won't have any authority. But I think whoever becomes President, within two months everyone wants an invitation to the White House, to be photographed with the President, as I said to the President last night, well I reckon, and all of that, and I think this will pass quite quickly. Or am I being over-optimistic? GARY HART
Well, I think in the sense that you're talking about powerful, certainly the power of the office will be there. There is almost no mandate for two reasons. Governor Bush did not run on any particular specific platform, aside from massive tax cuts which are not going to happen. Beyond that there is no Bush agenda. And second, the fact of the matter is he has no mandate. He may be legitimately President, but the Congress is so sharply divided, and the votes are so close, and he will be a plurality President in terms of the numbers of votes cast, and President by virtue of three electoral votes, he simply has no leverage to initiate any bold ventures, I would say. DAVID FROST
Some people think it's going to be said, some Democrats say it's going to be so difficult, actually so difficult that they actually hope that George Bush Jnr wins and then they come back in the Congressional elections in two years' time. But that's, that's a risky gamble. GARY HART
I think it's a very risky gamble. A lot can happen. I think almost everyone believes the economy will turn down. The President, whether he deserves to be or not, will be blamed for that in a way. It will happen on his watch. And I think that the one thing that's safe to say is that when the decision is made, the campaign will be suspended until January 21st, 2001 and it will resume the day after the inaugural. DAVID FROST
And the other thing about the American constitution is of course that you do, no one thought it would be needed, but you have two months before you need the President, or need to know who he is. GARY HART
It's primarily because of these kinds of considerations. DAVID FROST
Well, we're joined now also by Warren Hoge, the Bureau Chief of the great New York Times. Warren, why do you think, basically what Gary was just saying, why do you think that whatever the outcome, why, these particular things, why did the economy not work better for Gore? WARREN HOGE
It's, it was the central fact of this election wasn't it? Eight years ago the mantra was, "it's the economy - stupid" and eight years later it didn't work at all. I think part of it is I think Gore didn't run a very good campaign. I think he could have exploited more than he did. But that, and then I think the second reason is I think people are becoming so accustomed to a good economy now that they no longer give credit to the person responsible for it. And they are willing to substitute the leader, secure in the knowledge that it will continue to go that way. I agree with Gary that I think actually what's going to happen in the years to come is that at least a soft landing and maybe even a hard one and whoever is President will get blamed for it. DAVID FROST
They'll get blamed for it, so they'll lose votes. Though Gore didn't gain votes WARREN HOGE
They don't get credit for it but they'll get blamed for it when it goes wrong. DAVID FROST
Yes. Well of course John Major had a very strong economy when he lost last time but that was after 18 years of Tory rule so that was a different people here, of course, say there must be some other solution, it's all so complicated, could there be a coalition? Could they do two years each? All of those things would be instantly forbidden by the constitution presumably, and loathed by the American people? GARY HART
I think the victor, whomever it turns out to be, I'd say Governor Bush, will de facto form a coalition government. I think senior positions in the cabinet, if he's smart, and I think those around him at least are, will be offered to senior statespersons of the opposition party. It's exactly what John Kennedy did in 1960, with Doug Dillon and Robert McNamara. And I think George Bush will do the same thing. And I would imagine that Al Gore would if he were to win. DAVID FROST
And would there be, do you think, Warren, any changes, some people, should the counting systems be changed, should anything about the system, has the system not worked or worked? And should it be changed? WARREN HOGE
I think the system has worked. I think that this transparency right now means that we're being laughed at and made fun of around the world, but that's not a very heavy price to pay for the fact that it's wide open and to be seen by everybody. As working - it's all based in law and this thing is being fought out interpretations of the law, so I think the system is working. As far as what should be changed, this is under our constitution something that belongs in the states. And I think it ought to continue with the states. I think certainly something as minimal as a common ballot would probably be a good idea. That would not intrude on states' rights and that would eliminate an awful lot of the problems you've had in Florida. DAVID FROST
Yes, because of course on the popular vote thing, we've had in this country of course at least twice since the war, 1951 when Churchill didn't have the whole of the national vote in a majority, and nor indeed in '74 did Harold Wilson, did the? They both didn't. How traumatic is it if we have a President of the United States who didn't win the popular vote? He would have won the electoral college vote. GARY HART
It feeds in to the factor that we were discussing before about to a degree the legitimacy which is now becoming an overworked word. But certainly it feeds into the issue of the mandate. And I think pundits if no one else, observers, the commentators and so on will continually remind the American people and the Congress that this is a plurality President, and one of the first Presidents in over 120 years not to have won the popular vote. So that will constantly be a reminder, that equation. DAVID FROST
And in fact, the television networks of course have their share of criticism in terms of an early call for Gore in Florida. WARREN HOGE
David, can I just say one thing about the mandate. While I agree with Gary the mandate will be damaged at home. Once he becomes President, he is the President of the United States. And the office is bigger than the man and abroad he then becomes leader of the world superpower. And it doesn't matter by how many votes he won the race. GARY HART
I agree with that. In foreign policy and security policy he will be the President. DAVID FROST
And what do you think, what do you think, in fact, Warren is going to happen? We had Gary's prediction early on. The next few days? BBC BREAKFAST WITH FROST INTERVIEW
GARY HART, FORMER USA PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE, AND WARREN HOGE, NEW YORK TIMES NOVEMBER 19th, 2000 Please note "BBC Breakfast with Frost" must be credited if any part of this transcript is used DAVID FROST
Well although this is an election like no other, we're delighted to be joined by a man who tried to win the nomination for the Democrats, of course, Gary Hart, the Democratic senator for Colorado withdrew from the race in May 1988, then six months later George Bush Snr went on, of course, to become President. And we welcome you now, great pleasure to have you with us. Your reflections on the latest news, first of all. GARY HART
Well it's democracy in action. I think the American people are taking a deep breath, they're not put off by this at all. And I think our friends outside the United States should take the same point of view. Irregularities occur in every democratic election in any country. They just happen to be important in this case because the race is so close. DAVID FROST
And in fact, you think it's a good advertisement rather than a bad advertisement for democracy? GARY HART
In the long run, yes, once the decision's made. And it will be made I would say fairly quickly. This has been a transparent operation, the recount. People can see what's going on, both in the courts and in the actual recount halls, so there are no secrets. So I think, I think on balance it's a, it's been beneficial. DAVID FROST
And without having to put any cash on your answer here, but I mean, do you think it will be resolved on Monday or Tuesday or not? Or do you think it's going to run and run? GARY HART
If the Supreme Court of Florida permits the hand recount, personal recount to go forward and that recount begins to show an increasing Gore vote it could go on for a while. I don't think that will happen. DAVID FROST
You think that in fact the Florida court will rule out the hand ballots? GARY HART
I think there's more than even probability that will happen. DAVID FROST
And can the President in that case, George Bush Jnr, can he be a strong President? I mean people tend to say, oh, he won't have any authority. But I think whoever becomes President, within two months everyone wants an invitation to the White House, to be photographed with the President, as I said to the President last night, well I reckon, and all of that, and I think this will pass quite quickly. Or am I being over-optimistic? GARY HART
Well, I think in the sense that you're talking about powerful, certainly the power of the office will be there. There is almost no mandate for two reasons. Governor Bush did not run on any particular specific platform, aside from massive tax cuts which are not going to happen. Beyond that there is no Bush agenda. And second, the fact of the matter is he has no mandate. He may be legitimately President, but the Congress is so sharply divided, and the votes are so close, and he will be a plurality President in terms of the numbers of votes cast, and President by virtue of three electoral votes, he simply has no leverage to initiate any bold ventures, I would say. DAVID FROST
Some people think it's going to be said, some Democrats say it's going to be so difficult, actually so difficult that they actually hope that George Bush Jnr wins and then they come back in the Congressional elections in two years' time. But that's, that's a risky gamble. GARY HART
I think it's a very risky gamble. A lot can happen. I think almost everyone believes the economy will turn down. The President, whether he deserves to be or not, will be blamed for that in a way. It will happen on his watch. And I think that the one thing that's safe to say is that when the decision is made, the campaign will be suspended until January 21st, 2001 and it will resume the day after the inaugural. DAVID FROST
And the other thing about the American constitution is of course that you do, no one thought it would be needed, but you have two months before you need the President, or need to know who he is. GARY HART
It's primarily because of these kinds of considerations. DAVID FROST
Well, we're joined now also by Warren Hoge, the Bureau Chief of the great New York Times. Warren, why do you think, basically what Gary was just saying, why do you think that whatever the outcome, why, these particular things, why did the economy not work better for Gore? WARREN HOGE
It's, it was the central fact of this election wasn't it? Eight years ago the mantra was, "it's the economy - stupid" and eight years later it didn't work at all. I think part of it is I think Gore didn't run a very good campaign. I think he could have exploited more than he did. But that, and then I think the second reason is I think people are becoming so accustomed to a good economy now that they no longer give credit to the person responsible for it. And they are willing to substitute the leader, secure in the knowledge that it will continue to go that way. I agree with Gary that I think actually what's going to happen in the years to come is that at least a soft landing and maybe even a hard one and whoever is President will get blamed for it. DAVID FROST
They'll get blamed for it, so they'll lose votes. Though Gore didn't gain votes WARREN HOGE
They don't get credit for it but they'll get blamed for it when it goes wrong. DAVID FROST
Yes. Well of course John Major had a very strong economy when he lost last time but that was after 18 years of Tory rule so that was a different people here, of course, say there must be some other solution, it's all so complicated, could there be a coalition? Could they do two years each? All of those things would be instantly forbidden by the constitution presumably, and loathed by the American people? GARY HART
I think the victor, whomever it turns out to be, I'd say Governor Bush, will de facto form a coalition government. I think senior positions in the cabinet, if he's smart, and I think those around him at least are, will be offered to senior statespersons of the opposition party. It's exactly what John Kennedy did in 1960, with Doug Dillon and Robert McNamara. And I think George Bush will do the same thing. And I would imagine that Al Gore would if he were to win. DAVID FROST
And would there be, do you think, Warren, any changes, some people, should the counting systems be changed, should anything about the system, has the system not worked or worked? And should it be changed? WARREN HOGE
I think the system has worked. I think that this transparency right now means that we're being laughed at and made fun of around the world, but that's not a very heavy price to pay for the fact that it's wide open and to be seen by everybody. As working - it's all based in law and this thing is being fought out interpretations of the law, so I think the system is working. As far as what should be changed, this is under our constitution something that belongs in the states. And I think it ought to continue with the states. I think certainly something as minimal as a common ballot would probably be a good idea. That would not intrude on states' rights and that would eliminate an awful lot of the problems you've had in Florida. DAVID FROST
Yes, because of course on the popular vote thing, we've had in this country of course at least twice since the war, 1951 when Churchill didn't have the whole of the national vote in a majority, and nor indeed in '74 did Harold Wilson, did the? They both didn't. How traumatic is it if we have a President of the United States who didn't win the popular vote? He would have won the electoral college vote. GARY HART
It feeds in to the factor that we were discussing before about to a degree the legitimacy which is now becoming an overworked word. But certainly it feeds into the issue of the mandate. And I think pundits if no one else, observers, the commentators and so on will continually remind the American people and the Congress that this is a plurality President, and one of the first Presidents in over 120 years not to have won the popular vote. So that will constantly be a reminder, that equation. DAVID FROST
And in fact, the television networks of course have their share of criticism in terms of an early call for Gore in Florida. WARREN HOGE
David, can I just say one thing about the mandate. While I agree with Gary the mandate will be damaged at home. Once he becomes President, he is the President of the United States. And the office is bigger than the man and abroad he then becomes leader of the world superpower. And it doesn't matter by how many votes he won the race. GARY HART
I agree with that. In foreign policy and security policy he will be the President. DAVID FROST
And what do you think, what do you think, in fact, Warren is going to happen? We had Gary's prediction early on. The next few days? WARREN HOGE
I won't touch that, David, because this has been something where the predictions have been wrong all along because it keeps changing. I think, what I think, apart from Gary, is I think it's going to go on longer. I think you won't get resolution that quickly. And the last thing I think is, an awful lot about the outcome depends upon the conduct of the candidates now. They are all talking, giving lip service to the idea of national duty but they are demonising eachother daily more and more and today, in particular. And that could have an effect, plus the conduct of the person who wins, that's going to have a big effect on how effective the President is going to be. GARY HART
Just one comment. The reason, part of the reason these candidates are hanging on is, part of the campaign that John McCain made this year, and I made 15 years ago, and that is the corruption of the system by money. This is big business now and a lot of people, a lot of powerful people have given a lot of money to these candidates. And they don't want them just to drop out. So there are a lot of people with their thumbs in their back. DAVID FROST
Well as you've been observing in Britain, the fact that, in fact we don't have any commercials on our elections takes away the money from the race and that's a good idea. It gives us party political broadcasts which some people regard as a fine sleeping pill but it does remove the money problem. Thank you both. Great pleasure to have you both with us. END
I won't touch that, David, because this has been something where the predictions have been wrong all along because it keeps changing. I think, what I think, apart from Gary, is I think it's going to go on longer. I think you won't get resolution that quickly. And the last thing I think is, an awful lot about the outcome depends upon the conduct of the candidates now. They are all talking, giving lip service to the idea of national duty but they are demonising eachother daily more and more and today, in particular. And that could have an effect, plus the conduct of the person who wins, that's going to have a big effect on how effective the President is going to be. GARY HART
Just one comment. The reason, part of the reason these candidates are hanging on is, part of the campaign that John McCain made this year, and I made 15 years ago, and that is the corruption of the system by money. This is big business now and a lot of people, a lot of powerful people have given a lot of money to these candidates. And they don't want them just to drop out. So there are a lot of people with their thumbs in their back. DAVID FROST
Well as you've been observing in Britain, the fact that, in fact we don't have any commercials on our elections takes away the money from the race and that's a good idea. It gives us party political broadcasts which some people regard as a fine sleeping pill but it does remove the money problem. Thank you both. Great pleasure to have you both with us. END
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