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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Mike Vasilinda was the chief Florida correspondent for NBC affiliate stations, providing news
coverage for Florida's News Channel and live shots for major domestic and foreign networks
(1). He begins the interview by describing the day after the 2000 election, when he went to the
Florida Capitol to begin coverage (1). He emphasizes the chaos of reporters from several
countries converging; Vasilinda appeared on television repeatedly to offer commentary, calling
newspapers moot due to the constant information flow (2-3). He details a typical post-election
day as a reporter and mentions that he fortunately had contacts in each campaign (3-4).
According to Vasilinda, his team was ahead of the national media in exploring the chad problem
(5). He gauges the performance of the media, citing overall satisfaction but displeasure in what
he perceived as trying to force a premature end to the recount (5-6).
Turning from media to public relations, he praises the cooperativeness of the campaigns but
criticizes the "bunker mentality" of Katherine Harris as he assesses her role in the recount fiasco
(6-8). Governor Jeb Bush is also appraised (8-9). Vasilinda characterizes the Republican public
relations campaign as much more organized and effective than that of the Democrats, touching
on the possibility of Republican-orchestrated "protests" (9-10). He praises the major state court
decisions involved and the Republican decision to create an aura of chaos in aftermath (11).
Futher, he considers Jesse Jackson's appearance, describing it as poorly orchestrated (12).
Vasilinda discusses legalities next, first rejecting the legitimacy of the Palm Beach County
butterfly ballot challenge (12-13). He comments on Al Gore's strategy of protesting the election
in four counties, stating that contesting would have streamlined the process and prevented U.S.
Supreme Court intervention (13). He talks about the arguments before the U.S. and Florida
Supreme Courts and the 11th Circuit Court (14-16). He discusses problems with voter intent,
including overvoting, and mentions inconsistencies in whether votes were to be re-tallied or
recounted (16-17). He discusses the Seminole County case as an example of how Republicans
forced Democrats to work from a defensive standpoint (17-18). He discusses fraudulent
overseas military absentee votes, another example (19). Vasilinda touches on Katherine Harris's
partisanship with regards to the November 26 recount deadline in Palm Beach County, and her
subsequent state Supreme Court suit to block the recount (20). He speculates on the Miami-
Dade recount halt and the Florida House's decision to seat Bush electors (21-22). He discusses
the conduct of the Florida Supreme Court and the Legislature (23-26). He comments on the
majority and dissent opinions, and states that although the U.S. Supreme Court's reputation was
smudged temporarily, the issue faded with the events of September 11, 2001 (27-28). He
stresses the importance of television in showing the non-partisanship of courts (29). Vasilinda
states his belief that Gore likely won Florida, addressing briefly the butterfly ballot (29-30). He
praises the top attorneys for Bush and Gore for their knowledge of Florida law (31). He
discusses the impact of the 2000 election on voting patterns, and reforms in the Florida election
process, including new voting machines (31-33). He also speaks about possible
disenfranchisement of Black voters (31-33). He concludes by describing the effects of the
election on him personally and his enthusiasm at being involved (34).
Interviewee: Mike Vasilinda
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Date: October 31, 2001
P: This is Julian Pleasants and today is October 31, 2001. I'm in Tallahassee,
Florida, interviewing Mike Vasilinda. Mike, for the record, exactly what was your
position what were your responsibilities during the 2000 election?
V: The bottom line to it is I was the prime state correspondent for NBC television
and the NBC television affiliates in Florida. Certainly, the network brought their
own people in, but in terms of being responsible for the affiliated NBC stations in
Florida, I was their guy. I provided a great deal of coverage for Florida's News
Channel, which is a cable outlet which I own part of. Also we provided through
our office and through our production arm, more than 115 live shots for the
various networks. Basically, every one of the major networks, as well as some of
the foreign television stations. The foreign television outlets were covering this.
P: Describe a little bit the chaos that descended on Tallahassee.
V: It's easiest for me to think about it the day it started. At 4:00 am I got a call from
one of my people that said, "you know this thing is not solved yet." Who knows
what's going to happen, it's just unbelievable. I got up and said, "I'm getting
dressed, get me a photographer, we're going to the capitol. Let's go find out
what's going on." About that time, one of my news directors from Tampa called
me and said, "you need to go the capitol." I said, "I'm on my way." We got to the
capitol at about 4:45 I think, that morning, Wednesday morning, the eighth and
tried to get in. We were immediately told by the security agents that they don't
want any press up on the eighteenth floor which is the Division of Elections. I
was just flabbergasted by it. What do you mean they don't want us in there? He
said, that's what they said. I said, "well, you call them up and you tell them that it
already looks like they're stealing this election and if they don't let us in they're
just going to add to that perception." Lo and behold, about a minute and a half
later, I got in the building. Then it astounded me that there was an AP reporter
and a Miami Herald reporter up on the eighteenth floor and political operatives
from certainly the Republican party, I don't recall I saw any Democrats up on the
Secretary of State Katherine Harris, much maligned for her hairdo and her dress,
was there in a pair of sweat clothes and her hair all tied up looking like she hadn't
slept much. That was the beginning of the chaos that started that morning and
literally, every day for the next three weeks, four weeks really. After three weeks,
it sort of plateaud, but for three weeks you just kept thinking this is going to end
one of these days. It just kept getting more interesting. I never saw so many
satellite trucks in any one place in my life. I thought I'd seen a lot. I thought I'd
seen the Pope, I thought I'd seen Super Bowls where there were just lots of
satellite trucks. I was a witness to the Ted Bundy execution, which is obviously a
famous case in Florida. That was a super-chaotic zoo. All of those combined
paled in comparison to what happened to Tallahassee by the time you saw the
tents in the yard and Japanese television actually editing in the shadow of the
Supreme Court on the grass. It was amazing.
P: How many foreign countries covered the events?
V: We know Japan had several crews here. We worked with a Russian crew, a
Swedish crew, a German crew, and the BBC, that we personally worked with. I
think that you would go look and find that France had someone here.
P: They were all doing live telecasts.
V: They were almost all doing [live telecasts]. Certainly the ones we worked with
did live television. One of the Japanese networks actually brought in a complete
semi-trailer truck of high definition television because they're broadcast back to
Japan in high definition television. It was quite amazing to go in and look and
see what they were using. High definition will be the future of television in this
country, but we're probably ten years away from that. They had a whole semi-
truck and that's what it took to accomplish their mission to get all the gear they
needed in there because it's so big and still being worked out, bugs being worked
out. I would think most major civilized countries in Europe were here. I didn't
see any Chinese television, but I wouldn't be surprised if they were here. There
was Korean television here I believe, we worked for Korean television as well.
P: Were you on camera a lot?
V: I was on camera probably the first day ten or fifteen times. Every day thereafter
where we worked seven days a week, eighteen hours a day for the first couple of
weeks up until Thanksgiving. I actually got a day off at Thanksgiving. That was
the first day I got off after this broke. I was on camera anywhere from four or five
times a day. Probably more.
P: Usually on NBC?
V: Usually on NBC stations and affiliated stations.
P: I talked with David Cardwell, who commented for CNN, and he said it was an
extraordinarily difficult time because everything happened so fast. There would
be a court decision and they'd have to comment on it before they'd even had a
chance to read it. Was that your experience as well?
V: Absolutely. One of my experiences here is you can usually get a real good feel
for what's going on from the newspaper, some of the nuances and things like
that. But I found newspapers, for the most part, [were] obsolete during this time
period because whatever they had written and gone to press with the day before
was inaccurate. It had changed many times, 180 degrees by 9:00 the next
morning. The only way to cover the story for us was to go up to the capitol, be
there at 8:30 or 8:45 in the morning and start looking to see who was there and
watch the story change hour by hour. And it did, hour by hour. I've never seen
anything change so dramatically.
P: This is something that's of importance to the entire free world. No other
presidential election had duplicated the political impact of this election.
V: I think that was on everyone's mind at the time. I don't think there had ever been
a time that anyone didn't realize the seriousness of what was involved here and
that really the freedom, and the leadership, and how the country handled this in
many ways was indeed a testament to our system and was it going to work the
way it should have.
P: Who was the main commentator for NBC here?
V: Well, NBC had David Bloom here for the most part. For the cable channel, they
had two people here for the MSNBC channel. They rotated people in and out
correspondent-wise all throughout the time. ABC News had eleven different
crews here working full-time. NBC brought in their Atlanta bureau chief and they
literally took over, I'd say the second floor of the Doubletree Hotel, with people.
P: Describe a typical day.
V: A typical day for us was to get up there early between 8:30 and 9:00. Each
morning we have conversations about what are we going to do and what are we
going to cover. This was a day where we just said, we'll go find out what's going
on and let you know. A typical day would start, we'd be in the office by 8:00,
meeting just trying to sort out what we knew. When I say we, there would be
about seven of us involved in the meeting.
P: Who would they be?
V: They would be another reporter, who at that time was Scott Talen, Andy
Bunshoe, my operations manager, Alia Ferag is our vice-president of news here
and is sort of our news coordinator, and then our photographers and there would
be anywhere from two to four photographers being thrown at this on a daily
basis. We would stake out different places with different photographers, have
two reporters, two of us, me reporting and Scott Talen reporting in two different
places, maybe on different ends of the courtyard on the capitol. Only that much
to see what was going on. Maybe have photographers somewhere else as well,
staked out by themselves. We would start the day like that and we would go up
there and the first thing you would notice, sometimes you got there a little earlier,
you'd look and see who was out doing the morning news shows. You would see
who was doing Today, who was doing GMA [Good Morning America]. In almost
all cases, you had principals involved from each campaign doing those sorts of
things. The first thing you do is you start talking to them about what was going
on, where they were going that day, what they thought [was going] to be. Then
you start looking for what the state was doing, what the state response was.
Then you had to worry about what lawsuit got filed. Fortunately for me, I had a
friend within the law firm that was handling the Bush campaign lawsuits, that I
was able to know what their next step was going to be. I think that helped. By
the same token, Dexter Douglass who you interviewed this morning, I was able
to, by someone close to him, figure out where the Democrats were working out
of. So I was one of the few people in town that actually knew where the two law
firms were and who to call over there and bug about things happening so that we
could be at the right courthouse at the right time as things were maneuvering. A
lot of it was just watching everything. From my perspective, what helped a lot
was the networks, the cable channels, had this stuff on live all the time so we
always monitored it here. If we couldn't be in four places at one time, we
watched their output and were able to go down and then pick it up. Even if it was
just to walk from one side of the capitol to the other, it became difficult to know
what was going on.
P: How often was NBC on?
V: The NBC station, I want to clarify I wasn't working for NBC, but the affiliated
stations. We would do live shots at 11:00, 12:00, oftentimes two live shots at
11:00 from Miami and Tampa. More live shots for Palm Beach and Orlando at
noon. At 5:00, 5:30, 6:00 and 11:00 and sometimes 10:00 because some of
them have 10:00 shows on affiliated pack stations, WB [Warner Brothers
Network] stations they program. So those were the times we'd be live, we'd be
live at 11:00, 12:00, 5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 10:00, and 11:00. You would often do
multiple stations and sometimes at 6:00 you would hit all the stations
simultaneously. What they would do, there would be a national reporter from
somewhere taking part from Washington and Dallas, and where Gore was and
where Bush was in Texas and putting that together with a national perspective.
Then they would throw [it] to me and we would hit all the NBC stations in Florida,
all at the same time with the Florida thing right behind the national report.
P: These were live feeds.
V: Live feeds, absolutely. We worked out of two different satellite trucks at the
capitol plus we have a fiber optic line that runs from the capitol back to this office
in which we can feed it to an uplink. Oftentimes, we had all of them in use.
P: A lot of pressure.
V: There was a great deal of pressure to get up and do it right and to make sure you
didn't miss anything. In many ways, because we are the gurus of Florida politics
in terms of that's how many stations that we work. We're viewed to know what
Florida politics are. In many ways, some of this stuff was above our pay grade
and the national groups were doing it, but that meant that we were under
pressure to come up with things that were locally very important to the election.
P: Something they might miss.
V: Something they might miss. Frankly, my thrill of the election happened on the
second day, the Wednesday that it was here. I got to explain what a chad was to
James Baker. I did that because a friend of mine... at that time, everyone was
worried about the Palm Beach ballot and they were talking about throwing the
Palm Beach ballot out because it was the butterfly ballot. A friend of mine said,
we've had problems with these machines for years and it has nothing to do with
the ballot design, it has to do with whether or not the machines actually read it.
He explained how the little chad hung [up] and skewed the counting of the votes.
So, I got to explain that to Jim Baker and that was the last thing on his mind
when I explained it to him, and he sort of was very polite and said, yes, I guess
that's something we're going to have to look at. Little did he know, that was
going to consume the next four weeks of his life. So I'm very proud of that. That
we were a day or two ahead of the national media in explaining what a chad was
because it had been a long term problem. I'm very proud of that piece of video
tape which I hope to keep for a long time.
P: You mentioned that this was a series of events that could probably only be
covered by television. How do you think the media did [overall] in covering these
V: I think we did a great job. I think America was glued to their television set, day
and night, whenever possible. I know that was true in my house, even though
we're very politically oriented. To give you an example, I took the day after
Thanksgiving off. It was a cold day and I didn't do anything but stay home and
read and just try and catch up. I had the television on in the den, which I
watched. I had a television on downstairs so in case I went down to my
downstairs office. I had a television on in my bedroom in case I went to the
bathroom. That's the way my house stayed. My favorite poll of the entire
election season was taken about the middle of December, Gallup released it.
The poll was that everyone in America was surprised how quickly Christmas had
come up and how few people were ready for Christmas and hadn't really thought
about shopping. The poll didn't delve into it, but I'm convinced because America
sat watching their television, waiting for a president, watching television, not
wanting to go out, not wanting to miss something because they watched it on
Did we make mistakes and errors? Sure, you always do when you're out there
flying by the seat of your pants. They assembled a lot of experts from Florida
who are good friends of mine who I was surprised to see on television some days
out of the clear blue. They were able to offer that Florida perspective. I think the
media did a great, great job in doing that. If I had a disappointment in the media,
my main criticism of what the media is that after about ten to twelve days, the
folks that had been here covering it and had been here ever since got tired of not
sleeping in their own bed. They got tired of not having clean clothes, and they
got tired of living out of a hotel room, and so they tried to force a premature end
to it. They kept saying, you could see it in their questioning. Haven't the
American people had enough of this? Isn't it time for you to give in? Isn't it time
for the campaign to blah blah blah? I think because of that persistence that they
in some times forced things to happen, particularly by the Gore campaign, who
was still on the ropes in some ways, to take actions that they perhaps wouldn't
have otherwise taken if they didn't think they were running out of time with the
American people. Unless they were running their own polls that showed they
were running out of time with the America people and everyone thought he ought
to quit, then I think the media forced that issue. [They] forced them into taking
some maybe bad policy decisions to court that they might not otherwise have
P: When you did your interviews, would the major objective be to get somebody like
Barry Richard or David Boies, and if you couldn't get them you could do Joe
Klock or Dexter Douglass?
V: Yeah, you didn't have any problem getting to Joe or to Dexter. Certainly the
campaigns had Mindy Tucker and Doug They were always available on a
moment's notice. In fact, you would call them and go, we need something.
They'd go, well we're not going to be ready for an hour because this is going to
happen. They'd let you know where to be and what to do.
P: They were cooperative the whole time?
V: Absolutely. Everybody was cooperative. The more they were winning in their
own mind, the more cooperative they were.
P: There has been some criticism of the media's treatment of Katherine Harris.
They called her Cruella De Vil and made fun of her makeup. Do you think that
V: I think the criticism of her makeup and her hair was overdone. Absolutely, it had
no business to her decisions, but in our defense, and I don't feel it is necessary
to defend the media, but frankly she was unavailable. She took the position that
she wasn't going to speak to anybody except in two very isolated events that I
recall seeing her. She shielded herself from answering questions and wouldn't
let anybody in her office. They took a bunker mentality that sort of forced the
media to talk personality instead of policy. She also created a problem for
herself that was totally unforseen in becoming the co-chair of the Bush
campaign. [That] made it very difficult for people to believe that she was non-
partisan. Now did I see mistakes in reporting? Certainly, I saw reports on
national television that she'd been appointed by the governor and how could she
be objective when she's an independently elected official in Florida? But did she
invite it upon herself? Absolutely in my feelings. She tried to shield herself
because she felt she was being attacked. Instead of stepping up to the plate and
dealing with the criticisms that she was receiving, she just sort of shrunk to the
background. That may be because she was advised to do that by the party. I
couldn't tell you why she did that. Tactically, I think that was a mistake on her
part and that invited people to talk about her in ways that were unflattering.
P: Were you surprised that she hired Joe Klock, who is a Democratic lawyer, when
she has her own in-house council?
V: I'm not surprised at all that she hired Steele, Hector, and Davis, which is [Klock's]
firm. I frankly didn't realize he was a Democrat, but then I thought it was
interesting that the Republicans also hired Barry Richard who's still a lifelong
Democrat and who ran [for Lieutenant Governor]. Both were hired for their
expertise and because they're good lawyers. For some reason they thought Joe
was the best lawyer for the job here. So they did. I'm surprised at how much he
got away with charging, which was well over a half million dollars for his services
to her. I thought that was pretty interesting that she was willing to pay that kind
of money for that kind of advice.
P: Actually, taxpayers ended up paying that.
V: Absolutely, we sure did. We all paid for that. I think the fact that everybody hires
an outside lawyer in this town no matter how many good lawyers you have
working for you because you want somebody perceived to be the best so you
don't have to second guess what you did.
P: One of the people I talked to, and I can't remember who, was critical of the media
because he said they tended to want to sensationalize everything. You start
getting these exaggerated reports from West Palm Beach where the media
claimed that these little old Jewish ladies had gone out and voted for Buchanan,
it was the same thing as voting for Adolf Hitler. Did you see a lot of that?
V: The media is regularly criticized for sensationalizing something and we are
regularly criticized for not reporting good news, but I think it would be a horrible
state of affairs that if the news was, something good happened today and so
we're reporting on it. As a rule, we report negative information or we try to
explain. To fill twenty-four hours a day on a cable channel took a lot of talk and a
lot of analysis that wasn't always on target. I don't believe I saw any
sensationalism. I would not agree that we would do that.
P: While we're on Katherine Harris, how would you assess her performance?
Obviously, the Democrats would argue that every decision she made favored
Bush, that she was partisan, that she did not have to adhere to the seven day
period to certify the votes. What would be your assessment of those charges?
V: I could repeat what you said. My assessment was that she was partisan in her
discretionary duties to decide what she could do. She was partisan in becoming
a co-chair. Her failure to adequately inform the public on a daily basis, what her
office was doing from a personal point of view, all lent suspicion that she was
indeed being a partisan tool of the Republican party. Nonetheless, I'm not sure
that if a Democrat had been in office, a Democrat wouldn't have done the same
thing with those same powers. That's how that game is played up there, and so
it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that if she had the opportunity to change the
counting of the votes, she perhaps would, without being told by a court to do
otherwise and the court did tell her to do otherwise. Now, eventually that was
overturned too, but certainly I think it's clear that she's got an R after her name
when you determine that she's an elected official, and she behaved like one.
P: Do you think she made an error in judgement in having people like Mac
Stipanovich in her office and having emails back and forth with the Bush
V: She will tell you that she did that because there was no public information officer
within her office at the time to help her, she sought that advice out. I think that it
was an error in judgement to have partisans like Adam Goodman go for the
jugular media consultant and Mac Stipanovich who, when he was here working
for Bob Martinez, got the nickname "Mac the Quote" for saying outrageous things
and inflaming situations. To have them working in her office on state computers
was indeed wrong.
P: How would [you] assess the partisanship or non-partisanship of Governor Jeb
V: Well, I think the governor was in a no-win position. He absolutely could not win
by doing anything, so I think he did the absolute best thing he could do, which
was be as invisible as possible. Now, how much he did behind the scenes?
There have been stories about phone calls that were made from his phone to
Austin, to consultants, how much of this did he actually orchestrate? I would
suspect he actually played a very big role behind the scenes although we may
never know unless he's at some point, willing to tell us how big a role he played
behind the scenes. I thought from a public perspective and the way that he was
able to get treated in the media was that he was indeed trying to be governor and
stay out of it because there was nothing he could do about it. If that was his
mission, I thought he was real successful at carrying off that impression.
Whether it was true or not and being the skeptic of everything, I'm not sure that it
was true that he didn't have a great deal of orchestration in everything that was
P: At least from the public's view, he was trying to remain neutral.
V: Absolutely. Well I think he was very clear in saying, he's my brother and I love
him, but this is not my job, this is Katherine Harris's job.
P: One of the things that almost everybody agrees with is that in the public relations
battle, the Republicans won. One of the issues was this military vote. When
Senator Lieberman said we're not trying to take votes away from the military, the
Republicans tried to make Gore unpatriotic, they used the term "sore loser."
[They said] he's trying to steal the election, the votes have already been counted.
Please assess the Republicans' public relations campaign.
V: They were stellar compared to the Democrats. James Baker was in town
Tuesday and making public appearances by early Wednesday morning. Using
the rhetoric that the votes have all been counted, now they've been counted
again, etc. etc. They were very successful in keeping that message. We've
counted the votes, they'vee recounted the votes, and we've been counted again,
enough is enough. And they stuck to a singular message throughout the entire
thirty-eight days that this went on. Then when they were done, they said, we told
you. They threw it at you one more time. They had a unified message that came
from everybody that was involved. Democrats, number one, as I recall as late as
Thursday afternoon which was two days later, hastily showed up for a news
conference at the capitol, were ill-prepared on the questions they were being
asked by the reporters from the things that the Republicans had fueled the fires
with earlier that day. They were very slow to get started and there was never a
consistent message from their team throughout the campaign. Now Doug came
through, once he got on board, but he was five or six days out before he got
here, before they actually got people on the ground for people to be here keeping
track of it. The Republicans were well ahead of the Democrats and stayed there
for the whole time.
P: How did Warren Christopher do?
V: He did fine the few times he was available, but he was just not near as available
as the Republicans were. When he spoke, he was very solid, but it was always
in those news conferences over in the Senate office building and they were well-
attended and he was strong, but he always didn't have all the information either.
The other tactical problem was that Bill Daley was a bad choice of people from a
public perspective to bring in to be a major spokesman in this campaign because
it opened the Democrats to the criticism of the Daley machine in Chicago. That
was repeated on and on and on again by the Republicans, so I think he was a
bad choice to bring in here and make a major spokesman. Oftentimes, Warren
Christopher [U.S. Secretary of State, 1993-1997] would defer to him. Now was
Bill Daley really strong? Yeah, he's a smart guy, he's as smart as any of them
that were up there I thought. He could make a convincing sound bite. From [the]
public's perception, I'm not sure he was the best guy to have here even though
he was the campaign manager.
P: What about the organization of the Republicans? They had people in every
county, they had people watching every vote counted, they brought people from
all over the country, they had money, they had T-shirts, they had position papers.
Who organized all this?
V: I think that they're very, very organized. The party here is very, very organized
and has been very, very organized. They brought people in from all over the
country. I don't know if you saw that video that CNN had in Miami when the
canvassing board was meeting, but there were people pounding on the walls and
the doors and things. A lot of those folks were brought-in organizers and
congressional staffers who were just given the day off to fly to Miami and watch
that. Somewhere, it had to have been at the national level, they were able to
effectively communicate. They had an effective message and they stuck to it.
The right hand always seemed to know what the left hand was doing with the
Republican organization, Democrats... the old Will Rogers quote, "I don't belong
to an organized party, I'm a Democrat" was really true in this election too. The
left hand wasn't talking to the right hand, wasn't talking to the head, wasn't
talking to the feet that were walking to the right courthouse.
P: It's also interesting the Republicans kind of stole the march from the Democrats,
who had for years been successful with demonstrations. Now the Republicans
seem to be using that tactic much more effectively.
V: I suspect that some of that was paid by the state Republican party.
P: Is this Al Cardenas, you think?
V: Yes, I believe Al Cardenas and some of the folks over there actually paid people
to show up and stay at the capitol. There were a dozen or so folks that were
around that claimed to have been here just because they were upset and
obsessed with what was going on. The reality of it was, I actually approached
one of them and we'd gotten into a bit of a banter because he was trying to
interfere with me doing my job. [He] was shouting while we were doing stuff,
while we're trying to do our work. I finally walked up and said, how much were
you paid to be here and he goes, you'll never know. So, it struck me very much
that some of these folks could have well been paid to have been here. Then you
noticed every night at 5:00, there were the same faces in the crowd, once they
got out of their state job or their other job, they were in the crowd. They were the
Leon County Republicans who were up here and they did a good job of keeping
them here and bringing in reinforcements from around the state. They did a
good job of holding up signs behind all the live shots and made it look like there
were a lot more of them than there really were.
P: That "Sore Loserman" sign was a powerful one. What impact did all that have on
V: Call me naive. I want to think that the courts, and I still think that the courts, even
after what I read in Newsweek about the U.S. Supreme Court's political decision,
made the best decision that could be made at the time. Certainly the courts took
notice, as they would say, of the demonstrations that were going on and what
was on television. Certainly the courts took notice that the legislature disagreed
with the state supreme court's decisions and were poised to pick the states' own
electors because they were worried of the time frame. Certainly the Florida
Supreme Court was knowledgeable that they have angered conservative
Republican legislative leadership to the extent that they've talked about doing all
sorts of things between stacking the court and cutting it off at its knees in terms
of rulings. They [Florida Supreme Court] still were, in their mind, courageous
enough to do what they thought was the right thing, [which] was to continue to
order the recount. The courts, at least from a Florida perspective which I can
speak to, took notice of everything that was out there, sifted it through whatever
decision-making process they sift it through, and still came up what they thought
was the right thing to do. Although, in most cases, very unpopular with the power
P: One national observer said that one of the things Republicans were trying to do
was create this image of chaos so that the United States Supreme Court would
intervene to prevent a constitutional crisis. Do you think they succeeded?
V: Yes, because they were able to talk to the reporters who were talking about the
varying standards, which turned out to be the linchpin of the decision that was
made in terms of equal protection. They were able to successfully tell their story
about different standards in different counties. And the Democrats were never
able to say, but that's the way we set up this system in Florida, that's the way it's
supposed to be, it's always been this way and it's never changed. It's not that we
have different standards, we have 67 fiefdoms that create their own standards.
That's the Florida system that's always worked. I think that's the message the
Democrats were never able to tell effectively, so the Republicans were able to
create a feeling of helter-skelter, neither here nor there, problems with the way
votes were being counted.
P: They could never really pursue in legal terms that issue of the intent of the voter,
because the Republicans are saying, what is a vote in Broward County is not a
vote in Palm Beach County. Of course, that's the way it's always been.
V: That right has always been given to the local canvassing boards to make that
decision based on their own independent judgement. You know, I think at some
point, you've got to trust the folks that are making those decisions. Some may
make them for the wrong reasons and some may make them for the right
reasons, but the decisions get made and you have to live by those decisions.
P: What was your reaction to Jesse Jackson and his visits?
V: I, for one, thought that was the last strong Jesse Jackson we're going to see.
Jesse Jackson, who I've covered and seen numerous times here, did not have
the presence that I thought he used to have. Oftentimes, he appeared to be... I
don't want to be unkind in this, [but] he appeared to be somewhat punch drunk to
me, or medicated. I thought that he had trouble delivering his message with the
strength and the veracity that he used to have to deliver his message. The rallies
that he organized were frankly not that well attended. There was the rally on the
steps of the Supreme Court or on the sidelight of the state Supreme Court. The
news conferences he had walking around the capitol that were frankly not that
well-attended. The organization to bring the people there was not there. I
thought in many ways, it was typical that he was here. But then once he got
here, I didn't think he made a compelling case.
P: The early issue was the butterfly ballot in Palm Beach County. Do you think that
was a legitimate legal issue? Obviously Democratic attorneys filed a brief saying
that particular ballot was illegal.
V: Under Florida law, Democrats had a chance to challenge that ballot a week or
two or whatever before the election. I just don't think that there would be any
way that was ever a valid legal issue when the Democratic chairman had issued
it. There were several memos, as we were getting ready to do this, I kind of wish
I had kept all the paperwork. I had a box of paperwork that came through this
office during the election and I don't think I kept most of it. There were several
protests that were filed as early as 8 or 9:00 in the morning, that there appeared
to be problems with a confusing ballot. To the extent that the Palm Beach
elections supervisor issued a memo to the poll workers to instruct people
differently about it, how to use the ballot, that said their opportunity to fix that
problem expired on 7:00 AM election day when the poll opened and the ballot
had been approved. It was worth a try. To me, that caught the initial attention
during the first two or three days of the protest period. It struck me that it was
never the winning issue because I don't believe you could ever throw out the
vote. If you'd thrown out all of the votes in Palm Beach County and said, let's all
vote again, do you only allow the vote to occur by those people who voted the
first time? Would they vote differently? How would that have worked? If you
didn't do that, if you had an all-new election and turned it open and you had
basically the presidency of the United States being determined by the voters of
one county in one state, it would have been an interesting campaign to have had
George Bush and Al Gore for three days, five days, one week, two weeks, door
to door in Palm Beach County, and how that election would have been. So it
was never an issue. I just never saw where the courts could get involved and do
anything to change the outcome of those votes.
P: Was the press unfair to Theresa LePore? Calling her Madame Butterfly and
blaming her for Gore's defeat?
V: Being here in Tallahassee I didn't see all of that except for the national media.
Of course, I read the Palm Beach Post every day. I think it's unfair of the press
to ever personalize something like that. But Madame Butterfly has got a cute
ring to it and probably sells newspapers and makes a good sound bite. It was
probably coined by a Democrat who fed it to a reporter in Palm Beach County.
I'm not sure that the way that ballot was designed based on what the law said,
having read the law and listened to the legal arguments, that it really was a legal
ballot, that it should have been designed better. They say her intentions were
that she was trying to make it easier to read for senior citizens, but I don't believe
that she designed a legal ballot. But having said that, the opportunity to challenge
that ballot expired before the election. If anybody lost the election, it was the
county Democratic chairman for not challenging that ballot when it was done.
P: Comment on Gore's strategy to protest the election in the four counties: Palm
Beach, Broward, Dade, and Volusia, as opposed to contesting the election.
V: At the time, it seemed like a very strong idea if indeed one, you could get the
votes counted and have them recounted in the four strong counties that the
Democrats controlled for the most part. I think the surprise in that to me, was
that you had dissenting opinions among Democratic canvassing board officials in
those four Democratic counties as into how to go about counting, and what they
were willing to count. Had Dade County finished counting instead of stopping,
had Broward County finished counting and kept counting and not stopped,
there's a chance that the whole outcome of the election would have been
different. The problem of the strategy was not allowing the protest period to
expire on the date it should have expired and then moving into a contest position.
I think the strategy on its face seemed really smart. In hindsight, it was ill-
conceived because the courts couldn't deal with the problem fast enough. They
only achieved in adding to that view of chaos that got the attention of the United
States Supreme Court. Had they just gone right to the contest position and
allowed that to go up until the 12 of December or whenever, I think there would
have been a more orderly process and I don't believe the U.S. Supreme Court
would have ever stepped in. I believe they would have said, this is a Florida
decision. Florida is complying with its laws. But it looked chaotic here, that the
[Florida] Supreme Court was ignoring its own laws and doing something.
Certainly the Republicans did good with selling the idea that all the justices were
P: Dexter Douglass from the beginning wanted to go to the contest. The argument
was, and it sounds like a reasonable argument from a legal point of view, that the
issue would be in the hands of the judges, not canvassing boards with different
standards. Therefore, that process would be much more favorable, less chaotic.
But he said that Gore didn't want to do that because of the political aspects.
V: Interesting. Well, it shows you what a good lawyer Dexter is and why they hired
him in Florida. It's just too bad that they didn't listen to their own lawyer in that
one. It could have made a difference in the outcome, you might have gotten
every vote counted. The other part of that strategy, and I sat in on both Supreme
Court hearings, was judges asked about the idea of equal protection and if they
should count all of the votes and should they go back to every vote in Florida and
recount it? Literally look at the whole state. David Boies very clearly said no.
Frankly, I think the Republicans said no as well at that time period. I think the
Republicans said no because they just thought they'd lose bigger.
P: They were ahead at the time.
V: Why should we count anything because we're ahead? In hindsight, I think that
they should have perhaps agreed to some of that and perhaps adjusted to it.
Ironically, I think the Democrats also hurt themselves because David Boies was
asking in the Florida Supreme Court if indeed there was an absolute deadline to
get in all of this stuff none. He volunteered that December 12 deadline, the safe
harbor day. That is not an absolute deadline if you really read through the
Constitution and read through what the founding fathers intended. That's just the
day that perhaps Congress might have to start thinking about looking at this, but
it in no way said that they had to. You could make the argument that they could
have continued the contest protest right up until the day the electors were
seated. They very well could have, but the U.S. Supreme Court relied on the
Florida Supreme Court transcript of David Boies's December 12 day, the safe
harbor day, to make it the permanent law and say, what we just don't have
enough time here. That was never the case.
P: Although in the U. S. Supreme Court he argued again and said now December
18 would be the correct day for safe harbor.
V: So he changed his mind there too and sent a different signal. I think that's all
part of the not having a strategy. There's just little points of that where things
change. Obviously everything changed day to day here, but the Republicans did
a much better job of sticking to their message.
P: Even Justice Breyer in his dissent said that you could adjudicate the legal issues
all the way through to the final seating of the electors.
V: In hindsight I don't wonder if the chaos that appeared to be created by the state
Supreme Court decisions also didn't invite the U.S. Supreme Court into a
decision. There was no constitutional crisis, they didn't really need to have a
decision. I'm not sure if their role wasn't improper here, much as Newsweek has
reported. [end of side 1, tape A]
P: When Barry Richard first files his suit he mentions violation of the Fourteenth
Amendment and violation of First Amendment rights in section 3-5 of the U.S.
Code which says that only the legislature can determine the outcome of
elections. It was interesting that he brought up the Fourteenth Amendment
issue. How significant do you think that was?
V: That's probably where the justices at the Florida Supreme Court started asking
questions on that. It certainly shows that they were thinking outside the box and
beyond counting the votes. [They were] thinking about how they were going to
raise it. I haven't really given it much thought that Barry was that far out in front
in that brief. It was clear to me that Barry Richard was perhaps as well-prepared
as anybody during that first argument before the Florida Supreme Court and felt
very much at home there. One of my favorite pictures is he and Dexter Douglass
over in Judge Sauls' courtroom. You could tell they had no animosity although
they were fighting each other tooth and nail over this thing. I think the raising of
equal protection sort of slipped by everybody's mind. I don't think anyone paid
any attention to that until all of a sudden they were clobbered by it by the U.S.
Supreme Court. Even the Florida Supreme Court asked that question. Justice
[Peggy] Quince asked it, I believe, and perhaps Justice Barbara Pariente as well,
about the equal protection and if there were problems. Both sides, I think, said
no, but they weren't speaking to Barry when they said it.
P: Also, if you were going to appeal a case, you wouldn't want to appeal a
Fourteenth Amendment case to the Rehnquist court.
V: No, I wouldn't think so, wouldn't think so.
P: Talk about Judge Middlebrooks' decision. It's interesting to note that every other
appeal to a federal court, including the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, all of
them were turned down on all of these issues, yet the U. S. Supreme Court took
V: I think you're above my pay grade and Judge Middlebrooks' decision was made
in Miami, but I know the judge. I believe that he knew what he was doing. I think
that the judges on the Eleventh Circuit were very wary of wading into what they
perceived to be political situations. This was a state issue. I don't know that the
federal courts at any time, this is me obviously personally speaking. [wanted to]
get involved in this election. This was up to the state to send its electors, if it
couldn't decide the Constitution, [it] was pretty clear that the Congress got a
chance to decide who to seat and how that would all work. It's also pretty clear
that the legislature could send whoever they wanted to send. I was really
surprised both times on the U.S. Supreme Court on that Saturday when they
halted the counting. Then said, yeah the counting can continue, but there's just
not enough time any more. The reality is, if they hadn't stopped it in the first
place, there would have been time to count. If you believe what Newsweek had
to say, it was a political decision about the U.S. Supreme Court picking its
successors, the next appointees. It was the majority of the United States
Supreme Court choosing to perpetuate its majority. That is all you can read into
their waiting into this, based on the Constitution. The Constitution doesn't
provide for the U.S. Supreme Court to settle election disputes, particularly state
P: In fact, Middlebrooks ruled that, this was a state issue. Middlebrooks also said,
well look, the voter intent, like a reasonable man standard, that's always the way
it's been and that's the way it ought to be. Manual recounts are valuable in
determining the winner. They're a logical way to approach the problem.
V: The people that I know that were actually counting the votes and looking at the
ballots [said], it is very easy to know what a voter's intent was. If the chad was
punched out, and they've set standards for that even in the recount, but punched
out and not off, you knew who that voter was trying to vote for. In other cases
they would circle the name. On the optical scan ballots, often what was missed
in the counties with the optical scan system in which the votes were not counted
at the precinct level. The error of votes there was just as high as it was with
punch cards counted in a central location as well, because the voters' errors
weren't brought to their attention and they weren't fixed. One of the problems
that struck me in all of this was that, it showed me that in previous elections, we
probably never counted write-in votes. We probably have never really fully tallied
military votes from overseas. [Those votes] never really factored in to be counted
in the outcome of an election because there's never been one so close. So, no
one even bothered to count them, that doesn't seem right to me. The reality is
that it became clear that even when you looked at the optical scan votes from
counties with central locations, they may not have filled in the oval for George
Bush or Al Gore so that the machine could count it, but they circled the name.
It's very clear to tell a voter's intent when they do that.
P: As a matter of fact, you know the Miami Herald went back and looked at the
110,000 overvotes in the state. They found a huge number that could have been
clearly identified. Sometimes they would circle Bush and write Bush in at the
bottom. Or cross out every other name except Gore. Now, the machine wouldn't
pick that up, that would be an overvote, but if you physically looked at it, a
reasonable person would be able to tell what that vote was.
V: That's what you've got to do, and that's what we've empowered the 67
canvassing boards to do.
P: I talked to a lot of election supervisors. When the automatic recount was
triggered, many of them did not actually recount the votes, all they did was re-
tally the machine votes. Some went back and did a manual recount. The law
apparently is somewhat unclear on that particular issue.
V: I'm surprised the Democrats, again in their organizational efforts, were very weak
in challenging the Republican statements that the votes have been counted, and
then they were recounted, and now you want to count them again. Well, that
second count wasn't a second count. That was, as you say, it was going back, it
was looking at machine 1 in precinct A had 37 votes on it. Is that what we wrote
down? Okay, 37 votes. They never looked at the actual votes, they just looked
at the machine totals and totaled them up to make sure they were right. It seems
to me that in Nassau County when they actually re-fed the cards through the
machine which is what some supervisors did, that was part of the unclearness in
the law. Some supervisors fed the cards back through the machines, others just
re-verified machine totals. Those in Nassau County, the vote actually changed
by three or four dozen votes it seems to me. That became a subject of a
different lawsuit that the Supreme Court eventually didn't hear, but it points to the
problems that occurred by the different methods of doing that.
P: In Nassau County, I think the change in the vote was 51, but they went with their
original total. Those were Gore votes. So that was an issue that had to be
resolved in court as well.
V: By then the other issues had all been resolved so they just dismissed it.
P: Two critical court cases, at least at the time they seemed critical, were Martin
County and Seminole County. As you are aware, Sandra Goard allowed
Republicans to put in voter ID's on ballot requests. In Martin County, they
actually allowed the requests to get out of the office. These two cases were
brought before Judge Lewis and Judge Clark. What was your assessment of the
decisions in those two cases?
V: I was actually pretty surprised. I've got an interesting story to tell you about the
Seminole County one and how that came about. There's an assistant news
director at WESH-TV in Orlando named Ed Drosky. They actually accused him
of costing Gore the election. The reason that is because he's a Seminole County
resident. His wife got the absentee ballot that was much questioned by the
governor in the mail in which the governor said, don't worry about going to the
polls, vote from your armchair. The mass mail-out that had gone out. So, he
sent his political reporter over to Seminole County to do the story, we actually
participated in the story by getting a response from the governor for them. So,
they went to the supervisor of elections, they were questioning her, and she said,
"don't worry we're not counting most of those anyway." There's a whole box of
them over there that came in but they aren't filled out right. They don't have the
right number on it. They did that on television and the next day, two Republican
county people showed up at the Seminole County Supervisor of Elections and
said, we want to fix those and get the voter [I.D.] numbers. So, I accused
channel two in Orlando of telling the Republicans that there was a problem with
about 5,000 votes down in Seminole County that had been mailed back. You
know, it seems to me no one should be touching the ballots. From a personal
perspective, because I didn't sit through the hearing in each of those cases, but it
just struck me that no one should be touching those ballots but the Supervisor of
Elections and the voter. Even if it's for a clerical purpose. The Republicans
every other time would tell you it was up to the Democrats to have properly filled
out and punched the right hole or made their intent clearly known. Yet here
they're willing to say, well maybe we made a mistake here because they forgot to
put in a voter ID number, we'll take care of that. It just seems to me that once
the ballots in the hands of the Supervisor of Elections, no partisan should touch
it. That to me, I thought, could have been the difference in this election as well.
P: I asked David Cardwell if that was a violation of election law. He said he thought
it was a violation of the public records law because they used those ballot
requests, as you say, which should have been in the custody of the Elections
Supervisor. He didn't think there would be any criminal penalties and he didn't
see it as fraud. Do you agree with the court decisions?
V: Well the decisions allowed those ballots to be counted. I didn't sit through all of
those hearings, every one of them. I listened to the commentary, I watched
them. I thought that because there was no fraudulent intent to mess with those
ballots that the court was probably right in allowing them to be counted. But was
it the right thing to do? Was there fraudulent intent on the part of the
Supervisors? We'll never know.
P: The downside would be they would have disenfranchised a lot of innocent voters.
V: Absolutely, and that was the point. I thought the interesting public relations
dilemma that the Democrats faced there was not to get publicly involved in either
of those cases. On one hand they were saying, count every vote, and on the
other hand they can't say, but you can't count these votes. They were boxed in
and the Republicans, I thought, probably used that against them as well. I think
that's another example of the strategy of making the Democrats be defensive
more than offensive most of the time.
P: That also applies to the military votes. To oppose the military votes, the
Republicans said, Gore was not patriotic.
V: They've nailed him there and they nailed a good friend of mine, Mark Herron, on
that one. He wrote the memo.
P: They also brought in General Norman Schwartzkopf and presented the issue. It
seems to me that both sides are hypocritical because the Republicans are
saying, we've got to adhere to the law and the certification date is seven days,
that's precise. But these military and overseas ballots, even if they come in late
they should be counted. We don't want to be too precise about the law. The
Democrats were exactly the opposite, arguing the military ballots violated the
letter of the law, but Harris could be flexible on certification.
V: That law is so flawed that after election day, you could have taken a private jet
and found out every military ballot that had not been returned, every absentee
that had been requested and not returned, and you could have gone to Saudi
Arabia, you could have gone to Germany, and you could have tracked people
down and had them sign their ballot and fill it out. As long as it was postmarked
within seven days after the election and gotten here ten days after the election
and the voter swore that they filled it out before November 7, it was a legal vote.
That to me, seems like there's some problems there. You could have certainly
done that in this day of high-stakes political activity.
P: The Republicans have admitted to me that they went back to Escambia and
Okaloosa and some of these counties and had them revisit the overseas ballots.
One ballot was turned in November 17, it was counted. Some were sent by fax,
those were counted. Some didn't have an APO, or had no date on them at all,
this amounted, according to the Miami Herald, to something like 800 votes.
These votes may well have made the difference in the election. They were
clearly fraudulent votes. Those votes should not have been counted, if you
follow the letter of the law.
V: This is a situation where you had 67 different supervisors or canvassing boards
making local decisions again.
P: Let me go to the Florida Supreme Court, on the 16 they voted 7-0 to allow Palm
Beach and Broward counties to continue the votes and remand the case back to
Judge Lewis to oversee Harris as to whether or not she should accept these new
recounts. Then they came up with the extension of the deadline, the certification
deadline, to the 26 of November. I wonder where they came up with that date.
V: I think everybody wonders that. I don't think anybody understands that. I'll show
you a picture when we leave I have out in my front wall, it's a picture of Al
Cardenas, the Republican party chairman, the day they ordered the statewide
recount. Where the date of the 26 came, I do not know. And they actually were
pretty vague in that. They basically said, 5:00 on the 26 if the Secretary is willing
to stay open on Sunday and accept them, or 9:00 Monday morning if she doesn't
want to open the doors on Sunday. I thought that was a pretty strange choice for
language on when they were going to allow these votes to come in. They
actually gave her a little latitude to decide if she could count up until 5:00 Sunday
or 9:00 Monday. That's another example of her partisanship. She very clearly
could have waited until Monday morning and given all these Democratic counties
more time to count their ballots or not. I believe that she chose to accept the
ballots at 5:00 on Sunday night, and I believe Palm Beach wasn't done counting
yet. They missed it by two hours.
P: Judge Burton had informed Clay Roberts that the Palm Beach canvassing board
was almost finished and they needed some extra time. So the Secretary of
State's Office did know that, but did not allow the late returns.
V: That is another example of the partisanship that you raised earlier on her part.
She could have done otherwise.
P: They've never been open on Sunday, have they?
V: No, they're never open on Sunday.
P: Follow the legal issues, what appears to be the strategy of the Republicans is
they want to put as much time on the clock as possible. In other words, they're
going to try to stop every vote, protest every vote, file as many lawsuits as they
can. Obviously, in the end that was a pretty successful legal strategy.
V: I tend to agree with you. At no time was there ever a vote tally showing that they
were behind, during the entire span of the 37 or 38 days that the election went
on. Had there ever been a time when they thought that the Democrats were
ahead, they would have, I believe, tried to ask for more time to find more votes
somewhere. They used every opportunity they could to distract, to delay, to shut
down the votes, to have the Secretary of State suggest that manual recounts
were illegal and order them stopped until another court ordered them to start
again early in the process.
P: She actually filed a suit in the Florida Supreme Court to stop the recount, which I
thought was a little unusual from her office.
V: I absolutely thought so, too. She was stepping beyond her bounds. I think there
was a memo from the Attorney General that suggested otherwise. She actually
issued an order, I believe, which I don't believe she had the authority to issue.
The Attorney General turned around and issued an advisory opinion saying that
she was wrong, that she didn't have the authority to tell these people to stop
counting votes or to say that she wasn't going to take them.
P: She said that only in case of a hurricane or machines malfunctioning, could there
be a recount.
V: Butterworth said, no that's not the case. Certainly, this was of a magnitude of a
hurricane or any other natural disaster in many ways.
P: That's what Dexter Douglass said. Said it was the damndest hurricane he'd ever
V: It certainly brought a storm on this town like it's never seen before.
P: Do you think that this activity in Miami-Dade, the intimidation, the crowd, was the
reason for Miami-Dade to stop the counting, saying they didn't have enough time.
V: I wasn't there and I haven't talked to anybody that was on a first-hand basis, so
it's hard for me to answer that one way or the other. But if that crowd was there,
could other things have been happening in Miami-Dade County? Could other
people have been getting calls? Could there have been other intimidation?
Certainly there could have been. I find it hard to believe that elected officials
would have been intimidated by the few number of people that were there,
because there weren't that many there. There was about 100 folks there, that's
just not that many folks. They had plenty of police there to protect them.
Perhaps they made the decision of holding that in the wrong place from the
perspective of being able to watch what's going on. They shouldn't have been
intimidated if they were, let me put it like that. That shocked me, and it seemed
like they had a lack of ability to make a decision. I've heard lots of stories of the
counting of the 1 percent was that the 1 percent that showed great error, came
from Democratic districts whereas in the Hispanic districts there weren't great
errors and perhaps they might have gone the other way. There might have been
as many errors for Bush there, maybe they got into the counting process and
said, hey look, this is 50-50, every vote for Gore we're finding another vote for
Bush from another highly Republican precinct that didn't get counted, maybe it's
a waste of our time.
P: That's what David Leahy ended up saying and when the Miami Herald went
back, that's what they found. I think they determined that depending on how you
count them again, that Gore wouldn't have gotten more than three votes by the
time you got through the whole thing.
V: Perhaps [that's] what they saw, but the perception was that you had an unruly
mob banging on the walls and banging on the doors, creating a threat, and then
they decided to stop.
P: Talk about the decision of the Florida House, led by Tom Feeney and when they
voted 79-41 to seat the Bush electors in case the decision had not been formally
decided by December 12.
V: To me, it was a blatant attempt by the legislature to say, come hell or high water,
George Bush is going to be President of this country if we have anything to do
about it. It doesn't matter what the votes say. It seems to me the legislature
should have taken the position of let's count the votes, and we'll elect electors
based on what we see the votes said. No matter what the outcome is at the end
of it, even if we lose, let's do the right thing. But once they chose to say we're
electing Bush electors no matter what, then it was clear that George Bush was
going to be President anyway, if it came that far. Or, Florida was going to send
two sets of electors and Congress was going to decide it. Tom Feeney rules the
legislature as did John Thrasher, the speaker before him, with an iron hand. The
Republican party has been so unaccustomed to having control of the entire
legislative body that they are almost power drunk with the power they have at
their disposal and they stifle dissent with that. I think it's a short-term situation, I
think it's already sort of diffused itself based on what happened during this
special session of this legislature that just concluded last night at 10:00 or
The reality is that call came less than a month after 63 new members of the
House had just been elected. I guess 62 new members of the House had just
been elected. So, the Republican leadership really was free to cajole the new
members to do whatever they want. I thought it added to the chaos, the view of
chaos in Florida, and that we were a Banana Republic. I was pleased to see the
Senate President at the time took a wait and see attitude. John McKay was very
much saying that we don't need to do this today, we don't need to rush off and do
this, if we have to, we will. But let's just see what happens, let's not be
premature here. Whereas the House was ready to say, damn what the votes
say, let's elect George Bush no matter what. That's who we think won November
7, let's elect him.
P: Does that set a dangerous precedent?
V: The Constitution allows it. I think the Constitution allows it no matter who you
vote for. I suppose the popular vote in Florida could all go to one candidate and
the legislature could say, no we don't like it and elect someone else as their
electors. The constitution today allows it. I think that the issue becomes, do you
start electing people by popular vote versus by electors that are chosen by the
legislature. I'm in favor of the system we've got versus the popular vote system.
I think you end up disadvantaging, you end up with New York, Chicago, LA,
Miami, and Philadelphia electing the president.
P: Were you surprised the United States Supreme Court accepted Bush's appeal?
V: Absolutely. I never saw where there was a federal issue here. I never figured out
the Fourteenth Amendment issue was going to be so overriding, that there was a
problem with it because we were following state law.
P: In fact, in their first acceptance, they didn't mention the Fourteenth Amendment
or any federal issues at all. They just remanded it to the Florida Supreme Court
and asked them to clarify their first decision.
V: I thought that the Florida Supreme Court made a very big tactical error that
astounded me by not responding to the U.S. Supreme Court in a timely manner
and explaining that they weren't talking about the state constitution because
that's where the equal protection issue sort of got raised, where the [Florida]
Supreme Court said, the constitution of the state trumps the legislature. In this
case, it didn't because the legislature had specific U.S. Constitutional authority
which trumps the state constitution. So, the legislature had the authority to make
the laws that selected the electors and set the timetable to do the things. I think
that's where the [Florida] Supreme Court, when they rewrote their opinion, they
did very few things except change the state constitution to apply to the law. They
went from constitutional issue to statutory issues. That kept it in state
P: That's 3-U.S.,5 and the old Electoral Count Act of 1887 which said that the
legislature was responsible.
V: The Florida Supreme Court, when it did clarify its decision, it basically had been
slapped by the United States Supreme Court said you've got to tell us why you
did this and fix it. They just sort of ignored them and went out and issued a
whole state-wide recount and then didn't, until after they issued that recount, I
believe, come out with their supplemental opinion back the United States
Supreme Court. That came out either the day it was being argued or just before
the case was argued for the second time in Washington. They should have
clarified their decision before issuing their second decision ordering the state-
wide recount. That should have been done. I think that they just ignored the
U.S. Supreme Court the first time, put them on bad ground for the second
P: Some lawyers have argued that they thought that the Florida Supreme Court had
in fact, explained their vote and it was clear that they were not making new law
but really interpreting law. However, on the 4-3 vote [Gore v. Harris], they not
only are going to require the Secretary of State to count the votes in Broward and
all of that, they're going to have all of the undervotes in the state counted. Why
just the undervotes?
V: That's a good question, why not the overvotes? Why not look at all of them?
Unless they were lumping them into one broad category.
P: One reason is that Dexter Douglass told me this, is that that's all they asked for.
They didn't ask for the overvotes. But had they counted all the votes, that might
have prevented the Supreme Court from intervening.
V: That's an interesting perspective. That again leads to the question of equal
protection. I think there's another flaw there. I think that they [Florida Supreme
Court] might have avoided the problem with equal protection if they had indeed
given a statewide standard for what was a vote and what wasn't. Which I don't
believe they did even in the second decision.
P: No. David Boies said this is catch-22. He said, if they had set the standard, the
U. S. Supreme Court would have ruled against them for making new law. If they
didn't set the standard, they'd violate the Fourteenth Amendment. So David
Boies said, we were going to lose either way.
V: Makes a lot of sense. Could you not have interpreted by judicial fiat, the intent of
the voter? The intent of the voter shall be. The law allows the intent of the voter.
P: That's an argument they made when Boies was before the United States
Supreme Court, we have that standard in fact, in any courtroom in America, the
reasonable man standard. In some states, a person would be convicted and
would be sentenced to death. In another state, same case, they wouldn't be.
We have in the state of Florida the canvassing boards. They make those
decisions and they determine the intent of the voter. That's the law. Obviously
that didn't resonate with five of the justices.
V: Somehow the case was never made to the media or to the justices that by
design, the law of Florida was to have 67 separate, but equal, but truly separate
canvassing boards to make decisions at that level. I don't know how that can be
unequal because you've elected your local people to determine what your local
standards shall be. They allow unequal protection in pornography, what's
pornography in Gainesville may not be pornography in Tallahassee. This is the
same thing, and yet they chose two different standards to apply to the votes
versus their other decisions in that regard.
P: You observed the Supreme Court arguments, that 4-3 decision. One of the
arguments, as you know, from the beginning by the Republicans was that this
was a liberal Democratic court. It would seem to me a 4-3 vote would undermine
V: I would tell you that the language I wrote after the first court hearing suggested
that if there were any doubts that this was a fair-minded probing court that took
no favorites, this was it based on the questions, the roughness of the questions
that these judges asked in both hearings. They were very, very pointed and
asked very, very good questions and were very, very tough in the questions they
asked to the lawyers on all the sides and certainly appeared non-partisan to me.
P: I think a lot of people, I know including the people in the CNN booth thought they
were getting ready to go home, they thought it was over. They couldn't imagine
that the Florida Supreme Court would vote 4-3 to continue the recount. I think it
must have been a surprise to a lot of people. Even Dexter Douglass said he
didn't know if we were going to win 4-3 or lose 4-3.
V: My biggest surprise in that decision was that Leander Shaw was one of the
three. I would have thought it was 5-2, was my thought when I watched those
arguments with Leander Shaw being on the other side. I thought it was pretty
clear that the chief [Justice Charlie Wells] and Major Harding had grave concerns
about it. In fact, I actually thought that Major Harding in some of his questioning
and things, didn't even want to be there. One of the things that struck me most
about the first court hearing was that the judges all looked pretty nervous. They
all looked like they hadn't slept very well the night before, they all looked like
they'd been up reading this stuff. When they started asking their questions, it
was pretty clear they'd read every piece of paper that had come to them. [They]
knew the stuff that was being argued to them, backwards and forwards. It was
interesting because they did appear nervous. I think they knew they were picking
the next president, potentially, of the United States. It took them maybe ten or
fifteen minutes into the hearing before they became confident in themselves
again. I thought it was kind of interesting that even people of that stature who do
this regularly on a monthly basis, make life or death decisions all the time, took
this that seriously and were that overwhelmed by the duty they faced too.
P: If the roles had been reversed and Bush had brought the suit, would they have
ruled the same way?
V: Yes, I think so. Their decision was driven the entire time by the law, that
basically says every attempt shall be made to count every vote.
P: As you know Justice Charlie Wells had a stinging dissent and said that it was
going to create a constitutional crisis. Do you think that was a reasonable
V: Yeah, I think in the context he was creating that he said that, I think he also went
on to talk about the court being held in disrepute and low esteem. I think he was
not talking about a national constitutional crisis. I believe he was talking about a
state constitutional crisis. I believe he felt the State Supreme Court was giving
the legislature a great deal of ammunition to curtail the powers of the Court in
any way that it could. The Court had been the subject, just in the previous
legislative session of a great effort by Speaker Thrasher and Mr. Feeney to
curtail the court's activities, to potentially pack the court, to take away the
regulation of lawyers from the court. I think that Justice Wells believed that it was
pretty clear, the legislature, by the second court hearing, was already talking
about naming the electors anyway, if they hadn't been in session already. I think
that Justice Wells was as much worried about what the legislature would try to do
to the Florida Supreme Court and the entire judicial system by that statement as
anything else. I don't think he was talking about a national constitutional crisis. I
think he was talking about the emasculation of the Florida Supreme Court by the
Florida legislature whenever possible. They were certainly somewhat restrained
during the last legislative session. They seem to have said, we won. Anyway, it
doesn't matter. Although, I will tell you that there's a bill in the hopper right now
to move the regulation of lawyers out from under the court and put it under the
P: In fact, Feeney said that the 7-0 Florida Supreme Court decision shows "a
tremendous lack of respect for the legislature." That's a pretty threatening
P: We've talked about this briefly, but I'd like to go back to the U.S. Supreme Court
final decision Gore v. Bush. Was the vote 5-4 in your view or 7-2?
V: I thought it was 5-4. I thought that the question of 7-2 could have been... there
were certainly questions there, but it was a 5-4 vote in which the majority
perpetuated its majority, in my opinion. Based on the reporting I saw. I don't
believe these judges made any bones about it in the long run. I think that it was
a 5-4 vote as I recall, for the most part when Justice Scalia sent the memo out
saying I polled everybody and it's a 5-4 vote. To me, before you heard the
argument, you knew what the outcome of the vote was, it didn't matter what the
argument was. I actually felt for the reporters that raced out of the Supreme
Court that cold winter night in Washington D.C. trying to find the right opinion
based on the fact that there were so many different opinions there. Trying to do
instant analysis on television because it was exceptionally difficult. I didn't think
that that opinion necessarily said it was over either. It just basically said there
was not enough time and Gore sort of conceded and everything. It seems to me
they could have kept counting votes and they could have played the
constitutional challenge out in Congress where it belonged. I don't think the
decision said, stop it's over, I just think it said there are lots of questions here.
P: It was remanded to the Florida Supreme Court. They said, this is not our issue, it
should be decided by the legislature. So they just decided they would not deal
with it. Dexter Douglass again told me that they talked with Gore, and Gore
thought fairly long and hard about whether or not they should proceed. Dexter
Douglass said, you can't win any way. Even if it does go to the U.S. Congress.
V: You're going to lose there too because the votes weren't there for him either.
P: I noticed Justice Ginsberg in her dissent said that the Court ruled there wasn't
enough time and she said, that's our fault because we were the ones that
remanded it to the Florida Supreme Court without making any decision.
V: And they indeed stopped the vote and said there was no time. I guess the
puzzling thing for me is that Gore does not appear to be a candidate in the next
election at this time. I'm not sure why that is. He just seems to have sort of
dropped out here. It seems to me his idea was, and he was being told, let me
back out, let me be a gracious loser now that we've gone as far as we can go, I'll
prime myself for four years for now and I'll get ready to move forward. Having
done that, and now not be a candidate. I don't understand why he didn't go all
the way to the wall with it so to speak, and let Congress make that decision.
People say there's a constitutional crisis, but there's not a constitutional crisis.
That's what the Constitution says you do. There is no crisis, there's a roadmap.
P: Justice Scalia said that this was a constitutional crisis and that's why they had to
V: The only crisis was that they did intervene because there's no provision in the
constitution for them to do that as I believe.
P: There are a lot of responses to this decision. I guess the strongest dissent was
Justice Stephens who said, it was wholly without merit and that in the long-run,
the loser in this election is the public's confidence in the United States Supreme
Court. Do you think the credibility of this Court was seriously damaged by this
V: Yes, absolutely. But I think only temporarily. I don't believe this is the first time
that the United States Supreme Court has made a political decision because I
believe it's been done before, although it didn't involve an election. There have
been cases where the Court has done the wholly unpopular, wholly political thing
for political, partisan purposes. I guess that shouldn't be a surprise because they
are indeed partisans or they would have never gotten there in the first place
either. The reality is, is that this too shall pass. Ironically, I felt bad for
Newsweek because I keep referring to this Newsweek, and I presume you have
read it or have looked at it. It came out on the day the terrorist bombing started, I
think and so no one read it. So, that certainly probably helps the Court in that
regard. It will be a short-term memory. The public will have a very short-term
memory. One of my favorite comments was no matter what happened, the
election ended September 11, 2001. There was no dispute about who was
president any more. I think there's a lot of truth to that. I think that also helped
P: In effect, it saved Bush's presidency.
V: Absolutely it did. He was in the toilet in the opinion polls up until that day and it
P: Justice Breyer had an interesting comment in his dissent. He said the case
should be remanded to the Florida Supreme Court and they should resume the
count under a uniform standard and that December 12 was not the end date.
V: He was absolutely right. I thought the final decision allowed that. I thought the
final decision sent this, as you said, back to the [Florida Supreme] Court and
allowed the count to go continued. The [U.S. Supreme] Court sort of assumed in
its opinion that there's just not enough time because December 12th is the date.
Somewhere the Court assumed that date and I think that goes back to David
Boies naming that date early on. That was an artificial deadline. It was initially
imposed by Boies to try and keep things moving and it was a mistake.
P: In effect, the United States Supreme Court wanted to stop this election.
V: It sure looked like it to me. From somebody here on the ground in Florida, it
looked like they were willing to stop it.
P: Some comments, depending on the political point of view, are rather harsh. Alan
Dershowitz said it was the single most corrupt decision in Supreme Court history
and it had to do with the political affiliation of the litigants. Vincent Bugliosi called
the five justices criminals and said they had stolen the presidency. Other people
like Judge Richard Posner said it was not a very good legal decision, but it was a
pragmatic decision that saved the country from a possible constitutional crisis.
How do you react to all those differing views of the decision?
V: I look forward to reading the Dershowitz and Bugliosi book. I saw them on
television talking about it. Dershowitz I like a lot, he's a really good lawyer and
he was pretty inflamed. I think the only thing that decision avoided was a slow
Christmas for a lot of merchants because everyone was still glued to their
television to find out what was going on. I seriously think that there was no
constitutional crisis. The Republican strategy was to portray that there was a
crisis at hand, to create uncertainty and to try to get it solved quickly as possible
by friendly people. They did that. The reality is, it would have gone to the House
of Representatives and the outcome would have been the same. It would not
have changed, but there would not have been a crisis, the Constitution would
have worked. So, while I don't think that the decision was a good decision,
thought it was inopportune to be there, and I actually don't think it did what it said
it did and what a lot of people said it did. I think Gore could have continued after
that. I think, based on what was available to the Supreme Court here in Florida.
I think the fight was gone at that point.
P: Discuss the impact of television in the courtroom.
V: I think that what happened here... we discuss earlier that there was a great deal
of effort on the Republican point of view to try and suggest that they couldn't get
a fair decision by the Florida Supreme Court because they were all Democrats
and been appointed by Democrats. The reality of it is, is that the Court was open
and available to anyone who wanted to see it. Anyone who was there or who
saw it on television or had the opportunity to watch it, and it was broadcast
nation-wide, has no doubt whatsoever it was a non-partisan court, looking at
legal issues. That's what television does. In fact, the Supreme Court of the
United States took notice of that in its unprecedented decision to release the
audio tapes of the hearing that it had. I think that speaks widely to the ability of
major courts. The [O. J.] Simpson trial got a lot of interest from television
viewers. I think a lot of people, when they're interested in a case, will watch a
court hearing and it ought to be available. It has not impacted the courts here in
Florida. Sanders Sauls got rave reviews and became a national celebrity after
being televised. The way he handled his court and came out with a decision.
The Supreme Court, in my mind, vindicated itself by having itself televised,
vindicated itself of partisanship charges by making sure that those hearings were
[televised]. Judge [Terry] Lewis showed himself to be one of the best jurists in
the county, in the way he conducted his courtroom that everybody saw on
national television. I have long been a believer of television of everything that's
public. The courtroom is just the beginning of it. I remember when we didn't
have television in the courtroom in Florida and it was part of the first trial period
here at the Supreme Court level. I think it's done a great thing to help people
understand the court system.
P: Is there some opportunity for posturing attorneys?
V: Yeah, but if you've got a good judge, they're not going to take it. If you spend
your time trying to make yourself look good... the reality of a court hearing is the
public that might be watching it, doesn't make a decision. It's not like a political
campaign, it's not like a legislative race. There are only six, seven, eight, or nine
votes that really, really count. If you want to play to the cameras instead of to the
judge, I think you do it at grave risk. I suppose the same is true with six or twelve
jury members. You can play to that camera and be a theatrical type person, but
it's the jury that makes the decision. That's who you've got to sell. To think the
cameras is going to change that dynamic is wrong. I don't think that can hurt
P: In the end, who do you think won the state of Florida.
V: I think everything I've read suggests that Al Gore won. Between the votes that
were cast for Buchanan in Palm Beach County, between the votes that weren't
counted, between military votes that would have never been counted had not
they been helped along by Republican activists, between the machines that didn't
do the exact counting, I think it's pretty clear that Al Gore won Florida just as he
won the rest of the country. He won the popular vote, Florida is a microcosm of
the United States as a whole, I think very much so. It was close. But it wasn't as
close as it was, and it wasn't a GOP victory in Florida.
P: The Miami Herald, as you know, went back and looked at the votes and they
said, in almost every category, particularly the strictest standard with dimpled
chads, that Bush would have won.
V: It is and that's the answer, but the Miami Herald didn't consider the butterfly
ballot problem, which was a major problem in Palm Beach County, it created a lot
P: One of the things interesting about Palm Beach County, 96 percent of the people
voted correctly, they didn't have any trouble with the ballot.
V: That's right, and no more voted incorrectly this time than last time.
P: So, if it's voter error, they should not have been counted.
V: Right. And was it voter error because of a bad design that may or may not have
been legal? That's the next part of that question. There was no remedy for that
situation in the legal process that was acceptable to anybody, so all you could do
was accept it. But that doesn't make that ballot right, it doesn't make it legal.
That ballot may well have changed the outcome of the election, just by itself.
The Martin and Seminole counties outcomes on the absentee ballots, had those
been dealt with differently, had my friend not told his reporter to go check it out
and told the world there was a problem, would have changed the outcome of that
election. Maybe it's a wash, maybe George Bush would have won under any
circumstance, I don't know. I think that that's not the case.
P: How significant was the performance of the lawyers in all these court cases,
particularly before the Supreme Court? Do you think that made any difference
one way or the other?
V: First of all the performance of the lawyers balanced itself out in the respect in
front of the Florida courts that both Dexter Douglass and Barry Richard are held
in very high esteem in this state. I know of no two better lawyers. I know some
that are maybe just as good, but none that are any better in the nearly thirty
years I've been watching politics and watching people argue and legal minds
think. Plus, I know them both personally. They were well-balanced before the
court. I thought that the Republicans had a lawyer named Michael Carvin at the
first hearing who did an awful lot to help the court come to a 7-0 decision against
them. He answered every question wrong because of his lack of knowledge
about Florida law. I thought that he, every time given the opportunity, gave a
Washington answer instead of a Florida answer. That's what Dexter Douglass
and Barry Richard are so good at.
P: Dexter Douglass said that Carvin was so bad, we wanted him to argue the entire
V: Absolutely. He was so bad and answered every question wrong and had the bad
attitude. He didn't fit there. He didn't know what he was doing. He might have
been a brilliant lawyer and he might have known a lot of stuff, but he didn't know
Florida law. He didn't understand the questions he was being asked.
P: One point you made and everybody knows that David Bois is a great lawyer, but
this December 12 issue was certainly a mistake, it would seem to me. Would
you argue that Ted Olson and the Republicans made a better presentation
before the U.S. Supreme Court or did it matter?
V: I don't think it mattered, I think when the Supreme Court took jurisdiction,
particularly for the second time, it was pretty clear the decision was already
made. I will say that I thought Boies, the first time as well, had never argued I
think before the U.S. Supreme Court and he may have been a bad choice to
have argued the first time.
P: In fact, Lawrence Tribe originally argued and they replaced Lawrence Tribe with
David Boies. Tribe had quite a bit of experience.
V: Boies, in the audio tape I heard, was not his sure self that he was here for some
reason. I think there were a couple of times he goes, I don't know. I don't think
that's an answer the judges want to hear.
P: In the long term, what impact will this election have on the state of Florida?
V: I think in the long-term, it will result in blacks and minorities not being
disenfranchised because of inferior voting equipment. That it will result in greater
scrutiny of cabinet level officers taking partisan roles, although the Secretary of
State will soon become a non-elected official anyway. Short-term it will have an
increased voter turnout, long-term it may well too. Call me an idealist, but I
believe the country was so riveted even the people that didn't vote, by what
happened at the last election, that more people will be interested next time.
P: Certainly they know more about the process, who elections supervisors are and
what they do.
V: Florida's going to get all brand-new voting machines. The irony there is there's
nothing really wrong with punch cards if you had a precinct based reader to let
the voter get their card spit back out if there were a problem. We'll get new
equipment. I actually, frankly, worry a little bit about the touch-screen. I'm not
sure it's not too easy to fool with.
P: I was talking to Thom Rumburger who was on the governor's commission and he
said that was an issue that they fought about and thought it was very expensive.
Some of the elderly don't know how to use that type of equipment so it could
create problems. Now we're going to have a situation where we're not going to
have uniform machines on a state-wide basis.
V: That's right, you know, if perhaps they had just authorized uniformity in terms of
the optical scan machines, the optical scan precinct base which is the base
system which they authorized and left it at that. I think that at least for the next
election, that would have been fine. That stuff is not expensive, it wouldn't have
required a whole lot of stuff at a lot of precincts because they already own some
of it and most of them already have the system. I think what scared them there
was the printing cost. A lot of supervisors are looking at the long-term printing
cost and the ability to turn out three million copies. That's an exaggeration, but
hundreds of thousands of paper ballots from election day to the first run-off if that
ever comes back.
P: Part of the election reform, the election supervisors had complained about not
having enough time so they did away with the second primary. The Democrats
argue that's just to get Jeb Bush re-elected, has nothing to do with the electoral
process. What's your take on that?
V: I think it could burn them in the Attorney General's race because the Republicans
have three candidates for Attorney General and they could well end up without
the best candidate surfacing. They could end up in a situation with not their
strongest candidate overall being the nominee because he will have the most
money and the most state-wide name recognition in that race. I also think it does
hurt the Democrats in a lot of ways in terms of being able to pick a gubernatorial
candidate, but the reality of it is, it gives them two months to come back to it. I
would argue to you that this may be a one-time experiment because that's all that
they've done here is a one-time experiment and indeed it may result in Jeb Bush
being elected, but I think he's been re-elected on September 11 anyway. I
thought the dynamics of the election changed with the terrorist attacks as well.
Unless there's a big change between now [and 2004]. The economy certainly
could become very troublesome and there could be a very large black turnout if
they remember the 2000 election, if they remember that in 2002, he's got serious
problems. I think some of those went away September 11 because he's shown a
great deal of leadership since September 11. Some of those problems are going
to remain kindling and smoking back there in the background as people start to
look at this election.
P: We're talking about the Election Reform Act and whether or not that decision to
do away with the second primary was partisan. The act also allowed provisional
ballots, do you think they've resolved the problems here.
V: Let me finish my thoughts on the second primary. Some of Florida's greatest
leaders, albeit Democrats, were elected in the second primary: Bob Graham,
Reubin Askew, Leroy Collins, Lawton Chiles. They were all elected in the
second primary. There were an awful large number of legislators that were
elected in second primaries, they like that system. I think that we'll see it come
back. I think it was a mistake to do away with it. In terms of the provisional
ballot, the problem with the provisional ballot is, it's only in your precinct. With
redistricting and with county lines being redrawn before the next major statewide
election, I might show up at Precinct 32 where I voted for the last thirteen years
to find out I now vote in Precinct 34, but I don't know because I don't have my
card with me so I cast a provisional ballot in Precinct 32 and it won't count
because I'm not registered to vote in Precinct 32, I'm registered to vote in
Precinct 34. So, the mistake there in my opinion, in terms of making it fair, and
not disenfranchising people was in not making that a county-wide issue, county-
wide provisional ballot.
P: Do you think there was discrimination against African Americans? The U.S. Civil
Rights Commission came out with a report, much of it anecdotal, but
demonstrated that in this county [Leon], for example, there was a highway patrol
stop set up and there were other examples where the machines were not as
good in predominantly minority precincts.
V: That seemed to be the case. To give you a better opinion, I'd have to go look
and see. Was it a Republican Supervisor of Elections that put the worst
machines in the black neighborhoods? I don't know. So, I can't answer that. Is
it likely that that happened? Yes. Is it likely that even a Democrat from a rich,
white neighborhood put the worst equipment in a black neighborhood? Probably
because he figures they're not going to vote for me anyway, I might as well take
care of my constituency. Yeah, I think there's a great deal of that. We've looked
thoroughly into the highway patrol stop here. There's no conclusive evidence
those guys did that on purpose and that it had a major impact on it. But it was
wrong, it was wrong to have a patrol car near a precinct.
P: It turns out that they stopped 3 to 1 white motorists over black motorists, but
having talked with people like Ed Jennings, they said that for an older black
voter, just the appearance of police is an intimidating factor.
V: I believe that to be true. That was what's was wrong with even having them
there. The patrol, who I have a great deal of respect for most of the leadership
over there say that they looked at it and say there was no intent. It was still a
dumb thing to do.
P: How has this election impacted your life?
V: You want to talk to me. I'm going to Memphis next week to talk to the
Association of Court Clerks. It was truly an experience to be at ground zero. It
taught me a great deal about decision-making and prudent decision-making. I
watched some of the best pros in the political business think on their feet and
have a great deal of admiration that this country has got a lot of truly great
people, very capable people albeit partisan, but very capable people to speak
their mind. It also gave me a perspective... you know, the national media travels
as such a horde. It truly was an unwieldy situation to deal with. When the
national media comes to town, it's an overwhelming experience to everyone
involved. I thought it was very interesting that we got tourists at the capitol
coming to see the media show. We became truly, as I've always thought we
were, part of the mix in the decision-making process. We were this time too. It
changed my life. Certainly one of the things we did out of this office was about
115 live shots. Early on the Republicans came here and said, we want to do all
of our material away from the hordes downtown, can we use your studio? We
said yes, and then the networks hired us to do that for the networks. From that
perspective, it was interesting in the ways it changed my life that way was I got to
talk to all these guys one on one off the record, so to speak, on a fairly regular
basis. It was very interesting to do, just to hear what they were thinking. They
were thinking what a lot of other folks were thinking. Gosh, I need to get a clean
suit, a need a new shirt. Stuff like that.
P: Is there anything else that we haven't touched on or any particular story that you
think is important.
V: I'm sure there is and I wish I'd had a chance to look through some more of the
material I've got before this, but I think we've hit all the hard stuff. I think it's
important, you know, you've talked to me a lot about U.S. Supreme Court stuff
and that was peripheral to what we did here because we are in essence state
reporters and we concentrated on the state aspect. While the U.S. Supreme
Court was stuff that I read those decisions out of my own personal interest, it was
not something that involved our day to day coverage, so you've asked for a lot of
opinions there which are 800 miles away from me, the facts are 800 miles away
from me. But like everyone else, I was glued to the process throughout that
entire time. It was something that I look forward to telling grandchildren about.
The day the national media came to town and stayed for a month and what it was
P: On that note, we'll end the interview and thanks very much for your time.
[End of the interview.]