One day after Americans choose their next president, the Brookings Institution convened its traditional post election panel of experts to review the results of the election and analyze what factors led to Tuesday’s outcome. They also explored what lies ahead for the new president’s agenda, who he’s likely to appoint to key positions in the government, relations between the White House and Congress, and how outside forces can affect the success or failure of the new administration.
E.J. Dionne, Jr.: We organized this event on the assumption that we would know who the next president of the United States was at this moment. And what a foolish assumption that turned out to be. And obviously the content of the event will shift a little bit because we want to talk about what is the meaning of what I think is potentially a really serious crisis of legitimacy in our government. I thought the theme of the day is, “Honey, we blew up our electoral system.” And I say that light-heartedly but I also think it is also a very serious problem for our country, and I want us to get into that.
And then because we have so many brave souls here, they can decide which administration they want to tell us, and they would count votes in Florida. I must say before I turn to my friend, Tom Mann, to ask him to talk about this crisis, I remembered today one of my favorite political stories. I grew up in Massachusetts where electoral fraud is not unknown. And there is a story of a man who was dying in Springfield, Massachusetts, 70 miles from Boston. And he wrote his will and arranged to be buried in the district of a state senator called Billy Bulger, who is actually one of the funniest people in public life. He is not a state senator anymore. And friends said, “Why are you being buried 70 miles from your home?” And he replied, “I see no reason why my death should deprive me of my right to participate in the democratic process.” And I think we are going to hear a lot of such stories in coming days.
Before I turn to Tom also, I just want to tout some excellent Brookings events that are coming up. On Monday, November 13th from 10:00 a.m. to noon, there will be a great panel moderated by Steve Hess with Marvin Kalb, Robert Lichter, and Ron Nessen on how the television networks covered the 2000 presidential campaign. I think that Steve is setting up a count of how many times the 1876 election will be mentioned in the next few days.
And on November 8th at 1:00 p.m., there is going to be [the release of analysis] on growth at the ballot box, electing the shape of communities in November 2000. There were a lot growth-related initiatives on the ballot yesterday. I have the theory, in fact, that Al Gore did better in Arizona and Colorado yesterday than people expected. In part, because these are issues that may have brought more of his voters to the polls. And, finally, Paul Light’s excellent initiative, his appointee initiative, boy, is this prophetic, the headline on this item says, “Appointment Gridlock.” And he is inviting you — do I understand this right, Paul? He is inviting you to visit the appointee website. It iswww.appointee.brookings.org. I think now it will be divided into two parts, depending on the outcome of the election. This is a great project Paul is working on.
Tom, can you explain to us what we should make of this crisis that we face as a country?
Thomas E. Mann: No. I just can’t figure out what the interest is here, E.J. Listen, this is a once in a century cluster of events that pose an extraordinary challenge to our political class and to our political leaders. There is today I believe enormous pressure on George Bush and Al Gore and on the leaders of both parties in Congress to figure out a way to manage a very, very difficult situation that has the potential to do serious damage to the legitimacy of our constitutional system. I think there are some precedents to follow. There are some alternatives involved here. But what our leaders say and do over the next hours and days will be exceedingly important. What we have heard thus far has been muted, better muted than hyperbolic but much more needs to be said.
We have this, first of all, very unusual delay in the outcome. All of us were put through an emotional roller coaster last night. I was sitting on a PBS set for five hours. And I sort of — Florida in and out and up and down. It was really an extraordinary situation. The bottom line is we have sort of two immediate problems. And I will argue that one of the problems is not a problem but the second one is and that one has to think about dealing with.
The first “problem” is now the strong possibility that the winner of plurality of the popular vote will not be the winner of the electoral vote. That is if Florida stays in the Bush column, Bush will win a majority in the electoral vote and he will be somewhere between 200,000 and 300,000 votes behind Gore in the national popular vote. Now, in my mind, that is not a particularly big deal. We have a constitutional system. The rules of the game call for a majority in the electoral college. The candidates competed to win a majority in the electoral college, not a majority of the popular vote. It seems to me you don’t change the rules in a midstream. We have faced this situation before in our history. While I don’t doubt that this result will lead to pressure to change the way in which we elect presidents, and I think the odds are pretty sure that that will happen, it should not go to the legitimacy of the outcome of this election. That is my strongly-held view. Do not put me down as neutral on this question.
But the second issue really goes to the results in Florida. First of all, the bizarre calling of the election early and withdrawing and then awarding it to Bush and then withdrawing that as we sort of march down. Most of the absentee ballots have been counted. Some additional ones are coming from overseas. There is a recount underway now that is sort of a speedy recount that will end late tomorrow. But if there is anything that emerges in that, one can have a more elaborate recount process that would take more like 10 days instead of 48 hours.
Maybe that part will all work out. It will confirm the Bush lead, which is now about 1,600 votes of about five or six million that were cast. And when the absentees come in, it may be keeps it the same or enlarges it. And things will work out fine.
There is one problem, however, and it is a consequence a provision of our Constitution that gives to the states the power to set the time, manner, and place of elections. We have a decentralized system of administering elections. And local county officials have enormous prerogative in designing ballots and setting up ballot forms. Well, it turned out in Palm Beach County, a rather unusual procedure was used in which, by all accounts, many voters were confused with the punch card. And it stretched apparently laterally across two pages. And where they thought, or it is alleged where they thought they were voting for Al Gore, they in fact punched for Patrick Buchanan.
Bill Gale, an economist here at Brookings, has just sort of handed me an analysis done by an economist down in Florida which is in effect the predicted vote for Pat Buchanan versus the actual. This is predicted. This is actual. Here are sort of all of the results of every county. Here is Palm Beach County. It is completely off the charts, leading to an estimate here of probably somewhere in excess of 2,200 votes intended to be cast for Al Gore that were cast Patrick Buchanan.
If nothing else changes, we will then have a situation where, I assume this information will become widespread and commonplace, and if it is legitimate, assuming it isn’t overturned by other results coming in and so on, the possibility exists that we will all know that Al Gore in fact won Florida but George Bush will be declared the winner of Florida. On the basis of that, he will become the president of the United States.
Unidentified: Is this is a great country or what? This is better than Hollywood.
T. Mann: That is a rather extraordinary situation. Mind you, it is not a question of electoral fraud as we had in 1960, charges of fraud in Illinois and Texas. I think at that time, Richard Nixon did an honorable thing and he basically conceded the election, even though there will questions raised about the legitimacy of the count in Illinois and in Texas, two states that had they gone Republican would have made Richard Nixon president of the United States.
It may well be that at some point, Al Gore is going to have to suck it up and concede this election to George W. Bush even though he and many other people believe, and they would be justified in believing that in fact he won the state of Florida.
Now, what can be done about it? Well, it turns out not very much. There is no way of tracing the individual votes because we separate that to prevent vote buying and preserve the anonymity of the ballot. So you have to use this ecological information to infer what happened at the individual level. That wouldn’t hold up very well, I suspect in a legal case. Although, you know, Bob and others can offer more on that.
Now, another thing you could do other than simply just accepting it is the state of Florida, by the authority of federal statute could decide to hold another procedure to appoint the electors of Florida. There is a statute, a federal statute that has never been used for such a situation of presidential elections, although it has been elsewhere, in which — and I will read you: “Whenever any state has held an election for the purpose of choosing electors and has failed to make a choice on the day prescribed by law, the electors may be appointed on a subsequent day in such a manner as the legislature of such state may direct.” That is Title 3, Section 2 of the U.S. Code.
Now think about it a minute. We have a Republican legislature. We have a Republican governor. We have an extraordinary situation. The odds of us having a new election in Florida over the next couple of weeks are not strong. And, therefore, my guess is we are going to have to have some kind of negotiated settlement to this. It is not going to be clean. And my own view is this is a serious enough matter for all of us, and especially our political leaders, George Bush, Al Gore, Dennis Hastert, Dick Gephardt, Trent Lott, Tom Daschle, to begin some discussions. Because if this is allowed to fester, if there is a dispute, think back to the disputed Indiana House seat of the 1980’s in which Democrats in the end seated a candidate, the Democratic candidate who was not certified by the local officials, it introduced an era of bitter bipartisanship that remains with us today.
I think we need some kind of political solution. I am thinking grand coalition. I am thinking it is time for Republicans in Congress not to go on the morning talk shows and announce that they now have a mandate to move forward aggressively with all of the elements of the Republican platform but instead begin thinking of how in fact with the country so evenly divided with an election disputed, with how you put together a government that has any plausible basis for operating over the next four years.
E.J. Dionne: Tom, thank you very, very much for that. And I want to say by the way is Bill Gale here? Bill, at some point, I would love you to comment on it. I also want to make clear we are going to have the audience come in fairly quickly. I want to turn to Richard but I wanted to ask Tom a question. My solution, by the way, is President Gush or Bore —
— part of the grand coalition will be to name Richard the Secretary of State and Richard Holbrooke and Colin Powell will just have to live with it. But we will get to that in a moment.
I had, I must say, at about 4:15 this morning a battlefield conversion to the idea of popularly electing the president of the United States. And it was not because of my political preference but rather because of the mischief that this system allows, given that we are electing a national office with rules created in the states where you can have very bizarre, narrow, arcane issues, like the Buchanan vote, determine the fate of the whole country. And lots of people will have questions about the legitimacy. If this election were the other way around and Gore had won the electoral college, a lot of Republicans would say, even if they accepted the election, this doesn’t seem fair. What is the state of your thoughts on this because I know you are an institutionalist on these questions?
T. Mann: The electoral college itself is obviously an anachronism. It has evolved to serve a purpose never intended by the Framers but it in the main has been a useful purpose. It has over time magnified the results of the popular vote and, therefore, provided an earlier and more decisive outcome. And, therefore, more sort of legitimacy to the candidates elected. It has been a counter-force to the nationalization of media campaigns. It has forced candidates to travel around to parts of the country that would make no sense in the future. It has empowered groups that might not get a hearing in a mass plebiscite but, who because of their strategic location can competitive states, get a hearing. There are many reasons for it. But, alas, the times has changed. We live in a world in which small “d” democratic values and forces tend to overwhelm institutional checks and safeties that we set up to ameliorate some of the excesses of democracy.
So, therefore, I am growing and grudgingly more sympathetic to it. But, E.J., it is not a simple system because it will fuel the creation of more minor parties. And the question then is what constitutes a legitimate popular vote election of a president. Will a plurality do? How big a plurality? Forty-five percent, forty, thirty-five? Are you going to have a run off? Well, what kind of strategic calculations and, frankly, paradox of voting problems enter into the situation then? Well, maybe we have to adopt a preferential voting system. It raises very complex questions. It is not a simple matter.
E.J. Dionne: Thank you, Tom. I want to ask Richard and then Bob Litan to talk about how the world is going to look at us. And what effect, if any, will this have? And if you would like to speculate on both administrations, feel free. And I would like to ask Bob the same question about financial markets and what sense do they make for this kind of situation? Richard, the Secretary of State, Richard?
Richard N. Haass: One of the reassuring things, the immediate response was that a lot of the world was somewhat reminiscent of the United States, which is that foreign ministries often work on auto pilot. So reportedly, quite quickly after Governor Bush was announced as the president-elect, all sorts of messages came in from various governments around the world congratulating him on that fact. Which reminds me when I worked in the State Department, you always had these messages prepared so when the prime minister of some country that none of us could find on the map was indeed elected with 99.9 percent of the vote, the perfunctory automatic congratulatory message would go out under the name of the Secretary of State. So this is clearly globalization at work.
How the world will perceive this, I think a lot of it depends upon how it is played out. When America shows itself to the world, whether it is in something like this or the Clinton scandals or the O.J. trial or whatever, our domestic politics are really issue number one in a lot of the rest of the world in a way that is not reciprocated whatsoever. A lot of us have already been asked to appear on foreign radio, foreign television. And every where in the world this is probably story number one, which, again, is not reciprocated.
But I think what we are essentially going to be is looked at. And depending upon how we handle both what Tom called the first problem and the second problem, we will have an impact in how we are perceived. To the extent we handle this with a degree of civility and with real concerns for legality as well as legitimacy, I actually think whenever we do that, no matter how awkward or messy the problem, we show ourselves to have a civic and a political culture that is the envy of the world. And so if we handle this well, I think respect for us goes up.
I think, however, if it is handled badly or perceived to be handled badly, then we stop looking exceptional. And we stop looking as a country that has evolved a form of democracy that is qualitatively different, and I would say qualitatively better. So there is an opportunity here, as messy and as in some way ways problematic as this is, there is an opportunity to show that we have the capacity to handle this sort of political challenge in ways that no other society would be up to. And if that happens, then we enhance respect for the United States.
E.J. Dionne: Thank you. Bob, on the economic side?
Robert E. Litan: Well, I prepared something to say but obviously it is irrelevant….
Well, there is a short-run impact, which Tom just informed me the NASDAQ is down by 3 percent or something like that. I think that as long as this instability matters or exists, the markets will be unsettled. But I think for the sake of answering your question, I am going to assume that we resolve this somehow legitimately and that it will be perceived legitimately.
And then the question that I have been getting from reporters, of course, is can anyone — and they are presuming that Governor Bush wins — can Bush govern the country given a four vote margin in the House right now. In the Senate, I am told that we are at 51-49 right now, Republicans. But Gorton’s election now or re-election is in doubt. If he loses, it is 50-50. Strom Thurmond is sick and Jesse Helms’ health is not great. So you don’t know, you could start off with a Republican Senate and then go to a Democratic Senate. But, in any event, you could even have 50-50 with the Vice President living up on Capitol Hill literally because he would required to be a tie-breaker all the time.
So to make a long story short, we are as evenly balanced as you can get. So can you govern and can Bush put through any part of his agenda. And I will just give you a couple of random thoughts. Number one, one would think that given the crisis that there would be a tendency to reach out, bipartisanship, and both sides would compromise so that Bush could get some part of his plan and the Democrats get some of theirs.
And what would make this a lot easier to happen is there will be a new CBO budget forecast that all of you should watch for in January. And for the last number of years, CBO has constantly revised upward its projection of surplus. So going into the election, the surplus over the next 10 years was roughly $2 trillion. I think it is — despite the fact that Congress is spending more money this year than was originally projected. It is conceivable that despite that, the projected growth rate of GDP in the next 10 years could be raised enough in the next CBO forecast so that the surplus would be even larger than what we had during the campaign. Money makes the world go around. And if, in fact, there is more money, there is room for a deal where Republicans get some of theirs, Democrats get some of theirs and you could have a happy scenario work out.
Now, the flip side of this, of course, is if that does not materialize, we are stuck with a surplus of $2 trillion or it is less and there is a lot more to fight over. You may residual bitterness growing out of whatever resolution the crisis we have. And both parties could be taking the calculation, what is in our interest to maximize our prospects two years from now because we are going to have mid-term elections in two years. And if people think today about how it is going to affect things two years from now, that can affect their calculations very differently. They have to make a choice between one school of thought, which says it is good to get a lot stuff done because that is the best way to get re-elected versus let’s fight over this, stick to our principles and then blame the other guys for the gridlock. And, frankly, I think there will be advocates of both views in both parties. And I can’t tell you right now which will prevail.
But I will conclude by saying that a higher surplus will be good news in a sense of easing this crisis.
And the one final thing I will point out. There is a huge wild card in all of this that we can’t predict and that relates to external events that influence the economy. And if there are two sort of wild cards out there that you worry about, one is the Middle East and oil. And, two, either related to that or independent would be another major stock market correction downward. Either of which could make some of those revenues evaporate rather quickly and then we are into recession and we are into an ugly situation.
So I would say those are the uncertainties you worry about, and I will quit there because it is impossible to be any more definite than that.
E.J. Dionne: That was great. Thank you very much. By the way, Bill Gale, the piece of scholarship — we used to have instant analysis, now we have it thanks to the net, instant scholarship will be passed around the room at some point. And I am going to ask Bill to tell us a little bit about it. Do we have Xeroxes of that?
William G. Gale: We have 40 percent of the copies reporting.
E.J. Dionne: I don’t know if you heard that. He said, “We have 40 percent of the copies reporting.” So I would like Bill at some point to get in on that. I would like to turn to Bel. And my friend, David Brooks, at The Weekly Standard said that if you look at these election results, what you see is that the country is tied. It is tied in virtually every respect. The Senate is maybe literally tied. Senator Breaux, and I am very loosely paraphrasing, suggested that every Senator hire bodyguards and a food taster given the nature of the control in the Senate.
E.J. Dionne: At least my reading of the exit polling yesterday is the country itself is in kind of a moderate mood, that you have polarization with a country in a moderate mood. And if George Bush prevails, it is because a lot of people who agree with Al Gore’s policies voted for George Bush either because of Al Gore or Bill Clinton. What is this going to do to social policy? How do you make social policy in a situation where you have sort of simultaneously polarization and some desire for something other than polarization? I only ask you the easy questions.
Isabel V. Sawhill: Well, I think that I sort of have thought about is their a good news that can come out of this difficult situation everybody has just described. And I sort of presume that probably Bush is going to win but that we are going have a margin thin Republican majority in the House and the Senate. And as Bob Litan has pointed out, it could even be a tie in the Senate. But let’s assume that is where we end up and then let me try to address what I think a relatively story about it might look like.
I think that clearly because of what you just said and because of what all the exit polls show and so forth, there is no mandate here for truly conservative government, what the right-wing of the Republican Party, particularly in the Congress, might have wanted to see happen. So coming out of this, we can either have gridlock or we can have bipartisanship. We can have an attempt to find some kind of a middle ground in policy-making.
And the reasons why I am somewhat optimistic about the fact that we might be able to find that is, first of all, Bush talked incessantly about the need to turn down the rhetoric, to stop the bickering and the divisions in Washington. And it is pretty clear that a lot of people voted for him I think because of that message. They liked that message. He also has a record that arguably reached out to the other party in Texas. And I think, finally, during the campaign distanced himself quite a bit from the Republicans in the Congress.
Second reason I am a little bit optimistic is because I think there is a lot of rancor in the Congress right now partly because of President Clinton and how he is viewed up there. Clearly, many members of his own party, who don’t quite trust him, and a lot of Republicans who, to put it mildly, just actively dislike him.
Now, I think there is an interesting question here about whether Hillary Clinton in the Senate keeps that a little bit alive or whether somehow or another once Bill Clinton is gone, he is really gone and some of that rancor goes away.
I have to say as a footnote or an aside here, I am interested that nobody in the press, at least that I have seen, has mentioned the fact that we are moving to family dynasties in presidential politics. We went Bush, Clinton. Now, we will probably have Bush again and then maybe we will have Clinton, the other Clinton in 2004 or 2008. And that is the threat, by the way to go back to what Bob said, that the Republicans, if they do have a majority and they have both the White House and the Congress have to worry about, who might come in in 2004 the way the Republicans took over in 1994 after the Clinton Administration turned left, and too far left probably in retrospect.
Third reason that I am somewhat optimistic is because Bush campaigned essentially on Democratic issues. And they were the social policy questions, health care, education, social security. So, again, this election I think was no endorsement of a conservative agenda. Put a little differently, I think the conservative revolution that many associate with Ronald Reagan having come into power, in both in ideologically and an intellectual sense, has lost a lot of its earlier energy. Some of that energy I think disappeared because Clinton has been a New Democrat. Some of it has disappeared because we have had prosperity, some of it because all the social indicators are moving in the right direction, crime is down, teen pregnancy is down. Things really all seem to be getting better. And, finally, if you take out the big entitlement programs, government is a lot smaller and leaner than it used to be.
And, finally, I agree with what Bob Litan said about dollars do make the world go around and there is some money to meet everybody’s objectives here. And so that is something as well.
Now, if I have time, I would like to just say a few words, somewhat very speculative and very provocative about what this new coalition agenda might look like, this more bipartisan agenda. Think about the two big issues that Governor Bush has said he would address. One is this big across-the-board tax cut. The second is social security.
The exit polls show that only a quarter of the public was enthusiastic about the across-the-board tax cut, whereas 57 percent of them were in favor of some privatization of social security. So think about the following scenario. The Bush Administration says we are going to reduce the payroll tax by two percentage points. We are going to have a true middle-class tax cut because payroll taxes are much larger than income taxes for most middle income families. We are going to require that you put that money instead into some kind of a private savings account. But basically we are returning the money to you. It is and can be viewed as a tax cut. We are going to pay for the $1 trillion hole that that creates in the social security system by scaling back in a major way the original across-the-board tax cut. So it is a nice sort of joining of a more conservative and a more moderate to liberal agenda.
Another example, education. Bush’s proposal here is to provide flexible funding, a block grant funding of most or all federal education dollars to the states. The Democrats and liberals don’t like it. They are afraid that the states might use it in the wrong way or give it to the wrong school districts. Suppose that you go along with the idea that block grant funding of education makes quite a lot of sense. We did it in welfare. It seems to be working reasonably well in welfare, maybe we should trust the states a little bit more. But maybe we have a hooker that says in return for that, we don’t try to do anything about school vouchers, even in the limited way that Bush talked about it in the campaign in both Michigan and California. That was resoundingly defeated.
And, secondly, we have a little bit of a condition, or maybe more than a little bit of a condition, on the federal money going to the states that says the amount you get is going to be conditioned not only on how well your schools perform, based on annual testing, but, secondly, on how equitable your school financing situation is.
So I will leave it there with some provocative ideas of what this grand compromise might look like.
E.J. Dionne: Thank you. And now we have Secretary of State, but chief domestic policy adviser to the new coalition administration.
I want to turn to Paul Light. I am tempted to say anybody here who gives out grants, Paul, as you know, is an expert on making bureaucracies work, and he is somebody in Washington who actually respects those people we call bureaucrats. I figure somebody should give him a grant to reinvent all the boards of elections around the country so this never happens again.
But what I would like to ask you about before I turn to the audience is the question of what do you know about the way the transitions on each side has worked and what kind of effect does this kind of event have on the way people think about building a new government?
Paul C. Light: Can I say two things first? One is that I am the director of government studies, and I took over from Tom who was in my job for 10 years and in the office I now occupy. I am so proud of the way you handled the analysis last night. It was such reasoned judgment through the night. I can’t tell you how many times, however, during this campaign that I picked up my phone in his office with somebody saying, “Tom? Tom?” And I said, “No, it is Paul Light.” And it was either a quick click or “Can I have Tom’s number?” He is in such demand.
I am feeling wonderful today because under any scenario, government reform, good government, except for campaign finance reform, is on the agenda. Every period of scandal, partisanship, and tightness of the kind we have seen over the last three or four years has been followed by a surge of congressional action on good government. You can go back to 1800. Now, that was a constitutional crisis, Tom.
T. Mann: Yes, indeed.
P. Light: That was a real crisis. You go back to 1800, the Jacksonian period. You come into the present, you look at Watergate. Every period like this comes to my issues. I am so excited about the next two or three — now, they are not going to do anything about taxes, Bob, not much about social welfare. International policy, forget about it.
I am telling you all right now, civil service reform is on the agenda.
Now, we are doing this project on the presidential appointments process. There are roughly 400,000 Americans right now who are stuck. Those are the 200,000 in each party who were prepared today to fax their resumes to 1800 G Street, which is transition headquarters, in search of a job. They don’t know what to do. Now, if you are a Gore potential appointee, you are thinking to yourself, I am going to the Hill to face divided government and a Senate that will not want to confirm me, that has gotten in the habit of holding every nomination. And if you are a Bush potential appointee, you are thinking to yourself, I might have to appear before Senator Clinton. Both of them — both of those scenarios are probably depressing a number of potential appointees by 3,000 or 4,000. But most of them will get here.
We know that the kind of delay underway now, we have got a 73 day transition. We know that each day that the transition is on hold will result in an extra week or two of delay down the pike. The FBI is doing nothing by way of clearing names. There aren’t forms going in. We already project at the presidential appointee initiative that the next administration will not be fully in place until roughly November 1, 2001. It takes that long to get into office now. It is a traffic jam out there in the presidential appointments process. I figure if this thing lingers on, we are talking about maybe January ’01. It just takes a long time to get through the process. And this kind of uncertainty really unsettles a difficult transition process to begin with. Nevertheless, it helps make the case for civil service reform next year.
We need to fix this appointments process. And Tom and others around time are working on improving the transitions process. But it is a big problem because Inauguration Day will occur on time. We will settle all of this. And we will have problems getting the next administration into office. We will have the cabinet appointees. And it is good to know you are ready to swear. We will have them in place right on time.
But I like to talk about the third, fourth, and fifth vertebrae of the federal government which are the deputy secretaries, associate deputy secretaries — oh, stop me before I continue with this. But the third, fourth, and fifth vertebrae government, which are the lesser appointees who have to go through this process and it is a difficult one.
Is that responsive?
E.J. Dionne: Thank you very much.
P. Light: Thank you very much.
E.J. Dionne: The Pendleton Act in 1883 preceded by five years the last election in which the winner of the popular vote lost the election, so maybe it is the other way around.
P. Light: That was a disgruntled office-seeker who was not only disgruntled but a good shot. And that is a problem.
R. Haass: Just two things about foreign policy. Questions I wished E.J. had asked but didn’t. He always is like that. One is I haven’t seen the exit polls but my hunch is less than one one-hundredth of 1 percent of Americans voted on the basis of foreign policy. Indeed, I can’t even find an exit poll that asked anyone if you did vote on the basis of foreign policy, so it clearly has not played a significant impact on what happened over the last 24 hours.
But I would simply contrast that with what is likely to happen over the 73 days and beyond. And, as Bob Litan suggested, the world is not going to wait for us to sort this out. You have got Mr. Arafat and Mr. Barak in town this week. It is quite possible — something that the Israeli-Palestinian situation will get a lot worst real fast, which could in turn trigger a political use of the oil weapon which would have all sorts of economic consequences. But also all it is going to take is one more incident out of southern Lebanon going into northern Israel and I could see the makings of a fairly classic Middle East, potentially a Middle East conflict
You have got all sorts of questions about the consequences of this election for trade policy. The fact that — take Bob Litan’s scenario, to the extent people are thinking much more, two years ahead, the chance of granting a president Fast-Track authority and the ability to negotiate trade agreements is at best suspect. One looks at other world problems that are potentially festering close to home in Colombia and elsewhere, and you just have this somewhat ironic or perhaps more troubling gap between the lack of a role that foreign policy played up to now and our own preoccupation with the things that Tom correctly described, a gap between all that and the fact that the world in several cases is not simply sitting there calmly, waiting for us to sort it out.
But either Mr. Clinton as a lame duck or a new president, surrounded by questions of political strength, legitimacy, a lack of mandate, you could have an extraordinarily demanding international agenda early on. And the gap, if you will, between what the world might present to us and our own domestic politics has got to give one some pause.
E.J. Dionne: Thank you. I think Tom has the exit polls there, do you not, on that question?
T. Mann: Yes, for the question which issue matter most. World affairs is the closest we get. It was 12 percent.
R. Haass: And it worked for Bush, as I remember.
T. Mann: And there was a 14 point advantage for Bush on that matter, yes.
E.J. Dionne: Do we have a mike that can circulate here? If somebody could ask the first question before I turn to — where is Bill [Gale]?
Bill, could you just talk a little bit about what sense we are supposed to make of what happened in Palm Beach. Go ahead. And then if somebody could bring the mike to the first person, then we could just move to the first question. Bill?
W. Gale: Thanks. The item I am passing around is not something that I wrote. It is something that I got from the Internet. It was written by Peter Orzag and Jason Furman at Gore campaign headquarters. And, as an indication of the power of the Internet, after I got the original one, it said, “Please distribute this as much as possible,” which is why it is here. But after I got the original one, I got about 10 different people e-mailing me copies in the next 15 minutes.
So, one, this is an Orszag-Furman document, not a Gale document. Second, it is on the Internet. And, third, what I want to do is just talk you through it briefly. It is a pretty simple exercise in regression analysis. But you don’t need to understand that to get the basic point. The basic point is shown in the first table on the first page. In the state as a whole, both candidates got about 49 percent Buchanan got .29 percent. In Palm Beach, Bush got 35 percent. Gore got 62 percent. And Buchanan got .79. So Buchanan did much better in Palm Beach than he did in the rest of the state, and Gore did much better in Palm Beach than he did in the rest of the state.
But it turns out that the pattern in every other county in the state is that Buchanan did well in the counties that Governor Bush did well in. And that is what the table at the bottom of the page shows you. In the five counties where Governor Bush did worse, Buchanan got about .3 percent of the vote or less except in Palm Beach where he got .8 percent of the vote. So there is a suggested irregularity there in that Palm Beach is strange in that it is a county where Gore did very well and Buchanan did very well. And it is the only county in the state that has that pattern. All other counties where Gore did well, Buchanan did poorly. And counties where Bush did well were counties where Buchanan did well. So there is a sort of a statistical outlayer for Palm Beach.
And then the picture on the next page basically tells you the story. The horizontal axis gives you the predicted Buchanan vote, as described on the third page. Basically, that is an estimate of the relationship between the Bush vote and the Buchanan vote. That is generally conservative areas tended to vote more for Bush and tended to vote more Buchanan. So if you draw a line through those points, this is really primitive, but the line in green is what the regression line sort of looks like.
And then if you look at Palm Beach, the actual vote count for Buchanan on the vertical axis is much higher in Palm Beach than you would have expected to be given the predicted vote for Buchanan. That difference between the Palm Beach point and the line that you can draw through those points at the bottom, the interpretation of that difference is that that is how many — barring other explanations, that difference is the number of votes that were wrongly attributed to Buchanan on the basis of the issues that Tom Mann was talking about. That number is about 2,200 votes, 3,407 minus 1,208. And that is described in the text.
And then the last two pages of the text just give you the data that were used in the analysis. The data was downloaded off the ABC news sight and used in the regressions.
So that is about everything there. And I don’t know how you would like to handle this, E.J.
E.J. Dionne: Well, what I would like to do is just hang around if somebody — why don’t we have the mike, I would like to go to the audience. If there is a Bush-oriented statistician who wants to challenge the table on page 2, we would welcome that, although I think it is — I will leave it at that. Just if I could see some hands. Over here. I will try to get around to as many people as I can. Could you give your name and where you are from, please?
Question: Sure. Suzanne Smalley, and I am from the Durham Herald Center, North Carolina. I am wondering what role the fact that Jeb Bush as governor of Florida and the fact that the state election boards and counties have a lot power and also these lost ballot boxes that we are hearing about on CNN this afternoon would play in this problem in the state?
T. Mann: I believe there is a committee of the whole that would include the governor, the attorney general, who is a Democrat and was the leader of the Gore campaign in Florida, as well as the top election official, who is an elected Republican in Florida. So if they do this sort of properly, as it should be done, it will be a bipartisan group overseeing the process, each of whom has an official position. And then with representatives of the campaigns. Jim Baker has been named by the Bush campaign, Warren Christopher by the Gore campaign. And at least as far as the recount is concerned, the handling of absentee ballots and the like, it should be perfectly above board and legitimate.
My understanding is that most of the questions about the ballot boxes that were lost, that were locked, have cleared up and most sort of Democratic observers on the scene claim there are no remaining problems. But that may be dated information. We will be staying tuned.
What I want to say is I saw an AP report already where someone accused the attorney general of trying to steal the election for Gore. So it gives you a sense of the extent to which this thing could intensify, accelerate, and become very ugly. And that is why I stress the importance of people in both parties of proceeding civilly, reasonably, and legally as we work through this process.
E.J. Dionne: It just struck me from what Tom said, we could merge Tom and Richard’s analysis with Christopher and Baker in Florida, we could send Barak and Arafat to Palm Beach County, and we could work out a whole lot of problems at the same time.
This lady over here. Could I have the next, another, we have got two mikes, the gentleman on the right, right behind you.
Question: Carol Giacama (sp) with Reuters. Mr. Mann, I would like you to explore a little bit more in detail your idea of some sort of coalition government. Are you actually — when I hear coalition government, I think co-presidency, Gore as vice president, Bush as president. Is that what you are talking about?
T. Mann: No, no, no. We have a constitutional system. And we have one president, and we have one vice president. And they will be elected and certified when the electoral vote is counted in Washington in early January and be inaugurated. What I am calling for is some serious thought being given to how you patch together some extra-constitutional strategies to deal with this very real problem.
If Democrats sense that under these circumstances, the first unified Republican government in 48 years will try to go full speed ahead with an agenda that seems not to have been enthusiastically embraced by the electorate, I can imagine them getting ugly. And, therefore, it may make sense if, in fact, Bush is ultimately certified as the president, to think creatively about his cabinet appointments, appointing some Democrats there, to setting up some informal mechanisms with the Congress that involved genuine bipartisan meetings.
Do you know that the pattern established by Gingrich and Gephardt, namely, not meeting even to talk about scheduling for years on end has now been continued by Hastert and Gephardt. And it seems to me something has to be done. But it is not just procedural. And Bel was beginning to try to explore some possibilities here. Policy drives politics. It isn’t glad-handing that is going to take care of this problem. It is going to require some very serious substantive policy overtures, which is going to anger the base of the Republican and Democratic party. It is very tricky to imagine.
I am sure Richard and Bob and Bel and Paul and E.J. have other ideas. But I think we need some very creative thinking about a grand coalition in a presidential system for a very unusual time.
E.J. Dionne: The gentleman over there has the mike and then the gentleman in the sort of maroon/red jacket afterwards.
Question: Neal Monroe with the National Journal regarding Mr. Mann’s point about things getting ugly. Given that the race has been described as between good and evil, over the future possibility of slavery. What reason does he have to believe that this will be handled amicably and why shouldn’t we see a return to the hard-nosed legal tactics that we saw very much so only two years ago here?
T. Mann: Is that for me? Oh, it is easy to be pessimistic. Listen, we have had an arms race and ugliness. The two examples you used happen to be sort of Democratic criticisms of Republicans. It wouldn’t take too much effort to find comparable fire coming from the other direction. We have gotten ourselves involved in the criminalization of politics and the moral annihilation of one’s adversaries. This thing is getting out of hand. And if we let it build and intensify from this experience, there is no telling where it will go. I am just waiting to see which left-wing group will become the Larry Klayman, Judicial Watch of the Bush Administration and how many civil lawsuits and discovery motions are ahead. And who will replace Judge Royce Lamberth as the federal judge who makes possible political guerrilla warfare against the new President Bush.
It is ugly. It has been underway for a long time. It is practiced by both parties over several administrations and it is easy to be pessimistic. What I am suggesting to you is that this is a serious enough matter. This will get the attention of the American people like nothing else will that politicians are going to have to become adults and real grown-ups and act in a different way, responsibly or they will be destroyed by this very process they participate in.
E.J. Dionne: Richard?
R. Haass: I would give a slightly less dramatic answer to that, which is if you look at the exit polls, one thing that does come through is that one of the things that people care most about is the ability for Washington to work. And if there is a premium or reward, if you will, placed in the political marketplace on getting things done. It gives politicians an incentive to get things done. I thought Bel Sawhill correctly pointed out the patterns of George Bush’s campaign, his record in Texas, and if you marry that together with the fact that amidst a kind of crisis or something like it that Tom is painting, there is greater public concern, I would think that is exactly the environment where the public maybe demands is too strong a word but is likely to reward politicians who seem to put politics somewhat aside. So there is at least I think a not-naive ground for optimism there.
P. Light: E.J., I feel that it has got to go much further than the sort of “don’t worry, be happy” rhetoric of the campaign. I honestly believe that you don’t change the tone and nature of politics in Washington by saying, “Let’s all get together and work this out,” but still hold to one’s fondest policy wishes. This is about sort of serious discussion on policy and it is not going to be easy to bring in the right of the Republican party and the left of the Democratic party. To just talk about bipartisanship is pretty inexpensive. What is required here is something much more substantial, I believe.
E.J. Dionne: Could I ask Bob, before I turn to the gentleman, to follow up on what Tom said, the notion that ever-increasing surplus projections might make it easier. One of the things we have actually seen in the last couple of years is how difficult, what a difficult time the political system has in dealing with a surplus. In some ways, it seems paradoxically that it is harder to deal with a surplus than it was to deal with a deficit. Now, maybe you can challenge the presumption of the question. I am just curious what the downside might be from all of this projected money appearing all of a sudden?
R. Litan: Actually, I do dispute the premise because right before the election, both parties were in an arms race to spend money. And so I think money does help make things go round. And the whole reason that the talks broke down or the budget thing broke was over an obscure occupational safety rule, the ergonomics rule. It had nothing to do with money. But money I think can solve things, assuming it is there.
I will just add facetiously as an aside, I am corresponding daily with a colleague in Israel. And he writes me all the time about the problems that Barak has getting together with Sharon. And little would I know that the day after the election, we are always pointing, we are looking at Israel, I see Schlomo Avineri there from Israel, Americans have always looked at Israel as what a screwed up political system do they have. The shoe is on the other foot.
E.J. Dionne: Thank you very much. I failed — I will attribute it to the fact that I went to bed at six o’clock in the morning, I never actually introduced this panel.
So in the middle, just to remind the audience who is here, Paul Light is head of Governmental Studies. Richard Haass is head of Foreign Policy Studies. Tom Mann is a very distinguished senior fellow. Bob Litan, head of Economic Studies. And Bel Sawhill, another distinguished fellow. Now, you know who they are.
Question: My name is David Rodgers. I am a retired civil servant and independent writer. I would like to expand on this gentleman’s question a bit. One thing I have been doing during the electoral season is reading a book by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons, which I think pretty conclusively demonstrates that a lot of the malice and rancor that we have had over the last eight years was specifically the product of a vendetta against the Clintons and the Democrats in general. Now, these bottom-feeders who ran this thing are still around. They still have money. They still have an agenda. And they are obviously not happy about what is going on. And they are not going to be put down with a nice grin. So what specific measure and political gambits can be used to neutralize these people for giving us eight more years of what they gave us the last eight years?
E.J. Dionne: Go ahead, Tom.
T. Mann: Listen, you have presented a defense of what has transpired in Washington to the Clintons. The defense of the Clintons and a case against those who have allegedly going after them. I think no purpose, useful purpose is service is served by revisiting that history. I think you can argue it many sides, many ways. The Clintons have been radioactive politically. I think it goes in part to the President’s political successes as much as his failures and shortcomings. But it is soon to be past history, and I think we ought to be looking ahead and not behind us.
P. Light: I think back to the most beautiful, uplifting rhetoric of this campaign, and it has come from two candidates in the two parties. One from John McCain, at the beginning of the campaign talking about the significance of restoring honor to public service in this country as the driver of his campaign. And it was a theme that was echoed by Joe Lieberman in his writings and in his rhetoric as he took the Democratic vice presidential nomination. That to me is the kind of uplifting theme that can frame a conversation about public service in general that includes politics but also includes the honorable role that public servants at all levels play. And I might go there instead of talking about sort of a direct assault on nastiness. Talk about how we are going to build this country to the future and get off on to some rhetoric with those two candidates talking.
I. Sawhill: I think I am somewhat optimistic. Maybe I am just being Polly-Annish. But the reasons for my optimism that we are going to find a somewhat more bipartisan way of working, that we aren’t going to have quite as much of the enmity that we have had just recently is, first of all, Senator McCain remains a very popular potential competitor to Bush. And he is sitting there in the Congress and has a great following.
Secondly, I think the Republicans should be subdued about making the same mistake that the Clinton Administration made in their first term which was to try to move strongly towards meeting the demands of their liberal base and getting killed in the ’94 elections as a result of this. The Republicans have to worry about the analogue of that on the right occurring.
And then, thirdly, I think that my reading what happened as a result of this most recent election, reading the exit polls and so forth, is that Gore’s populist appeal, that appealed to the left side of the party weren’t all that effective. He lost ground with the voters that Clinton had successfully wooed and won in the last couple of elections. And I think that should be sending a message to any party that you have got to move toward the middle.
And, finally, I would note that Nader didn’t do nearly as well as Perot did in the last time around, something like 3 percent versus 19 percent.
E.J. Dionne: Yes, 8 percent in ’96, 19 in ’92, right.
I. Sawhill: Right, okay. And to me, that says — and I think Perot was a more idiosyncratic, yes, but hard to pigeon hole in terms of left/right dynamics whereas Nader was very clearly far to the left of Gore. So for all those reasons, I would point you to E.J. Dionne’s book, which is a little old now, but I still think very relevant and certainly motivates me to think that one of the problems that the public is really concerned about is this terribly partisan polarized kind of decisiveness we have in Washington. And anybody who could fix it would fix the reason why the public now hates politics, to use his phrase.
E.J. Dionne: Thank you so much, Bel. I think, by the way, one of the fascinating things about the Gore results in this election is that you will be able to say, given that he won the popular vote, that his campaign was a success or a failure depending on which point you want to make. And that in the end, his percentage will probably be almost exactly the same as Bill Clinton’s percentage in 1996. Now, you can argue round and round about what that means. But I just think it is going to be a fascinating thing, and I think there will be fascinating arguments within the Democratic Party about what worked, did populism work, did populism not work, and the strangeness of this result is going to make the polemics all the more difficult to follow and understand.
T. Mann: In fact, E.J., just on this, and I appreciate and agree with much of what Bel is saying, but underneath this election is a striking cultural divide. Once you really begin to analyze the election results, you see West Virginia and rural Tennessee and Ohio — Pennsylvania and Ohio and Tennessee and Arkansas and the South versus the Northeast and then you go within states and you see city and suburb together against rural area, and you realize how much of a gulf exist between people — the venison belt, as Sam Popkin called it last night, the people who feel strongly about guns and oftentimes religion versus the anti-gun, secularists. There are at the core of party coalitions, fundamental cultural differences that we just have to acknowledge as part of reality. Not to keep us from pursuing these efforts but to introduce an element of realism into the difficulty that lies ahead.
B. Litan: E.J., I just have one quick point about Ralph Nader. There is good news and bad news for Ralph Nader and the Democrats. The good news is he didn’t get the 5 percent so the Democrats don’t face this incredible division four years hence of a well-financed candidate breaking off their vote. And the bad news is that it looks like he cost Gore the election.
E.J. Dionne: Yes, ma’am. This lady here, if somebody could bring her a mic.
Question: Faye Anderson with Unity 2000, which is a national coalition that the NAACP among others that helped to boost black voter turnout. Well, Mr. Mann, you just talked about the cultural divide. I think there is also a racial — a clear racial divide in the outcomes. The exit polls showed that Bush got 8 percent of the black vote nationwide and in Florida, 6 percent. So that would be the lowest percentage of any Republican candidate since Barry Goldwater. You talked about political leaders and a political class coming together to bestow — bring some legitimacy to whatever the outcome is. Well, what about special interest groups that were very much involved in this election. There is a lot at stake. How will blacks feel if at the end of the day Bush is declared in Florida? Bush is president. And congressional Republicans that blacks don’t trust. What do you say to African-Americans?
T. Mann: Well, first of all, the basic point is if the count, a fair and legal count produces that outcome, then African-Americans as well as all other Americans will have to accept the result and work within that system.
The second thing I would say is that what was striking to me during this election was the disappearance was racially polarizing wedge issues. One of Clinton’s successes with crime and welfare and deficits and the rest is that national Republican campaigns do not really revolve around those same issues. And I think Governor Bush actually embraced certainly a style of communication that went against that, mind you he got detoured in South Carolina in the primaries in that particular effort. But in general, the effort was to reach out. The problem is that he enunciated a set a policies and a public philosophy that are greatly at variance with what an overwhelmingly majority African-Americans believe. So I see it as less a sort of racial, racially polarizing problem than a set of fundamentally different beliefs. And that reminds us again that there are conflicting public philosophies here that can’t easily be compromised.
E.J. Dionne: Before I turn to Bob, I want to just say a quick thing because I think you are pointing to something that is very troubling in the aftermath of this election and that there is a kind of paradox here. Tom is absolutely right, in overt terms you did not have a Willie Horton sort of campaign this time. And there was restraint on the Republican side, if I can put it that way. And, indeed, not only was there restraint but a sense that that kind of campaign would actually hurt them. That is the good news.
I think if you go back — and this goes back to the gentleman’s question about Clinton, I think there is a kind of hidden divide in the country that the Clinton scandal really brought out. And that there is on the right, a great suspicion of Clinton Democrats, the Democrats’ cultural values, a sense of moral breakdown. And on the left, and especially among African-Americans, a sense that that campaign was designed to achieve other ends using Clinton as the target. And I think the result you talked about was dead right. In Michigan, 12 percent of the turnout was African-American and Gore got 92 percent of the vote. One of the things you saw yesterday was in a sense a revival of a very old kind of politics because African-Americans and the unions were the people who delivered the most votes to Al Gore in all of the states that either he won or may have won outside of New England.
So I think there is a kind of hidden — while on the one hand, I think Tom is absolutely right, we are better off in some fundamental ways, I think there is a kind of hidden fight going on that is seen quite differently by the different sides. And that feeds some of the anger that the gentleman referred to who talked about the Clinton scandal earlier.
R. Litan: Yes, just two or three quick points on the racial issues. Number one, except for Bush’s somewhat fumbling answer on affirmative action during that debate. Affirmative action was really not a central issue in this campaign that I could tell, all right. Although I certainly understand why African-Americans certainly would favor and did favor Gore because they felt that Gore had a stronger stand on that issue. But in an uncharacteristic defense of Bush, what I think — he will do at least three things that will reach out to African-Americans. Number one, appointments. He is going to have most likely Condi Rice as national security advisor and Colin Powell as Secretary of State. Two of the most important jobs in America, and they will be held by African-Americans.
The second thing is that the one thing that is very strongly supported in the African-American community, even though it was rejected on the statewide ballots in California and Michigan is school choice. And that is why I am not sure that Bush is going to drop this issue, school choice, vouchers, and so forth because African-Americans know that they are victimized by the current system.
E.J. Dionne: Ma’am? And then this gentleman here if we could bring the other mike to him.
Question: Apriel Hodari. I am actually a science fellow working for Cynthia McKinney. And my question was if you could comment on the potential Supreme Court appointments in this very divided climate. And sort of piggy-backing on a lot of the other comments, I think — disagreeing slightly with what you said — a lot of African-Americans may or may not even identify with those two people you named. A lot of the people I know will not absolutely. And the other thing is if Bush appoints to the Supreme Court in the way that people feel that he is going to, is the public going to have an outcry, particularly in terms of the abortion issue?
R. Litan: Do you want me to take that one?
E.J. Dionne: Bob is also a lawyer in addition to everything else he does?
R. Litan: Look, the Senate determines that. And the Senate is either going to be 50/50. It could be Democratic, God knows, in a couple of months or it is going to be very finely divided. So Bush would be very strongly constrained in who he picks. And talk about a contentious set of hearings, your next Supreme Court nominee. I would think that Governor Bush would not be so much in your face on abortion — on all the hot button issues, abortion, affirmative action, and so forth because they are going to get grilled like crazy. And the legacy of the Bork confirmation hearings are still with us. I wish it wasn’t but despite the bipartisanship and everything else, that stuff is there to come out. And it is just lurking to come out. And I think Bush would have a very strong incentive to keep that genie in the bottle and appoint somebody somewhat more centrist than he would otherwise if he had won a mandate.
E.J. Dionne: I think part of it, it may depend a lot on the handful of moderate Republicans in the Senate because I think whether there are votes to confirm or not will depend in large part on what they do. And if they choose to send a message to Bush that there are certain kinds of appointees where they might go and vote with the Democrats, that would have one result. If they didn’t do that, you could have very narrow votes for quite conservative nominees. And I don’t have any idea how that is going to play out.
T. Mann: This fits within my notion of the grand coalition. It is hard to imagine something more important, more lasting than appointments to the Supreme Court. And one could imagine in a series of discussions and negotiations an understanding that there is an advise and consent responsibility for the Senate and a commitment to involve Democratic members in that process could go a long way toward overcoming some of the problems President Bush would face given the circumstances surrounding his election, if he is elected president.
I. Sawhill: If I could just add one more thing about this and that is I think there was a huge gender gap that continued in this election that the Republicans have got to worry about. And clearly that revolves around the abortion issue. But the availability now of RU-486 and the fact that the FDA has approved it changes that whole debate in a very fundamental way. And Bush has not really talked very much about what he would do about that. He probably would support restrictive legislation in terms of access to RU-486. But that is a minor battle compared to the battle over abortion. So that may diffuse this situation from a political perspective, to some extent. I don’t want to make that argument too strongly.
E.J. Dionne: Paul Light. And then what I want to do before — I know Tom may have to leave at a certain point, I want to collect some questions so a number of people have a chance to talk. But, Paul, please?
P. Light: Just watch the presidential appointments process from the beginning. There are a lot of conservative Republicans out there who have been waiting eight years for a chance at an appointment. But if Bush is president-elect, his wise choice would be to load up on a fairly significant number of Democrats and moderates as part of his cabinet and sub-cabinet. So you have got to watch that. If they are all coming from The Heritage Foundation and traditionally conservative locales, you have an immediate statement of where that administration is headed. He should have, if he wants to govern, the highest percentage of Democrats in a Republican administration in the past 40 years. And that will be a good harbinger at the very beginning.
E.J. Dionne: This gentleman here and then this gentleman and also that gentleman.
Question: Nat Seiden with the U.S. Navy. I wanted to ask Dr. Haass a question. However, we work this system out, assuming we are going to work it out in a very civil way, we are certainly not going to have an optimal functional government, especially for a year or two. What kind of foreign military adventures do you see occurring as a challenge to us in the next few years?
E.J. Dionne: Richard, can you hold that for a second? I want to just get this gentleman in and then this gentleman over here, sir? Go ahead. I want to accumulate some questions so people can get a chance.
Question: Nickolay Zimin with Independent Russian News.
Mr. Mann, as I understood from your opening remarks, American electoral system needs to have some changes. Will you please summarize what kind of those changes might be? Thank you.
E.J. Dionne: And then this gentleman over here, please?
Question: Yes, my name is Mark McHugh from Tokyo Shimbun. Regarding the election results in Florida, what is the possibility of some American leadership taking place with this or will voters in the public just construe it as maybe responding to partisanship to have this maybe recalled or even further leadership into, leadership investigations.
E.J. Dionne: Richard and Tom to answer that gentleman’s question.
R. Haass: Foreign military. Let me just name a few that I would expect would certainly be debated and possibly happen over the next four years. One would be Saddam Hussein. We get intelligence that Iraq has crossed some red line in the realm of weapons of mass destruction, the United States would feel compelled to react.
A second would be some humanitarian crisis. That was in some ways the dominant foreign military intervention of the Clinton years. It is unlikely that we go the next four years without pressure to intervene somewhere for humanitarian reasons.
Third, and potentially the most serious, would be a confrontation between the United States and China over Taiwan where China for whatever reason, either prompted by a Taiwanese declaration of independence or for some other reason China threatened or somehow used force against Taiwan.
And, fourthly, and I think it is in some ways the sleeper — obviously, terrorism might be another, response against terrorism. If we, for example, get information about who perpetrated the crime against the Cole.
And, fifthly though, and I think it is potentially the sleeper foreign policy issue, and it is a broad answer to your question, is Colombia. My hunch is whoever is the next president is going to spend more time on Colombia than he has even begun to imagine. It didn’t figure in this campaign, but I think we essentially have a country that is very close to us, very important, and it is failing. Its legal and political institutions are being overwhelmed. You have got this terrible fusion of drugs and insurgency. The United States is getting more involved through aid and advisers. And all I can say is our current policy is unlikely to succeed and it will raise some very difficult choices for the next administration.
E.J. Dionne: Thank you.
T. Mann: E.J., I got the first question on electoral reforms but I didn’t get the second one. I didn’t quite understand.
E.J. Dionne: Could you try it again.
Question: Again, Mark McHugh, Tokyo Shimbun. I was wondering do you think maybe a congressional or maybe some type of an investigation, as you had proposed, do you think that will be seen, be viewed by the public as maybe just a knee-jerk reaction to partisanship or do you think it is likely that it just might go away and that we will have a Bush presidency quite simply?
T. Mann: I honestly don’t know how we are going to resolve this. First of all, we have to see how the recount goes in Florida. And I think there is a reasonable chance that if it is clean, the margins increase rather than decrease, that Vice President Gore will decide to concede the election. But in doing so, presumably initiate a series of discussions and negotiations that would produce a different administration and a different set of executive legislative relations than might have been anticipated otherwise.
On the electoral reforms, let me briefly say three things. One way of — if Bush becomes president — of trying to change the tenor and tone of Washington is to part company with Senator McConnell on campaign finance and to make John McCain his primary liaison with the Congress on campaign finance. And make a good faith effort to deal with the problems of soft money and issue advocacy which have made a mockery of campaign finance law. We could spend hours talking about the role of money in the 2000 elections, but I think there is a growing market on Capitol Hill to do something about it because it is getting out of hand.
Secondly, I think we need to take a look at the way in which elections are administered.
And, thirdly, what we already talked about, I think we are going to have hearings on the direct election of the president, but it is going to entail some variations on a simple direct election because of the problems of the size of plurality winners. That is coming given the nature of this election, and I would not be surprised to see a constitutional amendment sent to the states within some time next year.
Unidentified: Tom is absolutely right about McCain. The tension is to find a very significant role that is quasi-executive for McCain without empowering your greatest opponent in 2004. But if he could get McCain to participate in a substantive role in the administration, that cures an awful lot of disquiet over how he became president.
E.J. Dionne: Thank you. I would like to do one more round. Tom, if you have to go, I know you have an appointment. And let’s just do one more round of questions. Over here and then the gentleman over there, please. All the way around. I’m sorry to keep you guys running around.
Question: Peter Talfest for the Berlin-based newspaper die Tageszeit. Mr. Mann, the ideas that you are sketching for us sound fascinating, but is there any inclination, any sign that anyone is interested in this other than you folks up there? Usually, good ideas have to have some kind of a resonance with people who are ultimately going to put them in place and I don’t see that at all. Just look at the legislative session that didn’t end. These folks have unfinished business that they have to get over, not even to mention what you are talking about.
T. Mann: It is interesting, the Democratic leaders in the Congress have been more responsive, perhaps because they are more anxious to return to the majority, having been in the minority for six years now. But Gephardt in particular has been on a six month campaign to dampen partisanship and to sort of reach out in a more bipartisan fashion. Joe Lieberman would leap on the possibilities of responding in this fashion. Denny Hastert could adjust to it very easily. Dick Armey and Tom DeLay would have a terrible time and would recommend strongly against it, which is part of the deal perhaps, a replacement of some party leaders in the Congress.
It really is going to come down to George Bush and Al Gore reading their immediate situations and deciding what they think they have to do. If Bush feels that the Palm Beach County problem can’t be dealt with and won’t be by the state government and he can tough it out, and he is going full speed ahead with his agenda, put on your seat-belts, we are in for one hell of a ride. But if the rhetoric of the campaign is translated into the reality of Washington and what it takes to operate in that fashion, then the beginnings of such an effort are possible.
It is too early to look for those signs. But I think over the next days, we should — we will see them if they are there, if there is any kind of a market, we will know.
E.J. Dionne: Can I say something really quickly? I think putting aside the broad idea of grand coalition, I think there is a really important responsibility on both Bush and Gore right now to deal with the fact that however this election is counted, there will be enormous anger on the part of the constituencies. I was walking down the street and a friend, who is a Democrat, started talking about ballot boxes being found in Palm Beach. And there is a sense, each side will feel cheated no matter how this election is decided. And the country and the election itself is so close, that I think whatever else they do, they have a responsibility to get together to figure out how to deal with that immense sense of injustice because if Bush is now counted out, as it were, the Republicans will say, “We won that election on election night. Why should the popular vote matter when Democrats were perfectly happy if Al Gore had won an electoral majority?” Similarly, Democrats will say, “We won this election.” There is this argument about Palm Beach, which if you look at the facts, whether you are a Republican and Democrat, it is quite compelling there was a problem with the way that ballot was configured.
And so I think putting aside where they take it from there, they have got to do something because there is enormous — there is going to be a lot of anger on both sides no matter how this election is decided.
I guess we could do one more.
Question: Al Millikan, Washington Penant Writers. In that same vein, while he remains in power, what role, what leadership do you think Bill Clinton should be playing? And also I don’t know if anyone would want to venture to say what role will he play? But my own discernment or suspicion is that he would love to do something heroic, courageous, legacy-making but can he? I was thinking in terms of something like lifting the embargo on Cuba or forcing a settlement in the Middle East. You know shaking things up culturally, socially before he leaves office.
E.J. Dionne: Tom, you want to get that or respond?
T. Mann: We have no expertise left.
E.J. Dionne: Could we use that question, if anybody wants to take on that, it is actually not a bad way to end is to talk about Clinton. But then also if anyone wants to add a point or two to what they have already said, and we will just go around starting with Bel.
I. Sawhill: Well, I think on the Clinton legacy, one of the things that is most interesting to me anyway about this election is the fact that unlike the normal situation where the incumbent president and party get lots of credit for a very strong economy, people seem to have taken the economy for granted and that didn’t help as much as it has in the past.
I don’t know what Clinton’s legacy will be but it may be Mrs. Clinton.
R. Litan: I align myself with that comment. I don’t think that Bush would entertain an entreaty from Clinton to participate here, and I am not sure that Gore would here. I am just guessing. I am not sure it is in the cards.
But I have one final comment on these bizarre results in Palm Beach. I don’t know whether a lawsuit is going to be mounted on this. Clearly, Gore could take the litigious route and there would be some irony in this litigious society of ours to have this all end up in the courts, which of course would be a nightmare. But I just want to point out, this is a matter of speculative law here, that if the whole issue is the horizontal versus the vertical nature of the ballot, if that is what it comes down to, there are lots of counties in the United States, all right. And I suspect what the Bush statisticians will do, they will probably have a chart of all different kinds of ballots. And so they will show it just turns out that we are focusing on this one county, all right, but they will show there are lots of other counties in the United States that may have had bizarre ballots as well. And as a matter of law, a judge would find it or a court eventually would find it hard-pressed to overturn the results based on this analysis.
E.J. Dionne: Although, if I may say, I think the difficulty is whatever the court would decide, there is a legal matter and then there is legitimacy in the mind of the populace and especially in the mind of your opposition. And I think the reason is the story is so potentially corrosive is because Democrats, as Tom said, will wake up and say, “We actually won Florida and the popular vote and why isn’t our guy president?” And that is where you have the potential. Even if legally Bush gets declared president by a perfectly fair procedure.
R. Litan: Right.
E.J. Dionne: And that is where you have got a real difficulty here. Richard?
I. Sawhill: I can almost guarantee that somebody else will do the same analysis and come up with a very different set of results, somebody from the other side, by putting in the variables in a slightly different way. So I think we shouldn’t get too totally fixated on that one piece of the analysis.
E.J. Dionne: In other words, I don’t think it hangs on this analysis. This analysis posts data the complaints of the people in the area and this analysis supports — in other words, it was invented by this scatterbrain.
R. Litan: No, but your point though, just to echo what Tom said, is that this kind of thing will give fuel to the fire to have some kind of nationalized standards or whatever when it comes to national elections.
E.J. Dionne: Richard, Secretary of State, Richard.
R. Haass: Yes, the question about Mr. Clinton’s legacy or what he can do over the next 70-plus days to affect his foreign policy legacy, I think very little. He has I believe wisely decided not to go to North Korea, which I think would have been a tactical, as well as strategic error.
On the Middle East, any hopes of resolving the problem are somewhere between zero and nil. Much more likely it is going to be damage limiting and potentially having a crisis. Again, you do not need a lot of imagination to imagine a bad situation in the Middle East, whether, again, Israeli, Palestinian, or over Lebanon getting a lot worst. Or possibly — or even, again, a Saddam Hussein taking advantage of this political distraction here and the transition period, something could go wrong in the former Yugoslavia. So, I think you are much more likely to see Mr. Clinton having to deal with potential negatives rather than in a sense using discretion to go find positives to invest in. It is too late for that.
P. Light: Bill Clinton will not find redemption here. He should be so careful about any public statement of any kind on this issue other than to embrace the functioning of the American democratic system and to celebrate the end of a tough campaign. Anything more than that risks chaos. He should just be quiet at this point, I think.
I. Sawhill: If that is constitutionally possible.
Unidentified: Small “c” constitution.
E.J. Dionne: I think is quest for a legacy would suffer a real blow if indeed the result Bush in office because I think his legacy was political connected to policy. That he was trying to create not only a new democratic political majority but also a democratic political majority connected to a set of policies. And that becomes much more difficult in light of this election result.
On the other hand, if things go wrong in the next four years under a Bush presidency and there is a democratic revival, especially if the economy turns bad under a Republican, we may well see Clinton nostalgia. And so I will close by saying that you know their economic advisors are saying the economy looks really bad in a couple of years. If Gore says, “Oh, you take Florida.” And Bush says, “No, you take Florida.”
I want to thank you all very, very much and thank this distinguished panel.
[END OF EVENT]
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