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Transcript of the First Presidential Ballot Counting Session, Nov. 8, 2000

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JIM LEHRER (MODERATOR):  Good evening from the Miami Beach Convention Center. I'm Jim Lehrer of the News Hour on PBS. On this stage tonight I am joined by the two major presidential candidates, Vice President Al Gore and Texas Gov. George W. Bush, and by these 17 plastic bins of Florida Election ballots.

An eighteenth bin, containing 3,472 ballots, has been disallowed due to the discovery that every ballot was signed with the name "Hyram J. Spinkster."  Still under discussion is whether to count a large sack of ballots that mysteriously descended by parachute this morning over the city of West Palm Beach. Both campaigns have agreed that any absentee ballots cast by a Citizen who then expired prior to Election Day will be counted as one-half of a vote.

Under the rules established by the Emergency Presidential Commission on Counting, each candidate will be given 90 seconds to count ballots, at which time his opponent will be given 30 seconds for rebuttal. Each candidate has scratch paper and two sharpened pencils.

I alone control the pencil sharpener.

When all the ballots are counted, I will review the tabulations. The candidate with the fewest votes must bring me his tribal torch. I will then extinguish the torch and send him into the Everglades. The winner receives the presidency and one million dollars. We begin with Vice President Gore.

GORE:  Thank you, Jim. Before I begin counting, I would like to remind the American people that my opponent has promised one trillion dollars of Social Security money to two different groups of people. Now, I can add one and one. One and one is two. I invite the American people to double-check my math on that. My opponent seems to disagree on this very important point, and I invite him to share with the American people his own perverse theory of mathematics. I would also-

BUSH:  Stop campaigning! You know you lost! Just once say the words, "President George Walker Bush."

GORE:  I won. I won the popular vote. I am more popular than you are and I'm not conceding until you admit it.

BUSH:  Crybaby. Loser. Loooooooozzzeeerrrrr.

LEHRER:  Gentlemen, this is all contrary to the rules. Mr. Vice President, please commence with the counting.

GORE:  All right. Here's a Gore.  Here's a Gore.  That's two Gores.  Here's one that's not clearly marked.  Here's a-

BUSH:   Not clearly marked? Jim! He's cheating already. Let me see that ballot.

GORE:  You don't have to be so snippy. Look for yourself. There's just a sort of ... blemish on the paper. A very minor indentation. There ought to be a little square hole from the ballot puncher.

BUSH:  That's a hole! That's a-

GORE:  That's not a hole. There's no penetration of the fiber. I don't think there's a controlling legal authority that can determine in the affirmative or negative whether that's truly a hole.

LEHRER:  Gentlemen, let's put that in the 'indeterminate' pile, and proceed.

GORE: Here's a Gore. Another Gore.  And here's one that has something written on it. It just says, "I've fallen and I can't get up."  That's clearly a Gore.  That's code for "Gore."

BUSH:  I help people who fall down, too!  I believe in compassion for people who can't get up.

LEHRER:  Indeterminate. Governor Bush, you have 30 seconds for a rebuttal, and then it is your turn to count.

BUSH:  Well, look. He's a cheater. Couldn't be more obvious. This election's over. Networks called it, then they get nervous, the liberal media, can't stand to see their boy lose. You know this bozo called me on the phone and conceded, gave it up, admitted he lost, then an hour later he calls back, says he had his fingers crossed the whole time. Well, I had my fingers crossed, too, and that CANCELS his crossed-finger lie. So he's lost.

GORE:  That was before I was told about the absentee ballots of soldiers stationed in Antarctica. My people say Antarctica is a Democratic stronghold.

BUSH:  Give me those damn ballots.

GORE:  He's grabbing!

LEHRER:  Governor Bush, I think if you ask politely he will hand them over.

BUSH:  All right then. Bush. Gore. Bush. Gore. Gore. This is nuts. Gonna give Jeb so many noogies he'll want a head transplant. Bush, another Bush. One for the jerk. Another Bush. One for the liar. One for the big dork who invented the Internet. Bush. Bush. Hah! What's that, a bunch for me already. Bush! Lookie here. Bush everywhere. I think I'm opening up a big can of whup-ass here, Jim!

GORE:  Excuse me, but I don't think such language is presidential.

BUSH:  Nine for me, ten for me, six for you. Eleven for me. See I can go up higher than most people think. Twelve for me. Thirteen. Um, Jim, didn't you say we'd get calculators?

LEHRER:  That was not stipulated in the rules. Mr. Vice President, you have 30 seconds.

GORE:  Jim, if you look closely you will see that he is counting many of those ballots twice. Watch his hands. This is precisely like his Social Security plan and echoes all too strikingly his propensity for you-know-what fuzzy math.

BUSH:  Look, I have advisers I trust. I have good people around me. Dick Cheney is incredible with addition and subtraction. He's memorized the entire multiplication table, including the nines.

VOICE IN BACKGROUND:  On behalf of the Green Party and my 96,000 Florida supporters and of all people who care about democracy and the rights of the ordinary citizen in an age dominated by craven politicians in the thrall of their corporate paymasters I-

LEHRER:  Will the security guards please escort Mr. Nader to the exit.

GORE:  Let me just interject that Mr. Nader will not be getting a Christmas card from the Gore family.

LEHRER:  I'm afraid we are out of time and must continue with the Process tomorrow night and for additional nights thereafter until we get this settled, even if that means that Campaign 2000 turns into Campaign 2001. Good night from Miami Beach.

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