Preview -- World News Tonight 12/11/00

Good Afternoon.

We have been privileged listeners today. For the second time in 10 days, Supreme Court arguments have been broadcast to the nation. Listening to the highest court would be fascinating on almost any occasion; when the case is Bush v. Gore, it is just plain riveting.

“Where’s the federal question here?” Justice Anthony Kennedy asked Gov. Bush’s attorney, almost immediately after the session began. Kennedy was one of several justices to ask Mr. Bush’s lawyer why the Supreme Court should be meddling in the Florida Supreme Court ruling that came down Friday. Then came lengthy discussions — and tough questions for both sides — about the standards for vote-counting in Florida. At one point, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor interjected: “Were those dimpled or hanging chads, so to speak?” Nearly all the justices were bearing down on Gore attorney David Boies on this latter question — asking essentially, How can we be sure that any recounts would be handled in a fair and uniform way? Is there any good way to do this?

There were 90 minutes of arguments. After which the justices took up their deliberations in private, on their own. Those deliberations will in all likelihood decide not just Bush v. Gore the legal case — but also Bush v. Gore the presidential election.

So we wait for a judgment from the court. And in the meantime, there is a great deal of ground to cover tonight. ABCNEWS’ Jackie Judd and legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin were inside the Supreme Court today, while Barry Serafin was with the crowds outside. John Martin looks at the calendar — he’ll explain why Dec. 12, Dec. 18, Jan. 6 and Jan. 20 really matter — or not. Dean Reynolds and Terry Moran are still with the Bush and Gore campaigns, and — lest we forget Florida itself — Erin Hayes reports from Tallahassee on the question (which may or may not still be relevant at our airtime!): What if the counting continues?

This also seems an appropriate day to take a Closer Look at Election 2004 — as in, how to improve the system. People of all political stripes have recognized flaws in the way the nation elects its president — flaws that have drawn wide attention only because the outcome this time was so narrow. Bill Blakemore looks at what some political scientists are talking about, to ensure that in four years’ time we will have a result less cluttered by chads and dimples and butterfly ballots.

It is probably NOT a day on which we’ll find much room for other news — but there is a serious weather-inspired mess in the Midwest, a political mess in Israel and the largest-ever contract for a professional athlete.

We hope you’ll join us tonight. Peter Jennings

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