If he loses, he will do it with grace, Gore says

WASHINGTON - Vice President Al Gore, juggling defiance with conciliation, vowed Sunday to press his legal fight - but also to accept with grace whatever outcome the agonizingly disputed presidential election brings.

''Regardless of how it comes out, whoever is sworn in as president on Jan. 20 should have the support of all the people. And if that's not me, I will not question the fairness or legitimacy of the final outcome,'' Gore said in an interview of CBS' ''60 Minutes.''

''I will spare no efforts in saying to people who supported me, 'Let's not have any talk about stealing the election. Let's not question the legitimacy of the election.' ...The nation's interest has to come first. And I hope that Gov. Bush will make the same pledge.''

The embattled Democratic candidate said that it's certain the losing side will appeal in the court fight over recounts in two Florida counties that could settle the election.

''Whatever happens, both sides know that it's going to end up in the Florida Supreme Court,'' Gore said at his residence within the Naval Observatory compound. ''It's not a recount. We want a first count. There are thousands of ballots that were legally cast that have never been counted at all.''

In Austin, Bush spokesman Dan Bartlett said of the Gore interview: ''There was a lot of ambiguity in his comments.

''It's hard to respond to his ambiguous claims. He is not going to be satisfied with any court rulings until he finds a court that overturns Gov. Bush's victory.''

Gore said he also realizes the hardship that drawing out the legal process puts on the ''American family'' that wants it over, as fairly and quickly as possible.

''This isn't easy for any of us in this country,'' he said. ''And I know that the Bush family, same as my family, is wanting this to be over. And I know the American family wants it to be over. But as strongly as people feel about that, they feel even more strongly that every legally cast vote should be counted.''

Even as he spoke, hundreds of miles away in a Tallahassee, Fla., courtroom, lawyers for Gore and George W. Bush were arguing over ballots from two South Florida counties.

Gore said he believes there will be some finality in the election by the middle of December - and he repeated his assertion that he believes he won the election.

Bush also believes he won - and has been moving ahead with his transition team overseen by running mate Dick Cheney.

Gore deflected any notion that he harbors resentment over the election.

''Anger is not - what point would there be to feeling that? ...I don't think that it serves any purpose.''

In the pursuit of peace, Gore has been attending Sunday church services and spending quiet family weekends at his residence. This Sunday's aptly titled sermon was ''A Time for Waiting.''

Gore and his wife, Tipper, and their daughter, Sarah, attended services at Mount Vernon Baptist Church in Arlington, Va.

And for now, the only thing he was willing to concede is that he's given ''very little'' thought to what comes next if he eventually loses.

''I was pretty well prepared to win, I was somewhat prepared if it didn't work out,'' he said. ''What I was not prepared for was neither.''


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