Aired August 14, 2007 - 17:00   ET


[ has excerpted only the section of the transcript with Dan Rather.]



And is America ready for the next election? A new investigation raises fresh concerns about electronic voting systems. Behind that investigation, former CBS News anchor Dan Rather, now HDNet global correspondent for "Dan Rather Reports".




MALVEAUX: Dan Rather, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


We watched your program, and you talk about the voting machines, the fact that we are not ready for the primaries that are coming up here, the fact that there are touch screens that are not working, that there is improper maintenance of these machines.


How did this happen?


DAN RATHER, "DAN RATHER REPORTS": Well, there are a lot of things that went into it, but among the things are that we've allowed the outsourcing of the manufacturing of these machines and outsourced them overseas, that some of the touch screens have been made in the Philippines with components that come from, among other places, mainland China, and an overarching company that's rooted in Venezuela. And that's -- you begin right there.


The second thing is there has been no transparency. There is too much secrecy about who makes these machines, where, by whom, why they make them, what the profits are, and there's been no accountability. So we do move into the 2008 election cycle with many of the same problems that we had going all the way back to 2000 and the fiasco in Florida.


MALVEAUX: And you have a demonstration in the program that actually shows when you touch the screen, you choose one selection, but there is another, a candidate's name that pops up. Is that correct?


RATHER: That is correct. A very experienced election official in Florida was pointing out, was demonstrating for us what the problems he had seen, and that is you take the stylus and you put it by what you think is your preferred candidate's name, but if you don't put it just exactly right, it may register the candidate below yours. And other problems are, sometimes it doesn't -- it seems not to register at all, and therefore, you have these many thousands of votes in which people appear not to have voted for president or in the most important race in their precincts.


MALVEAUX: I want you to respond to the company that took a look at the program and are taking issue with the results there. This from the Elections Systems & Software, Inc. They go on to say, and they say that you're program, specifically, apparently includes a demonstration of a voting terminal that was deliberately miscalibrated solely for the purposes of a television story.


Do you care to respond?


RATHER: Well, I haven't seen that response, and in a way, I'm happy to see them respond at all. That we -- the program is as accurate as we could possibly make it, I suggest that people watch it and make up their minds for themselves.


But let me point out to you for a moment that we have for a very long time been trying to get companies, including ES&S, to provide an executive of the company and/or preferably both, someone who has actually worked to make the machines. They have absolutely stonewalled us, and then they wait until they haven't seen the program and naturally they attack us.


As you know as a journalist, that goes with the territory, but my hope is that anyone that sees the program, they may or may not like it, but I think they'll come away saying to themselves, we need to make some changes in the way we have this voting process, because we went from punch cards to touch screens, and now they're trying to go to something called in many places optical scan. And there are problems with all of these.


So we aren't picking on these companies. We're saying some of the equipment doesn't work according to the workers who built it and according to the election officials who use it.


MALVEAUX: So what kind of confidence should voters have in the upcoming election here? Clearly, you're pointing out the case that this equipment is faulty, that it doesn't work. What is the solution?


RATHER: Well, the solution is, first of all, to have some transparency about who makes the machines, where, by whom, why, what their profits are, how they put the machines together. The other is to have some accountability.


There is far too much secrecy in the buying and selling of these machines and the making of these machines. So you start with transparency and accountability.


Look, it's not a partisan issue, it's not Democrat, Republican, or Independent, or Mugwump. It's about the integrity of the very heart and soul of the democratic system, and that is a free person voting with a secret ballot and the ballot gets counted. It's not an opinion, it's a fact. Not everywhere, but many votes don't get counted and some votes are counted wrong.


MALVEAUX: And obviously, you've covered politics for a very long time. When you look at the field of candidates now, who has the best shot at the White House?


RATHER: Who? You know, when it comes to making predictions, my crystal ball is permanently in the hop (ph) shop. I would point out that overnight's a long time in politics, a week is forever. I don't have any idea whom the two major parties would put up this time.


Clearly, Senator Hillary Clinton has a substantial lead as a Democrat. That could evaporate quickly. On the Republican side, on a national basis, Rudolph Giuliani clearly has the lead, but there are a lot of X factors on the Republican side, such as does Fred Thompson get in or not?


MALVEAUX: And want to change the subject very quickly. You've been very outspoken about Katie Couric and her helm as the first female anchor of a major, a nightly newscast on CBS. I want to quickly play what it is that you said prior.


RATHER: Well, I'm glad you asked, actually. I've never been critical of Ms. Couric. I did offer some criticism of the CBS program in the beginning of her tenure there.


Les Moonves runs CBS, and they decided that they wanted to bring portions of "The Today Show" to the broadcast and it didn't work. That's what I said, that's all I said. I did say that. But I've never been critical of her.


MALVEAUX: Let's take a quick listen to that bite.




RATHER: You know, the trend line continues of, as I say, dumbing it down, tarting it up, going to celebrity coverage, rather than war coverage.




MALVEAUX: Do you stand by that, the statement you made before, "dumbing it down, tarting it up"?


RATHER: Yes, absolutely. I've been saying it for 10 years, long before Ms. Couric came to the evening news.


I was saying exactly the same thing about where we are in American journalism, particularly television journalism. And I do not exclude myself from that criticism.


MALVEAUX: Les Moonves says it's a sexist comment. Do you agree?


RATHER: No. And he knows that isn't true. But I understand that he was playing defense. And let me point out that after he said that, that he turned it over to some of his underlings to go on the attack. But we all understand that, and I think the public understands, and I'm willing to live by their judgment.


MALVEAUX: Dan Rather, thank you so much for joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.


RATHER: Thank you very much, Suzanne. Thanks.


MALVEAUX: Thank you.