Rush Limbaugh interviews Katherine Harris

By WND Staff

Editor’s note: Katherine Harris, the former Florida secretary of state who played such a high-profile role in the 2000 presidential election, wrote “Center of the Storm” for WND Books to answer her critics and tell her friends about the principles she used to weather the stormiest moment of her life. On Nov. 5, Harris was elected to represent the Sarasota, Fla., area in the U.S. Congress. “Center of the Storm” is now available in bookstores throughout the country, but it is on sale at a price below Amazon’s at WND’s online store. Autographed copies also are available exclusively at the WND online store. “Center of the Storm” was the first title published by the WND imprint, a partnership of WorldNetDaily and Thomas Nelson Publishers. The current issue of Rush Limbaugh’s The Limbaugh Letter features a 4,500-word question-and-answer interview with her. It is reprinted in full with permission.

It was a privilege to speak with Katherine the Great, soon to be a worthy freshman in the congressional class of 2002.

Rush: Katherine! How are you?

Harris: Fantastic. How are you doing?

Rush: Couldn’t be better. Where are you right now?

Harris: I am in Washington, getting ready to head back to Florida for the campaign.

Rush: I want to get to your new book, “Center of the Storm,” but my first question relates to this Torricelli debacle in New Jersey. Democrat pundits are defending what they did there, and I think they’re using talking points from DNC (Democratic National Committee) headquarters, trying to change the subject. They said, “Look, Katherine Harris didn’t follow the rules, either.” So could you just take people through what actually happened in Florida – what you did, and why you did it?

Harris: We followed the law exactly. For them to even use rhetoric to say I didn’t follow the law is really obscene. They can’t point to one single solitary time in the entire recount that I did not follow the law. Some of the recent rhetoric was for my resignation. They’ve intentionally confused state law with federal law. In the state of Florida, there is a resign-to-run law. That law is intended to inform anyone who wishes to seek a vacated seat from an elected office that there will be an opening. So since my position, uniquely, has become appointed versus elected, there was no resignation letter required to inform anyone. Even more importantly, and I think you’ll find this interesting, Rush, Bob Butterworth, the lead Democrat in the state of Florida, the lead legal counsel in the state of Florida, knows that he’s running for a state office, and our statutes clearly state that if you’re seeking a state office, you must send a letter of resignation ten days prior to qualification. Guess who did not send a letter, and is still on the ballot, and is playing in the gray area?

Rush: Bob Butterworth.

Harris: Bob Butterworth. So, based on the federal law, the moment you qualify, you resign. And since I had been informed that a letter of resignation wasn’t necessary, and we were preparing to resign mid-August, when I went back as we were preparing for that resignation and saw that the law clearly stated absent a letter of resignation, since I didn’t need one, the moment you qualify, you resign for federal office. We called a press conference and said, “We’re going to follow the letter of the law. And so our resignation takes place immediately when we qualify.” Unlike the Democrats, I follow the law exactly, and they just are hiding behind it. Which is I guess what happened in New Jersey.

Rush: Well, look, the rules don’t matter to them; the law doesn’t matter; just their power does.

Harris: I resigned because of the law, not because my numbers went south.

Rush: Exactly! Now, let’s get to the recount in 2000. You were secretary of state. The Democrats and their accomplices in the press made it out as though that’s an appointed position by the governor, and therefore you were in the Bush family’s back pocket, but it’s an elected position, correct?

Harris: Yes. It’s a statewide elected position, and I do not report to the governor. We have shared executive power. That’s the way Florida’s cabinet system is set up; we’re each elected independently. There are over 10,000 news accounts, not in editorial sections, but in the regular news articles, saying that I was appointed by Jeb.

Rush: You got a lot of heat when you refused to allow the recount to go beyond the deadline, but your view was, “That’s what the law says. I’m secretary of state; I’ve got to enforce it.”

Harris: Exactly. I made two announcements stating I would certify according to the law. Those statutes state that seven days after Election Day, the secretary of state must certify the election. I would argue that Gore’s political advisers got it wrong. Because what they, through the Supreme Court, wanted, and succeeded in attaining, was a delay in the certification. My certifying the election is just a procedural milepost. It’s only after certification that you can seek a fair statewide recount. Since they extended the first period, called the protest period, they ran out of time for a statewide recount, on the contest period.

Rush: So they went to the court, and the court said, we’ll interpret the law in your favor.

Harris: Actually, they had to rewrite the law. It wasn’t even a matter of interpretation. When you have a judiciary being judiciously active and writing law instead of interpreting law, I would say our Founding Fathers are rolling over in their graves about the balance of power.

Rush: Well, let me ask you about that, since you have come up against this kind of thing. In New Jersey, the law clearly said that you’ve got to resign by 51 days out. The New Jersey Supreme Court said, “Ah, we can reinterpret that.” Then it went to the U.S. Supreme Court, and they decided not to hear it. My theory is that the New Jersey legislature should have at once asserted itself and said, “Wait a minute. You cannot just take over our role. You people on the court do not make law, do not write law; we do – and you have just ignored what we’ve done.” We should not rely on courts to determine the outcome of elections anymore, and that’s where all this is headed. I’m really worried about it. Part of me is glad the U.S. Supreme Court didn’t take the New Jersey case, because that would only set a precedent for Democrats to keep challenging every election in a court until they get the outcome they want.

Harris: But it set a very dangerous precedent. The ramifications of this are really extraordinary. Where is the equal protection under the law for the people who voted for Torricelli in the primary? It’s just obscene. Let me read you something from my book in response to the New Jersey court, because what they’re saying now is that the will of the people is more important than the rule of law and the letter of the law. And that is just extraordinary.

Rush: They’re saying the will of the court is more important than law.

Harris: Let me just read you what Justice Leander Shaw wrote, because I really feel it is relevant. He says: “Both the search for the truth and the right to vote are of paramount importance, but they are circumscribed by a higher, over-arching concern – the general welfare of our democracy. The general welfare is informed by our law. The law infuses the fabric of our society and breathes life into all our legal principles. Inherent in the law are the basic concepts of fairness, reliability and predictability, and constitutional safeguards of due process and equal protection were designed to promote these interests. Although the pursuit of the truth [i.e. the court of the rule of the people], and the preservation of the right to vote are worthy goals, they can’t be achieved in a manner that contravenes these principles [or the law].” I think that answers it.

Rush: That’s what one of the justices wrote?

Harris: That’s what Justice Shaw wrote in my case – which completely countermands what the New Jersey courts said.

Rush: Yes, because the will of the people was thwarted in New Jersey.

Harris: Absolutely. And, well, throughout the entire recount controversy.

Rush: That’s what started all this, Katherine, was Gore filing suit. Everybody blames Bush for doing it, but he just filed a counterclaim. But Gore filing suit threw this into disarray. You know, Nixon could have done this in ’60, after the Kennedy race.

Harris: And if the courts hadn’t been biased, he would have won.

Rush: But he didn’t want to throw the country into turmoil, and he didn’t want judges determining elections. Judges are the least representative of all the branches; nobody elects them. And for them to sit there and determine who’s going to be on a ballot or who’s going to win an election is outrageous.

Harris: I couldn’t agree with you more.

Rush: Let’s get to “Center of the Storm,” your new book, because it’s a huge success. You lay out 12 principles of leadership. The interesting thing I notice is that almost all of these principles are framed by you in basically moral terms. Like, “Know what you believe”; “Do what’s right”; “Remember your raising.” Do you see leadership as always having a moral component?

Harris: Well, I think that if you don’t know what you believe, if you don’t have a foundation, then you’re just going to be whimsical in your decisions. You’re not going to have any kind of consistency. I think you have to know what you believe, I think you have to be able to communicate what you believe, and most importantly, I learned in the recount, you have to be able to act on those beliefs.

Rush: And understand why you have them.

Harris: Yes, you have to know why. Ideas have consequences. Sometimes in this politically correct era we’re living in, people forget that. They want to say, “Oh, it’s your environment,” and that kind of thing. Well, ideas have changed the world. But in this 24-hour news cycle, when there’s such confusion and so many details reported that are categorically incorrect, we have to be very careful and very discerning.

Cover of The Limbaugh Letter

Rush: For those of us on the right side of the center line, we’re constantly attacked just because of what we believe. Everybody wants to get along with their neighbors, and nobody wants the press hating them, so I’ve seen a lot of Republicans in Washington moderate their views, just to avoid being criticized. But you stuck to your guns throughout that whole ordeal, despite what happened on “Saturday Night Live.” Here a bunch of liberals, who say you should never, ever comment on a woman’s appearance, making total fun of yours, without any basis for it in fact. I mean, making fun of your looks is akin to making fun of Raquel Welch’s, if you ask me. I think people like you, who stick to your guns during that kind of intense personally directed pressure, need to be recognized and honored. And I’ve noticed in the aftermath, you smile, you laugh, you seem to have come out of this without bitterness. I would love to know how you did it, with all those vitriolic attacks that you endured.

Harris: Well, I’ll start with the second question first. It has to be a proactive attitude. One of the chapters in my book is called, “Be Bitter, Be Broken, or Be Better.” During the recount, people would give me these throwaway comments like, “Oh, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” That’s not true. I know a lot of people who go through difficulties, and they’re broken for always, or they’re bitter. It’s an active choice; it’s an attitude. My favorite example is the Special Olympics. Those people have endured so much that would be very difficult for any individual, and yet they triumph. They could just sit back, but they become some of the best athletes in the nation, in the Special Olympics. I find that attitude so inspiring. Many of the publishers came to me right after the recount, and they really wanted me to do a slash-and-burn story. But I didn’t have any angst or even an axe to grind, Rush, because I know I did the right thing. Before God and my family and friends, I know that I followed the law. I sleep very, very well at night.

As far as conservatives being pressured to compromise, when I read the stories in the Federalist Papers, when I see how our Constitution came together, there is principled compromise – and I say, principled. On the other hand, I encourage people to write down what they believe. I mean, those immutable principles, those values, their credo, which, against all odds, they would never leave, ever. One of those is, “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is looking.” I’m talking about the things that, no matter what, that you would rather leave office, that you would rather move back home, than compromise those values. And I think that’s where you have to make the distinction. But write them down, and go back to the beginning right before you make a big decision and say: These are the principles, this is what’s going to hold me steady.

Rush: I have a friend, he was a rookie in the National Football League some years ago, in a prominent position, and as is the case with most rookies, he had a rough beginning, and he was booed. And he got very bitter about it, and he said, “I don’t understand this. Don’t they understand I’m young, I’m just learning this? Why are they getting on me?” And I said, “Look, all they want to do is win, but you’ve got to understand something. The fact that you’re being booed means you’re in the arena. And this is exactly what you wanted. This is what happens in the arena. This shouldn’t be a surprise to you; this ought to inspire you. You’re making a difference out there, one way or the other, and this is only going to make you better if you have the right attitude about it.”

Harris: Rush, you’re inspiring – everything you say gets me so excited. I love Teddy Roosevelt. He said, “The credit belongs to the one in the arena.” James Garfield said, yes, it belongs to the one in the arena, but the wreath belongs to the ones who contend aright. You see, I don’t think practice makes perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect. We have to be in the arena, but part of being in the arena is the process. It’s not the end result. Some liberals say that the end justifies the means, but the process has to have integrity – otherwise the results mean nothing. How can you say you win? That’s an empty victory.

Rush: Exactly. By the way, did “Saturday Night Live” ever ask you to appear?

Harris: I think we had some phone calls. We were just bombarded. But I don’t want to demean the election process. Maybe I’ll do something afterwards. I have some funny things I’d like to play back on them.

Rush: I’ll bet. Let me get back to the book. One of the principles that you espouse is actually quite profound: “Act and risk enmity; to remain popular, do nothing.”

Harris: I never hear people talk about this, and I think this is proven time and time again. Rush, think about our most popular politicians. Or it doesn’t have to just be politicians. When you look around and see who’s really popular, oftentimes you’ll be shocked that they do nothing. You see, just by virtue of taking a stand means you’re going to oppose something else. And it might be a grand opposition, it might be getting rid of graft and corruption, but of course, there are going to be people on the other side of that who want to keep it. So any time you act, you are going to risk enmity. It’s fascinating to look at very popular individuals, and oftentimes they’ve accomplished that by simply not taking a stand. They still just want to be liked.

Rush: Exactly. Well, it’s sort of like the Democrats and Iraq. They wanted a resolution where if it goes well, they can say, “See, we were all behind it.” If it goes wrong, they wanted to be able to say, “See, we told you so.”

Harris: Think about Reagan. Think about when he was taking a stand to tear that (Berlin) Wall down. People were concerned about this brinkmanship-type negotiation. But he had an immutable principle. He was not going to condone the circumstances to get along so he could have a nice term as president. He took a principled stand.

Rush: Right. And the fact that they still talk about him means he made a huge difference. Now I’m bouncing off of your “act and risk enmity, to remain popular do nothing.” Sometimes, if one is a conservative, all you have to do to risk enmity is just live your life. If a conservative happens to be at work, or happens to be a student with a liberal professor, all he’s got to do to risk enmity is simply say what he believes. He doesn’t have to do anything. Conservatives can get tarred and feathered for believing what they believe, and sometimes it’s a whole classroom against him. Sometimes it’s a whole office against him. You’ve been through this. What would you advise people to do to deal with that in their day-to-day contacts with liberals or people who disagree with them?

Harris: That’s one of the reasons I wrote the book, Rush. To say: Get involved, engage and stay involved. Finish what you start. And don’t look at me and say, “But, gosh, you did the right thing. I’m so discouraged with how you were treated.” I’m still here! It doesn’t matter if people agree that I should have followed the law exactly, or if they disagree and think we should bend the rules to fit their fancies. Agree or disagree, do something. Get involved. And be committed. If you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing. Sometimes it’s really difficult, but life lived fully and intensely is a marvelous thing. And you know, we should be more afraid of God than man, and I think when you understand where your principles are, where your treasures are, it’s really important to live that out every day. If you do the right thing, the future takes care of itself.

Rush: Well, that’s profound. It really is. Sometimes it takes awhile for it to take care of itself, but people get impatient.

Harris: Rush, everybody said my political career was over. And to be honest with you, it was a no-win situation. I absolutely thought it was. But if it’s over, then all the more reason to act with integrity. I asked my husband three days into this, “Sweetheart, what am I going to do?” He was a brand-new American citizen – he’s Swedish – and he said, “Oh, it’s simple.” Here everybody is stymied, nobody can make a decision, and I’m asking my husband what he thinks I should do. It really was a rhetorical question, I didn’t expect an answer, much less, “It’s simple.” He said, “You just have to act with the most extraordinary integrity, because you have to live with yourself the rest of your life.” Now, if more people had taken that to heart, I daresay the entire recount would have gone differently. But his words really set the stage, and I am so grateful.

Rush: Speaking of your husband, and speaking of living life to its fullest, you really don’t need any more aggravation that a campaign is bringing. I’m sure you guys have the means to go off and enjoy your lives the way you want. How did he react when you told him you wanted to stay in politics and maybe get into a bigger rough-and-tumble than you already were?

Harris: Actually, last summer we took some time away, to really think and pray about it. I told him the minute he says he’s had enough, I won’t look back – I’d leave. I think a part of me was asking, OK, how masochistic are we? He said, absolutely, I had to stay the course. He thinks there is so much more to be done, and somebody has to stand for what’s right. I’m certainly not the only one, and I don’t have title on these principles. I by no means claim to be an expert, and I make mistakes every day, but I’ve used historic figures who inspired me to be the exemplars of these principles, and it helps me be accountable. So he was the most encouraging about my continuing in Congress, and even during the recount, he was the rock. He would read some of these inane media accounts, and when I thought they were just the most heinous, vilifying comments, he would burst out laughing. It really got things in perspective. It was great.

Rush: I heard you say in a recent interview: “Internally, it was really hard. And of course you begin to doubt. You read about yourself. You don’t recognize yourself in the photographs. You read these horrific things. And so of course you begin to doubt. So the only safe harbor was following the letter of the law.” You exude confidence here, but everybody knows you went through a little bit of your own personal hell, and it would only be natural to have some doubt about this. Did you ever doubt you were on the right course?

Harris: Well, again, following the law was pretty simple, Rush. I was listening to my legal counsel. We hired this outside counsel, a Democratic law firm, Janet Reno’s former law firm, and based on the best counsel, we had a firewall. We had told both parties that they could contact the office on any issue concerning the law, but under no circumstances could they contact me or my staff to strategize. And so the only place I felt safe was following the law exactly. The attorneys would come in and explain all the nuances and we worked through things, and in those meetings, it was just me and them, and we would really hash it out and work through it. But when you listen to the rhetoric being launched at you, it was really extraordinary. I didn’t waffle on the issue of the law, but when they started the personal attacks and the character attacks, it was really tough. The year after the recount, I still felt pretty strong, because I knew I had done the right thing, and they couldn’t point to one single letter of the law that we didn’t follow exactly. But then a year after the recount, that’s when it really started getting tough, because all these things started to settle in and they never let up on the attacks. Even now, still, two years later.

Rush: Right.

Harris: And so that’s really why I started writing. Because the accounts in the newspapers were so false, and continued to be false.

Rush: Imagine that.

Harris: I had to write it down to demonstrate I wasn’t this monster that they were saying that I was. Goebbels said if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it. The book is not an apologetic of the recount. The recount’s used anecdotally, but it is the specific principles that held me steady during this time.

Rush: How about your campaign now? Is it extraordinarily dirty?

Harris: Oh, it’s gearing up to be that way. The woman who’s running against me just moved to town. She’s a friend of Bill and Hillary’s.

Rush: Yes, I see that Hillary’s [political action committee] has given her five grand.

Harris: Right, the maximum they can give.

Rush: Yeah.

Harris: Yes, it’s not going to be pleasant.

Rush: She just moved to town?

Harris: Yes. She registered to vote about six months ago.

Rush: Sarasota?

Harris: Yes.

Rush: Are they targeting you, do you think, with this move?

Harris: Well, the national Democrats said that my race is going to be the national referendum on the legitimacy of our president.

Rush: No.

Harris: Isn’t that ridiculous? I hope they remember that when I win!

Rush: Well, Katherine, you have to win big.

Harris: There’s one point. There are two things I wanted to tell you about the book that I think you would enjoy.

Rush: Alright.

Harris: These principles really came through pain. They weren’t just little quips. They were painfully learned in many cases. I love the last principle, “Unstring your bow.” When warriors competed and went to war against one another with bow and arrow, they developed ever-stronger bows, with different kinds of materials and different lacquers, etc. But they found that what really gave the bow the greatest power was every evening to unstring the bow, and let it strengthen so that it could be strong again the next day. I talk about that in the context that it’s so important for all of us. I’m very suspicious of people who have no personal life. It was their personal life from whence they came that compelled them to get into the arena in the first place. So when they forget where they came from, and don’t have that kind of balancing act so that they can sit back and process and just take time to think, then that always concerns me. Another theme that I didn’t write about, but I’m learning as I’ve been reacquainting myself with the national media, is that “unstring the bow” probably also means there’s a time to lay down your arms, to heal. And to forgive, so that you can move forward.

Rush: It sounds like you definitely are.

Harris: I’ll tell you the one I’m working on, though, that I haven’t perfected.

Rush: What’s that?

Harris: This is not a chapter, it’s just a line, because I can’t get there yet. And that is, “Never rejoice in your adversary’s downfall.”

Rush: Oh, that’s tough. Everybody needs a little schadenfreude.

Harris: “And don’t begrudge their successes.” I really am trying to work through that, because whenever you have that kind of angst against other people, it’s not hurting them at all. It just hurts you.

Rush: That’s quite honest. You could have written a fake chapter on this, but you said you’re not ready to, because you haven’t gotten there yet.

Harris: Well, I haven’t perfected any of these, but that one I don’t even have enough clinical experience to be able to write about it.

Rush: Well, if you don’t think you have it now, you’re going to get it. Because you’re really going to be stepping into the arena. If they’ve defined your race as the ultimate test of the legitimacy of the Bush presidency, and you win, then they’re going to be coming after you. But I can tell you can handle it. I know you will. Look, I appreciate your time. I didn’t mean to keep you this long, because I know you’re swamped.

Harris: No, it’s just delightful to speak with you. You’re just truly one of my heroes.

Rush: Ah, don’t say that!

Harris: Oh, Rush Limbaugh, are you kidding? You are! I believe you so helped a movement in turning the tide in America, really giving it intellectual thought, cogent arguments. We’d never had anyone to codify the things that we always felt we understood, but we couldn’t say in short order.

Rush: Well, you’re very kind to say that. I really appreciate it. So best of luck to you, and feel free to stay in touch any time.

Harris: Thank you so much, Rush, I can’t thank you enough.

? Radio Active Media, Inc., reprinted by permission of The Limbaugh Letter.

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