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On December 14, 2000, President Bill Clinton gave one of the last difficult statements of his presidency — remarking on the presidential race that his vice president conceded the night before. The Clinton Presidential Library released a number of the drafts that led up to his remarks, showing how Clinton and his team debated what to say — and how much attention they should draw to the contentious aftermath of the campaign.

The 2000 presidential election was perhaps the hardest fought in American history, settled only when the Supreme Court decided to halt vote counting in Florida, effectively declaring George W. Bush the winner. On December 13, Clinton's vice president, Al Gore, conceded. Clinton, who was in North Aylesbury, England, would comment on the concession the next morning.

We took the various versions of the statement, including updates and edits written in a number of different hands. It appears that the first drafts were composed the evening before. Over the course of the night they were tweaked and edited, until presented the following morning.

The main evolution that occurred over the course of the night was moving away from obvious frustration at the results of the election — "tens of thousands of ballots … were never tallied. But … we are a nation of laws" — and toward the sort of unity that has traditionally marked American transitions of power. "The American people," Clinton said that morning, "however divided they were in this election, overwhelmingly want us to build on that vital center without rancor or personal attack."

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