2008

May 25, 2008
HBO
USA
English
115 Minutes
Drama
Jay Roach [Blown Away; Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery; Meet The Parents]

A dramatization, whatever that means, of the debacle that was the Florida portion of the 2000 Presidential election. We get big names playing real people. We get outraged responses to court rulings and appointed politicians. We see Warren Christopher bend over for James Baker. And we know that whatever Kevin Spacey and Denis Leary believe is the truth. I hope people watch this and become outraged. I consider myself something of a Florida Recount Student, watching every possible story from every possible angle about this. Because of that, the single bit of information that I had not known before watching RECOUNT was the Gore lawyer, getting a sample blank ballot to study, being threatened in a crowded elevator by the frat-boy thugs that the RNC had bussed down to Florida demanding that their vote count (even though they were all employees of Republicans up in Washington and had no connection with Florida). We see clips during the credits of all the real participants and lo and behold, there he is being escorted out of the election office by a half dozen cops. A character says in passing that the RNC Abercrombie boys were flown from DC to Florida on the Enron jet.

There is a much better primer on this whole issue called UNPRECEDENTED: THE 2000 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION, which lays out in easy-to-follow detail exactly what forces had to come together for this to happen. That documentary painted the Supreme Court and Florida Secretary of State (and Bush Campaign Chair–conflict of interest anyone?) Katherine Harris as the main culprits. RECOUNT adds Joe Lieberman and Warren Christopher to that list. One villain not mentioned is Fox News, who has been blamed for being the first to call Florida that night for Bush, even though they knew that the numbers didn’t yet add up. Watch the documentary OUTFOXED for more on that.

Laura Dern plays Harris as a dim-witted bible thumper bowing to the will of whoever is loudest. To think that Bush-buddy Harris is partially responsible for the man who now resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue makes my blood boil.

Fictionalized films like this one can do a good job of making hard-to-understand legal minutia easy to digest. A character will say “The Supreme Court has ruled that this is a one-time decision”, and then another character, standing in for those of us at home will say, “has that ever happened before?”, and the lesson will be complete when the first guy says “never in the history of the Supreme Court” and we’re all a bit more well-versed on Constitutional Law. Ed Begley perfectly nails the head Dem lawyer. In fact, just about everyone at least looks like their real-life counterpart.

It isn’t said in the film, but Bush took office in January of 2001 without a mandate, knowing that he lost the popular vote, with a whiff of scandal already in the air. He couldn’t get anything passed, was about to become the most ineffective president since Carter. And then the towers fell and the very office of the Chief Executive changed, probably forever. Thank you Dick Cheney, et al. How would the world have been different if Harris wasn’t secretary of state, the recount went on longer, and Mr. Gore took the oath that January day? The towers probably still would have fallen. But what about everything after that? The mind boggles.

Leary and Spacey engage in this kind of “what if” as they walk to their airplanes to leave Florida. Harris, Supreme Court, voter rolls erased, Gore fighting, Christopher’s sick daughter, and Clinton’s blowjob all are included. What if, indeed.

As a film, it has much stacked up against it. Obviously, we know the ending. We also know what a chad is, what the participants sound like, and how the Supreme Court ruled. We also get several incredibly terrible scenes, the first of which is when a roly-poly Gore aid is told to stop the Vice-President from conceding before a recount can be started. He falls out of his town car, is stopped by secret service (even though he was in the motorcade), and finally catches up to Gore, breathless, just as he’s about to step on the stage to deliver his election night speech. Not even the West Wing would have had that kind of madcap pratfalling. But it gets better from there.

Each of these documentaries related to 2000 election is better that RECOUNT:

Unprecedented: The 2000 Presidential Election (2002)
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War On Journalism (2004)
Hacking Democracy (2006)

6.6 Metacritic

RECOUNT
~~

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3 Responses to “RECOUNT”
  1. Anonymous says:

    “Because of that, the single bit of information that I had not known before watching RECOUNT was the Gore lawyer, getting a sample blank ballot to study, being threatened in a crowded elevator by the frat-boy thugs that the RNC had bussed down to Florida demanding that their vote count (even though they were all employees of Republicans up in Washington and had no connection with Florida). We see clips during the credits of all the real participants and lo and behold, there he is being escorted out of the election office by a half dozen cops.”

    They are indeed paid employees of the RNC, but they were paid to observe the election. They were legal observers of the election process. Democrats had their paid observers there as well. Its a falsehood that all them came from out of state. Most observers were unpaid volunteers, and residents of the state. The thousands of protesters (and unpaid observers) were just everyday average normal citizens fed up with what they saw as the blatant attempt to steal the election by the Democrats and showed up of their own recognizance. Democrats dont have a monopoly on spontaneous demonstrations. The movie also makes no mention of the reasons why this mob was so angry. To do so would have betrayed his own lies about Republicans organizing and running a “riot’.

    On the day of the “riot”, the canvassing board (which didnt have a Republican among them) decided to move the counting from the 18th floor to the 19th floor. Sounds innocent enough. But the law requires that the count must be held open to the public and the press. On the 18th floor, along with several dozen Republican observers, there were about 25 news cameras present. The counting board let it be known that on the 19th floor they would allow only 2 observers from each party and no cameras or recording equipment (Yet another fact left out by the movie). The Republicans believed that if they did not have numerous reporters in the room and a video record of every unvoted ballot the canvassers ruled on, it would be impossible to trust the final outcome of the count. They thought the election was going to be stolen behind closed doors.

    Spontaneously, they decided to go up to the 19th floor and demand that the press be allowed in to observe. They chanted “Three blind mice”, and “Fraud. fraud. Fraud.” and “Let The Press In!” (Its a total lie that they, as non citizens of the state, demanded that THEIR votes be counted)

    About the gore lawyer getting a sample ballot, here is what the movie leaves out: Only the county canvassing board are allowed to touch the ballots, since they are the ones counting them. No member of the public, not even the observers, are allowed to touch the ballots. The so called “thugs” saw a man (they didnt know at the time that he was the local democrat party chairman, Joe Geller) enter the room, approach a window, talk to a woman on the other side of the window who then went away, returned a few minutes later with two other women, AND a ballot in her hand. She slipped the ballot to the man and he opened his coat and pocketed it. The observers couldnt believe their eyes. As observers they were not allowed to touch ballots, and here someone was passing one out. You continue with his fairy tale with the claim that Geller then needed a police escort to help him escape. Not even remotely true.

    The observers called out loud, bringing everybodys attention to this, and followed him downstairs where they called for a police officer demanding that he be arrested. Officers came onto the scene, surrounded him (hence the video clip of him being escorted by 6 police officers), and then escorted Geller BACK UPSTAIRS to the counting room. He was not arrested because as it turned out, he had a “sample ballot” and not an actual “voting ballot”.

    “A character says in passing that the RNC Abercrombie boys were flown from DC to Florida on the Enron jet”

    The Bush legal team, the LAWYERS, among other kep people were flown in on the Enron jet. Not those “thugs” in the counting room.

  2. Anonymous says:

    “kep people” = key people.

  3. MichaelVox says:

    I just want to comment on one point “anonymous” (use your real name if you don’t want to be thought of as a “nameless Republican defender”) brings up. By the way, there is nothing wrong with being a Republican defender, I just wish you’d use your name:

    His/Her comments in quotes, mine are not: “They are indeed paid employees of the RNC, but they were paid to observe the election. They were legal observers of the election process. Democrats had their paid observers there as well.”

    I’m okay with this.

    “Its a falsehood that all them came from out of state. Most observers were unpaid volunteers, and residents of the state.”

    If I said “all of them” I take it back.

    “The thousands of protesters (and unpaid observers) were just everyday average normal citizens fed up with what they saw as the blatant attempt to steal the election by the Democrats and showed up of their own recognizance.”

    This I don’t believe for a second. I’m sure a handful of people on both sides of the issue, decided on their own to stop by the vote count to make their displeasure known. But the vast majority were part of organized groups. This isn’t a process that either political party has a monopoly on. Witness the Hilary people being bused to the superdelegate meeting to “spontaneously protest” the Michigan and Florida results.

    “On the day of the “riot”, the canvassing board (which didnt have a Republican among them) decided to move the counting from the 18th floor to the 19th floor. Sounds innocent enough. But the law requires that the count must be held open to the public and the press. On the 18th floor, along with several dozen Republican observers, there were about 25 news cameras present. The counting board let it be known that on the 19th floor they would allow only 2 observers from each party and no cameras or recording equipment (Yet another fact left out by the movie). The Republicans believed that if they did not have numerous reporters in the room and a video record of every unvoted ballot the canvassers ruled on, it would be impossible to trust the final outcome of the count. They thought the election was going to be stolen behind closed doors.”

    I find myself on the side of the Republicans here. The more press, the better, IMHO.

    “Spontaneously, they decided to go up to the 19th floor and demand that the press be allowed in to observe. They chanted “Three blind mice”, and “Fraud. fraud. Fraud.” and “Let The Press In!” (Its a total lie that they, as non citizens of the state, demanded that THEIR votes be counted)”

    You just lost me. I’m not sure, anonymous, if you’ve seen the documentary UNPRECEDENTED that I mentioned in my review, but they show the “spontaneous crowd” as you call them, weirdly smiling while chanting and waving their fists in the air. They were smiling because they didn’t believe a word they were saying. The filmmakers of that film (not RECOUNT) freeze the frame of video shot from inside the canvassing board. They then use graphics to point out dozens of young, all-white, mostly male, employees of Republican leaders in Washington. These “protesters” did not simply drive down to Florida on a whim. They were organized and bused in to play the part of outraged citizens. The vast majority of those chanters were low-level house and senate staffers for Republicans.

  4.  
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Written by Michael W. Cummins