Movie Review: RECOUNT (HBO Television Movie) The Story Of The 2000 Florida Election. Gore Lost Florida Long Before The Election In Nov 2000. Rated B

May 31, 2008 by
Filed under: Uncategorized 

” I’m still going to be Cruella de Vil.”, Katherine Harris. Well she called something right.

This film written by Danny Strong and directed by Jay Roach is about the 2000 Florida recount. The election was ultimately decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in Bush v. Gore in favor of George W. Bush by a five to four vote along party lines. The film stars Kevin Spacey , as Ron Klain, Gore’s demoted chief of staff who rises to be in charge of the confrontation; Bob Balaban, as Ben Ginsberg the Bush campaigns chief counsel; Ed Begley, Jr. as David Boies a lawyer who handles the appellate work for the Democrats; Laura Dern, the Florida Republican Secretary of State; John Hurt as Warren Christopher, Democratic eminence grise who abandons the field because of a family illness; Denis Leary, as Michael Whouley, chief Gore field operative; Bruce McGill as Mac Stipanovich a Republican operative ( akin to a Nixon plumber) and Tom Wilkinson as Jim Baker, The legal and tactical chief of the Bush side. Baker filed a federal action early on based on the theory that Bush’s civil rights had been violated that was the basis of the later appeal to the Supreme Court. Irony of ironies.

The premise of this film is that the Florida vote was too close to call because of the flawed mechanical counting machines that were ineffective in resolving a difference of less that .05 percent between the candidates. Because of this the U.S. Supreme Court decided the election along party lines which should have been decided by the will of the voters.

Scalia, Thomas, O’Conner, Kennedy and Rehnquist, all Republican appointees, were in the majority while Ginsberg and Breyer, Democratic appointees and Souter (by George H.W. Bush) and Stevens, Republican appointees where in the minority. The kicker was that three of the majority, Scalia, Thomas and Rehnquist were previously on record as holding that elections were the province of the states and state law. In this case the majority limited their ruling to the facts in this case. Therefore the holding cannot be cited as precedent. This gives rise to the inference that this was a political decision not a legal one.

The film reveals many fascinating facts. Katherine Harris had Mac Stipanovich in her office advising her how to manage the conflict in Bush’s favor. She is painted as a vacuous Republican without the intellectual, moral and ethical qualities to carry out the duties of a Secretary of State. Laura Dern’s characterization of her is over the top as is Tom Wilkinson’s depiction of Jim Baker as a Republican strategist who is willing to take to the streets in order to win the election. It is revealed that Baker was a Democrat until age forty when his first wife died and he became a George H.W.Bush supporter. Baker comes off as the astute strategist who sees that the dispute will ultimately end in the Supreme Court where the Republicans had many friends. Boies the Democratic lawyer believes that the matter will be settled in the state courts on settled legal principles.

We see Republican operatives, flown in on an Enron jet, mob the Miami-Dade election offices to shut down a hand recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court. Republican public relations experts call in colorful characters to parade the Bush mantra of “no recount” in front of the cable and network cameras massed outside the Florida Supreme Court. Bob Dole and other Republican leaders are seen on talk shows and the news condemning the recount because it was “impossible” to discern a voters intent by hanging chad or dimpled ballots.

The film explains that dimpled and hanging chad on punch ballots are not always the fault of the voter. Problems arise because there is a build up of chad from prior voters in the machine that prevent subsequent voters being able to fully detach the chad signifying their vote. However in a hand recount it can be discerned that the voter intended to punch a chad signifying a vote for a particular candidate. The Republican effort was to prevent a hand recount at all costs.

Gore lost Florida long before Election Day because Secretary Of State Harris purged twenty thousand African-American voters from the rolls for allegedly being a convicted felons or having a name similar to a convicted felon. This was not learned until the excluded persons went to vote. Also there was no recourse by that time. Now if a person’s right to vote is challenged he is allowed to complete a provisional ballot and then have the matter adjudicated. The way Harris purged the rolls no one knew until he or she showed up to the polls that they had been purged and there and was no way of submitting a tentative ballot and having the issue adjudicated.

So Harris excluded twenty thousand and Blacks by fiat with no right of recourse if a mistake had been made. In the film a black minister named Willie Williams was prevented from voting because his name was similar to William Williams an allegedly convicted felon. What the real status of these persons was no one knew because an outside software company was hired by Harris for millions of dollars to conduct the purge of registered voters. How the twenty thousand voters would have voted is unknown except African Americans tend to vote Democratic. Harris comes across as so unethical and partisan that the purge was obviously done to benefit the Republican side. (In 2004 Jeb Bush ordered 48000 thousand persons purged as felons. However this was stopped by lawsuits before the election.)

Gore also had to contend with Ralph Nader who received ninety thousand votes most of which would have gone to him if Nader was not a third party candidate. However this fact was not discussed in the film

Finally voters in Palm Beach County cast six thousand votes for Pat Buchanan which even he said must have been a mistake because of the confusing butterfly ballots. The county is heavenly populated by retired Jewish Democrats who would not have voted for conservative Buchanan except for the fact of the confusing butterfly ballot.

Thus Florida should have been a Democratic state if the aforesaid forces had not come into play allowing the matter to be decided on a partisan basis by the conservative justices of the Supreme Court. The hand recount had been stopped by the Supreme court while they considered the matter and then the Court declared there wasn’t enough time for a recount to be accomplished within the Florida statutory deadline which effectively decided the election for Bush

This result occurred despite the fact that Gore won the national popular vote.

This film will probably be released to DVD later for those who don’t subscribe to HBO

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