56 of 63 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
What exactly went on behind the scenes of the 2000 election voting disaster, the one that decided the fates of Al Gore and George W. Bush? The HBO film "Recount" gives what I believe to be a fair representation of an historical event, which is ironic since the recount process put the very concept of fairness under intense scrutiny. We obviously all have an opinion on who rightfully won the presidency eight years ago, but I'm not here to debate who was right and who was wrong; I wasn't even old enough to vote back in the year 2000. I'm only here to review a movie. Yes, it tackles a political subject, but that doesn't mean it takes a definite political stance--generally speaking, each side has equal say, and not surprisingly, each side makes valid and not-so-valid points. Writer Danny Strong deserves a lot of praise, not only for showing both sides of the political spectrum, but also for not forcing us to agree with any side in particular.
I have no doubt the recount was more exhausting for those running the campaigns, simply because they were doing all the hard work; both candidates did nothing more than wait for the end result. Overseeing much of Gore's campaign was his former Chief of Staff, Ron Klain (Kevin Spacey), a loyal Democrat embittered after being replaced, first by Tony Coelho, then by Bill Daley (Mitch Pileggi). On election day--November 7--the Gore team gets word of a problem in Palm Beach County, Florida: a number of voters, confused by the ballot voting system, felt they had accidentally voted for Independent Pat Buchanan. This led to a number of TV networks receiving differing poll numbers by the end of the day, some confirming Gore's victory, others confirming Bush's. Hours of retractions and projections paved the way for a statewide machine recount, which meant that Gore was not yet willing to concede.
But problems arose with the machine recounts, mostly the fact that most voting centers were not willing to run the ballots through the machines a second time. They only re-tabulated the results saved on the machines' memory cards. At a certain point, machine recounts no longer seemed viable because of chads, those infamous bits of paper punched out of voting ballots. If the chad was left hanging, the machine could potentially push it back into the hole and read it as a non-vote. The same would be true of a dimpled chad (a chad not punched all the way through). Democratic strategists opted for a hand recount, believing it would more accurately reveal the voters' intentions. Klain and his team demanded the ballots be recounted in the four Florida counties likely to have voted Democratic: Broward, Miami-Dade, Volusa, and Palm Beach.
This set into motion an absolute legal nightmare. Secretary of State Katherine Harris (Laura Dern)--a staunch Bush supporter--immediately oversaw the certification process for the recount, refusing to extend the November 14 deadline despite the need for more time. With the help of former Secretary of State James Baker (Tom Wilkinson), Harris and her Republican advisors announced that hand recounts were not allowed, thus suspending the entire recount process. It wasn't long before the Democrats discovered something interesting: according to Texas law--signed by Bush when he was Governor--hand recounts are preferred over machine recounts, and a dimpled chad does count as a vote. But this begs the question: Why would an out-of-state law have any bearing on the Florida recount, even if it was signed by the potential President Elect?
And what about military ballots? Should they have counted at all? Keep in mind that they weren't given postmarks, signatures, or dates, meaning there was no way to prove they had been sent in before the deadline. Klain's attempts to keep these ballots out of the recount were thwarted as soon as Joseph Lieberman, Gore's running mate, publicly insisted that they be counted; at that point, it seemed less and less likely that Gore would win the election. Even when an African American pastor came forward as part of a voter purge list (simply for having a similar name to a convicted felon), little could be done to stop the inevitable. Never mind the fact that the list contained 20,000 illegal rejections, half of which were from the black population; the U.S. Supreme Court still decided to order a stay of Florida's undercounted ballots.
Of course, there has to be that final moment when Gore quotes a wise man: "I have to end this war when I know I can't win." He says this to Klain over the phone, officially backing down and letting Bush have the presidency. It's a somber moment to be sure, although I'm hard pressed to say that the entire point of "Recount" was for the audience to mourn Gore's loss and condemn Bush's victory. For the most part, the film's liberal and conservative perspectives are nicely balanced. In one scene, for example, Warren Christopher (John Hurt) says, "There's no shame in placing country above party," and that's a little too pacifistic for Klain's taste. Indeed, Christopher took the path of least resistance during the early stages of the recount, and he left before anything was resolved. By the time a resolution is reached, Michael Whouley (Denis Leary) walks with Klain and asks, "If W had asked for a recount, would the Supreme Court have stopped it?" What a thought-provoking question. If only it could be answered.
14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Kevin Spacey was great, as were many of the other actors and actresses. The screenplay was well written and engrossing to watch. But for those who don’t know the history or haven’t done any research don’t use this as a historical account. There were many factual inaccuracies, falsehoods, lies and complete reversal of truths in this film. These are my notes about the film as it went along.
Palm Beach County – had been using the same butterfly ballot for over 30 years. It was set up and designed by Democrats and the election commission in Palm Beach County was controlled 100% by Democrats. The film does portray that Palm Beach county Democrats were the first to lawyer up which is a good thing. The bad thing is even though Democratic operatives went door to door in Palm Beach County they could find less than 100 people who actually were confused by the ballot, this is NEVER mentioned in the film and in fact it portrays many people coming forward which history tells us were actually paid democratic operatives bussed in.
Calling Al Gore as winner in Florida – The film shows that it was called early and incorrectly but never mentions that there were at least 12-14,000 disenfranchised voters that never voted in the western counties (this according to Democratic polling). According to the same Democratic polling at least 60% of those would have gone to Bush thereby increasing his margin of victory even greater. The film also never tells that the media analysts that incorrectly called the state for Al Gore, even though Bush was leading in the exit polls by a very small margin, had familial ties to Gore and also a PAID consultant for the Democratic Party. Remember the correction to the obvious wrong call didn’t come out till the polls had closed in Western Florida, this was probably one of the most underhanded dirty tricks ever played in national politics but didn’t even get a mention in the film.
Gores Concession and taking it back – The film did a good job explaining why Gore retracted his concession to Bush back. At that stage of the game it really was a very close race and he had every right to want a fair recount of all the ballots. However the Bush comments that the film portrayed were wholly inaccurate according to both Bush and Gore.
Kathleen Harris – Her portrayal was ludicrous, if she would have been a Democrat and portrayed this way by the Republicans this movie would have been labeled ANTI-Women and showing woman as stupid, dumb and vain. The fact is Katherine Harris graduated Harvard University with a Master’s degree, she was an executive for IBM and a Vice President of large commercial real estate firm before becoming a Florida State Senator. In fact the film later on gave her credit for thwarting an activist Democratic Judges decision that the best Republican operatives couldn’t figure out how to do. While the film did accurately portray the harsh attack that Kathleen Harris had to endure it didn’t mention that the protestors outside of her office were democratic operatives or that every Democratic media person had received memos excoriating her. For some reason liberals (supposedly pro-women) always portray conservative women as being stupid and attack them mercilessly. I wish people would see through this anti-women rhetoric that percolates throughout the left.
1st Florida Vote Count – The film portrays it correctly that Bush won
2nd Florida Vote Count – The Mandatory recount (ordered by Kathleen Harris) – The film never told the audience but Bush won again.
3rd Florida Vote Count – The film lied through its teeth and said that Florida didn’t have a legal way to request a whole state recount. That is false. The fact is the Gore team (Warren Christopher and Bill Daley) did not want a whole state recount, because that would force the state to count overseas ballots that the Gore legal teamed had sealed (and were never counted). They knew a whole state recount would result in a third victory for Bush and this would be a show stopper for the American people. However others on the Gore team (Ron Klain and David Boies) knew that the only way Gore could win was to force selected recounts of only counties that were highly Democratic, which was against Florida Election law. They also knew that with a supportive FSSC (Florida State Supreme Court) they would be able to tweak the election law and allow this. This is why they resorted to lawsuits. They wanted to change Florida election AFTER the votes had been cast. NOTE: The film never once stated that individual county recounts were illegal, instead it portrayed them as a heroic fight put forth by the democrats rather than the subversion of election law. NOTE: At the end of the film Klain does admit that their major error was not asking for a whole state recount, this mea culpa is easily missed but is really the biggest blunder that the Democrats made. It was their only legal recourse, we know now through the media consortium recounts of the ballots that Bush still would have won but it would have shown that they were in fact wanting to have a fair election with all of the ballots counted.
Lawyering up – The film alludes to the fact that both the Democrats in Palm Beach County and Al Gore’s team were the ones to bring in the lawyers. However it incorrectly portrays that Bush was also lawyering up at the same time. In fact one of the blunders that many non-partisan observers pointed to was the late arrival of a Bush legal team to Florida.
Palm Beach voters demand for a recount – The film portrays this as if it really happened. Facts show that this was a staged event by the Democrats and Jesse Jackson, who was flown in on a private jet funded by the Democratic Party. There is film records of the busses that brought many of the “protestors” in from other counties. The film also lied about Gore wanting Jesse Jackson out when the call for him to go there was made either by Gore or his right hand man.
Republican response – The film portrays that the republicans took the offensive in getting operatives in and protestors when in fact they were on the defense and actually getting their people in place 2-3 days after the Gore team had already mobilized and gotten the media on their side.
Gore taking the high road – Again all of the evidence seems to point that Gore’s was a win at any cost (at least when he personally thought there was a chance). He lawyered up, he brought in tens of thousands of Democratic operatives, etc. etc. The film blatantly lied about the threat of violence, which was, according to most insider reports, their threat and they seemed to be gearing up for it. Give the man credit, their machine worked much better than Bush’s and nearly got him the white house.
No law firm in Florida will represent Al Gore – That point is laughable considering that the Democratic Party paid over $7.6 million dollars in legal fees to Florida Law firms for their assistance during the election debacle.
Legal Remedies – The film did accurately portray that there was no legal remedy by a “fair” court.
Legal Fight- The film totally falsified the historical record (one of the biggest lies in the film). The Democrats filed over 20 lawsuits throughout Florida hoping to push the case to the highly partisan FSSC. It was the Republicans that refused to fight a legal battle and only responded to the cases. It wasn’t until later that the republicans went to the USSC to counter the highly partisan rulings from the FSSC.
FSSC – The film accurately portrays that the FSSC is a far left court that is highly partisan. It also accurately portrays that the republicans realized that Gore was maneuvering cases to get to the FSSC. The film however claims the Republicans realized it very early on which is false, the internal memos show that they only realized it when the Democrats appealed a ruling the FSSC, which was on break came in to hear the case within 48 hours, something that was unprecedented.
Extending the deadline – the film claims there was no logical reason to not extend the deadline. That is false, the LAW dictated the methods allowed to resolve close decision. First there is the regular count, then a Mandatory recount if the votes are close enough and finally any candidate can request another state recount with election supervisors on hand. All of this must be done before the deadline. Kathleen Harris was required by LAW to certify the count on a specific date. Remember the Democrats could have legally asked for a 2nd recount (which they did not want), instead they went the illegal route and tried to recount only their chosen counties and then they wanted to extend the deadline (also illegal but allowed by the FSSC). As the film said “Al Gore isn’t interested in counting all of the votes, he is only interested in counting Al Gore votes.”
Kerey Carpenter – The blatantly lied about her. They show her receiving some sort of badge and telling people that she was an official from the board of elections which is 100% false. Judge Charles Burton, who was the person who interacted with Kerey in said that she clearly identified herself as a lawyer as was there to offer her opinions and monitor the recount (all legal) for the Bush team. The film LIED about this plain and simple. Another thing the film did was lie through omission while Kerey was there for Bush it forgot to mention that there were 4 other lawyers advocating for Gore and they had been there for almost 48 hours. The fact is the Gore team was always a step ahead and more lawyered up than the Bush team but you would never know it by watching this.
Democrats willing to go to jail by breaking the law – The film actually did a good job showing that the Democratic supporters were willing to break the law and go to jail if they got Al Gore elected. This was a win at any cost attitude that permeated the Democrats. It also showed quite convincingly that the republicans were stunned at this attitude and didn’t understand how the democrats could be so flippant and willing to break laws to get their guy elected.
Palm Beach County suspending the recount – The film correctly showed that the 3 democrats on the Palm Beach county board voted 2-1 to suspend (or in favor of Bush) the recounts. Two of them felt it was better to follow the law and they had no legal authority to break it (which is good), however they were later excoriated by the voters, including getting death threats (30 for Carol Roberts in 3 days), having their homes and cars vandalized and never getting reelected while the 1 person who was willing to break the law was reelected and treated as a hero (that is bad).
Broward and Palm Beach county lawsuits – The film shows that the Democrats knew they were going to lose the lawsuit that would change Florida State Election law, but they didn’t care. What the film doesn’t show was that there plan was to move it to the FSSC where they had a guaranteed victory.
Absentee Ballots – The film lied about absentee ballots, it was the Republicans that wanted the absentee ballots and oversea ballots counted (they generally favor Republicans by a decent margin) if they were legal. The democrats didn’t want military ballots (which generally don’t have a postmark since they are sent via military carriers) to count even though the law says that as long as they were certified in mail bundles on or before the election they get to count. While some of the ballots that arrived BEFORE the election did get counted (the film shows this). The majority of ballots that were unambiguously mailed before the deadline date but arrived after the vote never got counted, a little known fact that the film never shows. The film did correctly show that Joe Liebermann thought they should be counted which as many people knew would actually seal the election in Bush’s favor.
Going to the FSSC – The film lied again that there was some sort of question if the Democrats should go the FSSC. This is absolutely false as personal memoirs, internal memos and a whole host of other sources show. This WAS the goal all along, to get this case to the overly friendly FSSC, this isn’t conjecture, this a known fact.
FSSC ruling – Completely changed the election law AFTER the election and allowed selective county hand recounts. Ironically it only allowed 4 counties to be recount, the 4 most Democratic counties in Florida. This was an obviously a hyper partisan ruling that was designed to get Gore into office. In fact when the USSC (United States Supreme Court) heard this ruling they remanded it to the FSSC by a 9-0 ruling with probably one of the most strongly worded rebukes in the courts history. Ironically the Republicans were sure that they would get at least 7-2 ruling on this one but they were worried about Thomas and Scalia buying their argument. Think about that for a moment. Also the film never once mentioned the first USSC case and the stunning rebuke which to me shows a major bias.
Voter Purge list – OMG talk about lies, first of all the purge list was required by law, secondly it was up to the counties voting supervisors to ensure that these lists are correct. Voting supervisors are elected officials, therefore in mostly African American Democratic counties they are usually an African American democrat. They have no reason to suppress the vote and it’s up to them to verify the list and purge the names. Secondly the film states that up to 20,000 people were wrongfully purged. This is utter BS, the Democratic Party millions of dollars and used thousands of people canvasing Florida to find these votes and they could only come up with about a dozen, ironically about half of them wanted to vote for Bush. Finally when they Civil Rights commission had a hearing on the so-called voting irregularities in Florida the Democrats were only able to present 5 people who could not vote (1 was later found to actually be ineligible to vote). This is such a far cry from the claim of 20,000 that the film should be ashamed of itself.
Miami – Dade ‘Riot’ – The movie is getting worse and worse. First off the Democratic voting commission took all of the ballots into a locked room, the booted out the Republican representative and excluded the press which was illegal. It was the republican representative that called this in and the republican lawyers (aka Brooks Brother’s riot) went into the building along with the police who knew that there had to be oversight. Ballot tampering by Democrats had already occurred in two other counties in plain sight. The Democrats were without any options and they knew that Miami-Dade was it. They had to win and win big so when they went into a locked room with the ballots away from the press and everyone else things did get out of hand but the way the movie portrayed the actual events was a farce.
2nd Trip to the FSSC – The Gore campaign contested the election and lost so they ran to their ally the FSSC. Nobody thought they could win after the stunning rebuke the USSC had given them instead the FSSC in a 4-3 decision (three of them learned something from the rebuke) ignored Florida State Law, the US constitution and federal election law and ordered a statewide recount of undervote’s, something that all court rulings (county, state and federal) have said cannot be done. What many legal scholars see was the 4 highly partisan judges on the FSSC giving the finger to the USSC and in fact ensuring a victory for Gore.
2nd trip to the USSC – The film forgot to portray the dismay that the Democrats had with the FSSC ruling. It went way too far by ordering a whole state recount which could not have been done in time for Florida’s Electoral College to have counted. This would have caused Florida’s senators to vote and since they favored Bush, Bush would have gotten the votes (this was the nuclear option that was talked about by Republicans but Bush refused to do it) They also knew that without giving a set standard to count the votes by (something the USSC rebuked them for in the first place) they were really snubbing their noses at those justices. The basic issue in front of the USSC was can election laws be changed AFTER an election? Al Gore and the FSSC said they needed this to ensure a fair election while the Bush campaign said you have to abide by the laws. In this case 7 of the justices agreed that you have to abide by the laws and not change them after the fact to ensure your victory.
USSC Ruling – “Seven Justices of the Court agree that there are constitutional problems with the recount ordered by the Florida Supreme Court that demand a remedy.” The film got it right and no matter what you have heard the official ruling is 7-2 NOT 5-4 as the late night comedians and partisan political pundits like to claim.
Al Gore’s defeat – The film showed that although the Democratic operatives were willing to fight this and cause much upheaval in the country it was finally Al Gore that seemed to be the more sensible one. He knew he had lost, he knew his legal challenges were specious, in the end he took the high road.
Fictional Film Award 4.5 Stars
Historical Accuracy Award 2 Stars (it did get some things correct)