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"Recount" brings it back home in Sunshine State

Mitch Perry about about 6 years ago

HBO's much anticipated (at least amongst political junkies, at least) "Recount" aired over the Memorial Day weekend.

The film has garnered mostly positive reviews. The biggest critics have been those who served on Al Gore's campaign team who come out looking well, rather lame.

Specifically, Warren Christopher (former Secretary of State for Bill Clinton, among other gigs on his CV) and Gore campaign chairman Bill Daley. "Chris", as he's referred to by friend and foe, looks regal in his double breasted suits, but he and Daley are depicted as preferring NOT to engage in any potential down and dirty political tactics. Tactics that "Recount" shows the Bush team, led by "the velvet hammer" James A. Baker, has no problem with (the film shows him saying, "we'll get killed in the op-eds", and follows with, "Until this is over, I don't want to see a copy of the New York Times unless it's to wrap garbage." Which incidentally, he denies he ever said.)

The film's screenwriter used several different sources, including Jeffrey Toobin's compelling 2002 narrative, "Too Close To Call".

It's all fascinating and entertaining, and, well, depending on your political perspective, perhaps a bit sad as well.

Who knows how different our world might be if President Gore was just finishing his 2nd term in office. Then again, maybe it would have been a Republican who defeated him in '04 (John McCain?) who knows?

But the central thesis of "Recount" is that the Dems were not prepared to play hardball with Baker, Ben Ginsberg, and the rest of the Bush-Cheney team. That seems somewhat accurate.

As a new reporter working here in Florida at the time (I moved to Tampa in April of 2000), what struck me was, the lack of activism in the streets. Granted, I came from covering events in Berkeley, California, perhaps the preiminent protest capital of the country.

But to the extent that there were protests, they were led by Bush partisans. I'm not just referring to the so-called "Brooks Brothers" protest of the Miami Dade County canvassing Board (which as "Recount" shows, completely intimidated the lawful recounting of votes in that critical county).

No, I'm referring to what I saw in front of the Palm Beach County Government building in West Palm Beach, 3 days after the election.

It was Veterans Day, so the building was closed, but there were dozens of people protesting. And what I remember is Congressman Robert Wexler, in fear for his life, fleeing an angry mob accosting him after he finished doing a live interview with Greta Van Susteren (then with CNN).

Wexler ultimately had to escape into a trailer of CNN, or another TV crew's production facility. It seemed absurd, but it wasn't. As "Recount" shows, when Jesse Jackson took to the streets, Bill Daley speaks with some others who wanted him to knock it off. Later I recall that Jackson and some others (including Code Pink's Medea Benjamin, who hadn't created that group yet) were similarly forced to escape from angry counter protestors.

There have been some notable actions of protest in Florida over the years. Not a lot, but protests against the Martin Lee Anderson verdict last year comes to mind. Before I came here in 2000, the protest in Tallahassee against Jeb Bush's One Florida plan made national news.

But I've always contended that part of the problem (other than apathy, which is a fact in some parts), is the intense weather here. You have to be dedicated to get out and walk for blocks on end to bring attention to a cause that enough people deem is worth it.

Come to think of it, I'm reminded of a demonstration held in Tampa nearly 3 years ago, on a blisteringly hot July day. That's when over a thousand people marched in protest against the Hillsborough County Commission's infamous vote against gay pride (little g, little p in former Commissioner Ronda Storms famous words).

Look, the action was in the court room during those memorable 36 days, as "Recount" depicts. But can you imagine if a similar scenario did play out in other cities in this country, would people be so passive? Particularly in light of what's happened with our government since?

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Comments

Digital Consultant

Hi Mitch (and everybody else), I find your summary of the Florida situation (regarding protests) right on the money. Having grown up in Puerto Rico and attended the local University of Puerto Rico in the late 60's early 70's, I was used to protests being a daily event (not to mention campus takeovers, protests in parks, cities, etc.). In addition, the protests were composed of over 20,000 people, all the time. When the the Bush/Cheney people were plotting the war to invade Iraq in late 2002 & early 2003 and then announced the invasion on March, 2003; I was out there on Bayshore (with about 100 others who showed up). It was invasion day and there were a number of folks calling us "you commies!" My first thought upon hearing some of this was, "...commies in 2003??..." Anyway, it is my belief that part of this issue of lack of protest and/or activism if you will, is rooted in Florida's traditional education system. It has historically been a lousy education system (there are some minor exceptions), but still a lousy education system. That and a traditional Christian-conservative culture ("...oh, it's not nice to protest..."), will produce this kind of society. Example: during the 2004 Presidential campaign, I had noticed some guys placing Mel Martinez signs all over the Sabal Park area and summarily removing Betty Castor signs. In those days, I was doing some work for MoveOn.org (campaign computer network, etc.), so I went to the local Democrat campaign headquarters on Kennedy Blvd and asked if they could give me some Betty Castor signs as I volunteered to place them in Sabal Park. To my shock, the folks there refused. Instead they said they could sell me the signs. What!!! I have to pay for them?

2000

i was in St.Pete in 2000..WMNF did it's best to get Bush elected by urging listeners to vote their conscience by voting for that crackpot Ralph Nader..thanks for the last 8 years WMNF..what foresight and understanding of the issues

2000 Redux

I thought the movie did a very good job recreating the events that took place, except for the overused theatrical device of making every major Democratic character look brilliant and altruistic. The show also perpetuates the Democrat's apparent belief that if they lose an election, something must be wrong. They handled this by throwing several of their own under the bus, painting the loss as the failure of Warren Christopher and others, not the will of the people. Surely, Florida would pick Gore over Bush in a fair election. It would have been nice to point out that the recount done by the St Pete Times and several other Florida papers showed Bush to be the winner in, if memory serves me well, 5 out of 6 of the methods that they used to recount.