March 28, 2015
‘Recount’ Gets It Right, Even if America Didn’t
Posted on May 28, 2008
By Brad Friedman
The infamous sleaze of the man—- he’s portrayed cahooting with the Bush campaign and steamrolling the Florida House into legislation that would seat Bush’s electors no matter the decisions of either the FL or US Supreme Courts—- comes through in thuggish spades. He’s shown doing what he does best (lying to the media), even if the actor who portrays him (Antoni Corone) is a large, burly fellow rather than the puny, pathetic little figure/tool of a man that Feeney actually is.
But that’s rather small potatoes, as we appreciated the filmmakers having pulled out the accurate, if oft-overlooked, illustration of a man and a party willing to put power and politics far before country.
The rest of the cast was largely spot on. Laura Dern, in our opinion, actually underplayed the role of walking caricature, FL SoS Katherine Harris, who’s seen awaking into her dream role as the ultimate GOP power broker able to hand the “victory” to Bush in Florida, while advised by the ever-present Republican lobbyist J.M. “Mac the Knife” Stipanovich (Bruce McGill), who somehow was able to obtain direct access to the inner-sanctum office of the SoS/Co-chair of Bush’s Florida campaign.
That Dern actually underplayed the role—- despite having brought so much camp, the only thing missing was a tent, a sleeping bag and a flashlight—- is a point made strikingly clear during the film’s closing credits as shots of the actual historical players, just portrayed in the film, flash by in dreadful reminder that what we just saw was, sadly, all too real. The actual Harris, far more camped-out and tramped-out then anyone could possibly play “credibly”, is seen, on horseback, celebrating her rich post-Election theft reward as a new U.S. Congresswoman (only to fall in disgrace just one Congressional session later), out-camping Dern hands down and breasts up.
While Steve Heller was unable to watch much of the film without it driving him crazy (yes, he and his wife would pay a great personal price for this Administration’s anti-democratic electioneering some years later, as he was forced to fend off felony charges for having been instrumental in revealing that Diebold Inc.‘s powerful Republican law firm, Jones Day was instructing the voting machine company on how they might avoid their own criminal charges for lying to the state of California about having secretly and illegally installed uncertified hardware and software in 2004), his wife Michelle was enthralled by the breathless ups and downs of the contest as it played out in the film.
An election junkie herself during the ensuing years, given her husband’s key role in successfully taking on the giants of Diebold and Jones Day in 2004, if only temporarily, she hadn’t followed those infamous 36 days quite as closely when they actually played out. She had no idea, until watching the film, that it had been as insane as all of that. It was.
Yes, the very real back and forths and ups and downs in the real life saga was as impossibly stunning when they occurred in real time, perhaps even more so, as they come across during the two hour depiction. I can imagine no Indiana Jones film with as many gasp-inducing twists and turns as this story when it actually played out back in 2000, and even during its HBO re-telling. But remember, this is pornography to guys like me.
(Another Election Integrity junkie, Utah’s Barbara Bellows TerraNova is a bit more critical, and not without reason, for a few important points the film either didn’t get exactly right, or otherwise omitted entirely. Read her less laudatory take on Recount here.)
Hacking Democracy’s Rob Cohen seemed similarly impressed after we watched it together. He was justifiably pleased that his all-too-real documentary film, which begins with the scuttled 2000 recount, may have helped pave the way at HBO for the Recount theatrical film.
Both films cover the -16,022 votes (that’s negative 16,022 votes) that were discovered as tallied for (actually against) Al Gore on optical-scan voting systems in Volusia County, Florida. That negative number would lead to Gore’s original concession on Election Night, followed by his infamous un-concession an hour or so later after the “error” was discovered.
More on that machine, and Volusia’s continuing use of them, even still in 2008, was published by M.C. Moewe at Daytona News-Journal over the weekend. Moewe has been diligently trying to get to the bottom of that failure in Diebold’s op-scan system for years. She writes in her article this weekend, which used Recount to help further the largely untold and almost wholly un-investigated story of those negatives votes in Volusia:
Whitener’s comments, of course, are nonsense. There is nothing in the EAC’s mandate from the Help America Vote Act (HAVA)—- which created the agency, in part, to serve as a clearinghouse for voting system problems—- that would disallow them from informing states about problems, such as the one that still remains on Diebold op-scan systems littered across the country.
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