Two days late, I caught up with “Recount,” the provocative HBO movie on the Florida election debacle. The film, whose stars include Kevin Spacey and Tom Wilkinson, doesn’t offer up new answers, but it does compel viewers to revisit the same painful questions. Such as:
In the political and legal fight that followed the contested election, were Republicans simply better than Democrats at bare-knuckled fighting? (The answer is, yes.)
Would the U.S. Supreme Court have stopped the recount in Florida if it meant the winner would have been Democrat Al Gore? (You decide.)
What would have happened to the country if Gore had continued to question the outcome of the election? (Can you say, Banana Republic?)
And, most of all, who actually received the most votes in Florida? Was it George W. Bush, the declared winner, or was it Gore? (No one knows for sure.)
Pity poor Katherine Harris, the Florida election official who spent too long at the cosmetics counter. As played by actress Laura Dern, Harris becomes a cartoon character, a person who is ambitious but not too bright.
At the end, there is one more question: Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, who led the Republican legal team, is asked whether the better man won.
Well, sure, he says.
But the audience is left to consider the question with the knowledge of seven years of the Bush presidency – the war in Iraq, Guantanamo, Katrina, energy costs and all the rest.