1) not ready to re-read it quite yet and
2) not ready to start reading anything else. I wanted it to sit with me awhile like a nice Thanksgiving dinner.
I looked for a good movie on TV and nothing appealed to me, so I checked out *On Demand and found Recount available.
I hadn't watched it in years - double digit years. There was much that I had either forgotten, or never noticed, or had not realized the significance of the first time around.
Ron Klain is the central character in the film. Hillary gives him a shout out in her book as a member of her debate prep team. We see him often as a commentator on MSNBC as we do Jeremy Bash who is a major supporting character in the film. The first time I saw this movie, I really had no idea who they were besides dedicated campaign staffers.
I had forgotten that each campaign had called in a former secretary of state to manage the chaos that originated around the infamous 'butterfly ballot' in Palm Beach County, FL. The Democrats brought Warren Christopher aboard, and the Republicans called on James Baker.
If you are unfamiliar with that ballot, here it is.
The butterfly ballot necessitated the correct insertion of the ballot (the yellow part underneath) into the machine and the use of that blue-handled stick-pin to punch a hole in the appropriate place on the ballot beside the ticket you chose. The complaint among many seniors in Palm Beach County was that they thought they might have punched hole #4 for Buchanan when they meant to vote for Gore (#5).
The confusion that ensued comprised the possibilities that people may well have simply punched the wrong circle, those circles are pretty small and many older people are vision-impaired, or that they may have inserted their ballots incorrectly, or that they had not punched the ballot firmly enough resulting in CHAD (Card Hole Aggregate Debris ) not completely detached from the ballot or even a "dimpled" ballot, i.e. no hole at all - only a dimple or indentation. A machine recount, as we learned, could push the partially detached "debris" back into the ballot nullifying the vote. A manual recount would raise the issue of voter intent in the cases of dimpled ballots. Florida does have a law regarding voter intent.
This is pretty nitty-gritty stuff for former global diplomats to be dealing with ... unless it is your vote. Bringing in Christopher and Baker was also necessitated by the fact that the entire election would pivot around Florida, and once Palm Beach County was in question, folks in other counties began to question whether their votes were counted. In other words, the election in Florida, where one candidate's brother was governor, was in question and was a mess ... a world-class mess.
Here are a few things I had forgotten.
Al Gore had the popular vote even before Florida was counted.
Al Gore did concede on election night. He called George W. Bush. Then he called back and retracted when he was told the Florida numbers were going haywire. He was stopped just short of delivering his concession speech on election night.Here is one thing I had never paid attention to. One line might well have gone forgotten or fallen to the cutting room floor since the actual character never made an appearance in the film. In an organizational meeting, James Baker is told that Jesse Jackson has Black and Jewish senior citizens marching in the streets demanding that their votes be counted and, as he said, "Who can argue with that?"
He then told Ben Ginsberg, a campaign attorney, to call in Roger Stone and bring crowds to Tallahassee, Palm Beach, and Miami.
Yes. That Roger Stone. Yes, this James Baker, and that James Baker! He called in that Roger Stone!
We all know how this ended when it finally did on December 12, 2000. SCOTUS halted the recount, Gore decided not to pursue any other pathways still open (to Ron Klain's agony) and delivered a televised concession speech in the most upbeat of his usual upbeat manners. Many of us cried.
Looking back on this after reading Hillary's excruciating chapter on election night and the day after, I see a difference in myself. I was a Gore supporter. No question about that. I would even say an enthusiastic one. But I was not impassioned. I kicked in my contributions. I had a demanding job that did not permit me much free time, and I was certain that this country would not elect George W. Bush. He was a joke to me and ended up a joke on me.
For Hillary, I was impassioned. Hillary was a cause for me. Despite my job, I worked hard for her in 2008 and much, much harder in 2015-16. One reason was the lesson I had learned about how U.S. voters will elect a joke. Much more of it was a long history of Hillary appreciation. She had the best experience, was the hardest worker, had the best mind and the best plans, as usual. I knew all about them and promoted them. I gave every way I could.
Yet, on election night, I was not among the sobbers. I was not one of those crying. First, I was in severe shock. I could not comprehend what happened. It was as if I had been kicked in the head or struck by lightning. I heard that she had called Trump. Then, I was deflated. Completely. I could not move, think, type, or speak. I was a zombie. Walking Dead. (Mind you. I have lived in Haiti and seen and met true zombies. That is how I was. Exactly.)
Neither was I tearful the following morning. This was a formality. A speech she felt she had to give. I appreciated the thought and feeling she had put into her words and the courage of her delivery. But it all was unreal to me. I was still in warrior mode - zombie warrior. Much as she did in June 2008, she graciously conceded. I was angry in 2008, and I was confused in 2016 because I did not see how this had happened. Something was very wrong here, but crying was too simple, and it was not going to satisfy my soul.
Having read Hillary's reaction I think hers was pretty close to mine (hers, obviously, must have been mine times 66 million). Just drained, traumatized. Something had gone terribly wrong. But what?
What went into her decisions, to call Trump, to delay the speech since she had not written one, to give the speech the next day, what she did in those crucial hours, she explains all of that in that chapter. We didn't have a lot of solid answers then.
Since then, we have gradually learned a lot, but we don't know everything. For that we need to hear from Robert Mueller's team.
We know that Obama encouraged Hillary to concede quickly and that she agreed with that. When I said on social media that she did not want to put the nation through another 2000, I was reminded that this is not 2000. That is true, but the effect would have been similar, and even now we do not have the answers and there was no provision or mechanism to hold things off until we did have the information.
It was not Hillary but Terry Gross who brought up the issue of questioning the legitimacy of the election earlier this month. Hillary responded that she did not think we had a mechanism for that.
That is another issue that looms large in Recount. Mechanisms. Apparently, the way election law was written in Florida at the time (and I have zero reason to think this has changed), if you want a total recount in that state, you must ask for that recount first before you request recounts in specific counties. That may be bass-ackwards, but that is their law. Having first requested recounts by county, Gore's team was, by law, unable to request a full recount of the state. This was temporarily overturned by the Florida Supremes who called for a full state recount which proceeded until SCOTUS reversed that decision and stopped it. Likely they halted it because there are always those annoying dates! You must have a state winner by the time the Electoral College meets. You must have a president by January 20 even if Congress has to choose.
Another point brought up in the course of the machinations was that SCOTUS really should have no voice at all in an election and only Congress should, but both sides had already filed suits that had reached the Florida Supreme Court. By default, appeals went to SCOTUS.
In an election, much of what happens in 50 states with 3,142 counties is a function of local laws. If you did not like what happened in 2000, specifically that came down to Florida and its 67 counties. At best it would mean changing state election laws, which I do not think they have. At worst that would involve making micro-changes at the county level.
As for 2016, it would likely require some Constitutional change - an amendment. The least complicated path would be to abolish the Electoral College which twice in this young century has handed us the unpopular president. The College misrepresents the population. Who knows how likely such an amendment would be given gerrymandering and dark money in elections? It would not be easy. But worth a try.
At the end of Recount a codicil is read providing that the SCOTUS decision applied exclusively to Bush v. Gore. In other words, it can never be seen or used as a precedent for any future case.
There is much to be learned from the past, but there are not necessarily permanent fixes to past obstacles.