Recount And Recent History… Hi, I’m actually spending the weekend out in New York City for a wedding and am largely off the grid, but I did want to mention one thing before HBO unveiled its cinematic account of the Bush-Gore Florida follies Recount tonight, which is getting excellent reviews.
In my day job, I’m a freelancer in the LA area, and this past week I spent some time in a new office that I hadn’t been to in some time. Immediately, I noticed something new gracing the wall; the front page of the Los Angeles Times from the day after the Supreme Court decision in Bush v. Gore and Gore’s concession from the race. I don’t know how it got there or who put it up, but I’m glad they did, for as an artifact of the state of the world from the eye of the media at the close of the election, it’s pretty fascinating.
The subhead from the top headline reads “President-Elect Calls For Reconciliation After Gore Concedes Defeat in Longest Contest in a Century.” There was an analysis from Times Washington Bureau Chief Doyle McManus titled “Bush’s Vow To Unite Encounters a Great Divide,” and the beginning of the story (only the front page was on the wall) talked about how Bush campaigned as a “uniter, not a divider,” and how this would now be tested by those angry Democrats, who Bush planned to reconcile with in order to calm the waters. Here’s a sample:
Bush sought to send a message of soothing bipartisan conciliation in his first statement as President-elect.
“I am optimistic we can change the tone in Washington, D.C.,” Bush said. “I believe things happen for a reason, and I hope the long wait of the last five weeks will heighten a desire to move beyond the bitterness and partisanship of the recent past.”
Bush actually invoked Lincoln in that speech, saying that “Our nation must rise above a house divided,” and how he was elected to serve one nation and not one party.
There was an analysis by Josh Getlin about how the nation was ripped asunder by this recount battle and scars were still showing and how wonderful it was that the “national shouting match was ending.”
And there was an vaguely sourced story about how Gore’s lawyers wanted to keep fighting after the Supreme Court decision (they apparently found some glimmers of hope in the opinion), but Gore finally called it to an end after exploring all avenues.
So the prevailing opinion on one of the country’s more respected newspapers on this day was, basically, that George Bush was this conciliatory figure, Al Gore was scheming right up until the very last second and even after to overturn the election, and the public was just glad it was all over and now America can get on with the business of healing and bipartisanship.
Let that marinate in your mind, and bathe it in the knowledge of what actually took place over the past eight years.
Of course, this is the rhetorical angle that Bush used outwardly during the recount battle, that the counting was over with and now is the time to “bind up the nation’s wounds” and move forward. What’s a little shocking is how quickly and directly the major media figures came to the same conclusion. The seeds of how the media treated the Bush Administration over the bulk of his first term are all here, particularly the amplification of the main message coming from Ari Fleischer on any given day. And this was all done for our benefit, in the spirit of ending bitterness and changing tone and overcoming the rancorous partisanship. A time for healing.
Except we all know where that partisanship flowed from. And how it continued from the moment Bush II entered office. I don’t know if this is explored in “Recount,” but it should be in the background of any story which recreates that time period.