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From HBO's "Recount" to 2008

Mugging the Election System

by HARVEY WASSERMAN

This weekend’s fast-moving,  long-overdue HBO docu-drama on the theft of the 2000 election stopped four years short.  It did a riveting job of portraying how Team Bush, headed by James Baker, strong-armed its way into the presidency.  But it’s now time for the major media to finally face up to Act 2 of the GOP’s mugging of the American electoral system, and produce a piece of equal heft and clout about Ohio 2004.  And let’s hope it won’t be necessary to follow with a third piece on how the GOP could steal 2008.

The most telling moment in this generally credible HBO offering comes at the very end.  Al Gore’s Florida point man, Ron Klain (as played by Kevin Spacey), spots the victorious James Baker getting on his private plane.  Ever the gentleman, Klain approaches Baker to congratulate him, and ask "if the best man won."  Baker responds he thinks so.

The show then ends with simultaneous clips of George W. Bush and Al Gore.  We can only shudder now with the knowledge of what Bush has done to our nation and the world.  As the worst Chief Executive—we should not grace him with the title "President"—that the US has ever known, it is clear the stand-alone catastrophe of the stolen election of 2000 was just the beginning of a long national nightmare whose toll will stretch out for decades.  The wreckage of our national self-respect, economy, military, ecology, educational system, moral standing in the world and so much more started with the US Supreme Court’s ghastly decision to hand Bush a presidency he clearly did not win, in obvious violation of the law and tradition of US democracy.

In "Recount," we see the perversion of the American electoral system.  The choreographed riots and intimidation used by GOP thugs to stop the recounting of ballots, the utterly partisan ditziness of Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris, the vile cynicism of the US Supreme Court in over-ruling the Florida Supreme Court and handing Bush the White House—the HBO show gratefully pulls few punches.  There were other aspects of the rip-off it could have covered in greater depth, such as the rigging of electronic voting machines, and the role played by a Bush cousin in getting Fox News and then the networks to shift their assessment of who had won Florida in the first place.

But the production does give fair treatment to the massive computerized disenfranchisement used by Governor Jeb Bush to prevent at least 50,000 citizens—most of them African-American—from exercising their right to vote.  And it makes abundantly clear how absurd and insane was the final Supreme Court ruling that ended a recount that had every reason to be enshrined in our democracy as the only fair and reasonable way to resolve this disputed election.

Much of what really did happen in Florida 2000 has been previously deemed too hot for our bought, lame, supremely partisan corporate media to handle.   That this HBO production had to wait nearly eight years and a lifetime of political catastrophe to air is a shame.  Had it been shown around 2002, we might have been better prepared for what was to come in 2004.

Thankfully, there have been some excellent independent documentaries about Ohio 2004, most notably David Earnhardt’s superb "Uncounted" and a long-awaited production from Emmy-award winner Dorothy Fadiman.   But the major media has yet to deal in any meaningful way with the scores of different strategies employed by Karl Rove’s GOP to steal four more years for the Bush machine of mass destruction.   That movie should have come out in 2005.

In fact, it has now been evident for far too long that presidential elections can be stolen, that the consequences can be catastrophic, and that it could happen again this year.  It is incumbent on us all to now work like hell to make sure that we keep history from repeating itself in November,.

Perhaps in a few years we’ll see an HBO docu-drama on how John Kerry wimped out and let Ken Blackwell and Karl Rove steal Ohio 2004.  It would take a far longer show to cover all they did here in that tragic travesty of a non-election.  But it would be great to see someday.

Meanwhile, let us fervently pray that by the time that one airs, we won’t be asking for yet another expose about the theft of 2008.  Because if such a "three-peat" hijacking actually does occur, it’s hard to conceive of there being enough left of the America we once knew to get it made.

HARVEY WASSERMAN, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the nukefree.org web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is at www.solartopia.org. He can be reached at: Windhw@aol.com