'Recount' Goes Hollywood, but Washington Still Split

The theory goes that, after time passes, one can look back and laugh at even the most painful experiences.

That theory was put to the test Tuesday night when politicians, lawyers and journalists involved in the 2000 Florida election recount gathered to see how that real-life political drama plays out in a forthcoming HBO film.

"Recount," which was written by Danny Strong and stars Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, Denis Leary and Tom Wilkinson, was met with raucous laughter by an audience that was dominated by many of the political and media types depicted in the film.

Power brokers who attended the dinner and screening on the tented tennis court of former Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee and wife Sally Quinn — among them John Kerry, Tom Brokaw and Pat Buchanan — appeared to enjoy the film, which premieres May 25 on HBO.

But tensions over the disputed outcome of the 2000 election were not far below the surface.

"They won the movie," said Bush lawyer Ben Ginsberg. "We won the election. Don't get them confused."

"The stay was indefensible," Gore lawyer David Boies later remarked in a reference to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to halt the Florida recount before it was completed.

"For them, winning was everything," he added, referring to the Bush team.

Mary Boies, the wife of Gore's lawyer, needled Ginsberg about the record of the man he helped install in office.

"So, how do you think he did?" she asked, referring to President Bush.

"I'm only responsible for getting him elected," quipped Ginsberg, before adding that he still believes that Bush was the right man for the times.

Although Gore's allies are far from heeding Justice Scalia's recent admonishment on "60 Minutes" to "get over" the U.S. Supreme Court decisions that ended the 2000 presidential race, a lawyer to the former vice president thinks the message from "Recount" is clear.

Instead of only seeking recounts in a handful of heavily Democratic counties, Gore should have asked for a statewide recount, according to one of his attorneys.

Such a move would have protected him politically from former Secretary of State James Baker's charge on behalf Bush that Gore was not truly interested in counting all the votes.

It also could have paid off legally.

If a judge had established a statewide standard for Florida's 67 counties to evaluate hanging and dimpled chad, the recount would have been better protected against equal-protection challenges.

In the view of his lawyer, Gore may have lost a statewide recount but he would not have lost the American people.

"What this movie proves is when you lose your principles and sense of direction, you lose the high ground and all ability to lead," Democratic National Committee lawyer Jack Young told ABC News. "That's where Al Gore lost it."

ABC News' Talal Al-Khatib contributed to this report.

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