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Too Close to Call: The Thirty-Six-Day Battle to Decide the 2000 Election Hardcover – October 2, 2001

3.7 out of 5 stars 80 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Praise for Jeffrey Toobin’s national bestseller
A Vast Conspiracy: The Real Story of the Sex Scandal That Nearly Brought Down a President

"An admirably clear, vigorously written, plain-spoken and common-sensical book."
--The New York Times Book Review

"A superb work of factual and legal analysis. . . . Few novels are as gripping."
--The New York Review of Books

"A story as taut and surprising as any thriller. . . . Unimpeachable page-turner."

"A superlatively researched and written book."
--The New York Observer

"An irresistibly readable new overview of the whole ugly case."
--The Boston Globe

"A good read . . . a brave book."
--The Economist

"A rich and readable reprise . . . by the New Yorker writer who shows brilliantly how the American legal system spun out of control."
--Chicago Sun-Times

"Compulsively readable. . . . A Vast Conspiracy delivers new information, provides arresting perspective and is a helluva read for all that."
--New York Daily News

From the Inside Flap

From the best-selling author of A Vast Conspiracy and The Run of His Life comes Too Close to Call--the definitive story of the Bush-Gore presidential recount. A political and legal analyst of unparalleled journalistic skill, Jeffrey Toobin is the ideal writer to distill the events of the thirty-six anxiety-filled days that culminated in one of the most stunning Supreme Court decisions in history.

Packed with news-making disclosures and written with the drive of a legal thriller, Too Close to Call takes us inside James Baker's private jet, through the locked gates to Al Gore's mansion, behind the covered-up windows of Katherine Harris's office, and even into the secret conference room of the United States Supreme Court. As the scene shifts from Washington to Austin and into the remote corners of the enduringly strange Sunshine State, Toobin's book will transform what you thought you knew about the most extraordinary political drama in American history.

The Florida recount unfolded in a kaleidoscopic maze of bizarre concepts (chads, pregnant and otherwise), unfamiliar people in critically important positions (the Florida Supreme Court), and familiar people in surprising new places (the Miami relatives of Elián González, in a previously undisclosed role in this melodrama). With the rich characterization that is his trademark, Toobin portrays the prominent strategists who masterminded the campaigns--the Daleys and the Roves--and also the lesser-known but influential players who pulled the strings, as well as the judges and justices whose decisions determined the final outcome. Toobin gives both camps a treatment they have not yet received--remarkably evenhanded, nonpartisan, and entirely new.

The post-election period posed a challenge to even the most zealous news junkie: how to keep up with what was happening and sort out the important from the trivial. Jeffrey Toobin has now done this--and then some. With clarity, insight, humor, and a deep understanding of the law, he deconstructs the events, the players, and the often Byzantine intricacies of our judicial system. A remarkable account of one of the most significant periods in our country's history, Too Close to Call is endlessly surprising, frequently poignant, and wholly addictive.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (October 2, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375507086
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375507083
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (80 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #380,749 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jason Kelly on March 25, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Toobin offers a well-written, informative, and very entertaining account of the 36-day long post-election debacle. As a political science major and a senior at the University of California, I've chosen to write my honor's thesis on the political rituals, symbolism, and rhetoric evoke by the two camps during these 36-days. This being the case, I've had to read just about every book, important journal article, and major newspaper story concerning the events, strategies, and significance of this political fiasco. I found "Too Close To Call" to be clear, easy to read, witty, and well organized -- as one would expect from a staff writer of The New Yorker. As for those who complain that Toobin favors the political left -- he's a law school friend of Ron Klain and Jack Corrigan; was research assistant to Lawrence Tribe; and friend/Client of David Boies (p. 285) -- he probably does. However, Toobin sets out to explain how the strategies and "orientations" of both candidates contributed to their respective successes and failures, and this he does brilliantly. Further, I have yet to see an unbiased account of the 2000 post-election. The journalists, and sadly even the academics, that you expect to find on the political right, are there just as sure-idly as are those on the left. That said Toobin does a surprisingly good job of staying near the middle of the road -- where you're only suppose to find dead skunks (Baker).
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Format: Hardcover
Molly Ivens once wrote GW Bush is so lucky "if they hung him the rope would break." Nothing comes closer to fulfilling that claim than the 2000 Florida presidential election. No one who has seriously considered the butterfly ballots, questionable absentee ballots, failure of state officials to follow their own laws and rules, and mechanical problems with that election would conclude a majority of Florida's voters intended to vote for Bush. Jeffrey Toobin succintly summarizes the good, the bad and the ugly of the events that led democracy away from the will of the people to the will of five Supreme Court justices.
Unlike (perhaps) the other reviewers of this book, I have hands-on experience with punch-card ballot counting machines, software and procedures. I can say without qualification if you want to be absolutely sure, you have to look at the ballots themselves. The voting machines mis-calibrate, voters and others mishandle the cards, the counting machines jam possibly losing or double-counting a ballot. Anyone who has used a copier has a sense of how much trust we should place in these devices.
Toobin briefly describes the events, legal issues, political maneuvering and, in particular, the failure of Florida's elected officials to do the jobs the citizens entrusted to them. He has criticism for many of the participants and particularly Katherine Harris, Joe Lieberman, Theresa Lapore and Sanders Sauls. If you admire any of those people, you won't like this book.
Several reviewers have given "Too Close To Call" one-star for Toobin's presumed liberal bias. He clearly argues that Floridian's INTENDED choice for President did not win. Those who already disagree with that conclusion will find no comfort here.
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Format: Hardcover
Toobin is famous for his pro-Democratic sympathies, but what makes this book tolerable to conservatives (like me) is his unrelenting loathing of Gore as spineless and milquetoast, and his grudging admiration for the GOP's no-holds-barred tactics. Toobin covers the events from election night to the unofficial non-partisan tabulation released in November 2001. Although he does an excellent job of explaining the incredibly complicated series of events, Toobin makes no effort to be neutral and doesn't hold back from labeling people as spineless, incompetent, or ruthless. He explains how some judges in the lower-level Florida judiciary were in over their heads, and although Democrats, did Gore great harm, while other minor judges rose to the occasion and demonstrated impressive leadership. According to Toobin, the Palm Beach "butterfly ballot" fiasco was not nearly important as the Democrats' decision not to challenge the massive numbers of improper absentee ballots.
Toobin's theme is that while Gore focused on managing the process in a statesmanlike way, the GOP concentrated on winning at any cost. According to this author, Clinton said he would have declared victory, played the race card, fought the inclusion of the controversial military ballots, and encouraged mass protests in the streets. One wonders where such an approach would have led.
The author's harshest criticism is reserved for the US Supreme Court, where Rehnquist and his allies abused their power and behaved as unscrupulous political hacks. Even conservatives find it difficult to defend Rehnquist's action that stopped the statewide recount.
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Format: Paperback
A quick scan through the reviews of this book claim that Toobin "bellows" about racism (he actually spent two paragraphs on the issue, and acknowledges that it was not NEARLY as significant as many Gore supporters would claim), unfairly bashes Katherine Harris (even Fox News portrayed her as a dolt, so Toobin is not alone here), and that he generalizes about those involved (he actually details personalities of several individuals of both sides, and his generalizations are limited to his descriptions of groups of hundreds - ie "the Gore campaign).
That said, this is not an unbiased book. Toobin unquestionably sympathizes with the Gore campaign, and seems to almost root for them. This does not, however, alter his in-depth and accurate reporting of the basic facts of the case, which are laid out clearly and simply, providing a very easy and fun read. He does tend to editorialize, and doubtlessly, the charges against the Bush campaign (that their hypocrites, amorale, and underhanded) are serious compared to those he levels against the Gore campaign (too compromised by their sense of fair play and their desire for positive media attention). However, this does tend to come across as a kind of admiration for the complete devotion of the Bush soldiers, the intelligence of James Baker, and the tenacity of their lawyers.
Overall, this should not be construed as a strictly journalistic work (though it does serve as a good vehicle for learning the facts of the case), but as an entertaining and though-provoking fact-based editorial.
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