Now that Donald Drumpf has essentially locked up the Republican nomination, the idea is that he will tone down the rhetoric and become more “Presidential.” Meeting with GOP leaders in Washington last week, he needed to assure Speaker of the House Paul Ryan that he will be more statesmanlike and that his days of bombastic name-calling and petty Twitter wars are over. Drumpf’s job was to unify the Republican party, to show leadership, to ultimately prove that he can win over minority and women voters.
That’s a tall order for a man like Drumpf. To make such a personality change risks alienating the rabid base that loves his raucous “tell it like it is”-ness. But to win over the general population and have the chance to actually beat Hillary Clinton, he must calm down and start acting and speaking like an adult. Enter his personal Dirty Trickster, Roger Stone.
Stone may be the most powerful man no one has ever heard of outside of DC-insider circles. He is a GOP operative in the Cold War sense of the term. He works under the radar by using any dirty trick he can to brutalize and discredit whoever opposes his client. Stone is most likely the one who orchestrated the political castration of Corey Lewandowski, Drumpf’s erstwhile campaign manager, by bringing in Paul Manafort. Stone and Manafort, of course, go way back, and surely Manafort was brought in to take over the delegate-counting operation from Lewandowski, who was widely seen as combustible. Indeed, Lewandowski received his last rites from the Drumpf campaign after he assaulted Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields. When your campaign manager starts roughing up friendly press, it’s time to review and replace.
[pullquote align=”left” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Any dirty trick to brutalize and discredit…[/pullquote]We can assume that Manafort’s delegate-counting role is also something of a cover story. He and Stone are longtime business partners; their lobbying firm, Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly, was created back in the 1980s and, various mergers later, it became a part of the international PR firm Burson-Marsteller. Also in the 1980s, Manafort and Stone brought in as a partner none other than the odious Lee Atwater. Stone and Manafort not only worked their magic on behalf of political campaigns but had no qualms taking millions from brutish African dictators. Their firm was literally known as the Torturers Lobby. To give you an idea of Atwater’s claim to fame, he refined the racial dog-whistle style of Republican politics, also known as the “Southern strategy,” that the GOP and now Drumpf still use. This is how Atwater, in 1981, described how to talk to racists with a wink and a nod:
The last time these disciples of scorched earth politics worked together (Atwater thoughtfully died in 1991) was in 1988, for George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign. Atwater served as Bush’s campaign manager.
But it’s the mysterious Stone who’s most interesting of all. Not one to court press like Drumpf, he has always been a behind-the-scenes broker-bastard.
Stone began his career as a campaign aide to Richard Nixon, the original Dirty Trickster President. In the decades that followed, he has been given the moniker “professional lord of mischief” by the Weekly Standard and called “a state of the art sleazeball,” “an extreme right-wing sleazeball” and the “boastful black prince of Republican sleaze.” Those last three phrases memorably appeared in Matt Labash’s Fly Fishing with Darth Vader: And Other Adventures with Evangelical Wrestlers, Political Hitmen, and Jewish Cowboys, and similar not-very-nice monikers also appear on Stone’s own personal blog, The Stone Zone. Stone has been dubbed “a dashing, colorful artist of the underhanded” by David Brooks of The New York Times and called “the most dangerous person in America today” in The Village Voice. He wears these nicknames like badges of honor, gleeful in the character he created and in the dread he inspires in opposing campaigns.
Stone and Drumpf have known each other for decades — ever since Drumpf hired Stone’s company to lobby on behalf of his casinos in the 1980s. When Drumpf first thought seriously, in 2000, of running for President, he brought in Stone as well. Clearly they both revel in being outrageous characters: Stone glowing in custom-made, double-breasted suits; Drumpf glowing in the adoration of his fans and press. Drumpf is all id; Stone is all ego. And neither have a superego — and therefore any empathy.
Yet Drumpf is different from the other politicians that Stone has courted. Stone works near-exclusively with Republicans — the family values, one-wife-for-one-life, conservative, religious ones. Drumpf, as we all know, loves the ladies and was originally a Democrat. He has had three wives, at least one public mistress, scores of girlfriends (he claims) and is now married to a former model from Slovenia, Melania Knauss Drumpf.
From the Lee Atwater School of Rumormongering, however, Stone learned that you can control a press cycle and derail a candidate’s message by simply starting a salacious rumor, then denying you started it. Case in point: rumors from a few weeks ago of Ted Cruz’s multiple affairs:
…let me ask the most obvious question. If I were going to plant the story as a dirty trick, why would I be quoted on the record in same story? I wasn’t born yesterday. Why would I leave a big old thumbprint if I was trying to do something surreptitious?
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Neither have a superego.[/pullquote]Right up Stone’s alley: promoting scandalous, unsubstantiated rumors of the multiple sex partners of a religious zealot. I have no doubt he secretly fed this story to the press, intending to back away from it. Drumpf, of course, couldn’t help himself and went along, which forced Cruz to go off-script for most of that week. Although it was a non-story, it had sex, mistresses, religious fanatics, denials and Drumpf! Predictably, the press ate it up, and Stone collected his figurative check — since Drumpf “fired” Stone last summer from his campaign — or at least that’s the rumor.
An earlier sex scandal with Stone’s fingerprints on it was the outing of former New York governor Eliot Spitzer as a patron of the sleazy world of pay-to-play sex. Stone, reportedly, was the one who broke the story by informing the FBI of Spitzer’s habit of hiring high-priced call girls.
Stone isn’t shy about sex. When he launched an anti-Hillary Clinton 527 nonprofit political group in 2008, he called it Citizens United Not Timid. (Get it?) For years, there have been rumors of Stone’s sexual proclivities, including a penchant for swingers clubs and kinky sex, as reported by Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker. Toobin gives you the sense that Stone knows he’s immoral — so why not live in a hedonistic world? Stone worked behind the scenes for the 2004 presidential run of Al Sharpton, a Democrat. So no moral center here, either.
What fascinates me is the dichotomy between the types of candidates (except for Sharpton) that Stone works for and the lurid facts of his personal life. In 1996, Stone resigned as an unpaid consultant to the presidential campaign of Bob Dole after it came out that Stone and his wife, Nydia, put an ad in the Internet as well as in a swingers magazine looking for men for a group orgy:
An ad featuring Stone and his wife was available yesterday at adult bookstores in Philadelphia, showing a bare-chested, pearl-wearing Nydia Stone, described in the text as a ‘hot insatiable babe,’ seeking well-proportioned men ‘for 3-somes with her and her bodybuilder husband.’ It adds: ‘Prefer military, bodybuilders, jocks.’ …The ad in Local Swing Fever magazine also features a bare-chested Roger Stone with a black stripe across his eyes.
Stone, naturally, denied this:
While it is my instinct not to respond to specific allegations against my wife and me, I feel compelled to do so simply by saying that for several years we have been aware of various advertisements placed in publications and on the Internet by a sick and disgruntled individual.
But when Toobin was writing his piece for The New Yorker, where did Stone take the reporter for the interview? A hotel lounge? His home? His office? No: the famous swingers club, Miami Velvet. These days you can leave a Yelp review for that establishment, which shows how far we Puritans have come.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Right up Stone’s alley…[/pullquote]Maybe since Stone is older now (he was born in 1952), orgies no longer excite him. Apparently he’s turning all of his pent-up sexual energy into a sort of deranged need to create chaos. His Twitter feed is amazing. He has started a movement demanding “four days of non-violent demonstrations, protests and lobbying delegates face to face” called Stop The Steal March On Cleveland. He wants to use the legions of foaming-at-the-mouth Drumpf voters to launch “days of rage.” He aims to physically threaten any of the delegates to the Republican convention in Cleveland this July who don’t vote for Drumpf:
We’re going to have protests, demonstrations. We will disclose the hotels and the room numbers of those delegates who are directly involved in the steal… If you’re from Pennsylvania, we’ll tell you who the culprits are. We urge you to visit their hotel and find them.
The man who launches sex rumors and then denies that he launched them later said, “we’re not talking about roughing anybody up.” Which, of course, has no credibility, since Stone would never be brave enough to actually lead the Republican imbeciles into a violent riot. Rather, he will sit back at the Four Seasons with a martini and toss the match.
Stone is dangerous because, unlike the days when words or images could derail a campaign, Drumpf supporters are more than willing to bring their guns and actually knock on a delegate’s hotel door and kill them. Drumpf supporters are unhinged, unable to reason and subsist on a daily toxic stew that stinks of how unfair everyone is to them and to their chosen messiah. As his pleasure in life, Stone is all set to replace hardcore sex with hardcore violence.
On a personal note, I have known about Roger Stone for more than a decade. We have mutual political acquaintances and, in the world of high-profile campaigns, it’s hard not to have a connection to him. I have never met the man, but I was in his apartment on Central Park South in New York City in 2004. I could not tell you why I was there, but I remember the formality of the place. Everything was in order, with expensive erotic art tastefully displayed. Make of that what you will.