(Originally, this was to be part of a profile of Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein; like so many of my areas of interest, more and more toxins filled this needle, till it cried out, “Release me!” and demanded a space of its own. The Rothstein profile will come later, soon. Everyone who writes about Roger Stone in any kind of depth is indebted to the work of Wayne Barrett, and I am as well. Anyone who wonders what journalism must be like in the future must look to what Wayne Barrett has done in the past. The post title is a smudged borrowing of Taylor Momsen’s band and their tour name.)
PRETTY RECKLESS IS GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL
The Nixon Administration was characterized by, among other things, fragmentation. What the Nixon men thought was unconnected to what they said. What they said was unconnected to what they did. What they did or said they were doing at one moment was unconnected to what they did or said they were doing the next moment. And when they were driven from office, they left behind them not one but several unconnected records of themselves.
–Johnathan Schell, The Time of Illusion
THE WELL DRESSED MAN: AN INTRODUCTION
He was a very visible man, and a very invisible man. Where most of the political class wore office casual, he sported suits with ties and pocket squares – ties and pocket squares, by the way, should never match. It was one more piece of fashion advice he was happy to give out, sometimes in an occasional column in the Daily Caller: “There are a few things a true gentleman cannot live without. The black silk knitted square-bottom tie is just such an indispensable item.”1 The clothes added a note of sinister formality to his sinister informality. When his occasional client and occasional friend, Donald Trump, was on the Tonight Show, then host Jay Leno spotted him in his gangster pin stripes. “Hey Donald,” said Leno, “you brought your bookie.”2 He had a tattoo of Nixon on his back, and at one time he thought of putting another tat above it, Olde English script that said “Republican Gangsta”3.
Roger Stone – political consultant, bon vivant, sleazemeister, bottom feeder, scumbag – may well represent, or once represented, an obvious and necessary step, political sleaze as a spectacle to be observed, like fire breathing and bear baiting, rather than for political purpose itself. He is something like Kim Kardashian, who plays the various parts that the entertainment industrial complex might demand of an actress, such as posing nude and constantly appearing on TV, without the inconvenience of acting in-between. He reminds you of a point made in Chuck Klosterman’s piece, “What Happens When People Stop Being Polite”, an essay about the MTV series “The Real World”, that the show is a success because it transforms malleable personalities into archetypes4. There are far more important, more powerful political consultants who cut a less interesting, less vivid profile than Stone’s. He does not present a malleable character so much as an archetype of sleaze, something as consistent in texture as an oil slick. His physical presence embodies his sensibility, just as a cartoon succinctly does, a cajoling muscle bound body bursting through an expensive suit, with a wiseacre head poking out of the carapace, sporting a nasty grin and synthetic hair. “I’m here. Who needs to be spun?” Stone would announce to writer Matt Labash in 2000, when Donald Trump would bait the world with the possibility of running for president. “The naked cynicism at the heart of it,” Labash would write, led him to an epiphany: “I like Roger Stone.” The query, “Who needs to be spun?” was made on the Trump tour bus, A Touch of Class, all of which added a fitting note to the moment, just as fitting as “who wants a blowjob?” called out from a gold plated jacuzzi5.
This uber-sleaziness, the strip clubs, the dirty tricks, the sexual swinging, is what comes through in two of the three pieces written about Stone at the height of his public prominence, both by fine writers, “The Dirty Trickster” by Jeffrey Toobin, and “Roger Stone, Political Animal” by Labash. The third member of this trinity, “State of the Art Sleazeball” by Jacob Weisberg, is a ghost, impossible now to find on the web, and it perhaps is the most crucial [In August 2016, Slate would kindly re-print this article with a new intro by Weisberg: “State of the Art Sleazeball”]. “Trickster” and “Animal” are both linked on Stone’s site, and “Animal” is even hosted on there. Stone would even name Labash his favorite working journalist6. “Animal” is from 2007, “Trickster” from 2008, and “Sleazeball” from 1985, and I can only wonder at what was in there, because though it was written nearly thirty years ago, something in it discomforted and bothered Stone in a way that the later profiles did not. When Weisberg (now the head of the Slate Group, the publisher of Slate) would hire Stone’s nemesis Eliot Spitzer for a column, Stone would have this to say, nearly twenty five years later, in “Eliot Spitzer At Slate”:
That Spitzer would be hired by Slate Editor Jacob Weisberg only figures. Weisberg has little regard for facts, having written the first major hit-piece on me for the New Republic some 30 years ago and having failed to kill the king. The piece was both intellectually and factually dishonest. The hit-job was on orders of then – New Republic Editor Michael Kinsley who’s sexual advances I must have spurned as we were friendly prior to this unprovoked attack on me (although I have no memory of having done so.)
Weisberg and Spitzer. Scum attracts scum.
Nearly thirty years later, when Weisberg would review Gabriel Sherman’s The Loudest Voice in the Room, Stone would tweet: “@JacobWeisberg? is that talentless little prick still around?”7
As said, I can only speculate at what might be in the Weisberg piece, but I think it points to the problem of separating sleazy spectacle from sleazy substance, that the sleaze becomes viewed as only spectacle, as only for show. We are shown the dirt on the fingers, without bothering to look at the dirt under the fingernails. The spectacle distorts what is actually there, much as it might in other places. Though she might appear as nude as Kim Kardashian, an actress may well have phenomenal talent. The cruelties of the “Real World” star may be a distortion, an exaggeration that might be dismissed – but those same star’s cruelties in, as they say, the real world, are very real and very cruel. These are the invisible parts of the very visible Roger Stone, the parts not talked about in the Toobin and Labash pieces. Though I am a fragile and delicate insect, and the hide of Roger Stone is very rough and thick, perhaps something in what follows will sting something like “State of the Art Sleazeball”. I should emphasize that this piece is the result of my own dangerous curiosity, and not because any of my advances have been spurned by Stone. I don’t think I find him very attractive or charming; to my mind, he resembles a dish of french fries that have been cooked a little too long, and with far too much oil.
THE WELL DRESSED MAN PART ONE:
THE TIME OF ILLUSION / BREAKING IN
The major co-ordinates of Stone’s life are well-known and given mention even in the briefest of bios: worked on CREEP (Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President), was in brief exile during Watergate, worked the northeast for Reagan’s election and re-election, helped get Tom Kean elected Republican governor of New Jersey by a razor thin margin, became a member of uberlobbyist firm Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly, worked on the 1996 Dole campaign until the National Enquirer published a long piece on ads he and his wife had placed on a swinger website looking for sex partners, another brief exile, the organizer of the 2000 Brooks Brothers riot, where a group of republican operatives stopped a Miami Dade vote count that was going in Gore’s favor, then a consultant on various sundry candidates, including Al Sharpton, Tom Golisano and Larry Klayman. He was very publicly fired by one of his clients, New York Senate head Joe Bruno, after a phone call was made to the father of then governor, Eliot Spitzer, a phone call full of threat, venom, and rage, which sounded uncannily like Stone. This was another well known x-y point, as was what followed, with Stone claiming to be the source for the FBI of Spitzer’s hook-ups with prostitutes. Stone would work as a consultant for Kristin Davis when she tried for the libertarian candidate for governor, and Davis was a madam who claimed that Spitzer had been one of her clients. Through it all, he often worked as a consultant for Donald Trump, though he was briefly put outside the friendzone after the Spitzer phone call. “Roger is a stone-cold loser,” Trump would tell Toobin for his profile. “What he did was ridiculous and stupid. I lost respect for Eliot Spitzer when he didn’t sue Roger Stone for doing that to his father, who is a wonderful man.”8 His second to last major moment was to dramatically leave the Republican party and work for libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson. His last was to publish The Man Who Killed Kennedy: The Case Against LBJ, which argues that the Texas veep used very old school means to make it into the executive suite.
It is perhaps thanks to the last event, that I was gifted with a small discovery during my research for this piece. It was after reading Lawrence Wright’s insightful memoir, In the New World: Growing Up with America from the Sixties to the Eighties, that I learned of the deep shame that many Texans, and many from Dallas, felt years after the Kennedy assassination, that they were seen as complicit in the murder. Whatever mixture of feelings the state might have towards Johnson, to accuse a Texan who ascended to the highest office in the country of brutal murder was perhaps something verboten, an intolerable spit in the face. I say this because someone, whether for this vengeance, or because someone didn’t get paid, or another motive – perhaps Stone himself in a misguided attempt at self-promotion – placed draft copies of Stone’s memoirs (as well as a book called Stone’s Rules, a compendium of wisdom that perhaps thankfully avoids the witticism of Roger’s Rules) on a very public, very legal document sharing site. There are no markers or insignia on the documents that you would expect from a hacker, and the documents in the uploaded group were exclusively Stone’s, not a mash of stuff from a publisher. These memoir drafts sound very much like Stone’s voice, and they appear to be too thorough, too full of obscure details known only to Stone or a Stone aficionado, to be a forgery – if it is a forgery, it is one that corresponds in every way to the details Stone has presented so far of his life, and with the minute details of recent political history. There is, I think, a very important and practical reason for giving light to selected parts of the book: given that Stone has accused a man, Lyndon Baines Johnson, of contract murder in one book, there are portions of this book that can be used to refute the charges.
This memoir is both interesting and a disappointment. Stone gives us, once again, the salacious details he thinks we want, or that he feels comfortable giving us, rather than the truly squalid fascinating guts of the matter. “The first and last time I ever snorted cocaine was off a women’s ass in a downstairs bathroom stall at Studio 54,” is one detail we’re supposedly dying to hear9. Basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain endorses Nixon in exchange for “all the white pussy he can eat.” The campaign hires prostitutes, but many working girls refuse, because Chamberlain is so sizable it’ll be painful. Stone closes the anecdote with a quote from Nixon, “A political mistake is like a fart – sometimes you just have to step away from it.”10 After Watergate, Stone is in charge of the various regional directors for Reagan’s 1976 try for the Republican nomination, and he fucks the girl who’s in charge of the southwest. A few days later, he finds it incredibly painful when he urinates. He and the southwest director argue over who gave the other gonorrhea. They’re stuck with each other as bedmates while Reagan loses the nomination to Ford11. He bangs a Nixon secretary who got rolled by just about everybody in the Nixon White House. A deputy of vice president Spiro Agnew “had allegedly bent her over the hood of his sports car and banged her in the office parking garage.”12 Dirty tricks of the bedroom kind, it is made clear, are intertwined with dirty tricks of the political kind; a Nixon deputy lets Stone know that he might be of use for “after hours work,” the body politic kind, and Stone gives us the vital detail: “I had an immediate erection.”13
It’s this sort of anecdote that gets Stone labeled as colorful, and though I’m not unreceptive to them, they really aren’t the most interesting things he could be writing about. I went through his book looking to see what he had to say about areas I’ll try and give some space to here, such as his time at Nixon’s CREEP (a collection of very dirty tricksters), the election of Tom Kean, the candidacy of Al Sharpton, his time at Black, Manafort, Stone – especially his time at Black, Manafort, Stone – the political dirtiness over the bedroom dirtiness, and came away more than a little disappointed. You feel like you’re dealing with someone who hacked into a top movie studio executive’s computer and bragged about the nude selfies he bagged when all you want to see is the studio’s real dirty business, their second set of books. There is one passage, however, which really gives up the goods, and I quote it here:
I don’t think Stone ever says what policy he is for in this memoir, and he might well consider a focus on policy a distraction. There is only winning and losing an election, and five methods for achieving a victory recur again and again in races that Stone is involved with, four methods that create a mirror maze of confusion, misdirection, and elimination. The first is through association, by having a candidate receive an endorsement from a person or group who potential supporters of the candidate are predisposed to view as an opponent, or through association with something unquestionably malevolent made via protesters, pamphlets, or other means funded by Stone’s campaign but without any fingerprints. The second is by having a group, funded by allied interests, oppose a candidate or policy due to some larger moral principle that everyone can agree on – the issue is not candidate A versus B, but opposition to crime, gambling, or child abuse. The third is the smear, saying your opponent is corrupt, weak, racist, a rapist, a murderer, a pedophile, always helpfully done not through you, the opponent on which this tar might stick, but through a phantom proxy. This last is used very, very often by Stone. The fourth, and one of the most effective, is through fragmentation of the vote. There is, say, overwhelming support for candidate A, who will raise the minimum wage, versus candidate B, who won’t. You split this overwhelming vote by funding another candidate, who wants to raise the minimum wage even higher, and who chastises candidate A for compromising their principles and being beholden to business interests for not asking for a higher wage. Through a vote split, candidate B, the one who says he believes the condition of workers must be improved, but not through easy sounding solutions like a higher minimum wage, scores a victory. At the same time, you make great efforts to keep the votes for your own candidate or issue from being fragmented. The fifth is vote suppression, of black and latino voters, who tend to poll democrat. The first four have been employed in elections that Stone has been involved in, with Stone often taking credit. The fifth has been employed alongside Stone’s efforts, though perhaps without the collusion of Stone.
All three were used in the first major race that Stone was involved in, the 1972 presidential election. When he was ten years old, Stone remembered he had a tarot card reading where he was told he would meet a leader who would change his life, and Stone would later say this leader could be only one man, a man he would become enraptured by, make into his idol, and whose face he would ink into the skin on his back14. In 1972, he would help to get this life changing leader, Richard Nixon, re-elected. Every method, except voter suppression, were put to use by Nixon and the Nixon group Stone worked for, CREEP, the Committee to Re-elect the President.
The repellent ugliness of most of these tactics has been forgotten, and so I’m grateful to Rick Perlstein’s Nixonland for recording them. Black protesters suddenly showed up in front of the hotel room of democratic candidate Edmund Muskie, calling him racist for having said that a Democratic ticket with a black running mate couldn’t get elected. An ad suddenly appeared in a Miami Beach Jewish newspaper: “Muskie, Why Won’t You Consider a Jew as a Vice President?” Muskie hadn’t excluded the possibility. Flyers appeared in Jewish neighborhoods: “Remember the Warsaw Ghetto…Vote Right on March 14.” Muskie was of Polish descent15. A letter was sent to a New Hampshire paper, filled with outrage at what happened when Muskie had been asked how he could understand the problems of minorities given the lack of minorities in Maine, Muskie’s home state. A Muskie aide had supposedly replied that they did have minorities in Maine, the very same minority that was there in New Hampshire: “Not blacks, but we have Canucks.” Muskie had supposedly laughed16. The next day, Muskie’s wife was indicted in an editorial in the same paper of telling dirty jokes to reporters, and having two cocktails before dinner. Something in all this broke Muskie, and when the candidate defended his wife in front of television cameras, he began to weep17. Muskie’s tears destroyed his candidacy. Muskie was a target, but all the Democratic candidates were targets. Two hundred dollars was donated to Pete McCloskey by the Young Socialist Alliance, the receipt for the donation helpfully sent to a right-wing news editor. A mole, code named Sedan Chair II, was hired to go inside the Herbert Humphrey campaign and relay strategic information18.
It would eventually be established with certainty that the man who’d written the “Canucks” letter, the man who’d hired the black protesters in front of Muskie’s hotel room, was Donald Segretti, who handled a secret, separate black ops campaign team for CREEP. The man who’d actually sent the letter to McCloskey, who’d hired the Sedan Chair II mole, was a nineteen year old operative named Roger Stone. It was because of this that he makes a brief appearance in the Watergate testimony.
From “Hearings before the Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities of the United States Senate June 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, and 14, 1973” (page 499 on pdf and the actual document). Reisner is Robert Reisner, former administrative assistant to Jeb Magruder, the head of CREEP; Thompson is Fred Dalton Thompson, occasional senator, occasional actor, and one-time candidate for the president, in 2008:
Did the receipts – do you recall any names of, or any amounts to individuals who were receiving money from Mr. Porter’s safe?
Well, I can remember that there were, in addition to Mr. Liddy – now, Mr. Liddy was – it was Mr. Porter that indicated to me that Mr. Liddy was receiving money. There was an individual who was referred to by a code name and that ode name was “Sedan Chair” and that that individual was-
Sedan Chair? Two words?
Yes. I believe it was actually “Sedan Chair 2.”
Was there a Sedan Chair 1?
I do not know. I do not know. Perhaps there was. There was also an individual who worked for Mr. Porter named Roger Stone, who I believe received money. And there may have been other individuals.
But to my recollection, which is a little bit vague on this, there was not a regular disbursement, with those exceptions.
Who was Sedan Chair?
I do not know. I know that – well, I mean, I have sort of a general circumstantial understanding of who I think Sedan Chair was.
Tell us about it.
I will come as close as I can.
Tell us about it.
Subsequent to that, after I learned that there was such an individual, I think I was more alert to the name and I did see a memo in April, I believe, or perhaps May, that purported to be a report from another campaign committee. I believe it was the Humphrey committee. I do not know for a fact who Sedan Chair was. It could have been someone who just simply had his disagreement with the Humphrey committee and wished to report on some of their activities.
It was someone in the Humphrey committee, from what you can tell?
From what I can tell, I mean it purported to be.
Stone would elaborate in his own memoir:
Sedan Chair II was Michael W. McMinoway, and he would testify before the Watergate Committee that he worked as a campaign spy between February until July 1972 within three Democratic campaigns, Muskie in Wisconsin, Humphrey in Pennsylvania and California, and McGovern at the Democratic National Convention. He would be contacted by a man named Jason Rainier, who said he represented a group of concerned citizens, and he would pay him $1,500 a month for undercover work. Jason Rainier would turn out to be Roger Stone – incidentally, there is a twitter handle Jason Rainier (jrainier88), most of whose tweets are re-tweets of Stone’s. Another incidentally is that McMinoway would say in his testimony that two women who met with a McGovern delegate were prostitutes, though despite Stone’s claims, he made no mention of such activity in connection to Humphrey. He offered no proof as to why he believed the women with the McGovern delegate were prostitutes19.
There were methods of misdirection, and there was also use of the most powerful method, vote fragmentation. Edmund Muskie was the candidate considered to be the most formidable opponent against Nixon, and so focus was given to weaken and destroy the candidate in order that Nixon might face someone he might easily beat, George McGovern, in the general election. In his memoir, Stone gives an account of his attempt to split Muskie’s catholic vote by bringing a conservative catholic democrat into the race, Los Angeles mayor Sam Yorty:
Hunter Thompson would puzzle over why Yorty was in the race and describe the impact he thought Yorty would have on the race, the very impact intended by Nixon and his henchmen, in his seminal work, Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ’72:
With McCarthy skulking around, Muskie can’t afford anything but a thumping win over McGovern in that primary. But Mad Sam is up there too, and even Muskie’s local handlers concede Yorty at least 15 percent of the Democratic vote, due to his freakish alliance with the neo-Nazi publisher of New Hampshire’s only big newspaper, the Manchester Union-Leader.
The Mayor of Los Angeles has never bothered to explain the twisted reasoning behind his candidacy in New Hampshire, but every vote he gets there will come off Muskie’s pile, not McGovern’s. Which means that McGovern, already sitting on 20 to 25 percent of the vote, could zap Muskie’s whole trip by picking up another 10 to 15 percent in a last-minute rush.
That Muskie was seen as the only Democrat who could beat Nixon is emphasized in a conversation with superlawyer Edward Bennett Williams, Thompson’s seatmate during a plane trip to a San Francisco football game. Williams would gain even greater prominence a few years later, when he was counsel for the Democratic National Committee in their lawsuit against CREEP after the Watergate break-in:
We spent the rest of the flight arguing politics. He is backing Muskie, and as he talked I got the feeling that he thought he was already at a point where, sooner or later, we would all be. “Ed’s a good man,” he said. “He’s honest. I respect the guy.” Then he stabbed the padded seat arm between us two or three times with his forefinger. “But the main reason I’m working for him,” he said, “is that he’s the only guy we have who can beat Nixon.” He stabbed the arm again. “If Nixon wins again, we’re in real trouble.” He picked up his drink, then saw it was empty and put it down again. “That’s the real issue this time,” he said. “Beating Nixon. It’s hard to even guess how much damage those bastards will do if they get in for another four years.”
Were George Wallace, the segregationist governor, to run on a third party ticket in 1972, he would end up splitting votes with Nixon, possibly throwing the election to the democrats. If Wallace hadn’t been running in the general in 1968, thought Nixon, he would have had a landslide. It would be very helpful if Wallace were to instead run for the democratic nomination, avoiding a vote split among republicans and creating further discord among the democrats. This very thing took place, not through the influence of Stone, Segretti, or CREEP, but perhaps a far more powerful man than any of them. In the summer of 1971, Wallace was on a flight from Key Biscayne to Alabama with other southern governors and president Nixon. Though Wallace had stolen a landslide from Nixon in ’68, had perhaps nearly taken away the whole enchilada from him, Wallace and Nixon were very friendly when the plane touched down. A few days later, Wallace would tell an associate, “I’m tired of those kooks in the third-party business. I’m thinking of going back into the Democratic Party.” Wallace had a brother, and that brother had tax fraud problems that a grand jury was investigating. A few months after his plane meeting with Nixon, the grand jury was dissolved. Later the same year, the Justice Department announced that Alabama’s civil rights enforcement plan is “a much better plan than many states.”
John Mitchell would give ten thousand dollars to a disaffected Wallace supporter who, through a group called Committee Against Forced Busing, would deploy members of the American Nazi party to convince members of the party Wallace ran with in ’68, the American Independent Party, to change their registration to democrat, supposedly so they could vote for Wallace in the California Democratic primary, but for the actual purpose of getting American Independent Party registration down enough to keep the party off the general election ballot. In January, 1972, Dan Rather asked Nixon about the threat of a Wallace candidacy, and Nixon gave a strange reply. Nixon grinned that Wallace wasn’t a problem for the Republicans, he was a problem for the Democrats. It was a strange reply because Wallace hadn’t yet announced his candidacy as a Democrat20.
All the subterfuge of CREEP would be revealed with Watergate and the collapse of the Nixon presidency. The same secretly funded sabotage operation against democratic candidates involving Segretti and Stone was part of a larger secret sabotage operation against all enemies of the White House. The same funds that kept the dirty tricks of CREEP going also went to hire the plumbers who were trying to locate the source of White House leaks and stop them. The plumbers would go after Daniel Ellsberg, leaker of the Pentagon papers, and break into the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee. This is made clear in an article of the time, “FBI Finds Nixon Aides Sabotaged Democrats” by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, now part of the e-book The Original Watergate Stories:
FBI agents have established that the Watergate bugging incident stemmed from a massive campaign of political spying and sabotage conducted on behalf of President Nixon’s re-election and directed by officials of the White House and the Committee for the Re-election of the President.
The activities, according to information in FBI and Department of Justice files, were aimed at all the major Democratic presidential contenders and – since 1971 – represented a basic strategy of the Nixon re-election effort.
During their Watergate investigation, federal agents established that hundreds of thousands of dollars in Nixon campaign contributions had been set aside to pay for an extensive undercover campaign aimed at discrediting individual Democratic presidential candidates and disrupting their campaigns.
“Intelligence work” is normal during a campaign and is said to be carried out by both political parties. But federal investigators said what they uncovered being done by the Nixon forces is unprecedented in scope and intensity.
They said it included:
Following members of Democratic candidates’ families and assembling dossiers on their personal lives; forging letters and distributing them under the candidates’ letterheads; leaking false and manufactured items to the press; throwing campaign schedules into disarray; seizing confidential campaign files; and investigating the lives of dozens of Democratic campaign workers.
In addition, investigators said the activities included planting provocateurs in the ranks of organizations expected to demonstrate at the Republican and Democratic conventions; and investigating potential donors to the Nixon campaign before their contributions were solicited.
Law enforcement sources said that probably the best example of the sabotage was the fabrication by a White House aide – of a celebrated letter to the editor alleging that Sen. Edmund S. Muskie (D-Maine) condoned a racial slur on Americans of French-Canadian descent as “Canucks.”
The letter was published in the Manchester Union Leader Feb 24, less than two weeks before the New Hampshire primary. It in part triggered Muskie’s politically damaging “crying speech” in front of the newspaper’s office.
The investigators said that a major purpose of the sub rosa activities was to create so much confusion, suspicion and dissension that the Democrats would be incapable of uniting after choosing a presidential nominee.
The FBI’s investigation of the Watergate established that virtually all the acts against the Democrats were financed by a secret, fluctuating $350,000-$700,000 campaign fund that was controlled by former Attorney General John N. Mitchell while he headed the Justice Department. Later, when he served as President Nixon’s campaign manager, Mitchell shared control of the fund with others. The money was kept in a safe in the office of the President’s chief fundraiser, former Secretary of Commerce Maurice Stans.
I have not given any mention of Stone’s origins, that he is part Italian part Hungarian, that his father was a driller and his mother a schoolteacher, that he grew up in rural Westchester County, because I don’t think they are of much relevance or importance. Watergate, with all the treachery, secrecy, and cruel tricks associated with that name, is the true birthplace of Roger Stone. The scandal made him a brief exile, but it did not destroy him. He had only begun his work.
(Originally, this piece described Jacob Weisberg as the editor of Slate; this was corrected to his being the head of the Slate Group on March 4th, 2014. On August 3, 2015, the section referencing Hunter Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail was added.)
PRETTY RECKLESS IS GOING STRAIGHT TO HELL
There are a few things a true gentleman cannot live without. The black silk knitted square-bottom tie is just such an indispensable item. No true gentlemen would be without one. They can be twisted, pulled, knotted and will perform for decades if not forever. Such a tie has saved my life on numerous occasions.
2 From “Chump on the Stump” by Matt Labash:
That night, we follow Trump to a taping of the Jay Leno show in Burbank. As Trump cools his heels in the dressing room before the show, Leno pops in for a visit, and sees Stone in his Bugsy Siegel rig. “Hey Donald,” cracks Leno, “you brought your bookie.” We journalists are briefly permitted into the studio to watch the pre-show festivities. Warm-up comic Bob Perlow plies the crowd with stale jokes and show tunes. Then, spotting Melania in the audience, he insists she come up to the stage, where she is asked to dance seductively while throwing souvenir t-shirts into the audience. Tonight Show staffers claim this is a pre-game tradition, but one suspects they invented it as an excuse to watch Melania gyrate.
BW: Did the tattoo hurt?
RS: It hurt like a son of a bitch. But I was drunk. I was in California on vacation and I was thinking about it. It took four hours. The worst pain was at the very end, when they did all the shading. But the [second and] real reason I did it? Because it pisses liberals off.
BW: It doesn’t piss me off. I think it’s hilarious.
RS: I’ve been thinking about [what’s next]. There are two possibilities. I’m either going to put Reagan’s head right here [on my lower left ab]. You ever see those tattoos where it looks like he’s ripping through your skin and sticking his head out? Or, I am going to put [above Nixon] on my shoulders in Olde English: “Republican Gangsta.”
It’s been noted that one of the keys to Alfred Hitchcock’s success as a filmmaker was that he didn’t draw characters as much as he drew character types; this is how he normalized the cinematic experience. It’s the same way with The Real World. The show succeeds because it edits malleable personalities into flat, twenty-something archetypes. What interests me is the way those archetypes so quickly became the normal way for people of my generation to behave.
But the moment that has most stuck with me came after reporters had just watched Trump dispense invaluable life tips at a Tony Robbins seminar (“Get even. When somebody screws you, screw ’em back–but a lot harder”). Stone mounted the bus, which in Trumpian fashion was named “A Touch of Class,” and announced, “I’m here. Who needs to be spun?”
It was a throwaway line, not even one of the serially quotable Stone’s best, but the naked cynicism at the heart of it might be why his fans in the press corps over the years have called him things like “a state of the art sleaze-ball,” “an extreme rightwing sleazeball,” and the “boastful black prince of Republican sleaze” (the sleaze theme is popular). Color me contrarian, but I will say something I don’t believe another Washington reporter has ever admitted publicly: I like Roger Stone.
Who is your favorite working journalist and why? Matt Labash, Weekly Standard, no one does it like him.
7 The tweet:
Over the years, Stone’s relationships with colleagues and clients have been so combustible that his value as a messenger has been compromised. Stone worked for Donald Trump as an occasional lobbyist and as an adviser when Trump considered running for President in 2000. “Roger is a stone-cold loser,” Trump told me. “He always tries taking credit for things he never did.” Like Nixon, Stone is also a great hater-of, among others, the Clintons, Karl Rove, and Spitzer.
“They caught Roger red-handed lying,” Donald Trump said. “What he did was ridiculous and stupid. I lost respect for Eliot Spitzer when he didn’t sue Roger Stone for doing that to his father, who is a wonderful man.”
9 From Dirty Tricks:
10 From Dirty Tricks:
11 From Dirty Tricks:
12 From Dirty Tricks:
13 From Dirty Tricks:
Have you ever had a tarot card reading? Yes. My mother, part Hungarian and very superstitious paid for it – 10 years old – told me I would meet a leader who would change my life (Nixon).
The Man from Maine [Edmund Muskie] kept on running into bad luck. Opponents seemed to know what the campaign had planned before some staff did. A stink bomb went off in one of his offices; a mysterious press release went out in Florida that the Muskie campaign was illegally using government-owned typewriters. Ten black picketers paced back and forth on the sidewalk in front of his hotel in Tampa calling him a racist for a comment, back in September, that a Democratic ticket with a black running mate would have a hard time getting elected. An ad appeared in the February 8 issue of a Miami Beach Jewish newspaper: “Muskie, Why Won’t You Consider a Jew as a Vice President?” (Muskie hadn’t said a word on the subject.) Flyers referring to Muskie’s Polish heritage began appearing in Jewish neighborhoods: “Remember the Warsaw Ghetto…Vote Right on March 14.” A memo by his pollster recommending he hold hearings on property taxes in Los Angeles to “take advantage of free TV time” before announcing for the California primary somehow made it to Evans and Novak.
The polling in New Hampshire was projecting two-thirds of the vote for Muskie. But cracks in his composure started showing in the face of questions like “Senator, if you get only sixty percent of the vote in New Hampshire, will you consider that a defeat?” He lost more composure in the face of sabotage: false scheduling information kept getting out to the public. Then William Loeb of the Manchester Union Leader, always eager to destroy a liberal, reproduced on his February 24 front page a handwritten, semiliterate letter from someone named Paul Morrison, who said he had met Muskie in Florida and asked how he could understand the problems of black people given the few minorities in Maine. A Muskie aide, the letter related, responded that they did have minorities in Maine: “Not blacks, but we have Canucks”-at which Muskie was reported to have laughed appreciatively.
Canucks, also prevalent in New Hampshire, were French Canadians. Muskie thought of them, evidently, as New England’s niggers.
The next day a lacerating front-page editorial in the Union Leader relayed a Newsweek gossip item that feisty Jane Muskie had challenged the press bus to a round of dirty jokes, and preferred not one but two cocktails before dinner.
Muskie had had enough. He arranged for a flatbed truck to serve as his stage for a speech in front of the Union Leader’s redbrick headquarters. At breakfast in their guesthouse in China, Haldeman related to the president what happened next. Snow was streaming down and Muskie was bundled in an overcoat as he picked up a handheld microphone, cameras rolling, determined to prove who was tough:
“By attacking me, and by attacking my wife, he’s proven himself a gutless coward. It’s fortunate for him that he’s not on this platform beside me…”
He paused, looked down; he seemed choked up. Perhaps it was a snowflake lodged in his eye, but Dan Rather on CBS, for one, reported he “began to weep.” David Broder put it in his lead that he said it with “[t]ears streaming down his cheeks.” It became a major news story.
Jeb Magruder’s team’s chief operative, Herbert Porter, was the White House scheduling director. One of Porter’s masterpieces was hiring a young aide, Roger Stone, to contribute $200 to Pete McCloskey in the name of the militant homosexual group the Gay Liberation Front and forward the receipt to William Loeb (though Stone, ashamed of any imprecations against his masculinity, chickened out and made the contribution from the Young Socialist Alliance instead).
Michael W. McMinoway, a political spy for all seasons, told the Senate select Watergate committee yesterday how he provided information for pay on Democratic candidates to the Nixon re-election committee but also provided other Democrats with inside information on the candidates for whom he was working.
In the period that he worked as a spy – from February until July 1972 – McMinoway worked for the Muskie campaign in Wisconsin, the Humphrey campaigns in Pennsylvania and California and for McGovern at the Democratic National Convention.
McMinoway said he was contacted in February by a friend, Martin Blackwell [sic] of Washington, who asked him if he was interested in working in the campaign. When he said he was, McMinoway testified, he was contacted by a man identifying himself as Jason Rainier, later identified as Roger Stone, an employee of the Nixon re-election committee. Stone, McMinoway said, told him that he represented a group of “concerned citizens” interested in the 1972 election.
After agreeing to a salary of $1,500 per month, McMinoway said, he began working for the Muskie campaign in Milwaukee. At the same time, McMinoway told the committee, he contacted the McGovern campaign in Milwaukee.
On one occasion, McMinoway testified, a delegate to the convention visited McGovern campaign manager Gary Hart in the Doral Hotel and then left with two women whom McMinoway described as prostitutes.
Under later questioning by committee vice chairman Sen. Howard H. Baker Jr. (R-Tenn.), McMinoway conceded that he did not know if the women were in fact prostitutes and could not say whether the delegate’s visit to Hart had any relationship to his departure with the women. “He could have met them coming in or going out,” McMinoway said.
The most important caper sprang from the president: getting George Wallace to run as a Democrat.
“I don’t want him in,” he had told Mitchell and Haldeman in February of 1971. “We should work this out.” What he didn’t want was Wallace in the general election. If Nixon had won all the antiliberal votes that went to Wallace in 1968, he would have won a punishing landslide instead of a squeaker. He wanted Wallace in the primaries-to divide the Democrats.
It’s hard to reconstruct exactly the steps that led George Wallace to his January announcement in Tallahassee that he was running for the Democratic nomination. He had been on a flight with several other Southern governors and the president from Key Biscayne to Alabama in the summer of 1971; Wallace and Richard Nixon looked suspiciously buddy-buddy after the plane touched down. A few days later Wallace drawled casually to his chief field operator Tom Turnipseed, to Turnipseed’s surprise, “I’m tired of those kooks in the third-party business. I’m thinking of going back into the Democratic Party.” Three months later, Evans and Novak noticed, the grand jury investigating tax-fraud charges against Wallace’s brother Gerald was mysteriously dissolved. Then in November 1971 the Justice Department’s civil rights division announced, suddenly and improbably, that Alabama’s civil rights enforcement plan “is a much better plan than many states’.”
On January 2, 1972, when Dan Rather asked the president whether George Wallace’s apparent preparations for another presidential campaign were “a threat to holding this country together,” Nixon responded with a hint of a grin that Wallace “is not our problem”-he was the Democrats’. That was a gaffe; George Wallace had not yet announced he was running as a Democrat. The press, fortuitously, didn’t notice this-nor another phase of the operation unfolding out in California. John Mitchell funneled $10,000 to a disillusioned Wallace supporter, working under a cover group called the Committee Against Forced Busing, who deployed American Nazi Party members to canvass members of Wallace’s old American Independent Party to convince them to change their registration to Democrat, ostensibly so they could vote for Wallace in the California Democratic primary-but actually to make sure the AIP voter rolls fell below the number that would allow them to run Wallace on the general election ballot.
Wallace would screw the Democrats, Nixon hoped. But he wouldn’t be in the race long enough to screw him.