Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Ultimate Dirty Trickster (who may have brought down Spitzer)

Toobin pens a brillant profile of Roger Stone in this week's New Yorker, The Dirty Trickster. An engaging profile needs both a riveting subject and an excellent writer. This one has both.

I'd seen Stone's name in the papers as one who passed information to the FBI from a prostitute about Eliot Spitzer, which as instrumental in bringing him down. As Toobin shows Stone's instrumentality is questionable, but in the context of Stone's life of political dirty tricks seems perfectly plausible.

The subtitle of the piece is Campaign tips from the man who has done it all. That seems an understatement by the end of the piece. Stone seems to have his mitts in every dirty trick since 1972.

What's great about the writing is that Toobin throws in "rules" from Stone yet unpublished book:
“Stone’s Rules for War, Politics, Food, Fashion, and Living," to emphasize or highlight or deepen Stone's personal and specific utterances. The effect is a tour de force.

As a personal note, and I didn't put this together until I read this piece but Stone is Stone as in Black, Manafort, Stone & Atwater - which was THE political consulting firm when I came to Washington in '88. It'd been founded in 1980 and by then was in its heyday. I knew and dated a few Republicans who worked there. (One broke up with me telling me I was "too cerebral" for him. I went home and looked the word up just to confirm it meant what I thought it meant).

Toobin notes that the firm, until recently run by McCain top aid Charlie Black, has since been swallowed up by Burson-Marsteller,
whose chief executive is Mark Penn, an adviser to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “So what that means is that Mark Penn is Charlie Black’s boss,” Stone told me. “And they said I was sleazy.”
Here are some money quotes from the first few pages. But read the whole thing - it's amazing, laugh out loud funny (the rule Stone borrows from Gore Vidal) and revealing.

Stone's inspiration is Nixon (who, it should be noted was called "Tricky Dick"):
Still, it is no coincidence that Stone materialized in the midst of the Spitzer scandal—and that he had memorable cameos in the last two Presidential elections. While the Republican Party usually claims Ronald Reagan as its inspiration, Stone represents the less discussed but still vigorous legacy of Richard Nixon, whose politics reflected a curious admixture of anti-Communism, social moderation, and tactical thuggery. Stone believes that Nixonian hardball, more than sunny Reaganism, is John McCain’s only hope for the Presidency...Like Nixon, Stone is also a great hater—of, among others, the Clintons, Karl Rove, and Spitzer. So what happened at Miami Velvet one night last September, he said, amounted to a gift.
His first dirty trick was in 1972, age 19, for Nixon:
He was just nineteen when he played a bit part in the Watergate scandals. He adopted the pseudonym Jason Rainier and made contributions in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance to the campaign of Pete McCloskey, who was challenging Nixon for the Republican nomination in 1972. Stone then sent a receipt to the Manchester Union Leader, to “prove” that Nixon’s adversary was a left-wing stooge... Stone revels in his Watergate pedigree, noting almost apologetically that he was never accused of breaking any law. “The Democrats were weak, we were strong,” he told me. (Stone’s rules: “Attack, attack, attack—never defend” and “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.”)
His mentor was Roy Cohn. ROY COHN!
Stone found a new mentor to help him. “I was invited to a party by a socialite named Sheila Mosler, and Roy Cohn was there,” Stone said, as the captain delivered an order of “21” ’s steak tartare. “Roy was a Democrat, but he was an anti-Communist and a master of public relations, and he wanted to help me with Reagan. He told me to come see him at his town house.
Roy Cohn's been in the news recently because of Barbara Walter's memoir Audition. She was devoted to Cohn, apparently because Cohn saved her father from financial ruin, helped her adopt her daughter, even contemplated marriage to him. The New York Times call Cohn, Walter's "weirdest suitor." Cohn is widely thought to be gay, but there's a funny bit in Toobin's piece about that too.

Then there's Stone's supposedly prescience when it came to the now infamous Willie Horton ad of 1988:
The experience prompts a rare disclaimer from Stone, who is usually eager to claim credit for hardball tactics. “We had an ad running about the furloughs in Massachusetts, with a revolving door, and it was really polling well—a great ad—and none of the prisoners were identifiable,” Stone told me. “But then Atwater came in with this version that had Willie Horton’s picture—and he said they were going to have an independent group put it on the air.” (Horton was a convicted murderer who committed a rape after fleeing while on furlough from prison in Massachusetts while Dukakis was governor.) “I told Atwater that it was a mistake, that we were winning the issue without having to resort to this racist crap. I told Atwater, ‘You are going to get linked to this, and it is gonna follow you and George Bush for the rest of your life.’ It did.”
His personal ad for swinging couples brought his downfall:
Stone served as a senior consultant to Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign for President, but that assignment ended in a characteristic conflagration. The National Enquirer, in a story headlined “Top Dole Aide Caught in Group-Sex Ring,” reported that the Stones had apparently run personal ads in a magazine called Local Swing Fever and on a Web site that had been set up with Nydia’s credit card. “Hot, insatiable lady and her handsome body builder husband, experienced swingers, seek similar couples or exceptional muscular . . . single men,” the ad on the Web site stated. The ads sought athletes and military men, while discouraging overweight candidates, and included photographs of the Stones. At the time, Stone claimed that he had been set up by a “very sick individual,” but he was forced to resign from Dole’s campaign. Stone acknowledged to me that the ads were authentic. “When that whole thing hit the fan in 1996, the reason I gave a blanket denial was that my grandparents were still alive,” he said. “I’m not guilty of hypocrisy. I’m a libertarian and a libertine.”
After 9/11, seeing the smoke billow from the Pentagon, he cut his last ties to DC.
When I asked why he moved to Miami, Stone quoted a Somerset Maugham line: “It’s a sunny place for shady people. I fit right in.”
Ed Rollins calls Stone "a little rat" and "a fringe player around town." Donald Trump: “Roger is a stone-cold loser.” These quotes are from Republicans.

Read the rest - too much good material to highlight. Topic include Stone's alleged role in the Brooks Brother's riot that shut down recounting ballots in Miami-Dade in 2000, his role in the CBS News story in 2004 about Bush ducking Vietnam, how he left a message for Eliot Spitzer’s father Bernard and got fired from the NY Senate Republicans, his 527 to fight Hillary's nomination called Citizen's United Never Timid (think acronym).

As for the current presidential campaign, here's a bit -
Stone detests Hillary Clinton’s politics but admires her pugnacity. He wrote recently on his Web site, an erratically updated collection of observations called Stonezone.com, “I must admit she has demonstrated true grit and Nixonian-like tenacity in the face of adversity.” Stone particularly admires Clinton’s attempt to hang the “√©litist” tag on Barack Obama. “It’s a good idea,” he said.
But he won't be working with McCain who once uttered to Stone:
"What the fuck are you talking about? Get the fuck out of my office!"
Find out why by reading the whole thing (has to do with Trump).

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