I have a long history with Roger Stone – at least in a literary way, insofar as I wrote about him in my 1997 book (Campaign America ‘96: The View From the Couch) about the 1996 Presidential campaign. Just a paragraph or two. It was a fairly long book, over 500 pages. Though I am struck by this bemusing fact quite a bit, no one seems to consult my remarks, however superficial they may have seemed back then. Not superficial to me – I was deliberately writing about the surface: in the book I wrote Stone looked a bit like John Dean, if Dean had taken a lot of steroids, and that Stone had a café con leche tan that appeared to have been applied with a paintbrush. And that the estimable publication, the National Enquirer, had a story with the headline: “Top Dole Aide in Sex Orgies Scandal” (poor Bob Dole) and Stone was taking to TV to defend himself. He was, as I wrote, El supremo tacky, and shared the suspect aura of the California GOP swinger set, epitomized by Alfred Bloomingdale and his consort Vicki Morgan. There were tabloid pictures of Stone and his buxom wife, charmingly outfitted, offering themselves as play-pals, etc.
Now we move on to the Trump era – not that Stone vanished, no sir; he showed up in Florida during the Bush/Gore count-the-votes saga – but he had now arrived full flower with The Donald. Since I had written a book on the ‘96 campaign, I was still paying attention. But it shocks me how little attention the present crop of, mainly, news-people pay. Where is the collective memory of the press? I wonder. Why can’t they add at least a sentence about Stone’s colorful history in all the recent copy expended upon him? Well, one reason, I suppose, is that times have changed and Stone’s past has become superfluous, given the President’s colorful past, most everyone’s past, shared by most all of those who have survived the last few decades.
I think that Stone still has the same frisky wife (his second) when I catch a glimpse of her and him in short clips on TV, usually coming or going from a courtroom. Her outfits have changed, but she still favors black. Stone, well, Stone looks like our 21st century take on Dorian Gray: he is the portrait itself, not the air-brushed simulacrum.
One point of my '96 campaign book is that the inside has now become the outside. Sort of like the museum in Paris (the Pompidou Center), the one that’s all pipes and beams and exposed structure on the outside, looking more like an oil refinery operation than a building housing art. It’s architecture that resembles a genre of horror films, where and when some “human” is turned inside out. Anyway, Stone looks corrupt. And is. That face! Mouth! But who cares?, seems to be the modern take. Look at the President, etc.... Look at Lindsey Graham, whomever. But, the idea of the damning portrait still lives. Stone had Nixon’s head tattooed on his back. Doubtless, Stone has willed his sketched flesh to some museum (in Paris?) for a lampshade to come. The long abused George Orwell once wrote that, more or less, after 50 every man has the face he deserves. Stone deserves his face. I suppose that’s why, especially in Washington, DC, so much money is spent on men’s clothes, to distract from the bodies within.
In addition to the inside/outside phenomena, the bit players around Trump have become the main actors. Trump’s crowd, rustling up all the former bit B-players in his orbit, hence Stone, hence all those Tea Party pols who are running the show in the Trump administration. My 1997 campaign book first captured Stone’s essence in print, but he was elevated in the public mind by Jeffrey Toobin (who is nothing if not prolific), at least the selective public that reads high-end journalism. He rolls out books almost yearly on the scandalous, boys and girls, pols and performers. This summer we will be treated to his Trump book and I am sure we will revisit Roger and The Donald. Toobin wrote about Stone in 2008 (recall, for a minute, 2008) for the New Yorker (Yes, the New Yorker). Rereading the piece now, Toobin makes Stone seems positively wholesome, practically a Democrat (though of the Libertarian bent [and I mean bent]), a guy to contend with. Perhaps it’s the New Yorker’s style. Trump makes a brief cameo in the piece, criticizing, mildly, Stone. I would say times change, but they do and they don’t.
Disease is a metaphor often employed. Except these days it’s literal, not figurative, and has the entire world paying some sort of obeisance to its power. The deadly and infectious virus is everywhere. Trump has always been, at least in the last three and a half years, a master of distraction. And, since he can make gold out of offal, he treats the pandemic as the coin of his realm, more distraction.
[To be continued.]
I am not bothering with links. I might supply them eventually.