Saturday 23 February 2019

Matthew Norman: ''Sinister' Stone an architect of US politics' Trumpian nadir'

Roger Stone. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo
Roger Stone. Photo: Jose Luis Magana/AP Photo

Matthew Norman

An American commentator once called Roger Stone - the latest dangerous Trumpworld stalwart to face a long stretch inside - "the sinister Forrest Gump of American politics".

Fictional characters cannot sue for defamation, for various compelling reasons. But if they could, even the ineffably stoical Gump might have a go after Stone's comments about his recent arrest.

If the name of this stupendously peculiar figure rings no more than the faintest bell, I beg you to watch the gruesomely riveting 2007 documentary 'Get Me Roger Stone' on Netflix. The official advice is to spend every moment of the 92 minutes in the most scalding shower you can tolerate, though that won't entirely wash away the sense of contamination. For that, you'd need the nuclear power plant medical team that scrubbed Meryl Streep until her skin was red raw after she set off the radiation detectors in 'Silkwood'.

However indelibly filthied we may feel, those of us who have seen the film were prepared for Stone's reaction to being nicked by the Feds, for various Russian collusion-connected suspected offences, in the early hours of Friday. This he described as "unconscionable" - and not just because it "terrorised" his wife and dogs. It also involved "greater force than was used", he said, "to take down bin Laden or El Chapo or Pablo Escobar".

Somewhere in that lies a hint of hyperbole. Bin Laden was shot twice in the brain by navy seals in Pakistan, preparatory to the tossing of his corpse into the Indian Ocean. El Chapo, aka Joaquim Guzman, was captured by the Mexican marines who killed five of his henchpeople during a raid they lit up with hand grenades. The force used to take down his fellow drug lord Escobar, in the Colombian cocaine stronghold of Medellin, featured a fatal bullet shot through an ear.

Stone hasn't exactly hidden in plain sight. Too much the narcissist to hide at all, he loves boasting about his mastery of the very darkest political arts. But his essential oddity operated as a smokescreen, cloaking his wickedness in a peasouper of pantomime absurdity that protected him from being taken seriously.

Whatever comes from the seven charges to which he has pleaded not guilty, he should be taken seriously. He is both the poster boy for, and one of the architects of, the descent of Republican politics into the hellscape that has found its nadir, for now, in Donald Trump.

Without Stone, some argue, there would be no President Trump. It is 30 years since his friend and adviser first encouraged Trump to run for the White House. With a chilling prescience possibly beyond the Gumpian range, he sniffed the makings of a successful demagogue in someone barely less preposterous than himself.

Stone is the runt of Richard Nixon's satanic litter. More conventional members of the brood, such as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, preferred to play down the connection. Stone, who wangled a job on the 1968 campaign, has a Nixon tattoo on his back and needs little persuasion to show it off.

When the swinging revelations had him ostracised from George W Bush's godly White House, despite him instigating a mini riot outside a Miami courthouse during the Florida recount, Stone started a lobbying firm with fellow indictee Paul Manafort and others. The speciality, obviously, was laundering the reputations of murderous dictators.

After patiently mining the recesses of Trump's ego, he finally hit pay dirt in 2015 when his political creation decided to run. Finally, as with Trump himself, it must be dawning on Roger Stone that the mores of reality television and real politics aren't quite the same. The outlandish showmanship and grotesque amorality that is the lifeblood of the former is a virulent infection in the latter's bloodstream. Belatedly, the immune system of the US political system is fighting back - and with a ferocity unimaginable in sclerotic old Britain, where the police quickly concluded that investigating Russian involvement in the Brexit campaign was none of their beeswax. (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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