The World Roger Stone Helped Create (or So He’d Have You Believe)

Roger Stone began his career in political dirty tricks young. In 1960, he was eight, and decided he liked John F. Kennedy’s hair more than Richard Nixon’s. It was important to him for Kennedy to win the mock election at his school, which leaned Nixon, so he began sidling up to kids in the cafeteria line to ask, “Did you know Nixon has proposed school on Saturdays?” Kennedy won in a landslide unexpected enough that the local newspaper picked up the story.

.. Jeffrey Toobin of The New Yorker wittily dubs “the sinister Forrest Gump of American politics — this Machiavellian, almost crazy guy who shows up at every key moment in recent American history.”

.. a highly placed New York political figure told me that it was Stone who convinced Donald Trump not to enter the Empire State’s gubernatorial race in 2014, thereby saving him from what would likely have been a humiliating loss. Instead, Stone argued Trump should keep his powder dry for a White House run in 2016, an idea that appealed to the future president’s predilection for the big and bold.

.. Manafort adds that Stone was deeply involved in campaign messaging even after Trump fired him (Stone says he quit) around the time the candidate began taking heat for his contretemps with Megyn Kelly.

.. Toobin says. “He doesn’t worry that you think he’s a sleazeball; he wants you to think he’s a sleazeball.”

.. But if Stone helped turn politics into a joke, maybe that joke isn’t funny anymore, if it ever was. Stone is a reason why we have a president who is more at home in a professional-wrestling ring than he is discussing the origins of the Civil War. Over footage from The Apprentice, Stone explains that Trump looked tough and authoritative and decisive on the show: “Do you think voters, non-sophisticates, make a difference between entertainment and politics?” If we did once think that, we don’t anymore.

.. Weekly Standard writer Matt Labash captures the upshot of that understanding with characteristic pithiness: “Now the children’s table is the adult table and Alex Jones is passing the dinner rolls.” Donald Trump turned out to be the president for this American moment. Roger Stone saw that, but he didn’t Jedi-mind-trick the rest of us into playing along.