Stone is Mike Pence’s evil twin – distinguished only by his 1960s American-in-Venice attire paired with a hair-piece scorched on with a glue gun. Unlike Pence, however, Stone certainly does not model himself as a paragon of Christian virtue, but rather is a self-proclaimed, modern-day Machiavelli. Speaking to the student press at the Union, he proudly declares: ‘I’ve often said I will do anything to get my candidates elected. Short of breaking a law.’ Stone has carefully trod this precarious line between legality and morally dubious political strategy for his entire political career.
Stone’s conservativism was first inspired by the Republican presidential candidate in 1964, Barry Goldwater, an outspoken critic of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Since then, he’s been influential in the election of Presidents Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes. Despite his long association with establishment Republicans, Stone, unlike the GOP, has a decidedly libertarian bent when it comes to social issues – take his proud support for marijuana legalisation and gay marriage (as with his politics, Stone’s personal life is equally vivid—he describes himself as a ‘try sexual’).
Stone’s political modus operandi career is the smear campaign, carefully designed to distract from the substantive issues in an election—he is the modern-day pioneer of ‘opposition research’. Think the Obama birth certificate scandal, or Hillary Clinton being at death’s door during the 2016 presidential campaign. These sinister conspiracies have risen to prominence during recent elections partly as a result of Stone’s handiwork.
As someone who revels in attention—positive and negative—Stone is enjoying the revived infamy that has come as the result of last year’s Netflix documentary Get Me Roger Stone. He is strikingly gleeful at the show’s portrayal of him as cunning, manipulative and vicious political operator in a manner that is distinctly Trumpian: he simply does not care what you think about him.
‘I’m really glad to be here today’, Stone says of his invitation to the Cambridge Union, an institution which, in its own words, is dedicated to ‘defending free speech.’ This strikes a chord with Stone, who makes a point of praising this commitment, arguing that ‘the phenomena going around today is that instead of debate you just need to be censored.’ Itching to ask Stone whether he thinks his First Amendment right to free speech should be used to overturn his Twitter ban—the result of misogynistic and racist twatting—his dark, beady eyes dart towards the next expectant journalist.
This commitment to openness and debate is quite something, especially from the man whose idolisation of Richard Nixon is manifested in a large tattoo of the US’s 37th President’s face on his back. This association with the the man who first introduced scandal and disgrace to the Oval Office is perhaps rather fitting: Stone has many dubious political idols and cronies from his lifetime as a political consultant to the Republican Party. Indeed, throughout his speech in the Union chamber, Stone describes the disgraced General Mike Flynn as his ‘friend’.
Someone mentions either the word ‘Russia’ or ‘collusion’—Stone takes the bait and segues. ‘First of all, there is no evidence that anybody involved in the Trump campaign, Trump family or Trump’s friends, such as myself, colluded, conspired or coordinated with the Russians.’ Stone is adamant in his denial of any illegal collusion with Russia during the 2016 election, and stubbornly refuses to reveal the identity of the journalist who informed him of Julian Assange’s imminent leak of documents relating to Hillary Clinton’s.
A lifetime of political skulduggery has educated Stone in the art of manipulation to the extent that he has formulated his own set of ‘Stone’s Rules’. ‘Hate is a more powerful motivator than love’ is a particular favourite of the Globalist. Stone certainly seems to have taken these words to heart; his mouth is permanently curled into a venomous sneer.
‘It’s a canard: a falsehood.’ Stone’s shock white hair bristles, his lips curl in exasperation. ‘It’s a false narrative to hide the fact that some people around Hillary Clinton, John Podesta specifically, were in business with the oligarchs around Putin. A bank associated with Putin paid the Podesta brothers $38 million.’
Unsurprisingly, a Google search reveals no mention of the $38 million figure (though Tony Podesta has been broadly implicated in receiving money from the Russians, to lobby in Washington). This leaves me with the dangerous position of accepting Stone’s version of events – albeit with a grain of salt the size of Stone’s boulder of a head.
‘A meeting with the Russian ambassador, which I guess never really happened, that doesn’t even constitute collusion. The meeting appears to offer nothing tangible that I can see.’ It’s difficult to interrupt Stone’s diatribe, to clarify what exactly he means by appearing to simultaneously deny and confirm the existence of the meeting.
Unabashed, Stone proceeds: ‘I had no contact with anybody from the Russian state who I thought was fronting for the Russian state.’ This backhanded denial of involvement, and defence of innocence is straight out of the Watergate playbook.
Stone has had the honour of appearing in front of Congress, to defend himself, twice. The first was in 1973 where he earned the accolade of being the youngest person to testify in Congress as part of the Watergate scandal—an achievement which he boasts of to his audience at the Union. The second time was last year, when he was grilled by the House Intelligence committee over his allegations of collusion with Russia on behalf of Trump during the 2016 election.
‘I had a backchannel [with Julian Assange] because I read on July 21st that he had, and would publish, Hillary Clinton’s emails and before I wrote that in a column, I wanted a confirmation. I called a journalist that I knew, who knew Assange, and he came back to me a few days later, and said ‘yes, its accurate’. And I wrote it.’
‘By the way, since Assange is a journalist, why would contact with him be improper? We have no evidence that he is an actor for the Russian state. Just because the intelligence services say, and I quote them, ‘we believe with a high level of confidence, it is our assessment that he is a Russian agent’, does not make it so. The same people that said Sadam had weapons of mass destruction, the same people that told us that Lee Harvey Oswald…’
Stone’s lawyer (present throughout the interview) interjects, preventing the Globalist from hearing Stone’s no-doubt outlandish conspiracy theory of the ‘true events’ of John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963.
At this point, the better dressed of the two Globalist journalists makes an appeal to Stone’s keen, and often quirky, dress sense. ‘Well, let’s just say you’ll never mistake me for Steve Bannon. I believe look good, feel good. You’re making a presentation to the voters. On the other hand, you can also dress above the voters. That’s a mistake. The best dressed politicians of all time were the Kennedy brothers. Good old fashioned, all-American Ivy League style. Not too wealthy looking, but just basic. Jack and Bobby and Teddy Kennedy: great dressers.’ Who said bi-partisanship in American politics is dead?
On Trump’s style: ‘He’s got a kind of a uniform which works for him. He is the guy who started the red power tie in the 80s. It’s not a look that would work for me, but I don’t think he owns any suit which isn’t a solid colour. And all of his suits are blue; on weekends he takes a solid pastel tie.’ A savvy political operator, Stone succeeds in criticizing Trump on the most palatable of his faults.
Stone neglects to pass comment on one of Trump’s most frequent outfits: golfing attire. A closer interrogation results in Stone’s approval ‘I think that he’s entitled to dress in a comfortable way. That’s about as comfortable as it gets.’
And on the astronomical forty-four times Trump has spent days playing golf during his presidency? ‘That’s a different question’ Stone retorts. ‘If he’s created two million jobs, I don’t think people will care about that.’