The Magazine

Making Political Trouble

Roger Stone shows how it's done--again.

Jan 28, 2008, Vol. 13, No. 19 • By MATT LABASH
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Miami

As one who was never terribly enamored of Hillary Clinton's personality to start with, I grudgingly admit to enjoying her recent near-tears transformation. Plenty of critics concede her rarely seen emotion was heartfelt, but also that it was due to the 20-hour-day rigors of the campaign trail, making her perhaps the only candidate ever to win the New Hampshire primary because she needed a nap. Still, it was refreshing to watch her punch through the icy crust of her own phoniness, so that the molten core of artificiality could gush forth.

Many of my conservative acquaintances weren't quite as forgiving, however. Clinton, these days, is a stuck record, speaking so often of "change" that she sounds like the medicine-show huckster in Tom Waits's "Step Right Up" (change your shorts / change your life / change into a nine-year-old Hindu boy / get rid of your wife). But I didn't notice any change at all in my email inbox in the aftermath of her surprise victory. In fact, it more than ever resembled a nostalgia trip back to 1998, the high-water mark of Clinton hatred.

Messages poured in expressing revulsion and woe, and described resulting adverse physical symptoms, including but not limited to: nausea, dizziness, insomnia, twitching, numbness, abdominal pain, myalgia, cutaneous lesions, and retching. One friend invited me to visit him in Bermuda, where he'll be relocating. The only silver lining that came my way was an email from the professional dirty trickster and high priest of political hijinks, Roger Stone. It was titled "the good news" and said, simply, "Out of NH C.U.N.T. lives . Gearing up!"

He wasn't referring to Hillary's chances in South Carolina. Rather, by using the most offensive word in the English language, the word people employ when the f-bomb has lost all potency (and the word I will henceforth replace with "special flower" so as not to give greater offense), he was referring to the acronym of his spanking-new anti-Hillary 527 group, Citizens United Not Timid (www.citizensunitednottimid.org).

After having just exhaustively profiled Stone in our November 5 issue ("Roger Stone, Political Animal: 'Above all, attack, attack, attack--never defend'") and detailed his misadventures--from working for Nixon's dirty-tricks squad to imploding the Reform party by pushing Donald Trump's candidacy to delivering suitcases full of cash at the direction of Roy Cohn to buy New York for Ronald Reagan--I didn't expect to visit Stone again so soon. But it seemed time. Perhaps feeling all Christmas-y and overtaken with goodwill toward men, Stone had conceived of the special-flower idea in December, then had shelved it after Iowa, when like everyone else he assumed Clinton was toast. But with Clinton's resurrection, he feels he has no choice but to unsheath his sword--not that he ever requires much encouragement.

In public, Stone is often expensively haberdashed to within an inch of his life. But on this day, he greets me at the door of his Miami Modern home in a casual Saturday-morning rig: camouflage cargo shorts and a Nixon/Agnew T-shirt. We are followed to his backyard by a herd of barking Yorkies and a three-legged Wheaten Terrier named Oscar that he and Mrs. Stone (as he calls his wife, Nydia) rescued when they found him bloodied and abandoned beside a highway.

We take a seat at a glass poolside table in his lush backyard, filled with bougainvillea, cacti, and tomato plants. The dogs beg for finger food, and when it's not forthcoming, one of them happily munches on some of Mrs. Stone's impatiens. "Don't eat those," Stone shouts. "Welcome to the Stone dogpile." While his property has twice been whacked by hurricanes ("Everything you see that's green was mud"), today it's dominated by the peaceful metronomic swells of Biscayne Bay lapping against the yard's seawall, as we await the arrival of his Citzens United Not Timid crew for its inaugural meeting.

Stone is not going to be out front on this one--"You can't be the candidate and the campaign manager." So he anxiously awaits the arrival of his organization's titular figurehead, Jeff "Noodles" Jones, who is a local bartender/DJ (and who is called "Noodles" because of his resemblance to Robert De Niro's character in Once Upon a Time in America), along with his "handler," Scotty. "Why does Noodles require a handler?" I ask. "What time is it, eleven?" asks Stone. "He was supposed to be here an hour ago, if that tells you anything. Noodles would never get here on his own steam."