Forget shame: the deeply fucked up men who worked for Nixon and Reagan persist and prosper. Behold Roger Stone, ratfucker extraordinaire whose name showed up on radar today for peddling the infidelity rumors that have pursued Ted Cruz. Thinking Ted Cruz capable of copulation is like imagining Reagan speaking in heroic couplets, and therein lies Stone’s talent: truth matters not a damn if you can dominate the media cycle over a weekend.
During a presidential campaign that looks as distant as Harrison-Cleveland, the New Yorker published a Stone profile that like so many things in the last fifty years in public life reads like unpublished fiction. I mean:
In 1976, Stone was named national youth director for Reagan’s first, failed run for the Republican nomination. Four years later, after serving on various young-Republican task forces, Stone asked the leaders of Reagan’s next campaign for the toughest assignment they had. They made Stone, who was in his late twenties, political director of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. The region hardly looked like Reagan country, but Stone found a new mentor to help him. “I was invited to a party by a socialite named Sheila Mosler, and Roy Cohn was there,” Stone said, as the captain delivered an order of “21” ’s steak tartare. “Roy was a Democrat, but he was an anti-Communist and a master of public relations, and he wanted to help me with Reagan. He told me to come see him at his town house.
“When I got there, Roy was in his bathrobe, eating three strips of bacon burned to a crisp and both halves of a devilled egg,” Stone went on. “He started telling me how he was going to help me set up the Reagan campaign—everything from union endorsements to office space. He told me to ride down to the courthouse with him. He had a young lawyer with him, and it was clear that Roy knew nothing about the case he was going to argue. But he knew it didn’t matter. He used to say, ‘Don’t tell me the law. Tell me the judge.’ Roy knew how the world worked.” Following Cohn’s lead, Stone played hardball for Reagan, challenging George H. W. Bush’s New York primary delegates on a variety of technical grounds, getting many of them disqualified. A couple of years later, Cohn threw Stone a thirtieth-birthday party in a private room at “21.”
Like Stone, Cohn combined conservative politics with an outré personal life. “Roy was not gay,” Stone told me. “He was a man who liked having sex with men. Gays were weak, effeminate. He always seemed to have these young blond boys around. It just wasn’t discussed. He was interested in power and access. He told me his absolute goal was to die completely broke and owing millions to the I.R.S. He succeeded in that.”
That’s before readers learn Stone got a tattoo of Richard Nixon. Conservative pals, no one on my side orders three strips of charred bacon, savors vermouth-soaked olives, or subjects himself (always him- not herself) to such abject hero worship. The mythos that accrues around the worship of male triumphalist bluster is a right wing trait (the left often quivered around heroic male failure).