Delegates hold signs reading “Hillary For Prison” and “Lock Her Up” during the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July. Photo: BloombergWashington:Among the Trump fans gathered to protest in a park by the gleaming Capitol building in Washington, DC, on Saturday morning, Roger Stone – the Republican Party operative who learnt his trade in Richard Nixon’s dark arts shop and now advises Donald Trump – cuts a distinctive figure.
The fans wear “Make America Great Again” caps, he wears a black felt homburg. They wear T-shirts calling for Hillary Clinton’s imprisonment, he wears a crisp white shirt with an English spread collar and a maroon tie under a navy blue double-breasted chalk-striped suit. They wear sneakers or cowboy boots. He wears brown suede brogued loafers.
But the crowd – disappointingly small, the organiser concedes – know who Stone is and they know he is on their side. They have seen him on InfoWars, the web show hosted bythe ranting conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
What Fox News was to the Republican Party in recent elections, InfoWars is to Trump fans this year. It is the outlet that best understands the diehard Trump fans, that echoes and amplifies their fears. Trump gets that and has sat down for several interviews with Jones.
Stone gets it too and he is not only a regular guest – appearing to talk up his various books about the crimes of the Bush and Clinton families – he hosted a rally alongside Jones at the Republican Party’s convention in Cleveland. That was wherethe “lock her up” chantsbegan.
Waiting for his turn to speak, we chat about the news thatthe FBI had reopened its investigationinto Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
This, he says, is a game changer.
“I always thought he could win. The mainstream media has gone out of their way twice that this race is over. It is not over ’til we say it’s over, not when they say it is over.”
This campaign, says Stone, is unlike any he has observed or fought in. In the past, going back to his time with Richard Nixon, Republicans fought Democrats. “This time it is insiders versus an outsider. Trump is essentially running against the two-party duopoly, he is running against the elite leadership of both the Republican and the Democratic parties that have run the country into the ditch.”
On stage Pastor Mark Burns, a Baptist televangelist who has proved to bea controversial figure throughout the Trump campaign, begins to fire up the crowd, howling and raging into a microphone that looks as though it might shatter under his assault.
“Megyn Kelly just got fired,” he howls, referring to the Fox News hostconsidered a traitor by Trump supporters. She has not.
“We Americans, we have had enough!,” he bellows, urging the crowd to chant “I am fed up!”.
When it’s Stone’s turn to talk, he reasonably laments being forced to follow Burns, and then launches into a spiel aboutthe Clinton Foundation’s failure in Haiti.
‘I always thought he could win’: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Photo: AP
After a few minutes in the northern autumn sunshine he peels off his suit jacket. A little later the tie comes off and the crowd applauds. Finally he slips off his braces, starts unbuttoning his shirt and they whoop and holler. Under his shirt he is wearing a T-shirt with Bill Clinton’s face on it in the colours of the famousObama HOPE posters by Shepard Fairey. Underneath Clinton’s face is the word RAPE.
The crowd is beside itself. Stone tells them they need to use guerilla tactics like this because the mainstream media suppresses news about the Clinton family’s crimes. It is perhaps a nice little earner too, because he tells everyone they can buy the shirts at InfoWars南京夜网.
Off stage, Stone dresses before he submits to photos with the fans.
Afterwards we wander a little way up the hill towards the Russell Building, home to offices of US senators, to talk more.
Asked if the Trump campaign has been guided by a strategy or a philosophy he says: “This is not my campaign or the campaign I would have run – I have been as supportive of the campaign as I can at all times and when I can’t … I prefer to keep my mouth shut.
“But any way you measure it Trump is on the cusp of winning this race, he is very definitely in the hunt and I think the late momentum is with him, so before we do a post-mortem on the campaign let’s see how it comes out.”
Asked if unforced errors frustrated him, Stone replied: “It’s his name, it’s largely his money, it’s his reputation, he is entitled to do it his way.”
Roger Stone walks off stage on the first day of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, where he coined the chant “lock her up!” when discussing Hillary Clinton. Photo: New York Times
Stone defends the more extreme comments of Alex Jones, who tells his listeners that the Clintons and Obama are – quite literally – working with the devil.
“I think [Jones] speaks to his constituency,” says Stone, just as in this campaign Clinton has addressed hers and Trump his, all without putting much effort into converting their opponents’ supporters. “Alex Jones is serving a purpose, he is rallying the base … as the lamestream media is losing its power.”
The problem faced by the Republican Party is thatTrump has brought extremists like Jones into the Republican fold.
“The Republican Party will not necessarily split. The hostile takeover of the party staged by Trump will continue to be a factor. The Trump people are not going to go away, and if we go back to beinga party of the country club, we will go back to losing.
“Trump has for example an appeal to white labour voters in western Pennsylvania that Mitt Romney or John McCain or even George Bush does not have, which is why Pennsylvania is in play today.” (In fact a current average of polls has Clinton leading there by 5.2 per cent.)
Asked if the Republican Party could somehow house political establishment figures like McCain and House Speaker Paul Ryan as well as this Trump “wing”, Stone said it depends on who wins. Every Republican president remakes the party in his own image, he says – and if Trump loses, the struggle goes on.
I put the phone on which I am recording our conversation away and ask him if he is enjoying the campaign.
“I’m selling a s—load of books,” says Stone.
He pauses and adds a final thought.
“You know what Gore Vidal once said? Never pass up an opportunity to have sex or appear on TV.”
He grins, looks down and thumbs his phone to life.
First appeared on The Age