Those still attempting to make sense of how the country has reached its current political impasse could hardly do better than viewing the new Netflix documentary,"Get Me Roger Stone."
Stone, whose career closely tracks the Republican Party's evolutionary descent from Nixon to Reagan to Trump (sad) appears first as a ideologically driven Young Republican partisan in the 1970's, then a fervent Reagan campaign staffer and later big-time Washington consultant/lobbyist in the 1980's and 1990's, and most recently as a key strategic adviser to Trump's campaign team. With a history of lobbying for a variety of unsavory foreign governments, his name has currently appeared in a number of recent investigative reports and articles delving into the relationship between close Trump associates and Russian operatives during the 2016 presidential campaign.
As his public profile has risen, so has his ego, which the documentary highlights in full graphic display-- to Stone's evident delight. Like Trump himself, one of Stone's acknowledged mentors in the darker arts of politics was the infamous Roy Cohn, Senator Joseph McCarthy's chief counsel and hatchet man during the Senator's anti-Communist crusade in the 1950's. It was, in fact, Cohn who introduced Stone to Trump in the early 1980's; and Stone, who later in the decade began urging Trump to consider running for President.
Central to Stone's 'brand' has been a mastery of the techniques of negative campaigning, including character assassination, dirty tricks, disinformation and behind-the-scenes manipulation of groups, individuals and causes. In interviews, he is openly and aggressively unapologetic about his commitment to winning at all cost, using any tools available. Unfortunately, his model seems to have been increasingly adopted by Republican leaders in Washington where policy and public interest concerns, along with any commitment to bipartisanship or shared governance have given way to the single-minded goal of defeating and demeaning the opposition. With no fixed ideology, available to the highest bidder, and certainly without shame, Stone is the perfect hired gun and exemplar of the new Trumpian world.
The documentary's chief impact, however, is its shocking revelation of just how far and how fast we have come from a world in which at least the ideals and standards of acceptable political and personal behavior in a democracy were promoted and proclaimed --if not always followed. What we are experiencing is not a new normal, but what can best be described as a 'new abnormal' in which 'alternative facts', denial of evidence, blatant lies, deliberate distortions and a generous admixture of the politics of fear have effectively undermined a sense of shared reality and trust in national institutions.
In their effort to win at all cost, freely employing the politics of personal destruction while demeaning the very instruments of democracy, Trump, Stone and their enablers have brought the nation to its current debased level of national division and crisis. Joe McCarthy and his amanuensis, Roy Cohn, have very nearly triumphed. While perhaps not explaining fully the shape of the elephant in the room, "Get Me Roger Stone" is a timely examination of a significant portion the beast.