The longtime adviser to Donald Trump narrates his own story for Netflix.
They say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist. In the case of Roger Stone, the infamous political consultant who also goes by the nicknames “Prince of Darkness” and “dirty trickster,” the devil has been out in the open for decades. It’s a comparison Stone welcomes, and he’s been able to use this reputation to forge a long and prosperous career in the public eye.
In Get Me Roger Stone, we get a closer look at the evil genius behind every notable conservative movement from Watergate to the current Russia scandal. He’s arguably the foremost mastermind behind every Republican president from Nixon to Trump, and his participation in several significant moments of American political history are so well-documented that journalist Jeffrey Toobin describes him as “a sinister Forrest Gump.”
Narrated by Stone himself, the documentary traces his journey from young Republican activist in the 1970s to the despised Machiavellian figurehead at the forefront of the current alt-right movement. Stone doesn’t hold back either, which makes for an honest portrait of a man who’s unabashedly corrupt, but refreshingly open about it.
Stone’s cut-throat methods of political maneuvering are so effective that some pundits have hailed them as a twisted art form. His sabotage of Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaign in 2000, as vindictive as it was, was meticulously calculated and effectively destroyed any threat the Reform Party posed at the time. He also played a part in the Brooks Brothers riots many believe were instrumental in George W. Bush’s election. And he was the architect of the prostitution scandal which lead to his Governor Eliot Spitzer’s well-publicized resignation in 2008.
Meanwhile, his pedelling of conspiracy theories, like the Obama birth certificate accusations, influenced much of Trump’s rhetoric during his presidential campaign. Not only does the documentary touch on Stone’s nefarious deeds, but the subject even reveals how he put some into practice.
As you’d expect from someone in his line of work, however, Stone has encountered his fair share of personal scandals as well. But he’s been able to use his bad press to propel the sleazebag image he embellishes, claiming that “it’s better to be infamous than never famous at all.” While his peers cowered in shame amid Watergate, Stone shamelessly exploited his newfound notoriety to enforce his “dirty trickster” reputation.
At the time of this writing, he’s caught in the middle of the Trump-Russia situation, and if his statements regarding it are to be believed, he’s eager for his day in court. Earlier this year, he even told Bill Maher he was already thinking about what to wear when that day comes.
“I’ve stayed away from Roger personally because he’s so charming and you can see the way he distorts the reporters who are around that charm,” says Daily Beast editor Harry Siegel. There are moments in the documentary where Stone counteracts his loathsome traits with quick wit and insight into his family life, where he appears to be a good husband, father, and grandfather.
Stone is also pro-choice and a long-term advocate of LGBTQ rights and the legalization of marijuana, but his seemingly progressive views are undone with far-right ideologies and racist social media outbursts. For his few good qualities, there are even more to remind us to suggest he’s immoral.
Part of Stone’s appeal lies in his ability to entertain and manipulate the media, where he’s been a consistent presence his entire career. In one scene, he claims that “Politics is show business for ugly people,” and he certainly is a showman. With his flamboyant dress style, Nixon back tattoo, bodybuilder physique, and fondness for martinis, he’s built a facade and played it to perfection.
The writer/director trio of Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro, and Morgan Pehme aren’t interested in pursuing their own political agenda. Some might interpret this as them giving Stone an easy ride, free of any challenging scrutiny. Their approach is curious and objective, but Stone is more than happy to justify his actions and corrupt principles (which he refers to as “Stone’s Rules”).
There are insights from a host of commentators from across the political spectrum, but they don’t provide much in the way of differential opinion. In fact, they all agree that Stone is a modern day Machiavelli willing to do whatever it takes to achieve his goals. Some admire him for it (Tucker Carlson, Paul Manafort, Donald Trump), while others deem him soulless (Wayne Barrett).
The documentary also succeeds in chronicling the transformation of American conservatism throughout the years since the arrival of Stone’s generation. While Stone has never run for office himself, he came about in an era that marked the Republican’s shift from earnest and traditional values towards a take-no-prisoners, win-at-all-costs agenda. And he’s been a key factor in every iteration since, all through the New Right to the alt-right.
The film closes with Stone, in the back seat of a town car, addressing his critics: “I revel in your hatred, because if I weren’t effective, you wouldn’t hate me.” He’s right. His strategizing will go down in history. Even if it isn’t for positive reasons.