Political News

What Roger Stone doesn't get

Posted February 21, 2019 7:31 p.m. EST

— Roger Stone's hero is Richard Nixon. He has a shrine of Nixon memorabilia in his house. He's fond of flashing Nixon's victory sign -- at the most inappropriate moments.

Nixon viewed everything -- EVERYTHING -- as a political campaign to either win or lose. With the entire world divided between his opponents and his allies. And because of that worldview, Nixon believed anything was justifiable under the banner of winning. The ends always justified the means.

Which brings me to Stone's Instagram post earlier this week, in which he put what looked like a gun's crosshairs next to a photo of Amy Berman Jackson, the federal judge overseeing his charges of lying to Justice Department investigators about contacts with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign. That same post accused special counsel Robert Mueller of being a "Deep State hitman" and suggested that the proceeding was a "show trial" because Jackson was appointed by then-President Barack Obama, a Democrat.

That's right out of the Dirty Politics 101 handbook. Savage your opponents. Raise questions about their motives. Attack, attack, attack.

What Stone doesn't get -- and what Nixon never got either -- is that he isn't running a political campaign anymore. He's in the legal fight of his life. And the rules of the law are a lot different than the rules of politics. (The rules of politics are, generally speaking, that there are no rules.)

Stone has survived -- and at times prospered -- by his willingness to go lower than any one else in the political world. To pull tricks, or try to pull tricks, that other people would dismiss as too sleazy or too dangerous.

Stunts like, say, posting an image of someone with crosshairs next to it, then removing the image, then apologizing for posting it -- all the while knowing that you got the image out there into the public consciousness, so mission accomplished.

Jackson nodded to Stone's dirty trickster reputation in court on Thursday. "Roger Stone fully understands the power of words and the power of symbols," she said. "There's nothing ambiguous about crosshairs."

Then she placed a full gag order on Stone -- meaning he cannot speak publicly about the case at all. Because in the legal world, actions have consequences.

The Point: Stone, like many of the Trump-adjacent figures who have been caught up in the Russia investigation, seems to be treating this all as just one big public relations campaign that he needs to win. Thursday's ruling throws a bunch of cold water right in his face on that line of thinking.