Roger Stone is an American political consultant and strategist whose work spans back to the Nixon administration. In 2017, Netflix published the documentary “Get Me Roger Stone,” which earned him the reputation of a “dirty trickster”.
Harvard Political Review: What are your thoughts on the current administration?
Roger Stone: I have come to this conclusion that we are witnessing a slow-motion coup by the deep state, the very people that opposed the presidential election. They have used illegal and unconstitutional leaks to destabilize his presidency. The generals have pretty much taken control of the White House and are seeking to isolate the president and limit his access to information. I am surprised how much he does not know. Unfortunately, he seemed, in his efforts to unite the country, to have hurt a lot of people who are not anti-interventionist and who do not share his views on trade or immigration. I think in many ways, he is getting undermined.
HPR: You mention Conscience of a Conservative [by Barry Goldwater] as a book that motivated you to enter politics.
RS: That was the seminal event that made me decide to enter politics. My next-door neighbor was a very active Republican Club woman. She gave me a copy of that paperback book and I was transfixed.
HPR: There is a new version of that book by Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. Have those values changed, and have you abided by those values?
RS: I actually turned back to them. I started out as a more conventional conservative. Over time I, certainly during the time I worked for Nixon, embraced a more moderate, pragmatic brand of conservatism. But then again post-Romney, I returned to my libertarian roots. I want government out of the boardroom and out of the bedroom. I want a government that is inexpensive, that believes in the concept of peace through strength as opposed to the concept of going around the world looking for trouble and foreign wars when our national interest is just not there. I would say that my views have evolved.
HPR: You also mentioned that politics is kind of like acting, acting for ugly people. Are there differences between politics and theatrics?
RS: Politics is show business for ugly people. They are both about being interesting. Whether you’re an actor or you’re a politician, you have to capture the imagination and the audience. It is either people buying tickets to see you or [voting for you]. The only thing worse in politics than being wrong is being boring. And Donald Trump is never boring.
HPR: What is power to you?
RS: Power is the ability to bring change and do good things. To have power, one must have a constituency, a coalition. First, one has to be able to keep the constituency intact, not have it fissure over less important issues. Then, you have to be able to mobilize it. For example, I think it would be an egregious mistake for the President to abandon this commitment on states’ rights to legalize marijuana and to give in to Jeff Sessions and General Kelly who want to essentially reignite the war on drugs. The war on drugs was proven to be an expensive, racist and ignominious failure. It has not worked. The idea that we would return to those policies is inconsistent with what he said during the campaign and it would cause a fissure in the more libertarian elements of his constituency.
HPR: One of Trump’s promises was to “drain the swamp”. He’s put a lot of Goldman [Sachs] people in the administration. What do you think of that?
RS: This may prove to be a fatal mistake, in all honesty. I don’t know why he would hire anyone that worked for George W. Bush: some of the people in the State department and some in the cabinet. Some of the people whom he has hired, while they have fine credentials on paper, I wonder if he really understands their pedigree. You have to construct a government that has like-minded people who support your agenda and this is, I think, the greatest danger he faces. If he can become isolated from the neocons and the internationalists around him, they are going to continue the policies we have had for the last 30 years which are essentially endless war, without our national interests being clear, erosion of our civil liberties, massive debt, a broken immigration system, and trade agreement that are sucking jobs out of America. That is the legacy of the Bush and Clinton administrations and there are people who have clearly voted to go in a different direction.
HRP: On the subject of legacy, what are you hoping for yours to be?
RS: I would like people to say I made a difference with true political action and radical change.
Image Credit: Stone Cold Truth/Leland Freeman/BraveNewBooks
This interview has been edited and condensed.