Mover, Shaker, And Cranky Caller?
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Roger Stone has been accused of some nasty and colorful acts of political skulduggery during his 36-year career as a GOP operative, and to most of those accusations he will happily plead guilty as charged. But the latest, and perhaps nastiest, allegation is one that he flat-out denies.
No, he insists, that is not his voice on an answering-machine message left a few weeks ago for Bernard Spitzer, the 83-year-old father of the Democratic governor of New York. Nope, that is not Stone denouncing the governor as a "phony" and a "psycho" and using an earthy adjective that can't be printed in this newspaper. And seriously, that is not Stone predicting that unless the elder Spitzer cooperates in a possible investigation into campaign loans he made to his son in 1994, "you will be arrested and brought to Albany."
Nuh-uh. Even if private investigators say the call came from Stone's home phone number.
"What would it achieve, a phone call like that?" asks Stone, speaking from Venice Beach, Calif., where he is vacationing this week with his wife. "What would be my motive? Would I make a call like that from my own, unblocked home phone? Of course not. It doesn't make any sense."
No, it does not. And yet the recording, which could be heard on the Web sites of several New York newspapers earlier this week, sure sounds like Roger Stone. It's not just the tone and timbre -- a carefully enunciated, low-boil style of speaking. It's the text. For decades, Stone has been the GOP's dapper pugilist, strutting from campaign to campaign, from one lobbying gig to another, eager to pound an opponent by whatever means allowed by the law.
Everything about the man, right down to his hand-sewn double-breasted suits, bespeaks a figure from another age -- an age that is both more civilized and less civilized, one with refinements but without so many damn rules. He started as a 19-year-old, the youngest of Nixon's "dirty tricksters," and over the years he's worked, in one capacity or another, for Ronald Reagan, Jack Kemp, then-New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, among other politicians, and a whole lot of access-seeking corporations.
In June, Stone was hired to help the state Senate Republican Campaign Committee land some haymakers on Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who has been bruising the GOP ever since he took office in January. As part of that effort, Stone has been trying, without much success, to draw media attention to a father-to-son loan of $4.3 million, made during Spitzer the Younger's first and unsuccessful run for attorney general -- a loan that Stone has told anyone who will listen has never been properly accounted for.
Needless to say, the legality of that loan wasn't much debated this week. Nor did you hear much in recent days about a Spitzer-tainting scandal, known as Choppergate, which broke a few weeks ago and which involves two aides to the governor who improperly used the police in an attempt to discredit GOP Senate leader and Spitzer arch-rival Joseph Bruno. Until Tuesday, Bruno had been playing offense for the first time since Spitzer came to town, but by Wednesday he was busy forcing Stone to resign.
This left Stone, 55, with plenty of time to come up with alibis. Which do not lack flair. Or variety. Or adamancy.
"I am talking to a voice-recognition expert in Washington, and I will take a polygraph to prove that is not my voice," Stone said, between puffs of a cigar on Thursday afternoon. "I am going to demonstrate that that is not me."