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Grifter, Meet Grifter


Rick Perlstein has an excellent piece that I explores something I only learned about relatively recently, Roger Stone’s work with Al Sharpton on the latter’s 2004 presidential campaign as a way to ratfuck Democrats.

Another figure who later came to prominence in American politics, however, was surely paying attention: Roger Stone. In 1972, he played a minor role as young ratfucker for the Nixon re-election campaign. In 2004, he brought out the old Nixon playbook again—financing, staffing, and orchestrating the presidential campaign of the Rev. Al Sharpton for the Democratic presidential nomination, as the late, legendary investigative journalist Wayne Barrett established beyond a shadow of a doubt that January in The Village Voice.

The association had first come to public attention two days earlier in The New York Times, where Stone and his associates had no trouble spinning it as a fun lark. He just liked the guy: “Frankly, there has not been a candidate with this much charisma since Ronald Reagan.”

Tucker Carlson, “the conservative co-host of CNN’s ‘Crossfire’ and another unlikely friend of Mr. Sharpton’s,” was quoted in support of the nothing-to-see-here line: The two just shared a “disdain for white liberals.” (The Times’ Michael Slackman then helpfully offered a quote from a Sharpton autobiography to support the point.)

A considerably more undisciplined Sharpton friend queered the sale a bit. “Donald Trump, who has worked with Mr. Stone over the past two decades,” and “recalled introducing the two men years ago,” commented upon Sharpton’s most effective line, that then-Democratic front-runner Howard Dean, as governor of Vermont, never had Blacks or Hispanics in his cabinet: “I saw Roger’s fingerprints all over that,” Trump said.

“I talk to him from time to time on his perspective,” Sharpton said of Stone, defending himself. “Does he have a role in this campaign? Do I consider him an adviser? No.” Reading the Times, you might think it all was perfectly innocent.

Two days later, Barrett cut through the bullshit. Stone had provided Sharpton his campaign manager—ironically detailing the fellow off another Stone-run campaign in Bermuda for a “white-led party seeking to unseat the island’s first black government.” This campaign manager worked for Sharpton for no pay or expense reimbursement. Stone associates also paid out hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to Sharpton’s organization the National Action Network; myriad Stone friends, relatives, and business partners made contributions to boost Sharpton over the threshold ($50,000 in amounts of no more than $250 in at least 20 states) for federal matching funds.

Every time I tell someone about this, even political junkies, they can’t quite believe it. But read the report; tell me it is not bulletproof. There are many, many more details. Barrett had nailed the Sharpton-Stone axis dead to rights—and Sharpton could no longer deny the association. He responded to Barrett’s inquiries as “phony liberal paternalism,” said he would “talk to anyone I want,” brought up Bill Clinton’s disgraced adviser Dick Morris from a previous decade, and proclaimed himself “sick of these racist double standards.” And even alleged that “if [Stone] did let me use his credit card to cover NAN expenses, fine.” To hear Sharpton tell it, Stone was just supporting NAN’s work against New York’s draconian Rockefeller drug laws.

Outside of Stone being one of the worst people ever puked up by America, it is also worth reminding ourselves that Al Sharpton is also a terrible person and his late life attempts at redemption and respectability should never let us forget just what an awful person he is.

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