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The Steal That Didn’t Get Stopped

There’s papers here. There’s papers there.

Could be a desk underneath somewhere. 

Entropy got a hold of me inexorably.

I keep a stack of items that seem worth quoting if and when a hook presents itself. I was saving this one until Roger Stone next made the news, but Jeffrey Toobin will suffice. Marilyn Davin’s lovely piece “Eros Unbound” (AVA June 8) described him thus:

“One of my fave legal journalists, Jeffrey Toobin, who was fired from The New Yorker for the spectacularly ill-conceived offense of masturbating (below camera level) on a Zoom conference with his co-workers. (He said he thought the camera was turned off.) Icky and tasteless, sure, to say nothing of just plain bad manners and poor taste, but hardly worthy of all that salacious news coverage and his job loss when considered against the backdrop of our violent, rapidly devolving society.”

Toobin wrote a very good book about the 2000 presidential election, a steal that did not get stopped (“Too Close to Call,” Random House, 2001). In recounting the role of Roger Stone, Toobin provided some salacious news coverage of his own.

Stone’s role in fending off a recount challenge to New Jersey Governor Tom Kean in 1981 had brought him to the attention of James Baker, the White House chief of staff under Ronald Reagan and later George H.W. Bush. In the years that followed, Toobin wrote, “Stone specialized in the quixotic, short-lived presidential campaigns of people such as Senator Arlen Specter and developer Donald Trump, but also played a prominent role in Senator Bob Dole’s race in 1996. However, that post came to an end when the National Enquirer found a personal ad in a magazine called Swing Fever that included a photograph of Stone and his wife Nydia. The advertisement said the well muscled-pair wanted to find couples or single men to join them for a group sex. ‘Prefer military, bodybuilders, jocks. No smokers or fat please.’“

After resigning from Dole’s campaign, “Stone led the fight to defeat a statewide referendum in Florida in 1966 that would have levied a two-cents-per pound tax on sugar and used the proceeds to help clean up the Everglades. Stone brought the vote-no forces from well behind in the polls to victory in November. In that race he learned some important lessons about the Cuban vote in Miami. Four years later he would put that information to work for George W. Bush.” 

It was James Baker, still working for Poppy Bush, who dispatched Stone to Miami in November 2000 to “repeat his recount heroics on a larger stage.” Both parties dispatched lawyers to monitor and try to influence the process. Among the ambitious young Republicans who descended on the Sunshine State on behalf of Bush and Dick Cheney were three who today sit on the US Supreme Court – Chief Justice John Roberts, Brett Kavanagh, and Amy Comey Barrett – and one US Senator, Ted Cruz. 

“Stone left the legal niceties to the attorneys and the grand strategy to Baker,” Toobin wrote. His role was “to control the streets.” His plan was to have large, angry mobs howling outside the offices where ballots were being reviewed. To this end Stone and his wife Nydia (who was from a Cuban-exile family and spoke fluent Spanish) enlisted Armando Perez-Roura, the owner of Radio Mambi, “a 50,000 watt behemoth that pulsates with anti-Castro invective 24 hours a day.” Luckily for Stone, the outrage of many Cuban expats was at fever pitch because the Clinton-Gore Administration had permitted the return of six-year-old Elian Gonzales to his father in Cuba. 

Crucial background: Elian’s mother had fled Cuba with him and her boyfriend in a boat that went down off the coast of Florida in November ‘99. All but two of the 14 grown-ups drowned and Elian was found floating in an inner tube. After the Immigration and Naturalization Service sent Elian to live with a great-uncle in Miami, Fidel Castro, on behalf of Elian’s father, requested the kid’s repatriation to Cuba. Elian’s relatives in Miami went to court to keep him in the US. An international custody dispute ensued. Attorney General Janet Reno determined that Elian’s father was entitled to custody, and in April 2000, armed federal agents removed the kid from a relative’s house in Little Havana while 100 Cuban expats protested outside. Their resentment towards the Clinton Administration would be manifest in November. Bill Clinton had won Miami-Dade County by 107,000 votes in ‘96. Gore won it by only 39,000.

But that would not have been enough to cost Gore Florida’s 25 electoral votes if a fair and thorough recount had been conducted. On November 21 the Florida Supreme Court ordered the recount-by-hand to proceed at Miami’s Clark Center. “The Bush legal team held an outraged vigil deep into the night,” Toobin wrote. “For the first time since Election Day it now looked as if Gore might win the presidency. This news changed the political and emotional climate all over the state, but especially in Miami...” Radio Mambi urged listeners to protest the recount in person. On Nov. 22 they flooded the street outside the building where some civic-minded citizens were trying to do their duty. They chanted “Remember Elian!” A local Rush Limbaugh with a megaphone whipped up their fervor. “Roger Stone communicated with his people on the ground by walkie-talkie,” according to Toobin.

Upstairs the ballot counting was being overseen by David Leahy, the Miami-Dade supervisor of elections, described by Toobin as “an owlish 54-year old veteran bureaucrat” who had “the cautious instincts of a survivor.” Pushing to observe the process were more than 50 Republican activists, many of them “young and determined congressional aides... who were shouting in the hallway ‘They’re stealing the election!’ ‘Let us in!’ ‘We want to see the votes!’  Several started banging on the door. Leahy said, ‘Hopefully, the mood out front will settle down.’“  It didn’t, and after four hours he suspended the counting by hand.  

Toobin: “Subsequent events demonstrated the the board could easily have hand-counted 10,7540 ballots in five days. The only reasonable conclusion appears to be that the board members stopped counting out of fear — for their personal safety and their political future.”

Today Liz Cheney and a few other Congresspersons pretend that they’re the real, true Republicans and that the Grand Old Party has somehow been usurped by Donald Trump. But Toobin’s account of the Bush-Cheney triumph in 2000 reminds us that Roger Stone – and John Roberts, Brett Kavanagh, and Amy Comey Barrett – are the real, true Republicans.

* * *

Colbert Report (2017)

What a shame about Stephen Colbert

Once so hip and now so square

Then, a brilliant comic actor

Vamping on O’Reilly’s Factor

Catch him now, I can’t help praying

It’s just another role he’s playing

A Clinton fan obsessed with Trump

Helping Hill get o’er the hump


To soothe her psyche in Katonah

He mocks the Donald’s smallest boner

And nightly aims his mighty cannon

At Vladimir Putin and Steve Bannon

But never at Anthony Wiener or Huma

Who’s he playing? Amy Schumer?

Stephen Colbert. The selfsame dude—

One Comment

  1. Eric Sunswheat June 26, 2022

    June 18, 2002
    Sexually transmitted infections aren’t some special class of hell-viruses, contends Rachel Feltman, the executive editor of Popular Science, and the author of Been There, Done That: A Rousing History of Sex.

    Her book covers everything from why bats have oral sex to Cleopatra’s (rumored!) masturbation habits.

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