Get Me Roger Stone review – grim if gripping profile of the man who made Trump

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Netflixs new documentary provides a thorough history of the sinister Forrest Gump of American politics, who has had a hand in everything from Watergate to the rise of the current president

Fortuitously timed doesnt begin to describe the release of this new Netflix documentary about Americas smear-campaigner-in-chief Roger Stone. It lands on the streaming platform at the end of a week in which the man who the lobbyist and consultant first introduced to politics, Donald Trump, fired the very person investigating him for collusion with Russia: FBI head James Comey. And the man who, its reported, encouraged Trump to sack Comey? One Roger Stone, who is himself being investigated over his own links with Russia.

Even if Stone wasnt sat at the centre of what is potentially the biggest political scandal in American history, he would still be deserving of a documentary profile. This, after all, is the man who journalist Jeffrey Toobin describes as the sinister Forrest Gump of American politics. Stone has had a perma-tanned hand in just about every nefarious deed carried out by the forces of the American conservative movement in the past half century, from Watergate right up to the election of perhaps the least qualified man in history to hold the office of US president. He also practically invented the modern political attack ad and engaged in the dirtiest of dirty tricks. Theres a reason Stone has the acquired the eye-opening nickname, Ratfucker.

Even more remarkable than that soubriquet is the fact that Stone has carried out this reign of terror not in the manner of a shadowy Koch-brothers-style figure, but as someone who gleefully courts press, positive or otherwise. A bodybuilding dandy (another excellent Toobin description) with a taste for loud suits and even louder media appearances not to mention a tattoo of Nixons disembodied head on the square of his back Stone is the sort of extrovert figure that documentarians pray to their altar of Errol Morris DVDs to one day get to make a film about.

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Stone and his notorious Richard Nixon tattoo. Photograph: Netflix

The danger then for directors Dylan Bank and Daniel DiMauro is that they treat Stone as a docu-curiosity rather than subjecting him, and the craven political culture he has brought about, to proper scrutiny. The engrossing Get Me Roger Stone avoids this pitfall, just about. Certainly there are plenty of scenes of Stone pontificating to camera and far too many shots of him shirtless but theres also a thorough history of Stones many misdeeds, from encouraging a riot at a polling station central to Al Gores chances of winning a recount vote in the contested 2000 election, to his lobbying group Black, Manafort and Stones representation of genocidal dictators across the globe. (Yes, the Manafort there is Paul Manafort, Trumps former campaign manager and another individual whose links with Russia are being thoroughly pored over at present.)

Providing context to this sea of misdemeanours is an impressive range of talking heads from across the political spectrum. One one side theres lifelong Stone sceptics like Toobin and investigative reporter Wayne Barrett, who did more than most to expose Stones wrongdoings and who passed away earlier this year. (Stone marked Barretts passing with a tweet urging him to rot in hell, proof if any were needed that he was that rare figure who truly got Stone worked up.) On the other, conservative commentators like Tucker Carlson, plus Stone acolytes like Manafort, and in a rather impressive get though perhaps not, given his addiction to self-publicity the current president of the United States.

Its fair to say that without Roger Stone, you dont get President Trump. Stone boarded the Trump train as early as the 1980s and encouraged the business mogul to run for political office several times before last years presidential bid. Its that campaign that makes up the final third of this documentary, providing an extended look at just how central Stone was to Trumps eventual success. Officially Stone left the campaign in 2015, after a falling-out with then-campaign manager Cory Lewandowski. In reality though, he remained a not-so silent partner all the way through to Trumps eventual victory, denouncing the Donalds opponents on live TV, spreading wild conspiracy theories about Hillary and Bill Clinton on Alex Joness grotesque Infowars network and generally making as much of a nuisance of himself as possible. It all culminates here in the grim spectacle of election night, and Trumps final triumph, toasted by Stone and Jones in the Infowars studio.

If there is a major shortcoming here its that the documentary fades to black right at the point of those celebrations. You suspect that Stones story doesnt end there, but instead with the full revelations about what he did and didnt know about the campaigns alleged involvement with the Russians. Sadly that aspect of Stones recent history goes largely unremarked upon. The only other problem with Get Me Roger Stone is the queasy realisation at the end of it that Stone himself would revel in the fact that so many people will be watching and seething silently at this documentary. Theres no such thing as bad publicity, after all.

Read more: www.theguardian.com

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