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"I revel in your hatred," declares Roger Stone in a new Netflix documentary about his dark arts of political coaching. "Because if I wasn't effective, you wouldn't hate me."
It's an appropriate mantra for the strategist who painted the controversial modern political landscape — pioneering the political action committees (PACs) that flood campaigns with outside money, the lobbying firms that that sell access to the highest bidder, the negative advertising — and then helped package and sell a candidate who ran as the antidote to all those things.
Stone — a longtime Republican known most recently as a close, early and then-departed adviser of President Donald Trump — is the subject of a documentary that premiered at the TriBeCa Film Festival on Sunday night and will be online on May 12.
"Roger's got a really rough reputation. You talk about dirty trickster and other things, and I've known him for a long time — he's actually a good guy, a quality guy," Trump says in a undated interview for the documentary, called "Get Me Roger Stone."
Directed by Dylan Bank, Daniel DiMauro and Morgan Pehme, the film mixes recent interviews with Trump, Stone, journalists and conservative commentators, along with televised clips of decades of politicians he influenced.
Stone's stories, retold by the strategist in a pinstripe suit in the back of a town car or over a martini with olives, paint a picture of a gifted political guru who saw little point in taking the high road: During a mock election at his school, a young Stone told his fellow students that Vice President Richard Nixon supported extending school to Saturday, helping Sen. John F. Kennedy win the mock election by a landslide.
"It was then I learned the value of disinformation," said Stone, who went on to work in the Nixon White House and famously has a tattoo of the president across his back, before coyly declaring: "Of course, I've never used it since."
Through Stone's stories — from being brought in front the Watergate grand jury ("I thought it was pretty cool") to first identifying the so-called party-line crossover voter, a Reagan Democrat, in the 1980 election to starting a lobbying firm known as the Torturer's Lobbyist for its infamous client list full of international warlords — a portrait of a political aide appears. His finale, the film posits, is Trump, a man whose political ambitions he fostered, whose public persona he helped craft as a consultant and whose campaign he played a role in launching.
"When Roger wants something, he pursues it with vigor," Trump says in the documentary.
Despite Stone's brief official role in the Trump campaign, his approach to politics and governing as shown in "Get Me Roger Stone" is not hard to see.
Everything — from the way he spits out the word "losers" to the media strategy he celebrates ("the only thing I can think of that's worse than being talked about is not being talked about") to the cheerful way he derides the documentary crew he lets follow him around as "liberal filmmakers who can't be trusted" — seems somewhat reminiscent to the president himself.
Premiering just days before Trump's 100th day in office, it's a unique window into the president and the adviser who helped shape him into a politician.