Roger Stone is a longtime political operative who has worked for every Republican president since Richard Nixon, and numerous presidential and other candidates as well.  Stone retains great admiration for Ronald Reagan, but now has only disdain for the Bush family.  The Making of the President 2016 recounts what he saw during the Trump campaign, from beginning to end.  The title recalls Theodore White’s books on past campaigns, beginning with The Making of the President 1960 (published in 1961) and continuing on with similar volumes through 1972.  White was a typical liberal journalist, biased in favor of Democrats and against Republicans, but with an eye for telling detail.  People wishing to revisit those campaigns often start with White’s books.

Similarly, Stone reports immediately after a campaign, but his view is the ultimate insider’s.  During Trump’s run for the presidency, I watched YouTube videos of Stone’s frequent appearances on Alex Jones’s Infowars to learn what really was going on with the campaign.  Stone had the scoop not just on Trump, a close friend of his since the 1970’s, but also on what Hillary and the Main Sleaze Media were doing.

One of this book’s strengths is its accounting of the strategic media shift Trump made, which was one of the keys to his victory: Instead of focusing on making appearances on mainstream outlets, Trump courted and emphasized the emerging new media, where he could more effectively promote key campaign themes: controlling our borders; ending NAFTA, the TPP and other bad trade deals; and working for the American people to effect real change.  Thus, Trump gave Jones an interview, allied with and its executive chair, Steve Bannon, now Trump’s chief strategist, and became the “Hemingway of Twitter,” as Trump himself boasted.  All this pushed him above and beyond the distortions of the MSM.  And boy was it necessary.  Although media bias has always been a complaint of conservatives, in five decades I’ve never seen anything like the media’s mendacity during this election.  Some days during the campaign, I counted 14 articles criticizing or condemning Trump on the New York Times website’s front page, and no negative pieces on Hillary.

“Trump’s message, each time I appeared on Alex Jones, reached more people than it ever did on Fox prime time, because Jones’ online army turns in a monstrous following,” Stone writes.  Although he was Trump’s first campaign manager, Stone left in the early stages to concentrate on getting out the Trump message.  That included publishing two books aimed at Trump’s top potential opponents.  The Bush Crime Family: The Inside Story of an American Dynasty proved unnecessary, as Jeb! (as he styled himself in ads) was rejected by primary voters who didn’t want to have anything more to do with the Bushes and their globalism, open borders, endless foreign wars, and economic recessions.

More crucial was The Clintons’ War on Women, which reminded everyone of ex-President Clinton’s many assaults on women while providing details of how his wife acted as consigliere, intimidating the victims into silence.  In his Making of the President, Stone indicates that the Clinton book “was designed to be the definitive oppo-dump on Bill and Hillary’s crimes and hypocrisy.  Readers were outraged about these revelations, which were suppressed by the media.”

This tactic helped push aside most of the problems Trump had concerning women, while the broader strategy continued throughout the campaign.  As Stone recalls, on October 9, 2016, “Juanita Broaddrick, Paula Jones, Kathleen Willey, and Kathy Shelton held a press conference with Donald Trump before Trump’s second debate with Hillary Clinton at Washington University.  The women sat in the audience at the debate.”  The look on Bill Clinton’s face as he sat in the audience and had to face those who accused him of abuse was unforgettable—a rictus of suppressed rage plotting revenge after Hillary’s anticipated victory.

Can one imagine Jeb!, John Kasich, John McCain, Mitt Romney, or one of the other “Me-too Republicans” going for the jugular—and the victory?  Finally, The GOP had a candidate who wanted to win.

As campaign manager, Stone was succeeded by Cory Lewandowski, whom he brands as “feckless” and who “was eventually canned after his self-aggrandizing ‘sourced’ reports to journalists—all designed to pat himself on the back—finally reached an intolerable high.  Lewandowski simply had no shame.”  Yet Lewandowski’s feisty, guerrilla-campaign style in the early debates and primaries pushed Trump to the front of the Republican pack.

Trump’s third campaign manager was the veteran operative Paul Manafort, a Stone associate and an expert on political conventions who made certain the Establishment didn’t steal the nomination at the last minute.  “His expertise is ‘hard count’ [of convention delegates] and surprise tactics,” writes Stone.  “Manafort transformed the billionaire’s unruly and weak primary campaign into a team that could beat the Clinton juggernaut.”

And after him came Kellyanne Conway, who kept

Trump’s temperament level through the long airplane rides and nights away from home required for the 4-hour-per-night-sleep (or less) required to pack four or five rallies in different cities and different states into a single day.

All this seems to show Trump’s entrepreneurial grounding, best known through his line as host of The Apprentice: “You’re fired!”  An entrepreneur is not a corporate chairman running a large bureaucracy, such as GM or GE, but someone who has to act quickly in response to events, hiring and firing subordinates as necessary.  Nothing personal.  Come in.  Do your job.  Move on, maybe to something better.

Trump demonstrated this attitude early on in his presidency by quickly ridding himself of Michael Flynn, his national security advisor, and Andrew Puzder, his nominee for secretary of labor.  President Obama, by contrast, kept the dreadful Eric Holder as attorney general for more than six years, despite the scandal concerning gun-running (known as Fast and Furious) that earned him a citation for contempt of Congress.

Stone recounts some the spoofs related to the campaign:

[T]he Bill Clinton “RAPE” t-shirt was born from my fertile mind.  Modeled after the “HOPE” posters from Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, the Clinton “RAPE” shirt became reality when I baited the press in Cleveland.  It was an immediate hit.


Soon after it was printed, the shirt started showing up at Clinton rallies.  This wasn’t an accident.

Alex Jones offered $1,000 to anyone who could get on TV wearing the shirt and $5,000 to anyone who wore the shirt to a Clinton rally and could be heard shouting “Bill Clinton is a rapist!”  Jones paid out more than $125,000!

Stone shows the flimsiness of claims made by Mrs. Clinton and her staff that Russia rigged the election, including the charge that the Kremlin spent one billion dollars sabotaging her campaign “to undermine our democracy.”  Stone retorts that Clinton did not offer any proof that Julian Assange and WikiLeaks had obtained the hacked emails from Russia.  In fact, so lax was security in the Clinton campaign that conceivably anyone could have hacked its computers.  And it was the content of the hacked emails, showing how the supposedly neutral Democratic National Committee rigged the primaries against Sen. Bernie Sanders, that proved to be the real scandal.

Early on, I predicted Trump would win the whole bacon cheeseburger, owing to the strong support he was getting from my working-class relatives and friends back in Michigan, most of whom had voted Democratic in presidential elections for decades.  But I wondered what Stone’s view was on how Trump, who grew up in a wealthy household, became the champion of middle- and working-class Americans.  How did it come to pass that Trump not only identified but loudly (and often amusingly) championed the major issues—uncontrolled borders, disastrous foreign interventions, damaging trade agreements, a stagnating economy and moral rot from abortion and other social disasters—facing Americans today, issues that have been addressed repeatedly in Chronicles for decades?


“I’ve traveled the country talking about change for America,” Trump said following the release of his lascivious comments (which I won’t repeat) recorded in 2005 on the Access Hollywood bus.  “I’ve spent time with grieving mothers, who have lost their children [to immigrant criminals], laid-off workers whose jobs have gone to other countries, people from all walks of life who just want a better future.”  He then turned to the themes of his campaign: “We are losing our jobs, we are less safe than we were eight years ago, and Washington is totally broken.  Hillary Clinton and her kind have run our country into the ground.”

There’s a saying in politics: It’s better to be lucky than good.  Indeed,

Emails released by WikiLeaks show Hillary Clinton’s campaign strategists had decided to “elevate Donald Trump” during the Republican primaries because key players . . . agreed with top officials at the Democratic National Committee that Trump would be the easiest GOP candidate for Hillary to beat.

Trump was good.  But he also was exceedingly lucky in drawing an arrogant, tone-deaf, clueless, robotic ideologue for his opponent.



[The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution, by Roger Stone (New York: Skyhorse Publishing) 408 pp., $29.99]