Good day Austin:
Congratulations to James Dickey, who was elected Republican State Party chairman Saturday by a one-vote margin.
Dickey replaces Tom Mechler, who resigned two weeks earlier, precipitating the vote by the State Republican Executive Committee. Mechler evidently thought the short notice would give the edge to Rick Figueroa, his chosen successor. But Dickey got in quickly and ran a lightning campaign that took advantage of the fact that the SREC was split down the middle about Mechler and that there is an institutional aversion in the SREC to being told what to do.
With his victory, and his ascension to state party chair, Dickey can put behind him the ignominy of his defeat last year at the hands of Robert Morrow for the Travis County GOP chairmanship in the March 1, 2016 primary that made Morrow the perverse toast of Rachel Maddow as a mockery of the Texas Republican Party.
RACHEL MADDOW (HOST): Austin is a great place, it is a liberal place. Keep Austin weird, right? And that’s part of why I think it was a shock today in Austin, and maybe even in the rest of Travis County, Texas, when they woke up this morning and realized who Travis County Republicans had just elected as their new party chair.
That’s the new head of the Republican Party in Travis County, Texas, who was just elected last night. And he spent his election night promoting his book, with a series of tweets that are not necessarily showable on basic cable. I’m going to try. You may want to hide the children and also forgive me. This one started with the bush family deserving prison and ended, “Rick Perry is, was, a rampaging bisexual adulterer.” This one, I’m still trying to decide whether I can read this one about Hillary Clinton. Yeah. I can’t read that. Okay. This next one, this one’s about presidential timber, by which I do not mean lumber. This is a guy who will now be in charge of the Republican Party in the part of Texas where the governor lives, in the state capital. And local Republicans are not just seeing this as, you know, doing their part to keep Austin weird. Local Republicans are sort of losing their minds over what has just happened. Quote, “We have someone who ran here, who absolutely has no intention of serving the Republican Party with leadership and faithfulness. He is a total disaster.” “I will not rest until we remove him as chairman. He’s going to be an absolute embarrassment to the party.” Sometimes that happens in politics, right? And yeah, so sometimes that happens in politics, right? The establishment of a particular party wants a particular person and instead you get some fringe guy selling his conspiracy theories book and tweeting about presidential timber. Right. It happens. Sometimes. Sometimes an unexpected political rise comes with a bunch of other stuff the party would prefer not to have tagging along.
Well, these things happen.
The working theory of how Morrow beat Dickey is that most people don’t know for whom they are voting when it gets way down the ballot to chairman of the county party, and that this was especially true in 2016 because of droves of new voters drawn to the polls because of Donald Trump. In that context, it was thought, it proved decisive that Morrow’s name was listed first, and, that for smirk-worthy reasons, given the choice, people will choose a Morrow over a Dickey.
Something similar happened in the 2014 Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate, in which Kesha Rogers, a follower of Lyndon LaRouche, the grandaddy of weird American conspiracy politics – kind of Alex Jones without the gravel in the throat and the glint in his eyes – managed to finish second and force a runoff against David Alameel, a well-heeled dentist.
As I wrote at the time:.
In a five-person field in the March 4 primary, Dr. David Alameel of Dallas won 240,000 votes, or 47 percent of all votes cast, to 110,000, or 22 percent for Rogers. Alameel, who made a fortune selling a chain of dental clinics he had built, spent $4.6 million, almost entirely his own money. Rogers spent $55,000.
It was a surprisingly strong performance considering Rogers’ top priority is impeaching President Barack Obama and her most attention-getting prop is her poster of Obama with a Hitler mustache. LaRouche considers Obama responsible for the “degeneration of the national mind” and called him “criminal trash” in a webcast this week.
One theory is that Rogers did well because she had the most familiar last name in a field of unknowns named Alameel, Fjetland, Kim and Scherr. Also, her first name — short for Lakesha — correctly identified her as both a woman and an African-American, important Democratic constituencies.
Anyway, Morrow’s election seemed an occasionally inevitable outcome of people casting votes in elections in which they really have no idea who is who, or what they stand for.
Nothing more. Nothing less.
But then, I was watching a live stream of a Friday evening forum in which Dickey and Figueroa answered questions from the SREC, and I was surprised by one of Dickey’s answers.
It’s here just past the 20-minute mark.
Q: Tell us of one of you greatest failures and how you overcame it.
So you may have hard heard that I lost an election once.
What you may not have heard is Robert Morrow, the guy to whom I lost the election, who is a very colorful figure, he also co-wrote a book with Roger Stone.
You may remember Roger Stone. He was fired middle of last year by President Trump after having consulted a while for the campaign. Roger Moore, er, Roger Stone, did 20,000 robocalls to turn out Trump voters and ask them to vote for Trump and Morrow in the primary.
But that’s not really the important thing. The important thing is not, have you ever had something go bad. The important thing is how do you respond and what do you do. I could have slunk away, embarrassed, frustrated, annoyed
No, we changed things in the Travis County Republican Party and since then we have had the highest level of fundraising, half are new donors, increases in precinct chairs, three people wanting to set up to be chair.
We took that lemon and made some serious lemonade.
But wait. I had never heard Dickey offer that explanation for why he lost to Morrow before. That seemed odd, because, if it were true, it was a lot better explanation for losing than simply that he was caught napping and lost to an eminently odd man with a superior ballot position and more pleasing surname.
I tweeted what he had said Saturday morning, and texted Roger Stone about it.
Stone responded with a tweet, seemingly denying responsibility.
But I recalled that Stone had sent a gloating tweet just after Morrow’s election, in which he took credit for Morrow’s victory with a reference to Caligula, who, were the prime space on Stone’s back not already occupied by Richard Nixon, might have merited consideration.
When I arrived at the Wyndham Garden Hotel about an hour later for the SREC meeting I asked Dickey about the Stone robocall claim. He said it was the first time he had raised it and that was because another Stone tweet from right after the 2016 primary election had just been brought to his attention.
It turned out his source for the claim that Roger Stone had arranged for 20,000 Trump-Morrow robocalls was none other than Roger Stone.
In other words, the source for the assertion that Roger Stone was denying was Roger Stone.
The question is which Roger Stone to believe.
Quite conveniently, Robert Morrow – who had also announced for state party chair but didn’t have a member of the SREC to place his name in nomination – was only a few feet away in the Wyndham lobby, so I put the question to him.
With Roger Stone, as regard to what he says, you don’t take it with a grain of salt, you take it with a pillar of salt. So Stone never sent those robocalls.
It would seem Morrow would have known if Stone had arranged for 20,000 robocalls on his behalf.
It also seems as if Dickey would have known at the time if 20,000 Republican voters in Travis County had received robocalls asking them to vote for Donald Trump and Robert Morrow.
So, it would seem the odds are that there were no such robocalls.
I texted Stone again, pointing out that the source of Dickey’s claim – the claim Stone had denied – was Stone’s own post-election tweet about the robocalls.
“Which may or may not even be true,” Stone replied.
I told him that I had come up with an alternative definition of the Stone Zone:
The Stone Zone: A murky place of indefinite blame or credit designed to enhance the reputation of Roger Stone and keep people guessing about just what he is capable of.
I reported to Stone that Morrow said there were no robocalls.
If Morrow said something is not true, the odds that it is (true) are overwhelming. The rest is disinformation, rumour or a cover-up to mask the facts – I can’t remember which.”
(I liked Stone’s British spelling of rumor, which suggested his Roger Moore/James Bond persona.)
Gone were the halcyon Stone-Morrow days, such as they were, as when I attended their book talk and signing for the Clinton book at Brave New Books in November 2015.
The book had some consequence in the Trump-Clinton election.
As I wrote then:
I think the Clinton campaign is depending on Stone’s and Morrow’s approach and reputation to inoculate them from suffering the ill-effects of The Clintons’ War on Women.
But Stone intends to raise money to make ads in which some of Clinton’s victims will tell their stories.
There will be women, different kinds of women, who will be saying that Bill Clinton sexually abused them. Should that happen, those ads may be far harder to dismiss than the book, particularly in the new age of Cosby.
In her introduction to The Clintons’ War on Women, Kathleen Willey concludes:
In this book, you will learn that the Clintons are not the ambassadors of goodwill and progressivism you might think they are. And even though Hillary portrays herself as a champion for the rights of women and girls, she is not fighting for the best interests of women. She is the war on women. The stories of everyone who has been hurt by the Clintons deserve to be told.
The Stone-Morrow book turned into the Trump playbook at a crucial juncture in the campaign. After the release of the Trump Access Hollywood grab them by the … tape, Trump turned to a very Roger Stone tactic and held a press conference ahead of the second presidential debate with four of the women who had accused Bill Clinton of improper sexual behavior with them, and then had those women seated in the audience for the debate.
It was also on that visit to Austin that, as I wrote then, On Alex Jones’s radio show Monday, the host seemed pleasantly nonplussed when Stone suggested he would hook Jones up with Trump as a guest on his show because he thought they would hit it off.
Stone delivered on that promise soon after.
In the meantime, Stone’s odd couple relationship with Morrow soon began to deteriorate.
And, when Morrow turned against Trump with a vengeance in the spring of 2016, that was that.
When Trump came to Austin for a rally in August, Morrow, who at the time was chairman of the Travis County Republican party, was there – for a while.
I witnessed that protracted scene. I was actually talking to Morrow when security came over and told him he had to leave. But I had no idea that it came at Stone’s direction.
Or did it?
I texted Stone Saturday asking how it was that he, wherever he was that day, was able to get Morrow removed …. at my direction.
“Simple,” he replied. “I’m Roger Stone.”
What It’s Like To Spend Six Years With Roger Stone On a special episode of No One Knows Anything, we talk to Morgan Pehme, Dylan Bank, and Daniel DiMauro, the directors of the new Netflix documentary, Get Me Roger Stone.
On a special episode of No One Knows Anything, we talk to Morgan Pehme, Dylan Bank, and Daniel DiMauro, the directors of the new Netflix documentary, Get Me Roger Stone.
It ends with Warzel asking the ultimate question about Stone: Can he really take credit/blame for the things he takes credit/blame for, or is it all just bluff and self-promotion.
Yeah, he might always be in the room but his influence is sometimes unclear. Is it just that he is really good at being in that room where the things happen or is he the one who is constantly the actual change agent?
Where did you guys come down on that line? Is he the guy who is in the rom and he’s just sort of saying he’s in the room and he’s making some stuff up, or is he, anytime he is the room, the actual agent of change?
The answer from one of the directors (and this being a podcast I’m not sure which one) was:
Roger never met a scandal he didn’t like and we’re living in this Russia hearing world where it’s very difficult to tell whether Roger had anything to do with it, whether he knew any advance knowledge or whether he just bragged that maybe he did and it’s coming to bite him in the ass, but it doesn’t’ really bit him in the ass because he’s on TV and we’re talking about him aren’t we.
And Roger has the uncanny ability to either find himself in the room saying the nefarious things, or people thought he was the guy in the room saying the nefarious things and he’s more than happy to take any sort of credit that he can.
As to Stone and Trump’s Russia connection, I wrote a First Reading about getting together with Stone last week at the Russian House in Austin, where he could, in essence, troll U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who is the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, and who has raised questions about Stone’s role – which Stone says is baseless – as the potential go-between between Trump World, WikiLeaks and the Russians.
But looking back at the November 2015 First Reading on his book talk at Brave New Books I was struck by the ending.
I left Brave New Books Saturday night for the Continental Club to see the Siberian surf rockers, Igor and the Red Elvises, here performing, “I worked at Taco Bell; She worked at KGB.”
I thought Stone might be intrigued, but he had other equally exciting Saturday night plans – “a burger with a bunch of Birchers.”
Meanwhile, Stone, who will be anchoring an expanded nighttime broadcast of Infowars from Austin and Miami beginning in July, was on with Jones here in Austin last week when Jones announced that Megyn Kelly, who debuted her new NBC show last night with an interview with Vladimir Putin, was coming to Austin this week to interview Jones. (Something NBC has not yet confirmed but seems entirely plausible.)