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Why Roger Stone is always pictured in a pose Richard Nixon made famous

The Washington Post
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Bloomberg
Roger Stone, former adviser to Donald Trump's presidential campaign, gestures during the American Priority conference in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 6. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Al Drago

Roger Stone emerged from a federal courthouse in Florida on Friday, raised his arms wide, and flashed two peace signs to the mass of press and protesters assembled just for him.

The longtime Trump friend and adviser had just posted a $250,000 bond after being charged by the special counsel’s office for obstruction, witness tampering, and making false statements. And this symbol invoked comparisons to Richard Nixon’s own moribund gesture as he departed the White House for the final time as president. On Aug. 9, 1974, after the Watergate scandal had forced him to resign, Nixon turned to the crowd one final time before boarding Marine One. Beaming, he swung his arms into a broad V, and formed two peace signs with his hands.

Though Nixon frequently issued the gesture at speeches and public events, it is this defiant, final deployment that has become the defining image of his presidency.

Like his idol, Stone gives those peace signs at every opportunity he gets. The simplest gesture is one of his more frequent invocations of his icon.

He deployed it at the Republican National Convention in 2016, where he was drumming up support for then-presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump.

It only takes seven minutes for the salute to appear in Netflix’s documentary “Get Me Roger Stone,” as its subject whips up a group of Trump supporters.

And when said film appeared at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2017, Stone, of course, did this.

Stone’s pose on Friday was the talk of the town, by which, of course, we mean political Twitter. Users gawked at Stone’s blatant mirroring of Nixon’s peace sign. After all, Nixon is seen as one of the most corrupt figures in American history. If you’re under indictment, and have just been arrested by the FBI, why welcome the comparison?

There’s something you need to understand.

Nobody shows love for Richard Milhouse Nixon more than Roger Stone.

He’s wrote a book in 2014 presenting an alternate history of the Watergate scandal, and which John Dean, a former aide to the president, called “pure [expletive]”. (A more favorable publicity blurb came from none other than Donald Trump, president of the Trump Organization: “I knew Nixon in the late 80′s. I met him in George Steinbrenner’s box at Yankee Stadium. Roger Stone nails it. He really understands Nixon.”)

Stone has a back tattoo of Nixon, he is constantly photographed surrounded by pictures of Nixon, he has a martini recipe from Nixon – who got it from Winston Churchill! Or at least, so Stone told the New Yorker.

Again, he has a back tattoo of Nixon.

Stone’s connection to Nixon is woven into the fabric of his own political trajectory and philosophy. And he himself has done the weaving (much to the displeasure of the Nixon Foundation).

He first entered the political arena in 1972, when he engaged in some minor shenanigans on behalf of the Nixon reelection campaign. As Jeffrey Toobin reported in a 2008 New Yorker profile of the operative aptly titled, “The Dirty Trickster:”

“The reason I’m a Nixonite is because of his indestructibility and resilience. He never quit. His whole career was all built around his personal resentment of élitism … We had a non-élitist message. We were the party of the workingman!” he told the New Yorker (in 2017 Stone showed up at President Donald Trump’s inauguration dressed like Eustace Tilley, for what it’s worth).

So it’s no wonder that at the most notorious, and potentially dangerous, moment of a controversial career, Stone once again pulled out the peace sign. It started, it shocked. But it should not surprise.