First there was Laurel and Hardy, then Abbott and Costello, Amos and Andy, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Beavis and Butthead, and many more. But none of those comedy teams reached the level of sublime comedic insanity offered by the immensely popular “Donald and Roger Show,” now playing in a federal courthouse near you.
Everybody knows Donnie. He’s been around a long time, the consummate performer, liar, con man and thief. He claims he is the greatest president America has ever had, except maybe for Abraham Lincoln. The only thing new to report about him is that he’s still trying to convince his base that those bruises on his chest aren’t a perfect match for Nancy Pelosi’s high heels. He was still rubbing the sorest spots when he staggered into the Rose Garden on Friday to cave in on his stupid wall.
The other half of the comedy team, dirty trickster Roger Stone, is a different story. In addition to being a grifter, liar, con man and huckster like his good buddy Trump, he is a natural conniving clown. Coincidence has it that I once worked with someone who knew Roger Stone very well, a man who also called himself a dirty trickster. He worked for Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon as a self-declared intelligence operative before leaving politics to work as an editor at that supermarket yellow sheet called The National Enquirer.
His name is Phil Brennan, a man who had seen and done it all as a covert political operative for the Republican Party. He was 87 when he died in 2014. Brennan once described his job as disrupting the opposition by creating plausible situations that put them in a bad light. He worked at it industriously until he somehow got sideways with the Washington power players in 1968. That’s when he began working for the National Enquirer.
After two decades sliming popular political and theatrical figures, Phil put the skills he gleaned from political opportunism and yellow journalism to work for Christopher Ruddy, the publisher of Newsmax, the right-wing, online publication best known for pandering to conservatives no matter how kooky.
Brennan, a scion of the Singer Sewing Machine Co., was a Marine houseboy and chauffeur for Gen. George Marshall at Fort Myers, Va., during the waning days of World War II. After the war, he said he used the connections those connections to land a job as a liaison between congressional Republicans and former President Eisenhower. He next served as press secretary for then-Rep. Gerald Ford in the 1960s. He went on to work with Richard Nixon’s campaign as director of public relations and special projects for the Republican Policy Committee.
His favorite job, however, was working as an intelligence analyst for the House GOP leadership, serving on the draft Barry Goldwater group in 1963, then running the GOP truth squad for Goldwater the following year. One truth he shared with me was he didn’t like Roger Stone. It was 2008 and we worked together at Newsmax. At the time, Roger Stone was a virtual nonentity, but he had raised Brennan’s ire being publicly salacious.
Brennan was a devout Catholic who fathered seven children. In most respects he was a very straight-laced guy. He said he didn’t drink, stayed at home, and doted over his children. Unlike Stone, who believes in nothing, Brennan believed his mission was to illuminate the dangers of Democrats, whom he called socialists and Bolsheviks. When former President George W. Bush ordered the courts-marshal of nine Marines for alleged war crimes in 2005, he decided that “W” was a Bolshevik, too.
At the time (2007), I had never heard of Stone and barely knew who Trump was. Neither man was a topic of discussion during any of the long telephone calls I had with Brennan, then living in Boca Raton, Fla. It would probably have stayed that way if Stone had not been linked to the disgrace of New York’s Democratic Governor Eliot Spitzer. On March 10, 2008, The New York Times reported Spitzer had patronized an elite escort service run by Emperors Club VIP, a swingers’ haven and international escort agency based in New York City. The reputed source was Roger Stone, who took great pride in knocking Spitzer down.
Brennan did not cotton to Spitzer’s infidelity, but he saved his worst venom for Stone. He thought Stone was a “pantywaist,” a disparaging name popular in the late Ice Age. I didn’t remember what Stone had specifically done until he got arrested the other day, so I looked him up. The best story was in the National Enquirer, where Brennan was still working as an editor at the time.
According to sources — and by the way, Brennan always insisted the National Enquirer demanded no less than two sources for a story — Stone was forced to resign his consulting position with presidential candidate Bob Dole after the supermarket tabloid reported that he and his wife, Nydia, had advertised on the Internet and in Swing Fever magazine for couples interested in engaging in group sex. Stone claimed he had been set up, despite paying for the ads with his own credit card.
I don’t know if Brennan even cared about Spitzer except to his mind he was an evil Democrat. He was, however, incensed when he saw Stone’s named linked to the fiasco. That’s when Brennan told me about Stone’s escapades as a colorful, loud-mouthed swinger and political hack. Stone’s behavior didn’t sit well with Brennan’s conservative religious beliefs, and he emphatically said so. Stone became an old saw Brennan liked to drag out whenever I teased him about being a dirty trickster.
As for Spitzer, he resigned in disgrace as New York governor on March 17, 2008. Stone, every bit as egocentric as his erstwhile boss, Donald Trump, was glad for the notoriety it brought him.
Hard to imagine that is the guy Trump turned to for political advice. Or is it?