By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
By Dennis Romero
As we talk, more dark-suited men appear at the restaurant. They all hug Stone, or give him a kiss on the cheek. They whisper in each others’ ears. One of them is said to be a local crime boss. The whole thing feels like a cut scene from Grand Theft Auto, Vice City, and I half expect Stone to give me a mission: Listen kid, Colonel Cortez is getting to be a real pain in my ass. Go to Starfish Island, get my boat, find the Cortez, and take care of ’em. Instead, he tells vivid stories of his own political missions over the years, including the ground war in Florida in 2000.
I ask Stone if he regrets the Brooks Brothers riot. He has never made such an admission, although his detractors might argue that he didn’t play a big enough role for any remorse. Whatever Stone’s contribution to the disaster of the past eight years, it clearly troubles him because he pauses for the first time in our conversation. Finally, Stone says, “Of course I do. I think about it every day.”
There may be some pride buried in that guilt, but I think Stone means it. Like a blond, Nixon tattoo–wearing Raskolnikov, Stone wants to confess. All those dead soldiers weigh on him, he says. It’s hard to live with that. There are dirty tricks and there are dirty tricks. If he could have a do-over, he’d take it. It’s not that he likes Obama — that has nothing to do with it. But this year, he says, will be different.
McCain’s Midnight Dance Party
It’s exactly a minute before midnight and there’s no sign of the big dog. We’re at the BankUnited Center at the University of Miami. It’s Sunday night, 30 or so hours until the first polls open, and this will be McCain’s last appearance in South Florida. He’s supposed to speak at 12:15 a.m., but he’s flying in from New Hampshire, the fourth of five campaign stops that started at 6 a.m. At this point, McCain’s arrival time doesn’t matter, since the auditorium has turned itself into a swinging Latin dance party over the past several hours. An enormous bandstand features a pack of horns, full percussion section and Grammy winner Albita, all of whom have been lost in a half-hour samba odyssey dedicated to their candidate: Don-de es-ta Se-ñor Mah-Cain!
On the floor, costumed dancers work a rhythmic swing while waving pompoms and McCain/Palin signs. Gorgeous women twirl in floor-length skirts. Lithe young men do fancy footwork. All for the love of the GOP. The Cubans are the last constituency under the Republican tent with any pizzazz. I run into a friend who’s on McCain’s plane and ask him if this is anything like other McCain events. He asks if I am joking. This is clearly the most fun you’ll ever have at a McCain event. It’s as if they collected all the life left in the GOP, put it in this room and lit the fuse for one last party. It is, in truth, a rocking party.
“It feels like it could descend into an orgy at any minute,” Steve Elliott says.
It’s true that if you squint in here, you might be fooled into thinking that that the GOP isn’t collapsing into a parochial, eschatological white dwarf. But the only reason this warm-blooded Caribbean crowd is rabid for McCain is the ever-fresh psychic wound of Fidel Castro. For them, the socialism charge has really taken hold. Half the T-shirts in sight read: BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR: CUBA GOT ‘CHANGE’ IN 1959.
“Come to think of it,” Elliott says, “I hope I was wrong about that orgy.”
Accessorizing the anti-socialism slogans are “Joe” (as in the Plumber) stickers, worn by nearly everyone in the room. The campaign’s concerted effort to create and distribute Joe’s paraphernalia is a reminder that the last of McCain’s eggs are riding in a very strange basket. So far, each new lurching indignity by the McCain camp seems to offer a digest of the cynical. For a while, it was “Drill, Baby, Drill,” chanted by people who believe they are patriots while driving their SUVs through the exurbs so as to help Sovereign Wealth Funds from the Persian Gulf buy American ports. Then came Joe the Plumber, the sudden new face of the campaign who — surprise! — was unvetted before he ascended to television and went rogue with his own political views. So what does McCain do once he realizes he’s turned a bona fide wing nut into his most visible official surrogate overnight? Expand the Joe brand! The campaign has now deputized all their supporters into an army of surrogate Joes, parroting the same baseless collection of slogans. “Don’t vote for Socialism,” the crowd around us says. “Obama will destroy the country.”