The presidency is "the toughest, dirtiest, most thankless job in the world, that is absolutely brutal on your family and everybody you love," says H. Ross Perot. But somebody has to do it, and he is willing. And, obviously, a lot of Americans want the self-made Texas billionaire, philanthropist and patriotic activist to do it, too. For instance, Charlene Osborne of Wilson Point. She called The Sun to find out how to support a Perot candidacy. Referred to Dallas telephone information, she got an 800 number, where she was told she would be sent information on how to help get Mr. Perot on the ballot in Maryland.
Those phone banks were already swamped before Mr. Perot appeared on David Brinkley's television show last Sunday. The calls started coming in after Mr. Perot said he would consider being a third party presidential candidate on Larry King's shows. Evidence of Mr. Perot's growing appeal -- and of his seriousness -- can be seen in the fact that he has so greatly expanded his 800-number operation, which he pays for himself, to the point that by Wednesday it could handle the 18,000 calls he got ("all at the same time," according to an MCI official) when he appeared on "Donahue."
Mr. Perot's remarks on talk shows and in an appearance at the National Press Club in Washington led an old acquaintance of his in Annapolis to begin planning a petition drive to get his name on the Maryland ballot. She is Joan Vincent-Stallings, who got to know Mr. Perot when her first husband was a prisoner of war in North Vietnam and Mr. Perot was engaged in an effort to free the POWs. That effort and a subsequent undertaking by Mr. Perot to rescue some of his own employees from Tehran during '' the Iran hostage crisis give the Naval Academy graduate all the patriotic credentials he needs to run for president.
He has chosen his adversaries well. Ho Chi Minh, the Ayatollah Khomeini and a former General Motors chairman, Roger Smith. Polls today show that major party candidates George Bush and Bill Clinton have "high negatives." A lot of Americans don't like either one of them. Voting turnout has been off in most primaries this year.
A significant thing about Charlene Osborne's interest in Ross Perot is that she is not now a registered voter. At a time of increasing voter disinterest -- even disgust -- Mr. Perot seems to have an ability to turn on the turned off. Whether this appeal will result in a third party campaign still remains to be seen. Even if it does, history is against him. Third party candidates have a dismal record in getting many votes. Sometimes, however, they force the major parties to change.
In today's climate, a genuine, well-financed Ross Perot candidacy that was positive and emphasized his ideas on economics, education, patriotism and a new approach to government and politics could reasonably expect to do that. At least that.