DALLAS -- A feisty Ross Perot said yesterday that what he called efforts by the Republican Party to scare him out of the presidential race only strengthen his resolve to run.
He denied recent news reports that suggest he tried to play an "insider's" role in President Richard M. Nixon's administration. Mr. Perot attributed them to unspecified Republicans and warned that they might regret airing them, hinting that they were giving him "ammunition" he might use against the Republicans before the November election.
"All that this stuff does is just increase my resolve that we have to do it [make the race]," the Texas billionaire said in an interview in his high-rise office in north Dallas. "That's not important. What is important is that the American people just turn out by the additional thousands every time this kind of stuff happens."
Mr. Perot charged that the Republicans have resorted to negativism because they lack a message of their own and suggested he was holding his return fire until later in the campaign, when they would rue airing allegations against him.
"I don't know what they stand for anymore," he said. "They stand for trying to destroy anybody that runs against them. . . . Don't they have a message? Isn't there something they believe in? Don't they have anything positive to tell the people? Or is their only effort to try to destroy anybody who runs against the Republican candidates?
"I marvel at the stuff they get into, because the first rule of war is don't shoot yourself, right? Remember I said that. . . . Let's assume you bring up an issue that is going to totally embarrass you. That's not too smart, right? Then, if you see me not responding to it, it's probably an issue I would have never brought up, never discussed. They have brought it up. I'll discuss it in October, and they're going to be so sick they brought it up."
Mr. Perot declined to be more specific, but went on to say the Republicans were "down to childhood pranks now. I don't know what else they'll bring up. They're just goofy." Officials of both the Republican National Committee and the Bush-Quayle re-election committee have denied leaking allegations against Mr. Perot or, as he has also charged, trying to thwart his petition drive in Texas, where more than 200,000 signatures were filed Monday to put him on the November ballot.
Pinning the story of his involvement with the Nixon administration on the Republicans, Mr. Perot asked: "Do you really think anybody can dig through all the files of the Nixon Library, with everything scattered all over the place?" The reporter who queried him on the story, Mr. Perot said, told him it had been leaked to him by Republican sources.
But the reporter, John Solomon of the Associated Press, told The Sun yesterday that he spent four days searching the National Archives -- not the Nixon Library -- for his information and found it in various places, with no contact with Republican sources. His story reporting Mr. Perot's ties to the Nixon administration were based on Nixon staff memos he found there.
Mr. Perot suggested that the Bush administration was throwing up "dust" to obscure other issues that might be brought against it. In one non-stop sentence, he said:
"If I had been in charge of deregulation in the Eighties, and oversaw the savings and loan and banking mess-- and the vice president had that job, which the press scrupulously never talks about -- and if I had been involved in any terrorism all through the Eighties, and if my fingerprints were all over Noriega and Saddam Hussein in terms of creating them and supporting them, and if I had been squarely in the middle of letting the national debt go from $1 trillion to $4 trillion, I would probably spend all my time throwing . . . dust in the air."
Mr. Perot said he would bring these issues up "at a time that's appropriate, and they'll be wandering around, whining for mother, because it's the same old story. They can dish it but they can't take it. . . . They think that this is going to cause me to stop doing this. That's their objective. . . . Once that starts, I'm in to the end of the fight. . . . What they've done so far, with all their lies and distortions, just has absolutely caused me to conclude I have to do it, because we have a system that is completely broken down."
He said that "if we had two world-class candidates running now, it would be heads the American people win, tails the American people win. . . . But when you have people that won't even face the issues that are vital to our children's futures . . . you've got a serious problem."
Mr. Perot hastened to add that he wasn't criticizing Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas. But in this interview he never brought up Mr. Clinton's name. When asked, he said he did not consider Mr. Clinton irrelevant in the presidential campaign, and he dismissed as changeable public opinion surveys like the recent Texas Poll showing him leading President Bush, 35 percent to 30 percent, with Mr. Clinton trailing at 20 percent.
For all his declarations that the alleged conduct of the Republican Party gave him no recourse but to run, Mr. Perot said he was not ready to declare his candidacy. But that clearly is a formality now.
"It's all in the hands of the volunteers," he said. "If they want me on the ballot, I'll be there."