Give it up, Ross

Matthew L. Lifflander

September 21, 1992|By Matthew L. Lifflander

WHAT is Ross Perot up to?

As a former leader of his volunteer petition drive in New York, I'm asked that question just about every day.

The question is legitimate because, after announcing in July that he would not run for president, Mr. Perot is now filing official affidavits swearing he is a candidate.

Since his "withdrawal" he has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars seeking signatures to place himself on the New York ballot: $200,000 for newspaper advertising, $50,000 for direct mail, $30,000 to reprint his petitions and larger sums not yet disclosed for radio, office space, staff, paid petition carriers and election lawyers.

As a man with good ideas Mr. Perot has much to offer America. But after betraying the trust of millions of decent people on July 16, he can never be an effective candidate.

A modern presidential campaign is a cruel test. Mr. Perot bowed out because he didn't have the temperament to be a candidate. He did not like the criticism that came with the job.

He didn't grasp why he embarrassed himself in a speech to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People when he referred to African-Americans as "you people," or why he was pressed so hard on points he considered to be his personal business.

He never even understood why so many of us were not only disappointed and disillusioned but angry when he pulled out after we had given so much of ourselves to his effort.

Integrity is tested in a presidential campaign. A man who tells government officials to find out how ordinary Americans feel by flying commercial while he takes a private jet does not meet the standards he purports to set.

Now that he can enjoy the satisfaction of seeing his name on ballots in nearly all states, and of having mobilized a great force for real reform, Mr. Perot can best serve the nation by discouraging people from throwing away their vote.

Ross Perot has an opportunity to become a hero or the goat of 1992. Let's hope he opts for heroism.

Matthew L. Lifflander is a lawyer.

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