Perot breaks all records for deceit and contempt



WASHINGTON -- Amid the current furor over carjackings, the country is now witnessing a crass attempt at political hijacking in the 11th-hour presidential campaign of Ross Perot.

With utter contempt for the political process, the Texas billionaire says he wants to reform, Perot's re-entry is an unparalleled exercise in deceit and manipulation in a business that has seen much of both over the years.

It is clear now that he pulled out of the race in mid-July because he could not stomach the news media scrutiny of his background and his authoritarian mode of business operations. Newsweek magazine had it right when on its cover it labeled him "The Quitter."

Stung by such sharp criticism and the expressions of betrayal from many of his true volunteer supporters, Perot transparently decided he had to do something to restore his shattered reputation.

Even as he was quitting, he began perpetrating another deception, urging his remaining supporters to continue the petition drive that ultimately reached the goal of placing him on the ballot in all 50 states. He bankrolled it and made a mockery of his claim that the effort was a "bottom-up" movement by

selecting the leadership in many states and paying the leaders in some of them.

When it was time to find a justification other than his towering ego to re-enter the race, he cooked up the laughable pretext of having his remaining "volunteers" polled to produce the unsurprising result that they wanted him to run. Then, with his customary contempt for the intelligence of the voters, he proclaimed that "the American people" had asked him to run and he couldn't say no.

Still spooked by the prospect of more journalistic scrutiny, he announced that he would not answer any questions about anything other than "the issues." But because the character of presidential candidates is a prime issue, he can expect plenty of questions about his background and motives, especially if, as expected, he takes part in the debates into which he has elbowed his way.

What the voters are in store for now is a sort of stealth candidacy, with the candidate sending his message to them through paid television commercials with a bankroll unmatched by either President Bush or Gov. Bill Clinton, who are limited by the federal subsidy each gets.

The centerpiece of Perot's platform, and his declared rationale for re-entering the race, is the need to address the staggering federal deficitand his contention that he gave Bush and Clinton a chance to do so in a meaningful way and that they didn't. But the man who authored his solution of more taxes and deeper spending cuts, former Carter administration budget official John White, now says that approach could not sensibly be implemented until 1994, when presumably the country would have been well on the way to recovery from the recession. So much for Mr. Fixit's quick fix.

Perot says now that he made a "mistake" when he quit the race in July. If so, the country can be grateful for it, because his abrupt leave-taking with a host of phony reasons unmasked his unfitness to hold high public office by virtue of temperament or intellectual honesty. Even had he stayed in, though, his erratic behavior likely would have surfaced repeatedly by now, making him what he is -- a fringe candidate deserving to be so regarded.

Bush and Clinton played along with Perot's hijacking by sending important members of their entourages to Dallas for the show-and-tell that only demeaned their candidacies. So in a sense they are getting what they deserve in having to stomach his presence in the forthcoming debates.

In the speculation over which of them will be hurt more by Perot's candidacy, the answer is that the public will be the real loser by his intrusion into the critical exchange between the two men who have the only chance to be the next president.

As long as Perot could contend that he was the embodiment of a genuine groundswell of public sentiment for change, the fact that his personal wealth enabled him to seek the presidency seemed not to matter all that much to millions of voters. But now it is clear that he is a fraudulent voice of the people able to participate in the election only because he has the money to try to buy it. It would be tragic if his presence in the race affected the outcome either way. Unless the voters have gone bonkers, that won't happen.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.