If you go out with Ross, you'll be struck with the tab

Derrick Z. Jackson

October 07, 1992|By Derrick Z. Jackson

WHEN I see Ross Perot run again for president, I think of a suave dude who takes a date to dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria. As the candles melt over their $100 bottle of wine, he raps: "And baby, this is only the beginning. I've got $10 million, private planes and a pink Cadillac."

Somewhere in the middle of the meal, he burps and says, "Be right back, got to go to the bathroom." He never comes back. The date is stuck with the bill.

Three months later, Mr. Suave calls the date. "Oh baby, forget about that night. Let's start all over. You were so beautiful, so gorgeous, so intelligent. Forgive me. I just had a shy attack."

How much time would you give this clown? I know the presidential race is sad. We have George Bush and his B-movie sequel: "Read My Lips. The Texas Taxsaw Massacre, Part II." We have Bill Clinton, who says "Change! Change! Change!" while pledging to cut defense, our biggest single national expense, only 5 percent more than Mr. Bush.

But Mr. Perot's re-entry is goofy. He fancies himself as Matt Dillon smoking up the TV with his eleventh-hour gunslinging, but he is really the two-bit deputy who years later holds court in barrooms, claiming to have shot up all the criminals. He is like the journalist who stole someone else's reporting, put a new lead on it and got a Pulitzer.

He is like a reserve quarterback who wants to be declared Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl because of a game-winning quarterback sneak after the rest of the team marched 99 yards to set him up.

The problem with Mr. Perot is you cannot just write him off as a joke. He is conservative white male privilege at its most chutzpahtic. His slogan is "United We Stand," but the man has no political party. He walked out with no warning on his volunteers in July. He wants us to trust him, but then he tells the press he will not answer a single question about his home life and business dealings, while at the same time he is investigating his volunteers.

He says it is time for the citizens to sacrifice to reduce the $4 trillion deficit, but who is he to talk? He was not willing to part with the $10 million he bragged he had in personal funds on the campaign trail to shake our hands and tell us how and why.

At this ridiculously late stage, all he and his vice presidential candidate, James Stockdale, add to the race are years of experience as white males. We have two presidential candidates who say they are pro-choice and one who is not, but none who seriously entertained choosing a woman as vice president.

Mr. Bush is trying to reverse affirmative action in colleges. Mr. Clinton asks African-American voters to put on a dunce cap and sit in the corner. Both of them are trying to make Willie Hortons out of black rap artists. What does Mr. Perot add? He calls African-Americans "you people."

The funny thing was that the New York Times, for a brief moment, compared Mr. Perot to African-American Jesse Jackson, the former Democratic presidential candidate. The Times said, "Like Mr. Jackson, Mr. Perot has been accused of harboring an outsized ego."

That is the only possible comparison. Mr. Jackson ran within the normal Democratic process. The media patronizingly asked, "What does Jesse want?" Today he is treated as a pariah in his own party.

Mr. Perot behaves like a Stealth bomber and Messrs. Bush and Clinton send teams of economists to Dallas to convince this Reaganite they are giving him everything he wants. A guy who many media reports say may finish with under 10 percent of the vote apparently will receive equal time in the television debates.

When you are a Perot, you can be a cheapskate, a rattlesnake and play Shake and Bake with the political process and still get a wartime-sized headline in the Times: "Perot reenters the campaign, saying Bush and Clinton fail to address government 'mess.'"

That is the story of rich white men. Trump, Nixon, Kissinger, Perot. They can do all kinds of dirt and always recover. They can walk out on the nation and call three months later as if nothing happened.

The only question that should be asked about Ross Perot is how fast we can slam down the phone.

Derrick Z. Jackson is a Boston Globe columnist.

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