He's back! Perot sics watchdog on Clinton

January 12, 1993|By Fort Worth Star-Telegram

DALLAS -- Ten weeks after his third-place finish at the national polls, Ross Perot has returned to the limelight -- marshaling his former campaign troops and sounding a warning to President-elect Bill Clinton.

The week before Mr. Clinton is sworn into office, Mr. Perot summoned news media to a Dallas hotel, announcing a nationwide membership drive for his non-profit United We Stand, America Inc.

Mr. Perot vowed the group would act as a "blowhorn" to amplify the causes of reducing the federal deficit and enacting government reforms.

Alternating criticism with compliments for Mr. Clinton and his Cabinet appointees, Mr. Perot said he believes the next president's "impulse and desire is to do the right thing."

But the Dallas billionaire -- complaining of the influx of former lobbyists in the new White House -- did not rule out a re-entry into presidential politics.

"It's not anywhere on my agenda," Mr. Perot said when asked of his prospects for the 1996 presidency. "I would feel that I have personally failed if I have to run again."

Topping his agenda is building a formal political network out of the loose and sometimes divisive campaign corps of last year.

Mr. Perot said the group's first political test would be in the election this spring to fill the Senate seat of Lloyd Bentsen, Mr. Clinton's choice for Treasury secretary.

"We are going to be organizing in every city, town and neighborhood across the country, and we're going to give the American people a voice," Mr. Perot said. ". . . Texas is where we'll first work this through and figure out how to do it."

Throughout his hour-long and sometimes rambling news conference, Mr. Perot was markedly more jovial and relaxed than the man who made a habit of deriding the press and snapping at reporters in the final weeks of the fall campaign. Yesterday, Mr. Perot playfully held up placards containing the mailing address and toll-free telephone number of his organization.

He also joked about his motives for getting involved in national politics. Pulling out a small tape recorder, he played a version of the song that became his theme last November, Willie Nelson's classic "Crazy."

Last year, Mr. Perot spent more than $60 million on his presidential bid, and grew sensitive to criticisms that he was trying to buy the presidency. This time Mr. Perot is asking for annual dues of $15. The goal is for the organization to be self-sustaining and for it to elect its own local, state and national leaders.

Mr. Perot hopes to unleash a series of self-produced television commercials later this month in local markets, and also hopes a major network will offer to carry a regular "electronic town hall" conducted by him.

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