Imagined peril has Perot looking over his shoulder

MIKE ROYKO

November 19, 1993|By MIKE ROYKO

After flipping through a large stack of biographical material on Ross Perot, I still haven't found the answers to several key questions about him.

Does he look under the bed before turning in? Does he sleep with the lights on? Does he often go tiptoeing down the stairs after hearing strange squeaks and bumps in the night? And does he believe in the bogey man?

These might seem like strange questions, but based on Perot's behavior, I'm not sure. For all of his confidence when yipping and yapping on TV, Perot appears to be one real jumpy guy.

Of course, we all have reason to be jumpy. You can be bopped on the head in your hallway or zapped if you toot your horn at the wrong homicidal driver.

But Perot seems to think that there are all sorts of shadowy creeps out there constantly stalking him. No wonder he's so scrawny: He probably can't eat or get a good night's sleep.

He sounded his most recent alarm at one of his anti-NAFTA rallies, causing his loving followers to gasp and look woeful.

The latest mortal danger comes from a band of Cuban hit men. As Perot described them: "A Mafia-like group." And they have been dispatched to bump him off because they are for NAFTA and he isn't.

As Perot tells it, this Mafia-like group of Cubans is in the drug trade. And if NAFTA is enacted, they will be able to smuggle drugs into this country by tucking the stuff into Mexican merchandise.

That is a fascinating plot if you are in the B-movie business. But as reality, it has a few gaping holes.

For one thing, the big-time drug merchants of Latin America have long been highly efficient at flooding us with drugs. The federal government has just about given up on being able to stop them. So why would they want to create a furor and bring heat on themselves by doing away with Perot?

Second, some goof with 25 cents and a pay phone was the originator of this story.

That's it. No names, no specifics. Just a voice on a phone.

Over the years, I've had hundreds of calls of this kind. Often I can hear a jukebox playing in the background and somebody yelling for another round.

But this tip was passed along to the cops and, as a matter of routine, relayed by authorities to Perot.

And in a twinkling, Perot had spread the word, and it was all over the news shows. Naturally, Perot vowed to bravely go on with his anti-NAFTA crusade, despite the mortal threat to life and scrawny limb. What a bold guy.

Of course, he's become accustomed to this kind of danger.

When he was making his run for president, he talked about a plot by armed terrorists to invade his estate in Texas. They were Black Panthers or maybe Viet Cong or some such meanies.

That, too, made big headlines and hot 30-second news squibs on the networks.

But the horde of armed terrorists never showed up. Which must have been a relief to Perot because the cops in his part of Texas said they didn't know anything about any invading terrorist army. Nor did Perot's former security chief. This led to conjecture that Perot might have seen a raccoon run across his lawn. In the moonlight, it would be easy to mistake a raccoon for 25 highly trained killers.

Then there was the nasty business about a threat to his daughter's wedding.

He said a Republican plot had been uncovered to invade the wedding and spread phony photographs of his daughter that would sully her reputation.

This, too, was hot news for a while. But it also raised puzzling questions.

For one, why wouldn't a man worth two or three billion dollars hire enough security guards to prevent someone from crashing a wedding? And if he couldn't defend the borders of a church from invasion, how could he, as president, defend the borders of the United States?

The anti-wedding plot was investigated and found to be nothing but a fantasy, and Perot hasn't said anything about it since. But, who knows, the villains might turn up with those photos at the daughter's silver wedding anniversary.

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