Remembering the Ross Perot Moment

 

Establishment politicians and those invested in business as usual use “Ross Perot” as a bogeyman, a warning not to stray from whatever candidate they shovel up and tell us we must give money, time, and our vote. Except that it was Perot who was the most electable candidate until the skulduggery or head fake or whatever rattled him around his daughter’s personal life. He had taken the lead in the polls but never recovered after showing weakness or indecision for that week or so.

He was a successful entrepreneur who criticized the self-licking ice cream cone of American CEOs, who (with their think tank and pundit platoons) insisted that American workers absorb the hit of global wage and employment competition while not subjecting their own gilded packages to critical comparison with the then ascendant Japanese executives. “If you want to make a million dollars, become a rock (music) star!” Ross Perot was not engaging in class warfare. Rather, he was using the contradictory narratives of wage competition and executive compensation to point to larger misaligned priorities in U.S. corporate policy, underwritten by U.S. government policy and muscle. Hence his early criticism of NAFTA as it was being negotiated.

He treated the American voters like corporate customers, with charts, facts, and figures rather than campaign puffery. Had he won, he would have been pinned down to perform by his charts, rather than explaining away or evading soaring rhetoric and slogans as Bush had.

He seemed more likely to actually address the fundamental problems of government spending than the two establishment party candidates who only differed on how much government cheese should be served up to whom. Perot’s successful unconventional rescue of two employees from Iranian prison in the late days of the Shah stood in marked contrast to the disgraceful failure of squabbling career military professionals in the Iranian desert a year or so later. Both parties were busy squabbling over how to distribute the “peace dividend” among their supporters, with no one saying no to spending other people’s money.

Consider the context, the competition, the choices. President George H.W. Bush had spit in our faces and told us it was sunshine. He squandered eight years of good will created by President Ronald Reagan. Bush had attacked Reagan’s economic ideas as “voodoo economics” in the 1980 primaries. He kept his mouth shut and road the Reagan revolution as vice president. Then he lied to our faces to get elected and used his inaugural address to backhand the man to whom he owed his presidency. Bush posed, like so many TruCons today, as morally superior, preparing to preside over a “kinder, gentler” politics. Kinder and gentler than Reagan with his “voodoo economics,” of course.

Yet, Bush had not burnt his bridges to the Reagan electoral coalition when serious Democrats were making decisions about running. Governor Bill Clinton emerged out of a relatively weak field because the supposedly strongest candidates chose not to risk the reputational damage of a general election loss to Bush. One of my sisters characterizes Clinton as that sleazy guy at the end of the bar ready with a scuzzy come-on line. When the Democrats with the best pedigrees did not show up, Clinton was ready to slide down the bar and offer voters a drink.

It was in this context that Ross Perot stepped into the presidential political arena. I was serving in Washington state. Heading to my voting location after the duty day, I heard the early returns from back east. It looked like Clinton was threatening to win. I decided to vote strategically, putting my mark next to Bush to stop Clinton. I understand my father made much the same calculation. That is how badly Bush had damaged the Republican brand, and that is the context for the nearest thing to a third party presidential win.

Oh, and Admiral James Stockdale, Ross Perot’s running mate, was head and shoulders above any vice president we have ever had. Period. And he was mocked, casually, mercilessly. Here is the short version of what we chose not to choose:

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while senior naval officer in the Prisoner of War camps of North Vietnam. Recognized by his captors as the leader in the Prisoners’ of War resistance to interrogation and in their refusal to participate in propaganda exploitation, Rear Adm. Stockdale was singled out for interrogation and attendant torture after he was detected in a covert communications attempt. Sensing the start of another purge, and aware that his earlier efforts at self-disfiguration to dissuade his captors from exploiting him for propaganda purposes had resulted in cruel and agonizing punishment, Rear Adm. Stockdale resolved to make himself a symbol of resistance regardless of personal sacrifice. He deliberately inflicted a near-mortal wound to his person in order to convince his captors of his willingness to give up his life rather than capitulate. He was subsequently discovered and revived by the North Vietnamese who, convinced of his indomitable spirit, abated in their employment of excessive harassment and torture toward all of the Prisoners of War. By his heroic action, at great peril to himself, he earned the everlasting gratitude of his fellow prisoners and of his country. Rear Adm. Stockdale’s valiant leadership and extraordinary courage in a hostile environment sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.

Dennis Miller said it best, but is entirely non-CoC, so look it up on YouTube.

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There are 21 comments.

  1. JosePluma Thatcher

    I, as usual, voted for whatever idiot was running on the Libertarian ticket that year.

    • #1
    • July 9, 2019, at 11:06 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. OldDanRhody Member

    I voted for Perot. The Democrats and Republicans alike were all “business as usual” in Washington and, nineteen or however many trillion dollars of national debt later, we can see how well that’s working out.

    • #2
    • July 9, 2019, at 11:15 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. dnewlander Member

    Can We Stop America’s Decline? | The Rational Optimist

    • #3
    • July 9, 2019, at 11:50 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  4. dnewlander Member

    I turned 18 a couple of weeks after the 1988 election, so 1992 was the first time I voted.

    The guys at the print shop where I worked were really into Bush.

    I voted for Clinton, and even went to a rally he held (the last rally he held before the election) at midnight at the Albuquerque airport.

    I never really listened to Ross. Which is to my discredit.

    He certainly lived a life.

    • #4
    • July 9, 2019, at 11:53 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Richard Easton Member

    I think that Perot didn’t want to win which explains his odd behavior when he was leading. He disliked Bush and wanted to sabotage his re-election bid.

    • #5
    • July 10, 2019, at 4:42 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    He treated the voters as if they were not stupid.

    Hmm.

    • #6
    • July 10, 2019, at 4:47 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  7. Manny Member

    I never cared for Perot. I thought he was a crackpot with absolutely no depth. He latched onto the deficit as an issue. The deficit has continued to be an issue, and low and behold, the country is still doing fine. Maybe it’s because it was never a huge problem. Perot had one of those penny-wise, dollar foolish economic mentalities that comes from a simple mind. Other than throwing the election for Clinton, he had no impact on the country.

    • #7
    • July 10, 2019, at 5:40 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  8. RyanFalcone Member

    I consider Perot the father of the Tea Party….at least he was to me. I voted for Clinton in 92′ as a brainwashed college fresh and almost instantly regretted it. I was gun shy about politics in 96′ and all the normal candidates were the typical soulless corrupt buffoons so I decided to look into Perot. I learned so much in that process. 

     

    He taught the American public about the harm the deficit was (is) doing and the years since have shown him to have been far wiser. He treated voters like they were thoughtful and engaged. Most weren’t and still aren’t. Politicians aren’t the problem for Americans. Americans are the problem with politics.

    • #8
    • July 10, 2019, at 6:17 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  9. JoelB Member

    I knew when Clinton was introduced as “The man from Hope” at the Democrat convention that Bush was done. When it came to campaigning, “low energy JEB” came by it honestly. Perot was the finishing blow to a half-hearted campaign.

    • #9
    • July 10, 2019, at 8:22 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  10. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    To understand Perot’s appeal and influence on the 1992 election, one need look no further than the voters in my own family. Of the four solid Republicans who were old enough to vote, two voted for Perot and two voted for Bush. Clinton owes his presidency to Perot without a shadow of a doubt.

    • #10
    • July 10, 2019, at 11:52 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  11. Miffed White Male Member

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    To understand Perot’s appeal and influence on the 1992 election, one need look no further than the voters in my own family. Of the four solid Republicans who were old enough to vote, two voted for Perot and two voted for Bush. Clinton owes his presidency to Perot without a shadow of a doubt.

    I have always maintained that Clinton’s presidency was an accident of history. He was running mostly to build name recognition for the 1996 campaign. But all the “name” Dem candidates stayed out because Bush was polling at 90% after the gulf war. Then Bush’s approvals collapsed, and Clinton swept into the vacuum.

    • #11
    • July 10, 2019, at 12:17 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. Guruforhire Member

    Perot remains my favorite presidential candidate. God speed Ross, God speed.

    • #12
    • July 10, 2019, at 1:06 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    To understand Perot’s appeal and influence on the 1992 election, one need look no further than the voters in my own family. Of the four solid Republicans who were old enough to vote, two voted for Perot and two voted for Bush. Clinton owes his presidency to Perot without a shadow of a doubt.

    Turn it around: Clinton owes his presidency to Bush, without a shadow of a doubt.

    • #13
    • July 10, 2019, at 2:44 PM PDT
    • Like
  14. Joseph Stanko Member

    The main thing I remember about Perot was his line about the “great sucking sound” of jobs leaving for Mexico. In that respect, at least, he foreshadowed the rise of Trump.

    • #14
    • July 10, 2019, at 4:07 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  15. dnewlander Member

    This was posted by a fraternity brother and friend of mine.

    • #15
    • July 10, 2019, at 4:24 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  16. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    Manny (View Comment):

    I never cared for Perot. I thought he was a crackpot with absolutely no depth. He latched onto the deficit as an issue. The deficit has continued to be an issue, and low and behold, the country is still doing fine. Maybe it’s because it was never a huge problem. Perot had one of those penny-wise, dollar foolish economic mentalities that comes from a simple mind. Other than throwing the election for Clinton, he had no impact on the country.

    What might we have spent the money on that we’re spending on interest on the debt?

    That’s just one question, of thousands, related to debt and deficits, that you casually bat aside as saying we’re “doing fine”.

    Really? How might we be doing without the debt overhang? Do you have an extra $50,000 or so to pay off your portion of the debt? What happens if interest rates go up and debt service consumes the discretionary portion of the budget federal? What happens when Treasury bills become riskier investments, so in order to attract buyers, the interest paid on them has to go up, making the debt service even worse? What would individual taxpayers be doing with the dollars they didn’t have to pay in taxes that go to debt service?

     

    • #16
    • July 11, 2019, at 2:52 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  17. MACHO GRANDE' (aka - Chri… Coolidge

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    To understand Perot’s appeal and influence on the 1992 election, one need look no further than the voters in my own family. Of the four solid Republicans who were old enough to vote, two voted for Perot and two voted for Bush. Clinton owes his presidency to Perot without a shadow of a doubt.

    This was a common split. Even with Bush’s war service, he broke the tax promise, and that’s just a bridge too far for me. Even then I had had enough of the expanding influence and spending of gov’t in every aspect of our lives. So I voted for Perot, figuring he wouldn’t win, but might come close, and it would shake things up.

    Well. Now who’s being naive.

    • #17
    • July 11, 2019, at 2:58 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  18. Manny Member

    Chris Campion (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    I never cared for Perot. I thought he was a crackpot with absolutely no depth. He latched onto the deficit as an issue. The deficit has continued to be an issue, and low and behold, the country is still doing fine. Maybe it’s because it was never a huge problem. Perot had one of those penny-wise, dollar foolish economic mentalities that comes from a simple mind. Other than throwing the election for Clinton, he had no impact on the country.

    What might we have spent the money on that we’re spending on interest on the debt?

    That’s just one question, of thousands, related to debt and deficits, that you casually bat aside as saying we’re “doing fine”.

    Really? How might we be doing without the debt overhang? Do you have an extra $50,000 or so to pay off your portion of the debt? What happens if interest rates go up and debt service consumes the discretionary portion of the budget federal? What happens when Treasury bills become riskier investments, so in order to attract buyers, the interest paid on them has to go up, making the debt service even worse? What would individual taxpayers be doing with the dollars they didn’t have to pay in taxes that go to debt service?

     

    What happens, what happens, what happens…? That has been asked ad nauseam for what, 50, 100 years? At some point all those who claim gloom and doom have to show where that the doom happens. It hasn’t and there are plenty of economists that poo-poo this gloom and doom. Here’s one.

     

    • #18
    • July 11, 2019, at 5:23 AM PDT
    • Like
  19. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher

    Chris Campion (View Comment):
    This was a common split. Even with Bush’s war service, he broke the tax promise, and that’s just a bridge too far for me. Even then I had had enough of the expanding influence and spending of gov’t in every aspect of our lives. So I voted for Perot, figuring he wouldn’t win, but might come close, and it would shake things up.

    My youngest child, who was eligible to vote for the first time, proudly voted for Perot. He was super disappointed when the results came in, feeling that his vote had no meaning, so I tried to assuage his disappointment by telling him that a whopping 20% of the people in this country had voted for Perot and no future president would ignore the message those voters were sending. Our takeover of Congress in 1994 might have had something to do with his influence as Gingrich et al. stood on the Capitol steps with his contract for America. Somehow, though, Perot’s deep concern about our national debt has been pushed aside by subsequent administrations. 

    • #19
    • July 11, 2019, at 3:17 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  20. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown Post author

    Former Texas Governor Rick Perry tells a Ross Perot story you must read:

    This week, the nation remembers Ross Perot for his success in business, his two independent White House bids and his no-nonsense, straight Texas talk. His love of country, larger-than-life personality and generosity are all part of his legacy that will live on. But there is another little-known part of the life of Ross Perot that should be told now that he is gone. He was a tireless, but private, supporter of our wounded veterans.

    […]

    While alive, Ross would have shunned any effort to grant him credit for his support of Alan and the untold others he quietly helped through unimaginably challenging times. But now that he is gone, everyone should know the quality of the man that our state, our nation and our wounded veterans have lost.
    God bless Ross Perot.

    Read the whole thing.

    • #20
    • July 14, 2019, at 2:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. dnewlander Member

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Former Texas Governor Rick Perry tells a Ross Perot story you must read:

    This week, the nation remembers Ross Perot for his success in business, his two independent White House bids and his no-nonsense, straight Texas talk. His love of country, larger-than-life personality and generosity are all part of his legacy that will live on. But there is another little-known part of the life of Ross Perot that should be told now that he is gone. He was a tireless, but private, supporter of our wounded veterans.

    […]

    While alive, Ross would have shunned any effort to grant him credit for his support of Alan and the untold others he quietly helped through unimaginably challenging times. But now that he is gone, everyone should know the quality of the man that our state, our nation and our wounded veterans have lost.
    God bless Ross Perot.

    Read the whole thing.

    Man, Cliff, now you’ve got me crying.

    What a patriot.

    Gary Sinese, too.

    But the fact that Ross was ready, willing, and able, to be there for them is amazing.

    Thanks to you and Rick Perry for sharing this story.

    • #21
    • July 14, 2019, at 2:44 AM PDT
    • 1 like