Ross Perot

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Henry Ross Perot

Born: July 27, 1930 (age 76)
Flag of United States Texarkana, Texas, USA
Occupation: Billionaire Businessmen Presidential Candidate
Spouse: Margot Birmingham

Henry Ross Perot (born June 27, 1930) is a billionaire American businessman from Texas, who is best known for seeking the office of President of the United States in 1992 and 1996. Perot founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in 1962. He later sold the company to General Motors and founded Perot Systems. With an estimated current net worth of around $4.3 billion, he is ranked by Forbes as the 57th-richest person in America.

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[edit] Early life and career

Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, to Gabriel Ross Perot and his wife Luly May Ray.[1] His father was a cotton picker of French Canadian[citation needed] descent. Perot made Eagle Scout in 1943 and is a recipient of the Distinguished Eagle Scout Award.[2][3] The local Boy Scouts of America council office in his hometown of Texarkana is named in his honor. His son and two of his grandsons are Eagle Scouts.[2]

Perot entered the United States Naval Academy in 1949 and helped establish its honor system.[2] By the time he graduated in 1953 he was president of his class and battalion commander. By late 1954, Perot was made a lieutenant, junior grade. However, in 1955, Perot expressed great discontent with his life in the United States Navy in a letter to his father. He quietly served the remainder of his four-year commitment and resigned his commission.

Perot married Margot Birmingham of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in 1956. Over the years they had five children (Ross, Jr., Nancy, Suzanne, Carolyn, and Katherine). As of 2002, the Perots have nine grandchildren.

After he left the Navy in 1957, Perot became a salesman for International Business Machines (IBM). He quickly became a top employee, filling his year's sales quota in two weeks, and tried to pitch his ideas to supervisors who largely ignored him. He left IBM in 1962 to found Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in Dallas, Texas, and courted large corporations for his data processing services. Perot was refused 88 times before he got his first contract. EDS received lucrative contracts from the U.S. government in the 1960s, computerizing Medicare records. EDS went public in 1968 and the stock price shot up from $16 a share to $160 within days. Fortune called Perot the "fastest, richest Texan" in a 1968 cover story. In 1984, General Motors bought EDS for $2.4 billion.

Just prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the government of Iran imprisoned two of his employees in a contract dispute. Perot organized and sponsored a successful rescue. The rescue team was led by retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Arthur D. ('Bull') Simons. When the team couldn't find a way to extract their two prisoners, they decided to wait for a mob of pro-Ayatollah revolutionaries to storm the jail and free all 10,000 inmates, many of whom were political prisoners. The two prisoners then connected with the rescue team, and the team spirited them out of Iran via a risky border crossing into Turkey. The exploit was recounted in a book, On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett, which became a best-seller. (See also Iran hostage crisis.)

In 1984, Perot bought one of the original copies of the Magna Carta, one of only a few to leave the United Kingdom. It is now on loan to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where it is on display with the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

Ross Perot put up the majority of the venture capital for Steve Jobs's NeXT computer project in 1986. Also in 1986, after heavy criticism of General Motors, which had purchased EDS, he was bought out for $700 million. In 1988, he founded Perot Systems Corporation, Inc. in Plano, Texas. His son, H. Ross Perot, Jr., eventually succeeded him as CEO. Today, H. Ross Sr. serves as Chairman Emeritus, and Ross Jr. serves as Chairman.

[edit] Early political activities

In the same year that Perot organized the rescue mission in Iran, Texas governor Bill Clements requested his assistance developing policy to reduce illegal drug use in the state. Perot led the Texas War on Drugs Committee that proposed five laws, all of which were passed by the legislature.

In 1982, he was called upon again by Clements to help improve the quality of the states' public education, and ended up leading the effort to reform the school system, which resulted in major legislative changes. The best known of Perot's proposals which were passed into law was the "No Pass, No Play" rule, under which it was required that students have passing grades in order to participate on sports teams. The intent was to prevent high school sports from being the focus of the school's funding, and to emphasize the importance of education for the students who participated in sports.

Beginning in the late 1980s and continuing in the early 1990s Ross Perot began speaking out about what he described as the failings of the United States government. Perot asserted that the United States "had grown arrogant and complacent after the War (World War II)" and was no longer the world's greatest nation. Instead of looking into what was to come, he argued, America was "daydreaming of our past while the rest of the world was building its future." He said:

Go to Rome, go to Paris, go to London. Those cities are centuries old. They're thriving. They're clean. They work. Our oldest cities are brand new compared to them and yet… go to New York, drive through downtown Washington, go to Detroit, go to Philadelphia. What's wrong with us?

In Florida in 1990, retired financial planner Jack Gargan funded a series of "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" (a reference to a famous quote from the 1976 political and mass media satire movie, Network) newspaper advertisements denouncing the U.S. Congress for voting for legislative pay raises at a time when average wages nationwide were not increasing. Gargan later founded "Throw the Rascals Out", which Ross Perot supported.

Perot was not a fan of President George H. W. Bush and vigorously opposed the United States's involvement in the 1990-1991 Persian Gulf War. He urged Senators to vote against the war resolution and began considering a Presidential run.

[edit] 1992 presidential candidacy

On February 20, 1992, he appeared on CNN's Larry King Live and announced his intention to run if his supporters could get his name on the ballot in all 50 states. With such declared policies as balancing the federal budget, firm pro-choice stance, expansion of the war on drugs, ending outsourcing of jobs, opposition to gun control, belief in protectionism on trade, his support of the Environmental Protection Agency and enacting electronic direct democracy via "electronic town halls," he became a potential candidate and soon polled roughly even with the two major party candidates.

Perot's candidacy received increasing media attention when the competitive phase of the primary season ended for the two major parties. President George H.W. Bush was losing support, and Democratic nominee Bill Clinton was still suffering from the numerous scandal allegations made in the previous months. With the insurgent candidacies of Republican Pat Buchanan and Democrat Jerry Brown winding down, Perot was the natural beneficiary of populist resentment toward establishment politicians.

With several months to go until the Democratic and Republican conventions, Perot filled the vacuum of election news, as his supporters began petition drives to get him on the ballot in all 50 states. This sense of momentum was reinforced when Perot hired two savvy campaign managers in Democrat Hamilton Jordan and Republican Ed Rollins.

Accompanying the surge in support for Perot was increased scrutiny of his background. Reports surfaced of Perot hiring private investigators to obtain personal information about business and political adversaries. His temperament was brought into question by some who claimed that he exhibited irritability and an authoritarian management style. Around the same time, Perot was criticized for a remark made during a speech at the NAACP convention. Perot was sympathizing with the plight of African Americans during tough economic times, but referred to his audience as "you people", a phrase that was deemed to be insensitive by the media.

These adverse developments were used by the media to tarnish Perot's image, and his support in opinion polls was no longer rising. On July 16, 1992, Perot reconsidered running for the presidency, even if he was placed on all 50 state ballots. At that time he was only on 24 state ballots. He was encouraged by the selection of the Democratic party ticket of Bill Clinton and Al Gore at the Democratic National Convention.

Nevertheless, in September he qualified for all 50 state ballots. On October 1, he announced his intention to start running again. He explained his earlier withdrawal by claiming that Republican operatives had attempted to disrupt his daughter's wedding, and he wanted to spare her from embarrassment. He campaigned in 16 states and spent an estimated $65.4 million of his own money. Perot employed the innovative strategy of purchasing half-hour blocks of time on major networks for infomercial-type campaign ads.

Perot's running mate was retired Vice Admiral James Stockdale, a well-respected former Vietnam prisoner of war (POW). Perot was a long-time supporter of POWs. In December 1969 he organized and flew to North Vietnam in an attempt to deliver 30-tons of supplies to beleaguered American POWs in North Vietnam. Although North Vietnam blocked the flights, the effort was instrumental in bringing the plight of those POWs to the world's attention and their captors soon began treating them better.[2]

At one point in June, Perot led the polls with 39% (versus 31% for Bush and 25% for Clinton). Just prior to the debates, Perot received 7-9% support in nationwide polls. It is likely that the debates played a significant role in his ultimate receipt of 19% of the popular vote. Although his answers during the debates were often general, Perot's wit, folkisms, and straight talking were so impressive that even many Democrats and Republicans conceded that Perot won at least the first debate. In debate he is noted to have said: "Keep in mind our Constitution predates the industrial revolution. Our founders did not know about electricity, the train, telephones, radio, television, automobiles, airplanes, rockets, nuclear weapons, satellites, or space exploration. There's a lot they didn't know about. It would be interesting to see what kind of document they'd draft today. Just keeping it frozen in time won't hack it."

Perot denounced Congress (for its inaction) in ways that displayed his contempt for the Washington establishment. Washington, Perot said,

… has become a town filled with sound bites, shell games, handlers, media stuntmen who posture, create images, talk, shoot off Roman candles, but don't ever accomplish anything. We need deeds, not words, in this city.

In July, while Perot was pondering whether to run for office, his supporters established a campaign organization United We Stand America. Perot was late in making formal policy proposals, but most of what he did call for were intended to reduce the deficit. He wanted a gasoline tax increase and some cutbacks of Social Security.

In the 1992 election, he received 18.9% of the popular vote (but no electoral votes), making him the most successful Independent presidential candidate in terms of the popular vote since Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 election. Some analysts believe that Perot acted as a spoiler in the election, primarily drawing votes away from Bush and allowing Clinton to win many states with less than a majority of votes. This claim has been refuted by other analysts who show evidence that Clinton would still have won in a direct race with Bush. Turnout figures showed that, had Perot not been in the race, a large number would have abstained from voting. Perot managed to finish second in two states: In Maine, Perot received 30.44% of the vote to Bush's 30.39% (Clinton won Maine with 38.77%); In Utah, Perot received 27.34% of the vote to Clinton's 24.65% (Bush won Utah with 43.36%). Many believe[citation needed] that Perot would have had a chance to win electoral votes, and perhaps the election, had he not publicly balked and then come back to campaigning so close to Election Day.

Based on his performance in the popular vote in 1992, Perot was entitled to receive federal election funding for 1996. Perot remained in the public eye after the election and championed opposition to NAFTA, urging voters to listen for the "giant sucking sound" of American jobs heading south to Mexico should NAFTA be ratified.

According to Ronald Rapoport and Walter Stone (2005), Perot's appeal came from two sources. First was his outsider, crusading zeal that made the major parties seem reactionary. Second, he adopted specific positions that had been abandoned by both parties — he was nationalistic and isolationist; he was conservative in social policy. He opposed free trade. He was above all a crusader for a balanced budget, as he warned of the horrors of the national debt.

[edit] Reform Party and 1996 presidential run

Perot tried to keep his movement alive in the middle 1990s, continuing to speak about the increasing national debt. He was a prominent campaigner against the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and even debated Al Gore on this issue on Larry King Live. Perot's behavior during the debate was a source of mirth thereafter, including his repeated cries of "let me finish" in his southern drawl. The debate was seen by many as effectively ending Perot’s political career. Perot sponsored conferences which were attended by numerous high-profile politicians. Perot endorsed the 1994 Republican Contract with America and urged Americans to vote for Republican candidates that year.

In 1995, he founded the Reform Party and won their nomination for 1996 election. Because of the ballot access laws he had to run as an Independent on many state ballots. Perot received just eight percent of the popular vote in 1996, much less than in the 1992 race but still an unusually successful third-party showing by U.S. standards. He spent far less of his own money in this race than he had four years before, and also allowed other people to contribute to his campaign, unlike his prior race. One common explanation for the decline was Perot's exclusion from the presidential debates, based on the preferences of the Democratic and Republican party candidates (as described by George Farah in Open Debates). In 1996 his opponents were U.S. Senator Bob Dole (Republican) and President Bill Clinton (Democrat).

[edit] Later activities

Later in the 1990s, Perot's detractors accused him of not allowing the Reform Party to develop into a genuine national political party, but rather keeping it a movement to support him, as people close to Perot's electoral campaign had still been in party offices because the majority of Reform Party members had continued to elect them in party offices. Perot did not give an endorsement during Jesse Ventura's run for governor of Minnesota in the 1998 election, and this became suspicious to detractors when he made fun of Ventura at a conference after Ventura had a fall-out with the press. The party leadership grew in tighter opposition to groups supporting Ventura and Jack Gargan. Reasons for this were demonstrated when Jack Gargan was officially removed as Reform Party Chairman by the Reform Party National Committee.

In the 2000 presidential election, Perot refused to become openly involved in the dispute inside the Reform Party between supporters of Pat Buchanan and of John Hagelin. Perot was reportedly unhappy with how the party was disintegrating, and how he was being portrayed in the press, and chose to remain quiet on the election at that time. He appeared on Larry King Live four days before the election, and endorsed George W. Bush for President. His endorsement was overshadowed by the revelation on the same night that Bush had a DUI in the 1970s. Despite his earlier opposition to NAFTA, Perot remained largely silent about expanded use of Guest Worker Visas in the United States, with Buchanan supporters attributing this silence to his corporate reliance on foreign workers. Eventually, Perot ended all ties between himself and the Reform Party, which was largely defunct in most states and has filed a RICO lawsuit against another branch of the Reform Party. (Some state parties have affiliated with the new (Buchananite) America First Party; others gave Ralph Nader their ballot lines in the 2004 presidential election.)

Since then, Perot has been largely silent on political issues, refusing to answer most questions about politics from the press. Whenever a paper has secured an interview with him he usually remains on the subject of his business career and refuses to answer the more specific questions on politics, candidates, or his past activities.

The one break from this has been in 2005 when he was asked to testify before the Texas legislature about proposals to extend technology to students, through making laptops available; and changing the process of buying books, through making electronic books available and allowing schools to buy books at the local level instead of going through the state. Perot promoted the legislation. In an April 2005 interview, Perot expresses concern about the state of progress on issues he had raised in his presidential runs.

[edit] Perot in popular culture

Perot remains a colorful figure, and is both admired and mocked for his somewhat eccentric personality. Editorial cartoonists and comedians often made light of his large ears, squeaky Texas drawl, eyes that do not blink, and penchant for using pie charts to illustrate his points.

The television series The Simpsons mocked Perot in a Halloween episode, Treehouse of Horror VII. Evil space aliens (Kang & Kodos) took over the bodies of Bill Clinton and Bob Dole. When the public got wind of this event, one alien asked the crowd what the voters intended to do because America is a two-party system. One voter suggests a third party candidate but the aliens told him "Go ahead, throw your vote away." Perot is then seen distraught and punching through his campaign hat. Another episode had Homer reading a Ross Perot pamphlet, in which it was suggested that old people should be "isolated and studied, so it can be determined what nutrients they have that might be extracted for our personal use." On another episode, movie action hero "McBain" uses an enormous Q-Tip to kill Perot.

In an episode of the television series A Different World, the character Dwayne Wayne dreams of an election with three female candidates, each a parody of a 1992 presidential candidate. The Perot-like "Rose Godot" -- whose name evokes the existential play Waiting for Godot -- drops in and out of the race throughout the episode.

In an episode of Beavis and Butthead, the lead singer of rock band Devo is mistaken for Perot.

In the animated cartoon Eek! the Cat, Ross Perot was the President of the United States.

The American children's educational television program Sesame Street parodies Perot with the character H. Ross Parrot.

He has also been parodied on Nickelodeon's All That by Katrina Johnson, by Dana Carvey and later Cheri Oteri on Saturday Night Live, and, during his years of greatest political relevance, by the political humor group Capitol Steps on a recurring basis.

In the episode "All the Duke's Men" on The Critic, Perot is depicted as a pizza-deliverer for Domino's Pizza with James Stockdale after having lost the 1992 presidential race.

In one episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway?, an Irish Drinking Song was performed and the subject was Ross Perot.

In a Dilbert strip, Dogbert writes a letter giving the (unnamed) President of the United States advice on exterminating the less intelligent citizens and dividing up their belongings. He signs the letter Ross Perot.

The Jay-Z song "The Bounce", on his album The Blueprint²: The Gift & the Curse features the line, "Business mind of a Ross Perot but never lost my soul".

The Obie Trice song "Oh!", They don't understand what I came for, How I came fo', with a million sold, Who say you can't grow from mildew and mold, Gettin money like Ross Perot, I'm often told, a coffin's the routes I go, Oh that's the road you on, oh no

Perot was mentioned in Jon Stewart's America: The Book as being "disembrained".

In the E-40 song "Rapper's Ball", from the album Hall of Game, he is mentioned in the line "I'll probably never have long money like Ross Perilli".

On the first episode of In Living Color's fourth season, Jim Carrey parodizes Ross Perot by showing a program to the people of the NAACP a program acronymed SLAVE (Service Labor Asset Valuable Expenses)

David Letterman once had a top ten list: Top Ten Ross Perot Campaign Slogans
10. Perot: He's half Dole's age and half Clinton's weight
9. Don't pronounce the "t," but do pronounce him insane
8. He's small enough to fit through the White House dog door
7. Remember the guy you didn't really want in `92?
6. His ears are big, his skull is thick, and he's a raving lunatic
5. He'll put the deficit on his gold card
4. Make Ross your boss
3. Finally, a man you can trust as far as you can throw him
2. He's as ready as a pregnant armadillo in a burning outhouse
1. Perot: He's crazy for America

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ http://www.wargs.com/political/perot.html
  2. ^ a b c d Townley, Alvin [2006-12-26]. Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America's Eagle Scouts. New York: St. Martin's Press, pp. 89-100, 108, 187, 194, 249, 260, 265. ISBN 0-312-36653-1. Retrieved on 2006-12-29. 
  3. ^ Ray, Mark (2007). What It Means to Be an Eagle Scout. Scouting Magazine. Boy Scouts of America. Retrieved on 2007-01-05.

[edit] References

[edit] Further reading

  • Thomas M. Defrank et al. Quest for the Presidency, 1992 Texas A&M University Press. 1994.
  • Lacy, Dean and Barry C. Burden. 1999. "The Vote-Stealing and Turnout Effects of Ross Perot in the 1992 U.S. Presidential Election." American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 43 (Jan.) p. 233-255.
  • Mason, Todd (1990). Perot. Business One Irwin. ISBN 1-55623-236-5 An unauthorized biography by a longtime Perot watcher.
  • Rapoport, Ronald and Walter Stone. Three's a Crowd: The Dynamic of Third Parties, Ross Perot, and Republican Resurgence Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2005.
  • Doron P. Levin, Irreconcilable Differences: Ross Perot Versus General Motors (New York: Plume, 1990)
  • Thomas Moore, The GM System is Like a Blanket of Fog, Fortune, February 15, 1988

[edit] External links

Preceded by
(none)
Reform Party Presidential candidate
1996 (3rd)
Succeeded by
Pat Buchanan