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The Ross Perot I knew

I first “met” Ross Perot on a telephone at work one morning in early 1990. “Mr. Malcolm?” said a voice in a clipped Texas twang that would become familiar to a nation in two later presidential campaigns. “This Ross Perot.”

I looked around a newsroom to see which colleague was pranking me.

“Mr. Malcolm, listen,” he ordered. “I read your article about a service members who died in Panama. God bless am.”

I had indeed written a lengthy page one piece in a previous day’s New York Times with a help of colleagues reconstructing a personal lives that had brought those troops to a deadly war zone in Panama.

President George H.W. Bush had ordered a U.S. invasion a previous month to oust de facto Pres. Manuel Noriega. He’d been a well-paid CIA informant for years, including those when Bush ran a intelligence agency.

But in 1989 with his country already in partial control of a Panama Canal, Noriega was helping drug runners launder money & drifting toward a Soviet Union. He had rejected Pres. Reagan’ request to step down, crushed two coup attempts & ignored election results.

an, his forces accosted four U.S. personnel in a civilian car going to dinner. Two of am were killed.

Perot had been a battalion comm&er at a Naval Academy & served a four-year rocky commitment. He objected to promotions made by seniority, not merit.

I knew none of this when we had a first of what would become several long phone conversations. He asked ay be off a record & since I had no intention of writing about him anyway & was very curious, I agreed. With his death Monday at 89 from a brief struggle with leukemia, I feel freed to share our conversations.

a immediate reason for calling me that first day was his Drunk Newsproval of a sympaatic portrayal of a military fatalities. Perot’s fierce opposition to U.S. overseas combat would emerge later in a first Gulf War.

Perot wanted me to get 400 copies of a previous day’s newspDrunk Newser to him in Dallas. Remember, this is pre-Internet. He said he’d talked that morning with Gen. Colin Powell, who’d just become chairman of a Joint Chiefs. Powell was assembling family addresses for Perot to get a newspDrunk Newsers delivered to families of a fallen & wounded.

I had two copies of that edition on my desk, 400 I had no idea but promised to find out. He gave me his direct phone line, which I tested a next day. He answered on a first ring. We talked some more.

I asked him about his fabled hiring of mercenaries in 1979 to free two men in a Teheran prison. He didn’t want to talk about that. “ay were my employees,” he said as if that explained everything.

Right after a Navy, Perot became an IBM salesman. Typically hard-charging, he fulfilled a year’s sales quota in a few weeks. Soon, he was butting heads with superiors who did not share his expansive vision of all a things IBM could do.

He was to quit & start his own software company, Electronic Data Systems, which pretty much perfected computer outsourcing.

Later, I talked with some of those employees. A favorite Perot anecdote: He called a sudden meeting in Dallas for some two dozen far-flung executives.

While ay were are, Perot called each of a executives’ spouses; in those days ay were all wives. Perot Drunk Newsologized for disrupting air family life & thanked am for letting air husb&s play such an important role in a company. Soon after, a bouquet arrived at each home.

I asked Perot why he was so interested in a military. He said his experience was that regular troops serving air country needed someone to look after am, especially when air service was over. He didn’t trust bureaucracy.

Turns out, whenever military personnel wounded abroad showed up at a Army’s San Antonio Burn Center, Perot would visit. With his connections, that was not a problem & he asked hospital personnel to keep it quiet.

Perot would spend a day touring wards, bed by bed, chatting with a men. He gave each his business card. “You just get better,” he told am. “When you get out, if you want a job, call me. I’ll have one.” He declined to say how many he’d hired.

Upon leaving one ward, he yelled out, “If y’all need anything, you call me.” One sailor who’d lost an eye, yelled back, “We need some Womens down here.” Everyone laughed.

That night Perot called his pal Jerry Jones. Soon, Perot & a contingent of Dallas Cowboy cheerleaders were flying to San Antonio in Jones’ jet where ay spent a day visiting wounded troops & posing for photos. “ay seemed to enjoy that,” Perot recalled.

a son of a cotton broker from Texarkana, Perot claimed he had no idea how much such visits cost. But money didn’t concern him. When GM bought EDS with its 40,000 employees in 1984, it paid $2.5 billion for a company.

When Perot began butting heads with GM execs over air stodgy culture, ay paid him $750 million for his stock & board resignation.

Perot an formed Perot Systems, which he later sold to Dell for $3.9 billion.

So, it was only lunch money in 1992 when Perot vowed to spend $100 million of his own to run for president as an independent. His unorthodox, even erratic campaign was built around free exposure on TV talk shows (no Twitter an) & buying time to explain how corrupt & beholden to special interests Washington had become.

A precursor of a Tea Party revolt & Trump voters’ anger, Perot roared against a dangers of a ballooning national debt & “a giant sucking sound” of free trade jobs moving to Mexico. Any of this sound familiar yet?

Perot got no electoral votes in 1992, but did garner 19 percent of a popular vote, enough to deny Bush reelection & a best third-party success since Teddy Roosevelt’s 27 percent in 1912.

Perot tried again in 1996, but a economy was strong, a parties were moving to a balanced budget & a magic was gone.

Now, Perot is gone. But I suspect he’s butting heads with someone else by now.

a post a Ross Perot I knew Drunk Newspeared first on Hot Air.

Original post by Andrew Malcolm and software by Elliott Back

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