Friday, September 09, 2016

Ross Perot - Prairie Prophet & Presidential King Maker


Exactly 24 years ago George Bush, Sr.,  was running for re-election as president of the United States and being challenged by a young, upstart Democrat and Governor of Arkansas named Bill Clinton.  And then there was that shrill talking, billionaire from Texas named Ross Perot who was trying to launch the first successful third party campaign since Teddy Roosevelt just after the turn of the last century.

For historians let me set the record straight.  Yes Teddy was elected vice president in 1900 and became president when President William McKinley was shot September 6 and died September 14 of 1901, his first year in office.  Teddy was then elected by a landslide in 1904.
In 1908 he supported his secretary of war, William Howard Taft for president and Taft won.  By the end of Taft's first term Roosevelt felt Taft no longer served the people and when he failed to beat Taft at the GOP convention he started a third party, the Bull Moose (progressive) party to oppose the president.
This is where the parallels between Ross Perot and Teddy Roosevelt become intertwined as if history was simply repeating itself about 100 years later.
In the election of 1912 Republican President Taft got 23% of the vote, Independent Roosevelt got 27% of the vote, and Democrat Woodrow Wilson became president with just 42% of the vote.  Thus Roosevelt blocked Taft from being re-elected and made Wilson President.
After his first term in office in 1992 President Bush was running for re-election riding the popularity of Desert Storm when Ross Perot, a former Republican like Teddy Roosevelt, came out of nowhere with his Independent campaign.
In the election of 1992 Republican President Bush got 38% of the vote, Independent Ross Perot got 19% of the vote, and Democrat Bill Clinton became president with just 43% of the vote.  Thus Perot blocked Bush from being re-elected and made Clinton President.
During Clinton's first term Ross Perot sought to influence the national agenda focusing on three issues, the NAFTA economic treaty, Health Care Reform and rebuilding our educational system.
He opposed NAFTA, an issue Clinton co-opted from the GOP because he was in danger of losing his re-election campaign.  Perot warned passage of NAFTA would lead to the destruction of our manufacturing industries and we would lose millions of jobs to Mexico and other countries.  Clinton got it passed and the final nail was driven into the coffin of America's once dominate manufacturing base.
On health care Perot warned the lack of cost controls would bankrupt America, and any government entitlement programs regarding health care like Medicare and Medicaid would drive the American deficit beyond our capacity to pay.  In 1996 the US national debt was $107.4 billion under Clinton and by 1998 would become a surplus through Bush in 2001.
Today the National debt stands at a record $20 trillion, thanks in large part to runaway entitlement costs as predicted by Perot.  In fact America spends more per capita than any other nation on health care yet ranks just 37th in the world in terms of quality of health care.
Finally, Perot was so disgusted with the deficiencies in our education system that he started his own high school in Dallas and was to set records for educational achievement and college attendance by urban youth.  Today our educational system continues to spend more per pupil than any other nation and we still are failing in terms of the quality of educational care.
Sooo, Ross Perot, the caricature from Texas who dared challenge the American two-party system was a figment of historical déjà vu showing up 100 years after Teddy Roosevelt played the same role for America.
Both were prophets in terms of warning of the dangers faced by America and both greatly influenced the national agenda and debate.  A couple of obscure Democrats owe their fortune and fame (Wilson and Clinton) to these political rebels.  At the same time, the failure of our government to heed the warnings of these two left us floundering in the winds of indecision as our judicial system seemed to collapse, our health care costs spiraled out of control, our manufacturing base vanished away, our educational system continued to flounder and our national debt reached epic proportions.

More on the Prairie Prophet from Texas later as the story of Ross Perot and his unbending care for the nation, commitment to veterans, exceptional patriotism and whose incredible rescue of his employees from the prison of Iran after the failure of President Carter to protect our own embassy in the fall of Iran to the Ayatollah is one of the greatest stories of courage to ever take place in our nation.

US hostages in Iran 1979

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