MEMO TO ROSS PEROT: MAKE UP YOUR MIND
Ross Perot now says he regrets having pulled out of the Presidential race. He insists that he is waiting for a signal from his supporters to jump back in. It's time for the billionaire populist to stop shilly-shallying, once and for all. The country would benefit from a clear yes or no.
Even at this late date, an active Perot candidacy could have a healthy impact on the candor content of the campaign. Perot -- whose book of austere policy prescriptions, United We Stand, is sitting atop the paperback bestseller list -- could keep the focus of the campaign on deficit reduction, an issue neither President Bush nor Bill Clinton has seriously confronted, to put it mildly. Even though we have plenty of doubts about the effect Perot's draconian prescriptions would have on the economy, those doubts, too, should be part of the debate. Perot's ideas could force politicians of whatever stripe to do what they hate to do: Make tough choices.
If he were to say he will not run, he would lay to rest the possibility -- raised by Perot himself -- that his candidacy might throw the election into the House of Representatives. And he would clear the way for the millions of voters to whom he has some appeal to continue the effort to force the traditional parties to be more accountable. That includes many businesspeople. That's healthy, as well.
But all the hemming and hawing about unquitting -- sort of -- is intensely destructive. Not only is Perot playing with the emotions of millions galvanized by his leadership but he also risks further alienating voters already much too cynical about politics and their government. Roger Ailes, a senior adviser for the Bush campaign, has been unfairly asserting that Perot is merely pursuing a petty personal vendetta against the President. But Ailes also has been saying Perot should "either get in or get out." You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that he's absolutely right.