Perot Pledges To Add Millions To His Group; Takes Shots At Clinton
ORONO, Maine (AP) _ Ross Perot vowed Saturday to recruit millions to his political organization, promising it would be dedicated to populist causes rather than personal gain or attacks. Yet he aimed several pointed barbs at the new Clinton administration and its search for an attorney general.
Perot staged three rallies in Maine as he made his first political appearances since Clinton’s inauguration, urging people to join the ″United We Stand America″ committee formed from his campaign apparatus and choosing this state to make his first pitch because his second-place finish here was his best November showing.
Three months after the election and three weeks after the inauguration, Perot spoke as if the last campaign was still going on - or the next one already under way.
A supporter held a ″Perot ’96″ sign at his final rally in Portland, and many of the Perot voters said they hoped he challenged Clinton in four years. Others said they were open to supporting Clinton, but still wanted to hear Perot’s folksy, anti-Washington rhetoric.
″We’re getting organized for the long haul,″ Perot told 1,500 people in Portland, crediting his campaign with making the federal deficit a front- burner issue for Clinton. ″The campaign was just the first step - it brought us together.″
At stops in Orono, Rockland and Portland, Perot spoke to a combined audience of perhaps 4,500 people, railing against deficit spending, the influence of money and lobbyists in politics and the perks of power in Washington, from free airport parking to free health insurance.
He promised repeatedly to get to the ″fine print″ and spell out his solutions but never really did outside of repeating his support for a balanced budget amendment and a ban on government officials going to work as foreign lobbyists.
Instead, Perot revived many of the familiar slogans of his independent presidential campaign, which received 19 percent of the vote nationally and 30.4 percent in Maine, where Perot edged out George Bush for second place. Perot urged his supporters to work ″all for one and one for all,″ denounced lobbyists in ″$1,000 suits and alligator shoes″ and quoted Roosevelt, Churchill and other historic politicians in painting himself as a man of bold action.
He also revived one of the contradictions of his historic campaign, saying time and time again that politics has been debased by personal attacks. ″I don’t want to criticize anyone,″ he said, calling his an organization of ″idealistic, selfless patriots.″
Yet he delivered pointed criticisms of Clinton, members of the new administration and even former President Bush.
Perot said ″United We Stand America″ needed to quickly mobilize in support of campaign finance and other political reforms because Clinton and Congress were pushing a ″soft, squeamish reform package now.″
And, the day after a second candidate for attorney general withdrew from consideration because of her hiring of an illegal alien, Perot denounced the ″arrogance″ of those he said are trained in the law yet consider themselves above it.
″Arrogance goes with it - they are sort of above all this,″ Perot said, saying if a police officer committed such violations they would ″tear off his head because he is supposed to be a role model.″
After Kimba Wood withdrew Friday night, it was also disclosed that she trained briefly for a Playboy Club job while at school in London. In making a joke about that, Perot weaved in a poke at Clinton’s college experimentation with marijuana.
″I love this one,″ Perot said. ″She trained as a Playboy bunny but never worked as one. ... That’s like ’I smoked but I didn’t inhale.‴
Perot’s trip to Maine comes as United We Stand America launches an aggressive membership drive that includes mailings to Perot supporters and television ads featuring the Texas computer tycoon.
″We are putting together the biggest grass roots citizens’ organization this country has ever seen,″ Perot said.
He said the group would organize congressional districts to maximize its power in federal elections and urged members to get involved in local school and other politics as well.
He also urged college students to organize on their campuses - the first event was at the University of Maine - suggesting he planned to compete for a constituency Republicans targeted in the 1980s and that Clinton won back for the Democrats in 1992 and has vowed to keep.
Most of those in the audience voted for Perot, and most said they would consider doing so again - although many said Clinton was off to a good or at least a decent start and deserved time to enact his agenda.
″I think he has done all right so far,″ Anders Netland of Orono said of Clinton. ″But I think it is a good idea for Perot to keep pressing the points because it will keep Clinton’s feet to the fire.″
Earl Brown, among the 2,000 on hand to hear Perot in Orono, said he had little doubt why Perot was there. ″I think he’s trying to build bridges for the next campaign,″ Brown said.