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Perot Ready For Court Battle to Win Place in Debates

September 19, 1996

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ George Black doesn’t want to vote for Ross Perot. But he’d like to see him go head-to-head with President Clinton and Bob Dole.

``Anybody should be allowed to speak,″ said the 83-year-old Black.

Maya Lipman feels it’s downright unconstitutional for the Commission on Presidential Debates to deny Perot a face-to-face meeting with his rivals. The snub, she said, shows ``there’s obvious fear from the other parties.″

That’s just what Perot thinks. He plans to file a lawsuit today or Friday in federal court in Washington in hopes of getting a seat at the presidential debates with Clinton and Republican nominee Dole. He said he’ll seek an injunction to stop the showdowns if he’s not invited.

Reveling in his underdog roll, the Reform Party presidential nominee and Texas billionaire on Wednesday accused the mainstream political parties of being afraid of his ``cur dog″ attack style.

``Seventy-six percent of the voters made it crystal clear that they wanted me included in these debates. That’s a recent Harris poll. But their views were ignored by the debate commission,″ Perot said, speaking to the Commonwealth Club of California, a public affairs group.

More recent national polls show that 60-to-65 percent of the public would like to see Perot involved in the debates, although less than 10 percent think he could win the presidency.

The commission ruled Tuesday that Perot shouldn’t be allowed to debate because he didn’t have a ``realistic″ chance to win the election.

The decision to exclude Perot infuriated many who had come to see him speak in San Francisco, including Lipman and Black.

``I just think that’s unconstitutional,″ said Lipman of Burlingame.

``I think it’s wrong,″ added Black of San Francisco.

Perot said he’s not being invited because the other candidates fear him. Actually, Clinton wants Perot in and Dole wants him kept out.

``I was included in the 1992 debates even though my standing in the polls in 1992 was lower than they are now. But they roared up after the debates,″ said Perot, who won 19 percent of the popular vote in 1992.

``Now, do you start to understand why they don’t want this cur dog back in the debates again? Just two registered puppies, right?″ he added.

Perot said the commission, made up of Democrats and Republicans, was conditioning the public ``like Pavlov’s dogs″ to support the main parties and not independent candidates like himself.

``They gave you a nice electric shock yesterday to get you really focused again,″ Perot told about 600 people attending the club luncheon.

Perot, speaking with the enthusiasm of a tent revival preacher, pounded the podium several times and lost his voice at one point as he vowed to fight for the right to face Clinton and Dole.

Perot said barring the door to him means 80 million viewers won’t be able to hear his stands on the issues. They also might not get the opportunity to see him in television ads.

Perot has suffered a second stumbling block since the networks have balked at selling him air time for 30-minute infomercials, his campaign staple. ``We can’t buy the prime-time program that’s essential, but we’ll keep on trying,″ he promised.

His only recourse would be to buy one-minute television ads, but, he complained, ``this does not permit in-depth discussion of the issues.″

``And that’s what they want,″ Perot said. ``They don’t want you to understand these problems in detail. We are determined that you will understand these problems in detail.″

Perot, who has no current public or television appearances scheduled, was counting on the debates as part of his come-from-way-behind strategy.

``It’s obviously a blow,″ said spokeswoman Sharon Holman. ``We’ve not given up hope at all. I think public support and appeal will have a lot to do with us getting in.″

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