A few of my favorite Ross Perot quotations:

Trying to get a bill passed through Congress is like sending ice cream through the mail: you start out with good intentions, but all you end up with is mush.
Trying to get a bill passed through Congress is like leading a camel through the eye of a needle: you gotta push, you gotta pull, you gotta push, you gotta pull, you gotta push, you gotta pull, and eventually you get stuck.
The Federal deficit is like a leaky faucet: it goes drip-drip-drip--drip-drip, but before you know it, you're fly fishing in your living room.
You can lead a horse to water, but that don't make it a duck. Horses, ducks. It's that simple.
You can take your boots dry out of the oven and pour on gravy, but that don't make them biscuits. It's that simple: education has got to improve standardized test scores.

No, I am not a Perotista or even a PerotHead, however these quotations were dispensed as wisdom on my answering machine my sophomore year of college.

(b. 1930) Ross Perot, a Texas billionaire, was a third-party presidential candidate in 1992 and 1996.

Perot presented himself as a straight-talking businessman who wanted to focus on "the issues": namely, the economy, a balanced budget, and the future of American jobs. He appealed to disillusioned voters who were tired of the empty campaign rhetoric, slick politicking, and broken campaign promises of the Democrats and Republicans. Perot made himself known by appearing on talk shows wielding charts and graphs, gesticulating frenetically, and spouting colorful imagery in a thick Texas accent (in perhaps his most famous moment, he said that NAFTA would result in the giant sucking sound of jobs flowing south to Mexico).

In the 1992 presidential election, Perot ran as a candidate of the "United We Stand America" party with the hapless Admiral James Stockdale as his running-mate. He actually quit the presidential race at one point, only to rejoin several months later--a move that saved him money but made him vulnerable to the charge that he was just as much of a waffle as George Bush and Bill Clinton. Unlike Ralph Nader, Perot was allowed to participate in the debates. Overall, the effect was mixed--some felt that he handled himself quite well (and garnered some nice prime-time TV publicity to boot); others decided not to vote for him, feeling that the man had revealed himself to be a certifiable gabbling lunatic. Nonetheless, he did quite well overall, winning 18% of the vote and actually coming in second in a few states.

Perot ran as a Reform Party candidate in 1996, but didn't do as well; he wasn't allowed in the debates and ultimately got 9% of the vote.

Even though Perot didn't win, he showed that third-party candidates could get enough votes to swing an election--and that, consequently, the major parties should adopt the ideas of strong third parties or risk losing those votes and therefore the election. Thus, third-party voters can "win" in a sense, even if their candidate loses. (For example, nobody cared much about balancing the budget until Perot made it a national issue; then you heard about it much more often).

(A brief aside: Perot was one of the single most bizarre men ever to run for President in the TV era. Comedy shows like Saturday Night Live could reduce audiences to tears of laughter simply by doing an accurate imitation of Perot's Dumbo ears, jerky movements, and piercing Texas drawl; they didn't even need to caricature him, because the man himself was a walking caricature. He would've made a strange President, that's for sure.)

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