Barefoot, bantamweight billionaire: the man who paved the way for Trump
Ross Perot made a fortune and then went on to shake the foundations of 1990s US politics
Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire and philanthropist, who has died aged 89, was known for his eccentric forays into public life in 1992 and again in 1996, when he launched bizarre campaigns to secure the presidency and “clean out the barn” of Washington.
Not the first billionaire to seek the office of president, Perot – like Henry Ford in 1923 (and Donald Trump in 2016) – appealed to an electorate “utterly disgusted with the political way of doing things”. When he took on the then Governor Clinton and President Bush in the 1992 election, a year when public faith in elected officials was close to exhaustion, Perot, who had never held elected office, successfully cast himself as a tantalising mixture of American values, myths and yearnings. Like George Washington, he presented himself as a latter-day Cincinnatus – the politician who accepts power reluctantly, uses it sparingly, and puts it aside with no regrets.
This image was enhanced by the fact that he paid for his own campaign, insisted that he would not accept the salary of the president ($200,000) and paraded his ignorance of political issues as a virtue. Perot knew that Americans had always been susceptible to the idea that government is just another big business, and that where big business is concerned, self-made billionaires know best...