Warm Southern Breeze

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Remembering Ross Perot

Posted by Warm Southern Breeze on Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Ross Perot (1930-2019)

Ross Perot, the Texas billionaire who made his fortune in Information Technology/Computer Data Systems, twice ran for POTUS as an independent candidate, and prophetically warned about the “giant sucking sound” of American jobs moving to Mexico if NAFTA was ratified, has died, aged 89.

Perot was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, which is also why, in part, he chose retired former Vice Admiral James Stockdale – an Annapolis graduate, living recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and one of the most-highly-decorated Naval officers in history, who, like John McCain, was also shot down, and became a POW (Prisoner Of War) – to be his running partner in 1992.

Formal portrait of Rear Adm. James B. Stockdale (1923-2005) in dress white uniform. He is one of the most highly decorated officers in the history of the Nay, wearing twenty six personal combat decorations, including two Distinguished Flying Crosses, three Distinguished Service Medals, two Purple Hearts, and four Silver Star medals in addition to the Medal of Honor. Later he obtained the rank of Vice Admiral, and is the only three star Admiral in the history of the Navy to wear both aviator wings and the Medal of Honor. U.S. Navy photo (RELEASED)

Stockdale’s now-infamous debate opener faux pas “Who am I? Why am I here? I’m not a politician,” to introduce himself was widely ridiculed, and he was never able to recover from it.

He also popularized, if not created, the word “gridlock” to characterize the slow pace of progress in government policy, when he said in response to a question during the October 13, 1992 Vice Presidential debate with then-Tennessee Senator Al Gore, Jr., “I think America is seeing right now the reason this nation is in gridlock. The trickle-downs and the tax-and-spends, or whatever you want to call them, are at swords’ points. We can’t get the economy going.”

Because Ross Perot had never held any elected governmental office, he could be credited with popularizing the notion of a business owner/CEO taking the helm of government, thereby eventually giving rise to the Trump candidacy. And Perot’s most well-known idiom may be “a giant sucking sound going south” which he uttered in the Presidential debate October 15, 1992 (the second of three) between then-POTUS George H.W. Bush, then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton, and himself.

The first question of the evening was addressed to him by an audience member, and was:
“Yes, I’d like to direct my question to Mr. Perot. What will you do as President to open foreign markets to fair competition from American business, and to stop unfair competition here at home from foreign countries so that we can bring jobs back to the United States.”

In context, he replied in part and said, “To those of you in the audience who are business people, pretty simple: If you’re paying $12, $13, $14 an hour for factory workers and you can move your factory South of the border, pay a dollar an hour for labor, hire young – let’s assume you’ve been in business for a long time and you’ve got a mature work force – pay a dollar an hour for your labor, have no health care – that’s the most expensive single element in making a car – have no environmental controls, no pollution controls and no retirement, and you don’t care about anything but making money, there will be a giant sucking sound going south.

“So we – if the people send me to Washington the first thing I’ll do is study that 2,000-page agreement and make sure it’s a two-way street. One last part here – I decided I was dumb and didn’t understand it so I called the Who’s Who of the folks who’ve been around it and I said, “Why won’t everybody go South?” They say, “It’d be disruptive.” I said, “For how long?” I finally got them up from 12 to 15 years. And I said, “well, how does it stop being disruptive?” And that is when their jobs come up from a dollar an hour to six dollars an hour, and ours go down to six dollars an hour, and then it’s leveled again. But in the meantime, you’ve wrecked the country with these kinds of deals. We’ve got to cut it out.”

For a brief synopsis of Admiral Stockdale’s life and naval career by the United States Naval Academy, see:

For more about Ross Perot, see:

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