It Can't Happen Here, Can It?

Limbaugh loftily revealed that he and the president sat together chuckling while watching television tapes of a Saturday Night Live takeoff on none other than H. Ross Perot.

Nothing remains a secret if Limbaugh blurts it out to his audience, even if it isn't quite the 12 million of which he boasts.

The word about Limbaugh's romp in the White House reached Art Bell in his Las Vegas talk show booth that very night.

Bell was clearly irritated by the news.
While he had been sweltering in a parking lot watching Perot, Limbaugh, someone he regards as an archrival, had been in the White House with George.

"Huumph!" Bell said, in the tone of a maiden spurned. "I find that mo-ooo-oost interesting. Let me think about this a little before I attempt to characterize its meaning."

6. Perot's experience on the Barbara Wa-Wa show was a delicious bit of irony. Perot is clearly accustomed to supplicants. He misunderstood her sing-song manner for weakness and got caught off-guard.

Before Perot realized what he was saying, he had said that he would not knowingly hire either an adulterer or a homosexual. He also added that it would be "unrealistic" to have homosexuals in the military.

Several days later, Perot appeared on NBC's Today program and was confronted by Katie Couric with her own follow-up question about adulterers and homosexuals.

"You are taking a nothing issue and having fun with it," Perot said, clearly irritated. "You have completely misstated my positions." But Perot's position had not been misstated. The questions were right on target.

"This is mud wrestling," Perot said angrily.

In the brief period of Perot's noncandidacy there have already been a half-dozen instances in which Perot has denied making statements in the past that no longer fit his present stance.

There have been several old and weird incidents from his native Texas that show him in an unpleasant light.

Once, during a battle with the Fort Worth daily newspaper, Perot told one of the paper's executives that he had pictures of a staff member in a compromising position.

Perot denies this.

When Judy Miller, columnist for the Dallas Observer, wrote of a plan by Perot to storm houses in black areas in a crackdown against guns, he had a ready answer.

"Check out her reputation," Perot told Michael Kelly of the New York Times.

Perot's modus operandi is about as subtle as a lynch mob.

When confronted with unpleasant facts, he will develop a faulty memory. And if something is truly embarrassing, he is only too willing to turn spiteful and nasty.

Down in Texas, I think they call it "downright mean and dirty."

7. I went over to San Francisco. Jerry Brown was speaking at a media conference at the University of San Francisco. The big rooom was packed with journalists, most of them from alternative publications. The outer lobby was filled with people selling tee shirts and how-to books on journalism.

Brown was in the midst of an impassioned speech when I arrived. It all seemed so unreal.

Brown was giving it his best shot, and he's real good at what he does. But the message wasn't hitting home.

"You are writing obscure, esoteric information for the few," Brown told the journalists at one point. "The real crisis is that you are not part of the public discourse for the masses." Brown spoke about the poor and how journalists no longer write about them simply because people don't want to read about them. He was right, of course.

"Don't you realize what's happened in this country?" Brown asked rhetorically. "We have a country in which people without access to power are ghosts.

"We have a situation in which the people at the top are talking to themselves. All of you reporters are caught up in it. So am I." A small, intense woman with jet-black hair shouted into a microphone set up for the audience: "Political coverage today is elitist and the majority of us in the streets don't even bother to read the stories when they do get written." I like Jerry Brown. If I were to pick an outsider to vote for, he'd be my man. But he never had a chance.

There is a story about Brown that's always stuck with me.

When he was governor of California, Brown once concluded a speech by telling his listeners that he had reread the last chapter of Tolstoy's War and Peace that very morning.

"You take a look at it," Brown said. "It will indicate that the generals neither knew what they were doing nor did those that followed them." Brown remains convinced from his reading of history ranging from the Peloponnesian wars to Vietnam that politicians are always as ignorant as their consituents.

The difference between a Jerry Brown and an H. Ross Perot is that Brown is honest enough to admit his failings.

8. The most frightening thing I've read during this campaign is an interview Perot did with the New York Times. They ran it on the front page.

I don't remember Perot's exact words to reporter Michael Kelly, but I can't forget the inference.

You can write anything you want about me in your paper, Perot said. It doesn't matter. Tomorrow there will be another story in its place. People forget.

I'll give Perot that. He's right about people. They do forget, and much too quickly. . . .

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