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Larry King Live
Ross Perot Endorses George W. Bush for PresidentAired November 2, 2000 - 9:00 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Ross Perot, in an exclusive one-on- one. With just five days left in campaign 2000, he's ready to endorse a presidential candidate, and it's next on LARRY KING LIVE.
It goes without saying we've had many interesting evenings together, Ross Perot and I, dating way back to the early '90s and the famed announcement on this program that he would entertain a campaign for the presidency, a campaign that he entered in '92, dropped out of, came back in, and still got 19 percent of the vote. In fact, a whooping 19 percent with -- in 28 states, over 20 percent of the vote.
There's lots to get into. We have not heard from him all this year. He didn't get involved in the Reform Party antics that went on in California, has not been heard from with regard to his selection. He has an enormous following in this country.
So it's obvious first question. Who are you endorsing?
ROSS PEROT, FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Well, first, the only reason I'm here tonight is because I love this country, I love the principles on which it's founded, and I don't like to see those principles violated, and I have an absolute commitment to do whatever I can the rest of my life to make sure that we in our generation do what our parents and all of our forefathers did. They worked and sacrificed to leave their children a better country. We have an enormous obligation to do that.
The most important job in the world is president of the United States. Now, we have to have a person with the maturity, with the character, the integrity, the judgment, and the discipline to do that job. We are down to two. We are going to have -- in the real world, one or the other will get this job.
Now, tonight, I would like to talk to all of the young people in this country, because your lives are in front of you, and it's very important for you to understand that we need to have people who reflect honor and integrity on that office. We need to have people who are going to tell the truth when they're in the office, that will take responsibility. And we need to have somebody that you would be willing to send -- have you go into combat when he gave the order. All of you that are eligible to vote that are young have an enormous obligation to cast an informed vote.
Now, there may be some that don't like either candidate, but we're down to two candidates. This is like the Kentucky Derby. If the horse you wanted wasn't in the race, that doesn't -- you're down to the two in the race, and you've got to focus on that.
KING: So who do you think...
PEROT: And I would like to have all the people, the 25 million people who served in the armed forces and literally risked their lives for our country, many of them, promise that they are going to cast an informed vote. It's inexcusable in our country to have a low voter turnout. And I beg the 29 million people who voted for me in 1992 and 1996, study the issues, get the facts, but go to the polls and vote. It's inexcusable for us not to vote.
I want the parents and grandparents who are dedicated to leaving a better world for their children to look very carefully and objectively -- forget all the propaganda, all the stuff that goes on, and focus on the real issues of what we have to do. And the most important thing our president has to do as commander in chief is protect and defend this great country, and to be a responsible force for balance and avoiding wars throughout the world.
We've got to have a person that you would allow yourself to go into combat under his orders.
KING: And who do you think that should be?
PEROT: Well, I'd like to just talk a little bit more about the process and build up to that.
KING: You're really building us up, Ross. OK.
PEROT: But first, I want all of you to promise me that you're going to go to the polls and cast an informed vote.
Now, I've looked at this long and hard.
KING: Obviously, because we haven't heard from you.
PEROT: And I've waited and I've waited and I've waited, and frankly, on a selfish basis, I'd just -- I'd watch it and I'd go vote. And I will go vote in the morning.
But if there is anybody in this country that has an obligation to do whatever he can to leave a better, stronger country for our children, I have it. And that's the only reason I'm here tonight.
I have looked very carefully at the two candidates that can win, and in my opinion, one candidate has a significant advantage over the other. First off, let me remind all of you that being a legislator is quite different from being a president. People in the House and Senate pass laws. The person in the White House has to administer and enforce those laws and be responsible for our armed forces and a thousand other things.
I would ask all of you to ask yourselves, which of these two candidates do I believe will surround himself with the most talented team of advisers, because nobody in the world is smart enough to do this by himself. And we need the "A Team" in all of those Cabinet positions and all of those senior-level positions.
And then ask yourself, which one of these people has really demonstrated, in office, honor and integrity, and has not done squirrely things and has not in any way misrepresented facts.
Now, more than -- as important as all those other things are, whoever gets this job has got to be able to get Democrats and Republicans to work together. And that is not easy.
KING: So who...
PEROT: So look for somebody who has demonstrated that skill.
PEROT: Now, when I did all of that studying and analysis, I concluded that Governor George Bush, based on his record in Texas -- here is a man that I have never heard anybody criticize once for improper conduct as governor, for improper taking of political funds, for payoffs, for impropriety in the governor's mansion or at any time. And that is a big state. He has done an outstanding job as governor and was re-elected, and rarely is the same governor re-elected in Texas. So, that was a tremendous compliment to him in Texas.
Looking at both of the candidates, I have concluded, because he has demonstrated the ability to be a person who knows how to administer and govern and have the responsibilities at the state level that the president has at the national level.
KING: We will take a break and come back as Ross Perot announces his support for Governor George Bush of his state of Texas. He did not support -- he ran against his father. Ross Perot lives in Texas. We'll ask about that and we'll ask about the charges running today about the governor that happened 30 years ago and lots of other things. We'll also include your phone calls.
Ross Perot steps up to the plate. We'll be right back.
KING: Lots of things to ask you. You discussed morality and the like. What do you make of the fact that the governor never told us about this drunken-driving incident in 1976?
PEROT: Well, it should not have occurred. There is no excuse. And if he is the man that I think he is, that's the way he'll have to handle it.
KING: That he should have told us.
PEROT: Well, it occurred in -- he -- you know, at this point, I hope he won't -- unlike the person in the White House tonight, that person would give a thousand glib excuses and everybody would think it was a wonderful experience that they had when he finished. And the kind of person I'd like to see in the White House, said it was a mistake.
Now, here is the interesting phenomena. Just give me a minute here. The media has gone nuts over this, right?
KING: Well, I know we have.
PEROT: That happened how many years ago?
PEROT: Thirty-four years ago! Now, let's look at what happened as the Gulf War was starting. And Senator Gore was deciding which way to vote, of whether or not to send men into combat.
KING: And he voted to send them.
PEROT: Stay with me. This is a story that is on the wires. The press doesn't talk about it. And I want to know why. Because, Gore went to the Republicans and said, I can't decide which way I'm going to vote to send men or not send men into war. But I want to know is how much time you will give me. And will you give me prime time on the floor to express my view? And he negotiated again and again. And Alan Simpson and Bob Dole are the ones that have told this story. And he finally got exactly what he wanted, and he voted to send men into combat.
KING: That sounds like good politics to get good prime time.
PEROT: I'm glad you said that. I'm glad you said that. But if you were going to vote the other way, if you didn't get prime time and you got prime time the other way, is this the -- keep in mind, this is what we have had in the White House. We don't need any more of this. We don't need any more Buddhist temple guys running around.
Now there is a huge story down in Texas that for some reason these guys running night and day on this 34-year-old story, let me give you a new story. This is a huge drug operation in Texas, DEA has been working on it for two years. I'm very close to drug enforcement, their best people on it. People that risk lives day after day for us. And it was happening in Houston and it involved a drug ring that was, theoretically at least, the claim is they were spreading money through a church and it was being distributed to politicians. And over a million dollars got spread through that way. The Houston police, the DEA were on it. Suddenly, the Justice Department shut it down.
PEROT: Well, I don't know, but Vice President Gore was in the church recently.
KING: In what church?
PEROT: In this church that was distributing money in Houston. The point is.
KING: You are not assuming that Gore stopped this arrest? PEROT: No, wait just a minute. There is a lot more to it and there is a House Committee holding hearings on it as we speak. And there is a Congresswoman from the West Coast that is all over it that was involved in getting it shut down. And isn't it interesting, that Vice President Gore was there making a big political appearance during his campaign. And you know why politicians goes to places to make appearances is to get money. But it's the Buddhist temple or the church in Houston.
Larry, that is the kind of thing we can't tolerate anymore. We have had it for eight years.
KING: Obviously you felt this way. What took you so long to come out? Why didn't you participate earlier? We know as a citizen you are an active patriotic American, why now?
PEROT: Well, the longer I watched it and the longer I watched the things that people get away with and are not held accountable for, the more I felt that I had to speak out. And in the final analysis, let's just keep it, let's take the 25 million people who fought in the armed forces and served our country.
KING: Gore was one of them.
PEROT: Oh, I'm sorry you brought that up. Wait, no, we are staying on it. Because you all won't print it. Gore was not in combat. Gore was a reporter, quote, Gore was never on the front lines.
KING: But he went to Vietnam.
PEROT: Stay with me. He claims he was on the front lines but he wasn't. He had a bodyguard. How's that for a private? And after five months, less than five months, he came back home. Wow, you'd normally do 12 to 13 months on a tour in Vietnam. But this was a senator's boy. And guess how he got out? He came back home to be a minister and started in Vanderbilt and then a few months later dropped out. Is this what you want in the White House, Larry? If that is what the American people want...
KING: To be a Devil's advocate...
PEROT: We're going to get more eight more years of what you got.
KING: Governor Bush went to Air Reserve.
PEROT: Excuse me, never overstated what his role was.
PEROT: Keep in mind I'm tired of misrepresentation of facts.
KING: Let me ask you some things. Did you let the governor know you were going to say this tonight?
PEROT: No. KING: He has no idea you are endorsing him tonight.
PEROT: No, that is not the principle with me.
KING: His father attacked you and you were pretty rough on his father in the campaign in '92.
PEROT: I was not rough on his father, no.
KING: Well, there were the long stories that you and George Bush didn't like each other.
PEROT: But they told all that stuff.
KING: That was never true that you had a personal...
PEROT: Excuse me, go back to '92. I had no personal vendetta against him. And that is not the issue. Now, you say, why would I endorse his son, because of the rough things that -- no, they were very open in the things they said about me.
KING: Sure were.
PEROT: Because, I'm back to what I said earlier. There are two horses in the race. We have two people in the race. One of them going to win. The only thing that matters to me is the citizen who loves this country, and wants his children and grandchildren to have a better life than you and I have had, and wants this country to be safe and secure during the 21st century. I think he is the clearly better two of men.
KING: You were hurt by what happened to Reform Party, by the way?
PEROT: I was disappointed. But the Reform Party had to be controlled by the people in the party.
KING: So, you didn't get involved.
PEROT: Any time that even I provided active leadership, and, like the Democrats, sent in Lamm (ph), who never became a Reform Party member. That was after he had a night in the Lincoln bedroom. Now, keep in mind, Gore's vice president during this. Then, all he did with two expensive handlers, and I don't know who paid for them, was make one complaint a day about how he was treated. Now, stay with me. Never joined the Reform Party, then disappeared. The point being, you have to just accept in politics, that if you form a third party, with the Federal Election Commission, with half the commissioners Democrats, half Republicans, Federal Debate Commission, half Democrats, half Republicans, anything that can be done, will be done, to get rid of the party. And that is what happened.
KING: You certainly didn't support Buchanan.
PEROT: I have not been involved at all in that. KING: We will be right back with more of Ross Perot, who tonight announces his strong endorsement for governor of Texas, George W. Bush.
We are now going to West Alice, Wisconsin, where George Bush is taking some questions. Let's listen.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
GOV. GEORGE W. BUSH (R-TX), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: There's a report out tonight that 24-years ago I was apprehended in Kennebunkport, Maine, for a DUI. That's an accurate story. I'm not proud of that. I oftentimes said that years ago I made some mistakes. I occasionally drank too much and I did on that night.
I was pulled over. I admitted to the policeman that I had been drinking. I paid a fine. And I regret that it happened. But it did. I've learned my lesson.
As I mentioned, I -- as many of you know that I quit drinking alcohol in 1986. And it was the right decision for me to make then. I would be glad to answer a few questions.
QUESTION: Why wait until now?
BUSH: Well, it came out now because a TV station in Maine broke the story. But I made the decision that, as a dad, I didn't want my girls doing the kinds of things I did and I told them not to drink and drive. It was a decision I made. I have been very up front with the people of the state of Texas that, you know, that I had been drinking in the past, that I had made mistakes. And the story broke.
QUESTION: Why now?
BUSH: I think that's an interesting question, why now, four days before an election.
QUESTION: Did the girls know before today?
BUSH: No, the girls did not know until tonight. I talked to them.
QUESTION: Could you tell us some more about the night that you spent some time in jail? Did you...
BUSH: No, I didn't spend any night in jail there. I did not spend time in jail.
QUESTION: Governor, do you believe this is relevant to your candidacy in any fashion?
BUSH: No, I think the people knew that I had been straightforward, that I had made mistakes in the past. This happened 24 years ago. I do find it interesting that it's come out four or five days before the election. But I have been straightforward with the people, saying that I used to drink too much in the past. I'm straightforward with people saying that I don't drink now.
QUESTION: But were you completely truthful, Governor...
QUESTION: ... all the times that you were asked...
BUSH: Yes, I was.
QUESTION: ... asked whether...
BUSH: Yes, I was. I was.
QUESTION: Is there anything else -- is there anything else...
QUESTION: How did you think you could get away with anything?
BUSH: I'm not trying to get away with anything.
QUESTION: Why didn't you come with this out sooner?
BUSH: I just explained why. I wanted to make -- I didn't wanted to talk about this in front in my daughters. I've told my daughters they shouldn't be drinking and driving. It's the decision I made.
BUSH: I have been very candid about my past. I've said I've made mistakes in the past. People know that. They've thought about that. They're making their minds up now. And they've seen me as the governor of the state of Texas. I've upheld the honor and integrity of my office.
And it's a regrettable incident that I find interesting that four or five days before the election is coming to the surface.
And the only thing I can tell you is that I told the people in my state I used to drink. I quit drinking. I'm not going to drink, and I haven't had a drink in 14 years.
QUESTION: Is there anything else that you might be embarrassed about, Governor?
BUSH: Pardon me.
QUESTION: Is there any action that you or your family took after that night?
BUSH: No, there's not. I mean, none.
BUSH: No, none at all. None whatsoever. As a matter of fact, I, you know, I tried -- I mean, I -- listen, I told the guy I had been drinking and what do I need to do? And he said, "Here's the fine." I paid the fine and did my duty. QUESTION: Do you recall what you were doing that night that led you to (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
BUSH: I was drinking beer, yes, with John Newcombe.
QUESTION: How much did you have?
BUSH: How many beers?
BUSH: Enough to have been in violation of the law. I can't remember how many beers. It was 24 years ago.
And that's the interesting thing about this. Here we are with four days to go in the campaign and we're discussing something that happened 24 years ago.
QUESTION: Governor, was there any legal proceeding of any kind? Or did you just...
BUSH: No. I pled -- you know, I said I was wrong and I...
QUESTION: In court?
BUSH: No, there was no court. I went to the police station. I said, "I'm wrong."
QUESTION: So you just had a (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
QUESTION: For the same night.
BUSH: Yes, I did.
BUSH: No. I admitted I was wrong. And...
BUSH: My father, as I recall, he wasn't very happy about it. But...
QUESTION: Governor, are there any more mistakes of this kind or similar awaiting to be discovered?
QUESTION: Governor, you're running for the highest office in the land, don't you think the people have got a right to know this about you?
BUSH: I told the people I'd made mistakes in the past.
QUESTION: But this specifically.
BUSH: I told people I'd made mistakes in the past. And this was a mistake I'd made in the past. I also -- please. I also told the people in that in the past I had drunk too much at times. And this was the case.
And as I mentioned to you, I'm a dad. I was trying to teach my children right from wrong. I chose the course that, to my daughters, I was going to tell them they shouldn't drive and drink. And that's the course of action I took.
And I'm the first to say that what I did was wrong and I've corrected that. And I think the people of America will understand that. I think the interesting thing is that why five days before an election, all of a sudden it pops...
QUESTION: Why do you think it (OFF-MIKE)
BUSH: That's your job. I got my suspicions.
Thank you all.
I've got my suspicions.
QUESTION: Governor, will you answer questions (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
BUSH: Thank you very much.
KING: That was Governor Bush responding to the charges released today.
BUSH: Ross Perot did? That's fantastic.
KING: Hold it.
BUSH: I'm glad to have his support.
KING: Oh, he just told them about Ross Perot.
BUSH: And I think it's an indication of -- the fact that I'm picking up support from a lot of voters who aren't necessarily associated with the Republican Party. And I'm proud to have him on my team.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you all.
KING: And that was, that last question was what he thought about the announcement tonight right here of Ross Perot's endorsement. We'll get Ross Perot's opinion on what he just said and lots of other things. We'll also include calls. We'll be right back. Don't go away.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: If you've just joined us, Ross Perot, who's remained quiet throughout this entire year, through the primaries and through the ruckus over his own party, the Reform Party, comes out tonight and supports the candidacy of George Bush. What did you think of what he just said in regard to this 1976...
PEROT: I checked this man out very carefully in terms of is there any chance, one in a million chance, that we're going to have crazy things going on in the White House like we've had for the last eight years in terms of people having flings with other women and so on. This man is a dedicated husband, he is dedicated to his wife, he is dedicated to his daughters, and I think he is a father that can be a good role model for the people in this country.
Now, he made a mistake 34 years ago. But I sat here and watched this. There's something rotten about our press corps. Now, I know nobody likes to say that, because here we've got Vice President Gore who has done things that just grossly violate the principles of being in, around the White House in terms of fund raising in the Buddhist temple.
Now, how can the American people tolerate anybody that was part of an administration that allowed the Chinese government to take the nuclear secrets we only have on paper and put them into production and sell them to other countries?
KING: But that's been reported. We all know that. You can judge that.
PEROT: Yes, but that's a little deal.
KING: Gore is behind in the polls.
PEROT: Whoa, whoa. Let's just -- you know, let's get that out of the way. Here is a guy who made a mistake -- and it was a dumb mistake and I'm not trying to rationalize it in any way -- 34 years ago. Today -- now again, I've had a number of friends in my life who have had drinking problems. Frankly, the ones that put the cork in the bottle and quit and had guts to do it I respect. That's not easy to do.
KING: Do you understand his not telling because of his daughters? Do you understand that part of it when it was asked why didn't you announce this?
PEROT: Well, I'm sure, you know, it's the kind of thing. Now, again, please American people...
KING: Do you understand the explanation?
PEROT: I understand it, but the point I want to get over to the American people, we batter people around that run for public office to the point that you can't get the people you really want to even run. And we've got to raise the level, as I've said before. War has rules, mud wrestling has rules, politics has no rules.
KING: Does this...
PEROT: This is a minor thing compared to -- I could go on for hours on major things, like the nuclear weapons and all the other corrupt things that have happened in the last eight years.
Now, this happened -- and it shouldn't have happened, you know, but the point is...
KING: All right. I don't want to get...
PEROT: ... it's minor, and I would hope that the press would put the same pressure on Vice President Gore about, what in the world were you doing with your vote on sending men into the Persian war?
Now, by the way, that war damaged over 100,000 people. They're damaged from chemical weapons. And guess what: This administration for the last eight years has let those men rot. And if I had any question in my mind that I -- and I've never brought it up to them, because they didn't know I was going to announce. If I had any question in my mind that they would allow that too continue to go on, obviously, I would not have mentioned anybody as a candidate, that wouldn't take care of wounded veterans.
KING: There's someone in the press who's going to say is this because of the way you -- you and Vice President Gore dealt with the debate over NAFTA. Is there anything personal on your part?
PEROT: No, no. That's Mickey Mouse. Let's -- no, let's...
KING: That was a historic night.
PEROT: That was Mickey Mouse. But the point is let's take the heat that was put on me by the Bush family in '92.
KING: Boy, did they.
PEROT: That was big league. The debate was just a little blip, you know, that wasn't significant. That other stuff -- but the point is, if I was going to react that way, I would have reacted against the Bush family. My point is it's not about what happened in '92. It's there are two people in the race. The question is, which one deserves to be president?
Now just think, if the young people in this country get their heads straight and start thinking this through, they're a huge bloc of votes. If the veterans in this country start thinking this through, they can decide who gets to be president. And you go down at least -- and the 29 million people who voted for me, I'm sure they're going to think about it hard, and I hope you will pick somebody that you can be proud of in the White House.
Now, maybe he wasn't perfect 34 years ago, but I'm talking about from this point forward. We don't want to have to housebreak another president. You know, it's like having a dog that was never indoors, takes a while to get him used to it.
KING: Twenty-four years.
PEROT: Twenty-four. Happened a long time ago.
KING: We'll be right back with Ross Perot. We will include your phone calls. This is LARRY KING LIVE.
Tomorrow night, the "Saturday Night Live" crew previews what's coming up Sunday. And it ain't stopping. Don't go away.
KING: We're back. We will include some phone calls for Ross Perot. You're going to appear Sunday on "Meet the Press" with our mutual friend Timothy and Ralph Nader is going to be on that show, and lot of people -- Democrats and a lot of Gore people are upset that Nader is taking votes from Gore. Now practically -- you said let's be practical, there are only two people running, shouldn't Nader pull out?
PEROT: Look, I admire people like Nader who have strong beliefs and who are willing to go out on the point and get cut to pieces for their country. And he's a very intelligent man. He just has a message he feels compelled that he has to deliver and he's delivering it. And he's doing a good job of it. And I think that's what democracy is all about.
KING: Why didn't you run this year?
PEROT: The primary reason I didn't run is I'm 70 years old. Now, I feel good and I'm in great health.
KING: You don't look it.
PEROT: But I feel it's very important that the person who is responsible for this job needs to be right on the cutting edge 24 hours a day, seven days a week because you don't know when the crisis will come up and every time it comes up, you're putting our men's lives at risk. And that's my primary feeling of the obligation of the president and please, everybody tonight, look at these people, and say, all right, I'm down to two, which one would I count on sending my son into combat or my daughter into combat for the right reasons and which one might do it for political reasons.
KING: Why didn't you get involved in the Reform Party thing? Why didn't you endorse someone or urge someone to run? Why did you stay out?
PEROT: Every time I would do anything, then the press would report that I was trying to control it, and I was never trying to control it. And I said fine, we'll just stand back and let the people do what they want.
KING: Do you think the party is dead?
PEROT: I have no idea. But the thing that I do know is that until we have campaign finance reform and we change a situation -- a thousand colorful stories like if you have a problem in the campaign, you can't go to court anymore. You have to go to the Federal Election Commission. And they say, well, it's an interesting problem, but we can't hear it until after the election. Now, if you like their ruling, then you go to court, but it's all over.
KING: Now that's the problem with the two-party system, right? It's a Catch-22?
PEROT: They control it. No, this whole thing, it's rigged and it needs to be cleared up and straightened out. But it's understandable. It's human nature to maintain the status quo.
KING: So I imagine you admire John McCain's campaign?
PEROT: He ran a good campaign and you know, he'll fight for what he believes in.
KING: San Bernardino, we'll include some phone calls.
PEROT: Now the interesting thing I admired is...
KING: Hold on, San Bernardino.
PEROT: ... that John is a tough guy. John endorsed Bush and John would not have endorsed Bush if he didn't think Bush would have been a good commander-in-chief of the armed forces. I guarantee after going through hell in Hanoi, he wouldn't endorse anybody that he didn't think would do the right thing for the troops.
KING: San Bernardino, California, hello.
CALLER: Yes, this is Colonel Anderson. And I have a question for...
CALLER: You were asking Governor Bush as president of the United States to ask the young people of this generation to volunteer their services. I would like to remind that you during the Vietnam War he had the same opportunity and he had extensive pilot training to display his compassion and patriotism then.
PEROT: And I agree and I understand, but I'm down to two horses in the race. He's never tried to overstate what he did or didn't do. The vice president, the other candidate, has grossly overstated. He talked about being on patrol and all this stuffed and all the fact are that he was reported with a bodyguard way back in a safe place.
KING: Are you sure he had a bodyguard?
PEROT: Well, I wasn't there but that's the story. The point is if someone had made that allegation Bush they night and day would have been chased. But here they just kind of let it blow away. But this is a major story because we're talking about a man that now wants to be commander-in-chief. Then to get out after just five months of taking no risk, and portray himself -- now this is the same guy that says he created the Internet. But that all right, because he said it. It's all right.
KING: Raleigh, North Carolina, hello.
PEROT: You see the double standard here. Half the people see it, even if the press doesn't. I guarantee it.
KING: I think he meant to say he was certainly the guy in the Senate who spurred the Internet on.
PEROT: Look at that the exact words.
KING: Raleigh, North Carolina, hello.
CALLER: Hello, Ross Perot.
PEROT: Yes, sir.
CALLER: My comment to you is after all the hard work you put in, in '92 and '96 to establish the third party movement, how infuriated are you the majority of the Americans said in the in the resent three debates both Nader and Buchanan were totally excluded from the process, really limited our choices and knowledge and diversity of different ideas that should be presented to the American public.
PEROT: Infuriate is the right word. I couldn't be more angry because I've been through all of that. I know how corrupt it is. Now then I'm down to two horses in the race and I have to ask myself which one is more likely to clean all that up. Now I know John McCain well enough to know that he wouldn't have endorsed George Bush unless he thought George Bush was going to really get into that and do the right thing.
KING: But they admit they still have disagreements over things like in areas of campaign reform.
PEROT: I know, but, you know, John's not a guy that's going away. John is a powerful force in the Senate.
KING: All right, let's give some credit here. Does Gore get any credit for being part of an administration that produced this incredibly healthy economy?
PEROT: Boy, am I glad you brought that up.
KING: No Republican would say are you better off today than you were eight years ago.
PEROT: I'm glad you brought that up.
KING: You're an expert in this area and you know this economy. PEROT: Now you're talking about something I understand. They rode the crest of a wave. They just -- you know, it's always good to be around when it's not raining if you're having a picnic. The point being the dirty work -- now listen, American people because here are the facts instead of the hot air you get. The dirty work in cleaning up the banking problem and all the things that gave us the headaches in the late '80s was done from '88 to '92, and by the time '92 occurred the American people were very upset at President Bush because things weren't perfect.
KING: And so were you.
PEROT: Absolutely, now stay with you. Stay with me. But Bill Seedman (ph), Al Casey (ph) and the guys that President Bush put in there to clean it up, had it about 98 percent done. Then, bingo, the luckiest man in the world shows up from Little Rock and rides the crest of the wave, and it's not as though he did...
KING: So he gets no credit.
PEROT: He takes all the credit, Bush gets no credit...
KING: You're giving him no credit.
PEROT: ... the prior people -- see, my heroes there are Seedman and Casey and the guys that did it.
KING: But he did what you wanted to do. You wanted to balance the budget. You knocked both of them...
PEROT: Oh, come on, Larry.
KING: Didn't you say that? You wanted...
PEROT: I hope the American people can remember from 1992 what again and again I showed you a chart that said if we don't do anything, the budget the will temporarily balance itself by the year 2002. Because the banks got cleaned up and the economy is great, it happened a little early. This was going happen if you didn't do a thing.
Now, I'd like to have a president in office that said, well, it happened a little early, but folks if we don't clean this mess up that deficit is going through the roof. You hear these people, including Al Gore, talk about Social Security trust fund.
PEROT: If you don't pay anything -- any attention to anything I say tonight, let me say this very slowly. There is not a Social Security trust fund. If you went over there and said show me the money, all they can show you is notes. It's all been loaned out to government. It's got to be paid back -- now they're paying interest all the time and so on and so forth and it's got to be paid back for you to ever have the benefit.
KING: You favor the Bush plan, the privatization.
PEROT: Social Security is pay as you go. At one time, a few years ago, we had 35 people at work when we put Social Security into law. Now we are down to three headed for two people at work for every person retired. Thirty-five to three to two people at work for every person retired. Obviously, this has got to be overhauled and these people are out on the campaign trail and Al Gore at the forefront totally misrepresenting the facts to the American people and nobody is holding him accountable. And that's one of the reasons I'm here tonight. I can't take it any longer. And I would like to see the press wake up and least stick his feet to the fire on real government fact.
KING: Do you favor private investment, the Bush plan, the Social Security, the public can decide to invest in stocks?
PEROT: I favor, as I said before, we need to get together and I am comfortable because I've watched Governor Bush do this in Texas, when he has a complex problem he gets a very experienced group of senior people. They work on it as a team. He has Democrats and Republicans working on it. They come up with the ideal plan, the best plan they can, and then they do it. Now, with Social Security what we need to do is follow that same what I call engineering process. Figure out how to fix it, get it detailed in paper, get a consensus among the American people that that's the right thing to do, then pilot test it, make sure it works. Then mass produce it.
KING: He hasn't said that.
PEROT: Again, that's the process you'll have to go through to change it.
KING: You trust it based on the way he's been governor.
PEROT: Yes, because Democrats and Republicans...
KING: Because you had a lot to do with this?
PEROT: Yes, I was involved with education reform in the '80s in Texas. Now I was really worried when he came in that it might fall backwards. Here was my problem. You know, he hadn't had a lot of experience in running things, but he has demonstrated his ability to do it. Now that's what impresses me.
KING: You doubted him at the beginning and he proved it to you?
PEROT: Well, I endorsed his opponent.
KING: Anne Richards.
PEROT: Anne Richards, because I thought she -- I just call it the way I see it. I thought she was better qualified. But he has proven himself and on education he is right there. Larry, if we -- Social Security, all these things are very important, but one of the most important things we have to do in our country is clean up the education mess. In 1960, listen to this, we had the finest public schools in the world. Today, our public schools rank at the bottom of the industrialized world. With all the automation and the technology we have coming up in this century, if we don't give our children fully developed intellects and get their brains wired -- and you have to wire the brain just like you do a computer, and we know how to do that. We don't do it in our country.
KING: Let me get a break.
PEROT: If we don't do that, our country will go straight down the tubes in the 21st century.
KING: Let me get a break.
PEROT: To have a president that wants to do that is good.
KING: We'll with be back with Ross Perot, as you can tell has lost none his form. We'll return right after this. Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PATRICK BUCHANAN (REF), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Ross Perot is the father of the Reform Party but I think he turned a little bit into a deadbeat dad. We had to get in that party. He didn't help us a bit to get on the ballots even in Texas and he was the father of the party, but he did not help build the party. We had to go out there. You won't believe it, but the party was not even on the ballot in 30 states when I go into it. We got it on the ballot in 50 states. So, we've been building that party and we sure could have used Ross' help and maybe a little bit of his contributions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: What do you make of that? Did he have a point?
PEROT: Basically, his principles and the principles of the people that form this party are totally different. You've heard me say a hundred times, if you hate other people, I don't want your vote.
KING: Many times.
PEROT: If you want to make a difference with the people because of their race, their religion, their color, I don't want your vote. We are only going to be a great country if we come together and unite. And in certain ways and more subtle ways, we are like the Palestinians and all those groups over there, but thankfully not as violent. But the point, united teams win, divided teams lose. And those were the principles of the Reform Party and those are the principles we all cling to. And that's the reason I'm so confident that a lot of those 29 million people who voted for me in '92 and '96 are going pick the best horse in the race and make sure we get the finest possible president in the White House.
KING: Before our next call, Bush favored, in education, I guess, yes or no, Bush favors vouchers. Do you?
PEROT: I would say we should study vouchers. I would want to analyze vouchers. I want to be -- here's the problem with most legislation. You go from concept to mass production to failure. Well, nobody would build a car that way. Nobody would build a computer that way. Nobody would build a washing machine. You go from concept to idea to detailed plan and you build a few. I would say, let's pilot test the voucher policy and see if it works. And if it works, it's worth pursuing.
But the problem with it, which is obvious, I'm sure to Governor Bush, is that you're draining money away from the public schools. Now, the problem with our public schools is many of them are corrupt. When we were children they weren't. Those schools...
KING: Corrupt how?
PEROT: Oh, it's all about who gets the contract and who gets paid here and there and who gets a job that's not qualified. It's just gotten sick across America.
KING: Let me get a call in.
PEROT: When you and I were children, the schools were flush, right?
KING: Well, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, hello.
CALLER: Good evening, Mr. Perot. Ross, I would like to have your comments on addressing today and every day this past week, "The New York Times" has had blazing headlines and pictures on a terrorist and Muslim war, religious war in the Middle East. Do you feel George W. Bush is qualified to sit down at an international table without monitors, without his mentors, and address the situation in an intelligent manner?
PEROT: All right. We have two choices, George Bush or Al Gore. No contest. I'd pick George Bush.
KING: Over Al Gore in that situation?
PEROT: Absolutely. Let's assume that what you say is accurate, that he needs more experience and we had to spend a lot of time in the Middle East. On the other hand, the thing I have observed, as governor, nobody is smart enough to have all the answers. And I've said for years the biggest thing, asset I had in my business success is that I was surrounded by people smarter than I am. And I had a big team to help me. If you're the smartest guy in the place, nobody is as smart as you are, you want to do it all.
I think in this case, he would not do anything imprudent. I have -- as I watched him as governor, and one thing I'm really sensitive about is sending men into combat without a well thought out plan and something that's really necessary. And something in the final analysis, would you go yourself or, more importantly, would you send your son or daughter? I think of the two, he will not be looking at what will the press say about it? What will my ratings in the poll be? All these things that the White House has been run by the last eight years. He would be motivated by, what do we have to do to make this work? How do we put it together? That's the kind of rational thinking I believe that would really benefit our country.
KING: Let me get a break, and we will be back with more.
PEROT: You've got two choices. I'd pick the one that's the best one.
KING: We will be right back with Ross Perot after this.
KING: Wichita, Kansas, for Ross Perot, hello.
CALLER: Hello, I was going to ask Mr. Perot, aside from the military aspect, what do you believe that Governor Bush could do specifically for Middle America in relation to college tuition?
PEROT: College tuition?
KING: Gore wants a $10,000 deductible.
PEROT: OK, what you're going to have, just remember, everybody promises all these things during campaigns and they don't deliver them. The point being, college tuition is, keeps going up. When I was a young man in the 40s coming out of the Depression, you could go to the University of Texas for $25 a semester. So, no matter how poor you were, you could get a job at a fast food store or something making 40 cents an hour and work your way through college. And as I recall, and this was just off the charts, to go to Harvard cost about $3,000. I think it now costs what? roughly $30,000 or some giant number?
KING: So, the answer though.
PEROT: But the interesting thing in our country, it still costs more to keep a person in prison for a year than to send him to Harvard. So, how's that for squirrely?
OK, somebody, one of my Texas friends told me, let's just send them all to Harvard. Well, Harvard wouldn't want them. But anyhow, the point being, we've got to -- the cost of everything has gone up. But in every possible way, at our state universities, we need to keep the costs so that any young tiger or tigress that wants to work their way through college and prove themselves can live the American dream.
KING: So anyone should be allowed to go to college who can go to college, right?
PEROT: Yes, but it's -- nothing's free in it. See, now, keep in mind. Let's get off welfare now. Let's get back to -- you've got to go to work. You've got to work at night. For example...
KING: You've got to give an incentive to a parent who can't afford it. PEROT: OK. But I have -- let me give you an incentive. In my company, in a very pragmatic way, I find people who could have gone to MIT that finished high school, couldn't afford to go anywhere. I put them to work in my company. I give them a scholarship. They can work any one of three shifts a day in the computer center so they have that flexibility.
KING: And what does the government do?
PEROT: And these guys soar like eagles in my company and have a huge advantage over the genius systems engineers (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that come into to me, because they don't know how the computer center runs. Do you follow me? They had it both ways.
KING: But that's not a government...
PEROT: Well, no, but that's the way it ought to be done. It ought to be done -- see, anything you ask the government to do will cost you more and be done in a less efficient way. History teaches that's a constant. So in every possible way, we need to work on this at the grassroots level.
This is a state problem, not a federal problem. See, now, running for president, I can promise you I'm going to give you free candy, I'm going to have six cars in every garage. So none of those guys ever deliver any of it. Let me...
KING: Both sides?
PEROT: I'm saying whoever promised it. I didn't say either side. Whoever promises it. Then, that's why you need to get down -- narrow them down to two horses in the race. See, don't lock onto a single little issue like that. The big issue is who's going to the best job in operating and managing this, the finest country in the history of man...
KING: Let me get another...
PEROT: ... who's going to keep us protected and safe from a military point of view, who's going to create an environment that lets your children and grandchildren soar like eagles and only be limited by their dreams and their willingness to work to make them come true.
KING: Let me get one more break, and we'll be back with our remaining moments with Ross Perot, who has appeared on the scene, having not appeared throughout the entire year 2000, to announce his very strong support for the candidacy of the governor of Texas for president. We'll be right back.
KING: By the way, "SPIN ROOM" follows. I'm sure they're going to have some comments on what they have just heard.
One more call. Mountlake Terrace, Washington, hello.
CALLER: Yes, this is Mountlake Terrace.
KING: Go ahead.
CALLER: Yes. I was just wondering, is this a vote against Al Gore or this a vote for George Bush?
KING: Good question.
PEROT: It's a vote for George Bush, the best of the two horses in the race.
KING: OK. Now, you have in the past changed your mind. It happened once, and we know that, you know, you're a thinking person. Thinking people occasionally change. Is there any chance you could change tonight? Anything that would send you neutral in this?
PEROT: Yes, there is. If Al Gore -- instead of running, ducking and hiding and playing like he's Bill Clinton-squared -- would face all these charges about, like his speech going one way or the other on the Gulf War, how many days he stayed in Vietnam and what he really did. And there's about three or four pages of statements he's made that are absolutely wrong while he was vice president, not 24 years ago when he was a boy, but now.
If he could clear the record on all that and prove that they're wrong, and be as open and forthright as Governor Bush was tonight, I'd think about going neutral or maybe even switch to him. I won't hold my breath for him to do that, because he still thinks the Buddhist temple thing was community outreach.
KING: So then it is still as much against him as for Bush? The caller asked...
PEROT: No, the point is -- no, I am for Bush. But I'll go neutral, and if he could convince...
KING: Oh, he'd have to convince you?
PEROT: No, if he would even show the facts -- no, the facts I've seen are that he did all this stuff and constantly is not telling the truth as vice president of the United States. That's unacceptable.
KING: What worries you about him as president? What worries you? What frightens you? I mean, you don't think he's going to...
PEROT: I don't think he has the background, the experience, the maturity.
KING: You don't think he has...
PEROT: If you can't tell the truth, how can you be president?
KING: You think -- presidents don't lie?
PEROT: No, they shouldn't.
PEROT: We've had such a bitter experience with that. We need to cut that off right now. But you've got to tell the truth. And the whole time that Governor Bush has been down in Austin, nobody's questioned his integrity. That's quite a contrast right there.
Now, the point being, if he would put people in combat just to get 20 more minutes or 10 minutes or whatever he got on the floor of the Senate, I wouldn't let that man near the White House, because the military deserves better than that. Now, this is the team...
KING: Your sources here are Simpson and Dole, right?
PEROT: Yes. But the point being they're in writing, and I'm amazed. You've get the big blowup on the man having too much beer 24 years ago. This is just quiet. You know, let's not talk about it. This is our boy. You follow me?
The point being that should be just like a skunk you hold up by the tail and say, is there anything to this, Al? And you know, he's going to float like a butterfly and sting like a bee and duck. The point being he said it.
KING: Do you have any second...
PEROT: And he did it again and again...
KING: I've got less than a minute.
PEROT: ... what he said. And the guy can't follow it straight, and you can't let that man be commander in chief.
KING: Do you have any second thoughts about coming here tonight?
PEROT: Not a bit.
KING: I thank you very much, Ross. It's always...
PEROT: Privilege to be with you.
KING: And we try to draw you out. We keep trying to get you to make a statement on this.
PEROT: OK, I'll try to open up in the future.
KING: Ross Perot, the former candidate. He got -- in '92, he got 18.9, 19 percent of the vote, with 20 percent of the vote in 28 states. You know, they're talking about Nader getting 3 percent in Michigan: Ross got 19.3. He got 24 percent in Minnesota.
Ross Perot tonight announcing his strong support for the candidacy of Governor Bush. "THE SPIN ROOM" is next.
Tomorrow night on LARRY KING LIVE, we're going to take a look at the cast of "Saturday Night Live." They've got a two-hour special coming Sunday dealing with politics. And they take everybody on. They take no prisoners.
And on Monday night, of course, a major election eve preview with Jesse Ventura and John Kasich and others.
Thanks very much for joining us. For Ross Perot and yours truly, Larry King, from New York, good night.
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