Image Credit: Ross Perot announces he’s back in the race on Oct. 1, 1992
Society & Culture

Perot, the Proto-Trump

One evening in the fall of 2015, with the unlikely Donald J. Trump already dominating the race for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, I ran into Ross Perot, Jr., at an exclusive charity event in Dallas. Perot is a billionaire real estate developer and the only son of H. Ross Perot, who campaigned for president as an independent in 1992 and as a third-party candidate in 1996.

After exchanging pleasantries, I asked Perot whether he didn’t see some parallels, as I did, in the maverick presidential quests of Trump and his father. “Absolutely not,” he shot back. Moreover, he seemed offended by the suggestion.

While a number of Dallas Republicans were dismissing Trump at the time as a political pretender and an uncouth street brawler, I was surprised by Perot’s reaction. And, I thought he was wrong. The fact is that Trump and Perot’s father, who died of leukemia in July at the age of 89, were both brilliant, straight-talking billionaire-businessmen whose outsider views were unconventional and underestimated. Each was a master salesman with a swashbuckling, cut-to-the-chase style. And each used similar tactics in pursuit of populist, anti-establishment goals on behalf of the “forgotten” Americans.

I think the country is better off because they did.

In a 2016 podcast, James Carville, the political commentator who managed Bill Clinton’s first presidential...

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