Perot to be Honored

The Washington Times: Perot support of military to be honored

Ross Perot, one-time third-party contender for the presidency, will be honored here this week for his efforts on behalf of U.S. servicemen.

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Thursday, the Business Executives for National Security (BENS) will bestow its Eisenhower Award on Mr. Perot in a festive display featuring American military leaders and heroes. BENS is a nonprofit organization of military and corporate leaders seeking practical solutions to pressing national security issues.

Eisenhower Award winners include former President Jimmy Carter, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard B. Myers, and current Bush administration National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Beginning in the 1960s, Mr. Perot quit his sales job at IBM and started what was then a revolutionary data processing company called Electronic Data Systems. The feisty former Naval Academy graduate became interested in helping prisoners of war involved in the escalating Vietnam War.

At the urging of the Nixon administration, he agreed to work toward bettering the lives of POWs, particularly those treated inhumanely by the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese.

Mr. Perot dealt directly with Viet Cong contacts, soldiers of fortune, even noninvolved nations รƒยขโ‚ฌโ€ often to the chagrin of the State Department. Later, he chartered large jets to fly Christmas gifts and prisoners’ wives to Southeast Asia, hoping the Viet Cong would let them visit their spouses. At one juncture he unsuccessfully offered to personally pay millions for the release of prisoners.

None of these efforts resulted in dramatic diplomatic victories or releases, but several prisoners later said they had known of the efforts and had been strengthened in their resolve by them. After the Vietnam War, Mr. Perot personally helped scores of those who returned, helping them find jobs, get psychological and medical care and often underwriting reunions for various units.

In the early 1990s, when many servicemen who served in the Persian Gulf war suffered from debilitating illnesses that the military could not diagnose and often refused to treat, Mr. Perot stepped forward.

He footed the bill for an expensive diagnostic investigation by doctors at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School to learn about the disease and study ways to treat it. Besides funding that study, Mr. Perot flew those suffering with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) to Dallas for treatment.

Interesting.

Perot a cartoon character by the end of his 1992 run. To most of us under the age of 40, he’s primarily known for his crazy one liners and the embarrasing “Let me finish!” performance in the NAFTA debate with Al Gore. Indeed, most of what we recollect is through the lens of the classic Dana Carvey skits on SNL.

But Perot was a genuine folk hero before getting into politics. Indeed, that’s what propelled him into a plausible presidential contender to begin with. For a brief time in 1992, he was ahead of President George H.W. Bush in the polls and there was talk of the Democrats finishing so far back as to lose their automatic place on the ballot.

FILED UNDER: Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Boyd says:

    There’s no law that says you can’t be a kook and a hero at the same time. Ross Perot qualifies for both.

  2. James Joyner says:

    True. Indeed, there’s often a pretty fine line between hero and kook. ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. James Joyner says:

    True. Indeed, there’s often a pretty fine line between hero and kook. ๐Ÿ™‚