The Long Goodbye
O ne day near the end of his first campaign, Perot sat talking with Ed Rollins across the vast canyon of misunderstanding and mistrust that had opened between them. His tone was almost wistful.
"Is this ever gonna get fun again?" he asked.
"Fun?" Rollins repeated. The word was not in his working vocabulary, not during a campaign.
"Yeah," Perot said. "When I started, this thing was fun."
"Campaigns are never fun," Rollins answered. "It's like war. It's miserable. Running for office isn't fun. Winning is fun."
"What about the presidency?" Perot asked. "Is that fun?"
"The only time the presidency is fun," Rollins said, "is the day you get inaugurated and the day you dedicate your library. If you're going to do what you're setting out to do, it isn't going to be fun."
In fact, by early summer, it had long since stopped being fun for Perot, his organization, and his public. His numbers were crumbling, his negatives rising. He had slipped back to second in the polls, with Clinton, in third, on his heels. His campaign was fragmenting, at war with itself and, on some issues, with him. His plan to redeem America from corruption and debt was late coming together in a way that suited his demanding tastes. His press had turned brutal, a daily battering for his business practices and his allegedly promiscuous gumshoeing; he seemed unable to change the subject back to anything that mattered.
Even his jealously guarded family life was under scrutiny. With the turn into summer, the media were chasing a report, put in play by Bush's men, that he had sicced his private eyes on one of his daughters, Nancy, and a man she had known in college -- a lit professor whose offenses were alleged to have been that he was older and a Jew. There was, even in Perot's own telling, a kernel of fact inside the story. He had always thought of his children as natural targets for the bad guys, given his money, and when Nancy was robbed at gunpoint, he said, he had put her under surveillance for her own protection. Her friendship