The Second Coming
Finally, running for president was fun again for Ross Perot. His first try had ended in humiliation for himself -- the word quitter leapt to mind -- and in disillusion for millions of Americans who had believed in him. His second was what he had always wanted it to be. He had, as he would boast, fired the Pentagon: there were no more handlers, no pollsters, no image makers, no support troops at all except his kin, his corporate whiteshirts, and his decimated army of Volunteers. He had become director, scenarist, and star of our first truly Orwellian candidacy for president -- an authority figure who seemed for long passages to exist only as a face and a voice on a television screen and yet represented himself as the embodiment of an entire people.
The style of Ross II: The Sequel flowed partly from his real revulsion with the old ways of politics and partly from the ambivalence with which he had got back into the race. It was possible to argue, on a selective reading of the evidence, that he had never really got out -- that his withdrawal had been a charade designed to turn down the media heat for a while and buy him time to recreate the campaign his way. The people who knew him best thought otherwise; his disgust with the process and his resolve to get out of it seemed to them genuine, and his reentry came only after a two-month process of fits, starts, doubts, ambiguities, and mixed advice. Even as he laid the pieces in place, some of his operatives were in covert diplomatic contact with the Clinton campaign, looking for a way for Perot to stand aside and still claim a moral victory.
His uncertainty showed from the moment his Volunteer leaders descended on Dallas, on their own invitation, in the days immediately following his abdication in July. Those whose loyalty to him survived his announcement were nearly as angry with him as the larger number who had bailed out. He had always sought their advice and consent before then, but on the biggest decision of them all, they had got the news like everybody else: they heard it on the air or read it in the papers. They felt abandoned, even betrayed, and when the California