By Gerald Posner
Miami Beach, FL, USA
Ross Perot, the billionaire pint-sized Texan with an outsized personality who made two powerful independent runs for the presidency in '92 and '96, was the originator of straight talk in national politics. Although Perot has long ago faded from the public eye, some of his early quips seem current and ready made for the Republican candidates with the first ballots in Iowa only weeks away.
Some Perot lines ideal for individual candidates:
For Ted Cruz: "If you see a snake, just kill it – don't appoint a committee on snakes."
For Donald Trump: "War has rules, mud wrestling has rules – politics has no rules."
For John Kasich: "Life is never more fun than when you're the underdog competing against the giants."
For Carly Fiorina: "Japan is our rival, not our enemy. Japan is a competitor... Bashing a Toyota won't make a better car."
For Rand Paul: "The dinosaur, for the average fellow like me, is the best example. He got so big he couldn't function. Big is not beautiful. We in America like to think big is beautiful. Big is inefficient."
For Chris Christie: "There are people who climb into the ring and there are people who sit in the stands. Those who sit in the stands always seem to know more about the game than those in the ring."
For Jeb Bush: "Your country is like your children. It's fundamentally important that you love them, but you need to work on any problems that come along."
For Dr. Ben Carson: "We've got a patient whose heart has stopped beating and has broken fingers and toes, and all the politicians want to talk about is the fingers and toes. I want to go straight to the heart."
For Marco Rubio: "There's only two places in the world a 28-year-old can make half a million a year. That's selling dope and dealing in junk bonds. They're both destroying our country."
And for those campaigns that have trouble coming up with sound bites on pressing issues, these Perotisms still seem remarkably relevant:
"We must return immigration to a logical, orderly process where people fill out their applications and wait for approval. We must make sure illegal immigrants stop storming our borders."
On winning trade wars with Japan and China:
"Let's just hunker down and beat on blocking and tackling. That is how they beat us. Our solution is to go out and buy new uniforms. The team looks good, but it still can't play."
On public education:
"There is no accountability in the public school system – except for coaches. You know what happens to a losing coach. You fire him. A losing teacher can go on losing for 30 years and then go to glory."
An occasional reminder of how much money is under discussion:
"Now the average citizen can't relate to a billion or a trillion. A million dollars in thousand-dollar bills is a stack of $1000 bills, four inches high. A billion dollars in $1000 bills is 300 feet high. A trillion dollars in $1000 bills extends from the top of [this] table to 63 miles out in space."
Three to save in the back pocket for a good debate moment:
– "The activist is not the man who says the river is dirty. The activist is the man who cleans up the river."
– "We don't like government business. We don't do any business direct with the government. Because to the government a horse is an animal with four legs, a head, and a tail, whether it's a jack-ass or a race horse."
– "Talk is cheap. Words are plentiful. Deeds are precious."
And remember, it was Perot who said that "Success is like Halley's comet, you know. Every now and then it just comes around." If the polls prove true once the voting starts in the primary season, 2016's Halley comet might be Donald Trump. As Perot knew more than twenty years ago, the political stars don't often align correctly for an outsider run at the nation's highest office. But when they do, the plain-talk outsider with the ability to finance his own campaign can gather a momentum that is tough to stop. Just ask Trump's rivals.