Greatness Eluded Him

INTERVIEW

By , Special to The Christian Science Monitor

In an interview with Gerald Posner, the Monitor asked the author of "Citizen Perot" how he came to write a book about the controversial businessman and amateur politician from Texas and how writing the book changed his view of Ross Perot. The following are excerpts from that interview:

Gerald Posner: Business biographies about how some executive managed to cut the bottom line don't interest me.... But Perot turned out to be much less a businessman than I thought. This was true to the point where the story about his life was not really a business story anymore - you have the MIAs, [the rescue of two Electronic Data Systems' employees in] Iran, the Texas education battle, the Vietnam memorial controversy. There were so many things he was involved in....

Was there anything you were surprised to find out about Perot that wouldn't have occurred to you before you wrote this book?

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I was surprised that he was such an insider [with the Nixon administration]. I was also surprised to see he had a real vindictive streak that I didn't know he had before I studied him. If you cross him and he thinks he's right, he can be really mean.... Those are two traits he has, neither of which benefit him.

In Oliver Stone's movie 'Nixon' there is a scene where Henry Kissinger says of the president: 'He had greatness within his grasp, but he had the defects of his qualities.' Does that describe Perot and his situation?

Absolutely. Perot is unique, and he has a footnote place in American history, but he really could have achieved something, something so much greater than that. But the unique characteristics that could have made him great are innately wrapped up with the things that ultimately kept him from achieving greatness.... The qualities that make Ross Perot who he is are only bad if they are not checked.... With anybody that is truly great, there is always somebody around them, whether it's a spouse or son or daughter, that can rein them in and say, 'Hey Ross, you're getting out of control here'.

But I think right now Perot is pretty much alone - there is nobody there to pull him in.

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