Perot: Clinton's Political `Shadow'

PRESIDENT Clinton has experienced more setbacks in his first 100-plus days in the White House than most of his recent predecessors as chief executive.

But considering the president's natural ebullience and demonstrated ability to bounce back from adversity, the outlook for progress on most of his major initiatives remains promising.

Most Americans, whether they voted for Mr. Clinton, President Bush, or Ross Perot, will want to see the new chief executive succeed.

We assume that Mr. Perot, a fiercely patriotic man, feels the same way. However, the US Naval Academy-trained Texan's actions since the November election, in which he chose not to be a full-fledged contestant, have caused many to wonder about at least two things:

1. Does he mean to seek the presidency seriously in 1996? Perot recently said he would not, but many political observers are not convinced.

2. If he does still hanker for the office, will he conduct a four-year campaign that would, at the least, create a nuisance for the Clinton administration?

Historically, many very capable men have sought the presidency in vain - again and again. But few have done it full time for three-plus years; of those who have taken that course, very few have wound up in the White House.

Perot exudes the impression of never having lost at anything. But although his showing last November was the best by a third-party candidate since Theodore Roosevelt ran on the Bull Moose ticket, 19 percent of the vote is not an electoral victory.

If Perot does run again, he will have to run a more traditional campaign than in 1992. The likelihood of his running in 1996 appears strong at this point. If he continues to maintain his public presence via TV - and it appears he will - it is hardly likely he will try again to enter the White House by a side door. He will have to go through the same political hoops as his rivals.

One trait Perot exhibited last fall was a tendency to oversimplify problems, dismissing them with platitudes. That may make good TV fare, but it doesn't work for sitting presidents.

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