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Ross Perot: A Truman Type?

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THE call-ins to radio talk shows discussing Ross Perot all sound alike: They really don't know anything about him - but they see him as a man of integrity and someone who would act independently in behalf of all Americans.

They'd like to see a successful businessman in the White House. And although they describe it in many ways, they clearly take to his manner and the way he talks. "He talks straight," is the way many of Mr. Perot's admirers put it.

Indeed, if you look at Perot, a bit in profile, you can imagine you are seeing that famous straight talker, Harry Truman. They both look you straight in the eye and say this is the way it is. They both are no-nonsense fellows.

In the evening TV news I see Perot talking to a group of supporters all aglow over word that their man is leading both Bush and Clinton in California and beating Clinton nationally. "Forget the polls," Perot warns. "We've got work to do."

On seeing this, I was reminded of the 1948 presidential campaign when the polls had just the opposite message for Harry Truman, indicating he would certainly lose to Dewey. And that spunky Mr. Truman was telling his backers to forget the polls and get to work as he plunged energetically into a campaign in which he proved the pollsters and most of the political observers to be dead wrong.

It was Truman who said on more than one occasion that all a president had to do to get things done was "to tell the people the truth." That's what Perot is saying.

Oh, yes, there are many differences. Perot is immensely rich, Truman a man of modest means - he once had failed in a small business enterprise. Perot has no real political experience; Truman was a product of the political system with beginnings in the Pendergast machine.

Yet there's that rather cocky (certainly super-confident) way that Perot walks and talks. That's Truman, too. And there's the feisty Perot, particularly when he gets a question from the press he doesn't like. That's Truman all over.

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