BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Carolyn Barta, what got you interested in writing a book about Ross Perot?
CAROLYN BARTA, AUTHOR, "PEROT AND HIS PEOPLE" I live in Dallas, and I've been a journalist in Dallas for 28 years and so Ross Perot has been right there in my back yard, so I guess I knew what a fascinating character he was. I've also covered politics, and it seemed to me that he had the potential to change American politics and that he was tapping a chord out there that politicians in recent years had not tapped. I just sensed that there was something going on there in American politics that ought to be paid attention to.
LAMB: When did you first ever meet him?
BARTA: I guess back in the late '60s. I was covering City Hall in Dallas, and he came in for a zoning change on a piece of property to build EDS. I was covering that, and at the time he -- sort of an indication of the kind of guy he would become or already was -- threatened the city of Dallas that "if you don't let me have my zoning change for EDS to build my campus right here, I'll move out of Dallas and move to the suburbs."
LAMB: Did it work?
BARTA: Yes, he got it.
LAMB: Have you had much to do with him, one on one?
BARTA: Not really. I mean I've been acquainted with him over the years, and I was aware of his work and did some coverage when he was appointed the head of a statewide task force on public education reform in Texas and dealt with him a little bit there. He also served as head of a statewide task force on drugs in Texas. And so I was just aware of what he was doing in business, and from time to time his name would come up. People would say, "Ross Perot ought to run for Senate" or "He ought to run for governor" or this or that. He would always say, "No, I'm not temperamentally suited for politics. I don't want to be in elected office. I want to be behind the scenes."
LAMB: You thanked Sharon Holman early in this book. Who is she?
BARTA: Sharon Holman, I guess, today is his press spokesman, his communications director, and she was the person who was working with the press along with Jim Squires early in the '92 presidential campaign. Actually, I went out to do a column on the Perot petition drive in the spring of '92. It was probably early April or so and started talking to people who were trying to circulate the petitions, and I was just struck with the passion of the people who were involved in this movement. So I went out to talk to Sharon Holman about writing this book. I was also interested because I knew that Perot had this mastery of high technology, and he was talking about using the communications revolution. Of course, he had his own money. He could put whatever money he wanted to into it. It just seemed like a unique combination of factors there, and I thought it would make a book.
So I went out to talk to Sharon Holman about it, and she said, "Fax me a list of everybody you want to interview, and I will get it over to Mr. Perot." So I sent her a list of everybody I wanted to interview -- mostly they were people working in the campaign, the leaders in the campaign. She called back and said, "Mr. Perot said no to all of your interview requests. He said to tell you to go out and talk to the volunteers." I later said that Sharon Holman did me a real favor because I went out and started talking to volunteers and spent three months actually talking with people around the country who were interested in this Perot phenomenon. I think that really is the guts of the story.
LAMB: Why did he say no?
BARTA: I don't know. He's not one to cooperate with the press at all anyway, and I don't think he wanted a book written that he did not commission himself. I think that's just probably the way Perot is.
LAMB: Did he talk to you?
BARTA: He did eventually, yes.
LAMB: How long?
BARTA: I finally got a real interview with him a few days before the book was scheduled to go to the printer, for about an hour or two. I had run into him and talked to him -- just little spot interviews. But actually I pretty much decided that I wasn't going to get very much from Perot anyway that he wasn't saying on TV, on the talk shows, that he wasn't going to reveal any secrets to me. So most of the political story came from the people who were supporting Perot and those who were involved in the campaign actually working for him.
LAMB: Recount the story of the woman in Dallas who was taking calls right after all of this started. I think you mentioned that Sally Bell, Mr. Perot's secretary, was getting calls. Finally this woman kept calling up and saying, "Transfer him over to me." Who was that woman?
BARTA: She was just a woman in Dallas. She managed an apartment complex there. Her name was Judy Fowlett, and she kept calling Sally Bell, the secretary. Sally Bell was saying, "We don't know what we're going to do with all these callers since Larry King." Judy said, "Give them my number." And so she did, and of course, she said her message machine filled up immediately, and she could not handle all the calls. I mean, it was just overwhelming.
After a day or two they quit giving out her number, but it was just mushrooming so fast. Judy Fowlett went on to try to get some petitions to find out how do you get on the ballot in Texas and where do you get the petitions, how to get the petitions out. She, in fact, mailed out petitions all over the state. She finally put on her message machine, "Don't call. Just leave your name and address, and we'll try to get some petitions to you." She eventually dropped out. I don't know whatever happened to her, but I didn't run into her in the fall at all.
LAMB: Go back to the beginning. In February of 1992, Ross Perot's office, his secretary ... overwhelming amount of calls ... just transferred the number to somebody they didn't even know?
BARTA: Yes, yes. Well, didn't transfer.
LAMB: I mean they just gave the number?
BARTA: Gave the number out, but the calls kept coming in to Perot's office because people didn't know where else to call. So they were calling Dallas to find out how could they call Perot. So the calls continued to come in and eventually -- I've forgotten what the time period was now -- after a week or two Perot said, "Look, we've got to do something about these calls." So he called in six people who were part of his business staff and said, "Do what you can to set up a phone bank to handle these incoming calls." Very quickly thereafter then, that team of six volunteers started coming in. They started answering the phones, and they started feeding the information back out and it sort of just went from there.
LAMB: What are the two or three things that you learned from talking to the volunteers that might have surprised you?
BARTA: I don't know if it was a surprise or not, but I think the main thing I learned was that there was such a deep-seated alienation out there of people from their government. I think it was something that other politicians were not aware of or were not paying attention to. Over the process of the campaign, Perot was repeatedly called crazy or whatever. Well, he wasn't crazy at all because I think he was prescient enough to recognize the alienation that was out there of the people from their government. They were tired of being taken for granted, of being treated condescendingly, and I think it was an opportunity for them to get involved. People who had felt powerless to affect politics, to change politics, all of a sudden had this opportunity to do something about it by supporting Perot. So I think that was the main contribution of Perot in the '92 campaign, that he empowered a lot of people who had felt they had been left out of the process, and I think those people are still out there today.
LAMB: Do you have any personal feelings about him?
BARTA: Oh, well, yes. I think everybody has personal feelings about him, but in what way?
LAMB: Do you like him politically?
BARTA: Oh, yes. I like him personally because I just think he's an interesting guy, fascinating guy, and he is sort of in the tradition of larger-than-life, mythical Texas politicians that I had grown up with and known and followed and covered. In some ways he's a lot like LBJ in that he wants to have control and he wants to be powerful. He also draws his sustenance from the people, but unlike LBJ, who felt that government should do for people what they can't do for themselves, Perot feels that government should get out of the way and let the people do what they do best. But I think that it would be a mistake for him to be president. I don't think he'll ever be president. I don't think he wants to be president. I think he wanted to shake up the system. I think he wanted to wake people up to what's been going on in Washington. He wanted to get them involved, and I think he wanted to beat George Bush. I think those were his goals in '92.
LAMB: Did you find out anything about the true nature of the relationship between Ross Perot and George Bush?
BARTA: What I suspect is that he and George Bush had some personal differences. One had to do with a mission that Perot wanted to do to get the rest of the MIAs home, and this was when Bush was vice president. Bush wouldn't go to bat for him, wouldn't help him with it. I think he also thought that Bush was more involved in Iran-contra than he let on, and I think he thought that Bush was not up to the job of being president, that he was smarter than Bush and that he was more capable than Bush. Just because of that, whether or not he wanted to be there, he thought he ought to be because he thought he was a better guy.
LAMB: Let's go back to the beginning. How did all this really start?
BARTA: It started really I think when Perot was out making speeches after Desert Storm, say, in the fall of '91 and maybe even before then. He'd actually had been on a speaking circuit for a good while, and everywhere he went to speak, people would say, "You're right. What you're saying is right. You ought to be running for president." People were trying to talk him into running.
LAMB: What people?
BARTA: Oh, there was a guy Jack Gargan in Florida, “Throw the Rascals Out” organization. There was a man in Tennessee who called him repeatedly and said, "You're our salvation. You've got to run." Just different people who would attend these events, hear him speak, and I think that's where it really started and I think he had it in his mind. He had been urged to run before, even in 1988. I talked with Tom Luce about that, and Luce said that he and Perot had had several conversations about whether or not he ought to run for president.
LAMB: What's the relationship between Tom Luce and Ross Perot today?
BARTA: I asked Luce about that; he won't talk about it. He won't talk about anything about his relationship with Perot. He'll talk about the campaign. But I asked him if he was doing any business for Perot. You know, he's a lawyer, and he's represented him for years. He's been his personal lawyer for years. He said he was doing business for Ross Jr. but that Ross Sr. is not doing any business right now, that his whole focus is on United We Stand, building up United We Stand as an organization and he is not involved in business. So he said, "Therefore, I'm not doing any legal work for him." But I sense that they are really not on -- I'm sure they're talking but not like they once did, which was every day or two. I doubt that they are doing very much conversation at all.
LAMB: What happened?
BARTA: A staffer who had known Perot for a long time and had watched him over the years said that Perot has a way of exhausting personal relationships. He has a way of exhausting people because he demands so much, he wants so much and he takes so much from people. They get so emotionally involved in the work. I think that had a lot to do with it, and I think that Luce was disappointed personally, very disappointed, when Perot got out in July and left all of these people sort of holding the bag. I mean, these people who had put their lives on hold. Many of them were working 16-hours days for nothing, for no pay, to get this guy on the ballot and to make him president. When he just like that got out without so much as a howdy-do to these people, I think that Luce felt that same loss and the same anger that the people felt when he got out.
LAMB: Go back again to the earliest time. You have a scenario in here that involves John J. Hooker, John Siegenthaler and the Nashville Tennessean, and you said that he had said absolutely everything he said on the King show in Tennessee, and it was printed in the Tennessean before it ever happened nationally. Can you give us more on that?
BARTA: Yes. He went up to Nashville to do a talk-radio show, and some business leaders had a little reception for him there.
LAMB: When was this?
BARTA: This was, I believe, in January of '92. It was before the "Larry King Live" show. Maybe it was early February. It was not long before the "Larry King Live" show. He said something to the effect that you've got to get in the ring. "If you get in the ring, put some skin in the game, I might do it." It was published in the Tennessean, but nobody else picked up on it so I think John J. Hooker, who has been a businessman and run for office in Tennessee, talked to Perot after that, and they talked about national venues where Perot could go to get this message out that he would be available if people wanted him to do it.
So it was no mistake. I mean, it was no coincidence that this happened on "Larry King Live." I think they had decided that it would be "Larry King Live." That was where he would throw his hat in the ring, and in so doing, he would appeal to a different segment of the populace, people who watch these talk shows. He had already decided that that's where the future of communication is, in electronic media. It's not in newspapers. He didn't want to go to the Wall Street Journal or to the L.A.Times or the New York Times or have just a regular press conference and do it. He wanted to do it a different way. So they decided that he would go on "Larry King Live," and I was told it was Siegenthaler who called "Larry King Live" and said, 'If you press him, he will -- he might -- announce on your show." That's exactly what happened.
LAMB: And then was he ready after that? Was he ready for a national effort?
BARTA: Oh, no.
LAMB: In reading your book, you keep hearing things like surprise on the part of his wife and his aides and others.
BARTA: He didn't have anything in place. A lot of people think after he went on, he had his apparatus all in place ready to run a campaign. No. That was not true. He said then that he did not anticipate the reaction that he would get. He said, "Nothing will come of it. I said it, yes. I did it, but nothing will come of it." He told Sharon Holman, and he told his wife that, but then the phone started ringing off the hook so that's when they started setting up the apparatus. It was not in place.
LAMB: Who was the first group of people that he brought in?
BARTA: The first group were people who mainly came out of the Perot Group, which is a real estate company, and they were like marketing and financial people who had never done anything in politics before and they were just winging it. Then he got Tom Luce involved fairly quickly.
LAMB: And what about Mort Meyerson? When was he brought in, and who is he?
BARTA: Mort Meyerson was the CEO of EDS at the time that General Motors bought EDS, so he had been heading up Perot's business for a long. He was not at the time that he came in to work in the campaign. He had retired, and he came in a little bit later on. I think the early ones were Tom Luce, and Luce brought in Jim Squires, the media guy, and he also brought in John T. White to do the issues development for Perot.
LAMB: Did you talk to Jim Squires?
BARTA: Oh, yes. I talked at length to Jim Squires and also to John T. White. I eventually interviewed all of the people that were on my original list, by the way. I guess my tenacity paid off.
LAMB: Go back then to Jim Squires. What did you learn from him?
BARTA: I guess Jim Squires was interesting to me because he questioned the way we in the press cover presidential politics, and he was interested in Perot because he thought he had a chance to change the way we cover presidential politics. I must say that I agree with him after having followed politics for a number of years myself. I think that the way we cover presidential politics today -- flying all these people around, all the reporters around, busing them from event to event -- is silly and doesn't make a lot of sense and does not help the public dialog. So I think that he was interested in seeing if Perot, by utilizing different forms of communication, could improve this public dialog and change the way that we do this. I think the relationship today between the Washington press corps and the parties, the political leaders, may enable them to cover what's going on in Congress or in the White House or in Washington, but there is no coverage of what the people think out there and what they want done. With this frantic flying around from place to place just covering speech after speech, when do they ever talk to the people?
LAMB: You live where?
BARTA: In Dallas.
LAMB: Full-time job?
BARTA: I'm the op-ed editor for the Dallas Morning News, and I write a political column. I've been with the Dallas Morning News for 28 years.
LAMB: Can somebody stamp a label on you? Are you a right-wing conservative or middle-of-the-roader?
BARTA: No, no, no. I guess I'm pretty much a middle-of-the-roader, and I'm a little more out of the old school of politics where I feel news reporters ought to be as objective as they can and that they don't need to be crossing over into the realm of opinion writers. What I do now is I'm an opinion writer, but I guess I cut my teeth being a news reporter. I think there's too much crossover now where you're seeing that the stories are called analysis, but there is a lot of opinion in stories today.
LAMB: Where are you from originally?
BARTA: I'm from Dallas.
LAMB: Where did you go to school?
BARTA: I got my bachelor's degree from Texas Tech in journalism and my master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Texas at Austin.
LAMB: And where did you go to work right after school?
BARTA: I went to the Dallas Morning News and I worked there briefly, and then I decided that I wanted to see the world and see what was going on elsewhere, so I went to Hawaii. I worked there for a while; then I came up to Washington. I worked here, and then I went back and got my master's degree. After that, actually, I came to Washington, and while I was in Washington I really got interested in government and in politics and so I went back to school. What I wanted to do, I decided, was to cover governmental bodies and government and politics in some way, so I went back and got my master's degree in that. After that I went back to the Morning News, got married and I've been there ever since.
LAMB: You say in your book that Mr. Perot didn't visit your own paper during this campaign.
LAMB: Did that make you mad?
BARTA: Well, yes. We were a little miffed by that because we invited him. We wanted to have an editorial board with him, and he wouldn't come in. In fact, he never had a sit-down interview, I don't think, with any of our reporters. He pretty much ignored us, but he ignored most of print press as best as he could.
LAMB: What was your relationship with him before and after? In other words, as a paper, did you take an editorial stance in the campaign?
BARTA: Yes. We supported George Bush.
LAMB: Any equivocation there? Was it solid 100 percent support?
BARTA: Yes. We supported Bill Clinton in the Democratic primary. We supported George Bush in the primary; we supported George Bush in the general election. We had some editorials that pointed out the good things that we thought that Perot was doing in the political arena -- the fact that he was finding new ways to communicate with people and that he was utilizing the communications revolution in new and different ways. The fact that he was energizing people to get involved in politics we thought was a good thing.
LAMB: Go back to Jim Squires. What's his relationship to Mr. Perot today?
BARTA: As far as I know, they're still very good friends. In fact, Jim Squires did work for Perot in the fall campaign although he wasn't in Dallas. He was at his horse farm in Kentucky, but he did some consultant work, and they call him from time to time ask his advice and opinion.
LAMB: Jim Squires, Mort Meyerson, Tom Luce and then came who else to the campaign?
BARTA: Of course, the biggie was Ed Rollins and Ham Jordan when they were hired around the first of June. Ham Jordan actually had been sort of a voluntary advisor through the spring. He had talked with Luce, and he was very interested in the grassroots movement and what Perot was doing to reconnect with the grassroots. He saw, I think, a lot of what's wrong with politics today -- it had been taken over by the consultants and the professionals and so forth -- and he was interested in seeing if people could get involved again, so he counseled with Luce on this non-conditional campaign. Jordan was sort of involved and then they got John P. White involved, who was to develop the issues. John P. White had worked in the Carter administration, so you had sort of two Democrats there.
Mort Meyerson and Luce thought, well, we probably should get a Republican because at that time and, in fact, throughout the campaign Perot was appealing to both Republicans and Democrats and independents as well. So to keep the level playing field, they thought if they were going to bring in a consultant, they should bring in a Republican consultant as well. The reason they thought they needed to bring those consultants in was that the thing had just grown like Topsy, and it was very chaotic, particularly when Mort Myerson came in, who was used to the business world and used to things being more orderly. He said, "We need to do something about this chaos." So they hired Ham Jordan and Ed Rollins then to come in and sort of take the campaign from the point of being just a petition drive into being a real live presidential campaign, and that was, as I write in the book, really the beginning of the undoing of the Perot campaign.
BARTA: I think the big problem was Rollins. Rollins came in; he brought 30 or 40 professionals in with him very quickly. The professionals took over the campaign. It was no longer the unconventional campaign that Perot had said he wanted in the beginning. It became the kind of campaign that Perot had said in the beginning he abhorred, that he wasn't going to run with all the manipulation and the spin and so forth and so on. That was a problem, and then Perot didn't get along with Rollins at all. I mean, it was the clash of the giant egos.
LAMB: You point out something I wanted to ask you about, that Mr. Perot drives his own car and that right away Ed Rollins got a limousine or a car and a driver.
BARTA: Yes. Rollins came in, and he was the one who had a driver. He was the one who had aides who would fetch his cleaning and do this and do that, and it's not Perot's style. Perot drives his own car. He goes and sits in line in the barber shop to get his $8 dollar haircut. It was just not his style.
LAMB: How did you pick up the fact that Mr. Rollins had his own driver?
BARTA: They were all talking about it out there at the campaign headquarters, and the tensions developed within the campaign. You would have thought their tensions would have developed because here you have one Democrat consultant, then you have one Republican consultant. But the tensions were really between the volunteers and the professionals. The volunteers who were working in the phone bank there in Dallas resented the fact that all these professionals had come in, and they were behind locked doors there doing God knows what. While they were trying to keep up the grassroots movement, you had these professionals over here trying to put together the slicker professional campaign.
LAMB: When was the first time that you found that the system was breaking down between Ross Perot and Ed Rollins? What did Ham Jordan do in that mix?
BARTA: Not long after the professionals came on board, things started breaking down. The height of the Perot mania was actually about early June at the time of the California primary. You recall that the exit polls in California said that if Perot had been on the ballot, he would have won both primaries out there. That was really the height. The pros came in. About that time, the press is also starting to focus on Perot's business dealings, on his family, on anything that they can find because he didn't have a political record to focus on. So he's beginning to really take some hits in the media. The pros come in; they don't mix well for the volunteers. All of a sudden things start, you know, just sliding downhill, and I think about late June of '92 things really started falling apart.
LAMB: What's the relationship between Ham Jordan and Ross Perot today?
BARTA: I don't think there is any relationship, although Perot sort of blames Rollins. He doesn't really blame Jordan for what happened. He does blame Rollins. I asked him if there was anything he would have done differently. He said ordinarily he doesn't like to look back, but he said bringing in the pros was a mistake. He said, "I'm not talking about Ham or Squires but the others." So specifically he meant Rollins. They got into a real knock-down-drag-out over advertising and spending a lot of money on advertising.
Rollins wanted to use Hal Riney, who had produced the "Morning in America" ads for Ronald Reagan, and, once again, that just wasn't Perot's style. Perot had already decided that what he wanted to do was just Ross Perot in front of the cameras with his pie charts and his graphs, and he didn't want that sort of a slick "Morning in America" style advertising campaign. Plus he didn't want to spend his money doing that.
LAMB: You said that Ham Jordan was paid $75,000 a month during the time that he was there. How did you find that out?
BARTA: It's in the FEC records.
LAMB: Was that same amount of money paid to Ed Rollins?
LAMB: How does that track with money that you know is paid to consultants?
BARTA: It's pretty highly paid for consultants, but Rollins said he was just making what he would have made had he stayed in business in Washington, which I guess was $800,000 or $900,000 a year. That's pretty highly paid.
LAMB: At one point in the book you say that he, meaning Ross Perot, thought that TV folks loved it. Didn't they?
BARTA: They did early on, I think. He could pick up the phone and call almost any network show and get on because he was a good draw. He commanded an audience, and so I think they did love him early on until they started wanting more specifics and he was not more forthcoming with specifics. I think that some of the shows ridiculed him from the very beginning. Some of the Sunday morning talk shows did not treat him as well as, say, talk TV, the Larry King show, the call-in shows and so forth.
LAMB: You say that "as long as he was just a blip on the radar screen, the press collectively would let Perot have his fun, but when it became apparent that he was a serious candidate, that he had the potential to scramble not just the presidential race but the whole political system, it was time to take a closer look." When did that happen?
BARTA: I'd say that probably was around late May, early June of '92.
LAMB: Then what happened?
BARTA: As one reporter from Newsweek said to me, "The press resented the fact that he had not gone through the primary." They had not had the opportunity to ask him questions that they normally would ask of candidates. A reporter from Newsweek said to me, "There was a collective feeling among the press that we had to put him through a primary." So that was what they did -- we did.
LAMB: When the print press then started writing the stories, what then happened to him? How did he personally react to it?
BARTA: He went ballistic. He never envisioned he would have the kind of press scrutiny that he got. Tom Luce never envisioned it. At one point in June, there were 11 New York Times reporters in Dallas working on stories on Perot. He never envisioned that they would be looking at his family, that they would be looking at all of his business dealings like they did. A lot of people have said he was thin-skinned, and I guess he was. He could not take it when the media started tearing down the image he had spent a lifetime developing. The way he sees himself and the way the media was picturing him were two totally different stories. For example, after the NAACP speech, he had always pictured himself as a great humanitarian, and all of a sudden he is being pictured as a racist. Those two things just couldn't jibe in his mind, and I think that was one of the main reasons, if not the reason, that he got out of the race in July -- that he could not take the ruination of this image that he had spent a lifetime developing.
LAMB: Was there a particular story?
BARTA: No, I don't think there was one story. I think that there were many stories that bothered him. Then there were the threat of more stories, and, of course, therein came the threat of stories that his daughter's wedding was going to be disrupted, and that was part of it. The fact that the campaign had become the kind of campaign that he didn't want to run -- I think those were all factors in the decision that he made to get out.
LAMB: Does he ever call a group of aides together in his office and say, "Let's talk about the future?"
BARTA: I doubt it. He is not one to seek or listen to advice, and that's probably one of Perot's weaknesses. John White said, in fact, he brought in all these graduate students -- public policy students -- to work on issues for Perot and they developed these big issues books. John White thought, at some point we will take the issues book and go through these one by one with Perot and decide what his positions are. Perot really didn't want to fool with all that. He basically wanted an economic plan, and so he never really developed a full platform like most candidates would. He only developed his economic plan. He said, "Let's focus on that. Let's get one thing right, and let's do that." So that's what they did.
LAMB: Who writes these books that he puts out?
BARTA: The first draft was written by a writer named Wick Allison, who came into Dallas. He actually was originally from Dallas, was a magazine publisher in Dallas years ago. He came in and was to write this issues book, the first book, over a period of three weeks, and what he did was he took all of Perot's speeches, he took the issues papers and positions that the issues team had worked up and worked it into a book. It was then rewritten after that by Squires and by John White, and then Perot rewrote the final draft, the final book.
LAMB: What about his book on NAFTA?
BARTA: That was largely written by Choate, although Choate said that Perot certainly was a coauthor on that book, that he was very actively involved. It wasn't like Choate drafted the book and gave it to Perot. He used Perot's speeches as well in putting it together, and Perot did contribute to that as well.
LAMB: If he were to call into his office, the top people around him who he could talk over his future with, who would they be today?
BARTA: Mort Meyerson is really running Perot Systems for him today, and he's really the only guy who could really talk straight up, straight back to Perot that I know of. He has a number of people who run the United We Stand organization, but he walks to his own drum.
LAMB: Did he really come close to firing his son?
BARTA: He did for a period of time there because actually Ross Jr. was not working for the campaign full time anyway. He's running his business, but he was an advisor because he's good friends with his dad. When Ed Rollins persuaded Ross Jr. to go to his father and make the case to keep Hal Riney, the ad man that Perot didn't want, Perot Sr. got mad and said, "There you are carrying water for the Pentagon," That's what he called the professionals that had come. He said, "You're out of this campaign; get out of here." So he was out for a while, but he certainly was very much a part of the fall campaign and was one of his advisors in the fall, as was his son-in-law Clay Mulford.
LAMB: What ever happened to Orson Swindle?
BARTA: Orson, who was the first director of the original United We Stand, is now working for Empower America. After the election, they were talking about what to do about United We Stand. Orson Swindle had a different vision of what United We Stand should be from what Perot thought. He said he thought that it should have more intellectual, that there should be others feeding ideas and information to United We Stand besides Ross Perot, and he wanted it to be a Washington outfit that would be up here trying to get legislation, trying to change the face of Congress and putting out new ideas. Perot wanted it to be a Dallas-based organization, and he wanted it to be the one pretty much setting the agenda. So they're still good friends today. Swindle thinks that Perot did a lot for the process, but he decided to go back to the Republican party and try to work for solutions within the two-party system and to work for Empower America, where he felt that there was more intellectual muscle because it had Jeane Kirkpatrick, Jack Kemp and William Bennett, as well as others.
LAMB: In your thank you list you have a name I've got to ask you about: Willie Nelson. Is that the same Willie Nelson that's the entertainer?
LAMB: Why is he on this list?
BARTA: He was an early supporter of Perot. He, as a matter of fact, appeared at a rally with Perot in Little Rock. I guess it was in May; I can't remember exactly when it was. He was on stage with Perot, and I interviewed him there. So I list everybody that I interviewed.
LAMB: You list Gordon Black, the pollster. I remember Gordon Black releasing a poll basically that said that Perot was the future. Are they still together?
BARTA: I don't know, but I suspect that they are, although I don't think that Gordon Black has done any work for Perot since in the spring. I first came across Black's name in California in June, and volunteers out there told me about him, that he had done a study that spring which showed there was greater support for a third-party movement at that particular time than any time since the beginning of the Republican Party. He found that there was greater anger among the electorate, greater dissatisfaction than any time since the beginning of polling in the '30s. I talked with him shortly before the book went to the press -- a year later in June of '93 -- and he said he was continuing to do polling on the same subject and was finding the same alienation still exists, the same anger is still out there, that there still is a core support for a third party of about a third of the populace.
LAMB: Why won't Ross Perot, at least as of this taping, release the amount of money he has collected for United We Stand America or tell us how many members he's got in it?
BARTA: Well, once again, that's just Perot. He told me that when United We Stand was totally organized in 50 states, which he expected would be by the end of 1993, that he would release the number of members.
LAMB: Do you have any reason why he wouldn't answer that question?
BARTA: No. I think that that is just the way he operates, that he likes to keep things close to the vest, and he wants to keep it secret. Maybe it's not as many members as he thought that he should have -- I don't know. But I think that that's a mistake that he makes, that he is not more open about such things because I think that harms the credibility of his organization. From time to time he could just make a periodic report -- "We have so many members now."
LAMB: Let me read you a line from your book. You're talking about some of the findings of Frank Luntz, who was also a pollster. Do you know what their relationship is today?
BARTA: Frank Luntz came in and did some polling in the summer of '92 for Perot -- he originally came out of the Republican camp -- and he's now back doing polling for Republicans and doing work for the Republicans.
LAMB: This is what you said: "One of his most interesting findings was that not once did a Perot supporter identify himself as a liberal or a conservative."
BARTA: Yes. He said it shows that ideology was not what Perotism was all about. In fact, I think that probably he also found that a large chunk of his support came out of the Reagan coalition. So you would think they are pretty much basically conservative, and I think that they are, but they are more pragmatist like Perot himself. They are concerned about fixing what's wrong with the economy and the government. So basically they are interested in economic and governmental reforms and changes but they are not ideologues. Most of them really don't want social issues involved in the political process. They're not really that interested. For example, abortion they think should be left out. They're interested in the economy, the budget, trade, governmental reforms, those kinds of issues.
LAMB: Your book was finished on what date?
BARTA: It was finished one day in June of '93.
LAMB: As you watched from June of 1993 through the NAFTA debate, did you ever say, I wish I still had a chapter to write? Would it had made any difference to your book?
BARTA: No. I don't think things have changed appreciably since June of '93. I think that Perot's personal popularity may have gone down somewhat as a result of the NAFTA debate, but I don't think that there has been an appreciable change in the movement that remains out there because I think the whole thing is about more than Ross Perot. I think the mainstream media missed a lot of the story in '92 by focusing on Perot as a personality and looking at the people who follow him as a personality cult. I think that these people who are supporting Perot who are members of United We Stand today, are in this more for the long haul, that he has created a stable political force of the alienated middle-class independents who are not in transition between the two parties. They weren't in June of '93, and they are not today. Just because he may have lost some personal popularity in the NAFTA debate does not mean that their interest has been diminished. I think that they are continuing to hold themselves out there as sort of a hammer or a leverage for the future to try to change the face of Congress and get some of these governmental and economic reforms through.
LAMB: Anybody who reads your book will find a lot of quotes from a lot of people across the media spectrum. How did you go about doing that?
BARTA: The media quotes?
BARTA: A lot of that came from the political "Hotline" that is published here in Washington which daily issues a report of what is said in all of the newspapers and all of the TV shows the day before on the campaign in politics. A lot of it came from the "Hotline," and a lot of it just came from the Dallas Morning News I used as a primary source. The New York Times I used as a primary source and other newspapers like Wall Street Journal.
LAMB: The Summit Group published this book for you. Where's that?
BARTA: It's in Fort Worth.
LAMB: When you first had the idea for the book, where did you take it? Did you take it to the Summit Group?
BARTA: No, of course, I took it to New York. I got an agent in New York to try to sell the book, and this was in the spring of '92 and New York was very skeptical of Ross Perot. They thought that he was a short-term phenomenon. In fact, they thought he would be gone by the fall. She shopped my proposal around to several publishers and came back and said to me, "They want to know, can you do a sassy book?" I said that's not exactly what I had in mind. Then she said, "Can you do an investigative book? Can you do a Perot-bashing book?" I said that's not what I had in mind either. What I saw was a legitimate political movement that I thought should be chronicled as objectively as possible by an impartial third party. That was the kind of book that I wanted to write.
They didn't want to buy it, so I didn't have a publisher when Perot got out of the race. I had spent three months interviewing all of these people and going to the rallies, but I didn't have a publisher. He got out of the race in July, and I just packed up all of my research and put it away and I thought, well, it's over with. I didn't do anything else about the book until after the election. When 19.7 million voters voted for Perot -- 19 percent, which was the greatest of any independent or third-party candidates since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 -- I thought, there is still something extraordinary going on out in the country that the other politicians are not picking up on. So I decided to get my boxes out and go back to it. I didn't go back to New York after that. I thought, I need a different kind of a publisher to publish the kind of book I want to write. I was looking for a small commercial house, or if that didn't work, I was going to look for an academic publisher. The first one on my list happened to be the Summit Group, and I didn't have an agent at that time. I just decided I would see if I could sell it myself. I was looking at some small commercial houses that specialized in books on politics and government, and it just happened that the Summit Group was in Fort Worth. I knew that at one point they were interested in a Perot book before he had gotten out of the race, so I contacted them and showed them the first two or three chapters -- what I had written at that time -- and my proposal. They said, "How soon can you get it to us?"
LAMB: A publisher says to you, "Can you do it a sassy book or an investigative negative book?" That's the way they want you to go after a project like this?
BARTA: That was the feedback I got from the agent that I had in New York who was shopping the book around to the publishing houses. They felt like the only kind of book that would sell was one that was either sassy in tone or one that was an investigative book.
LAMB: What about the Summit Group? Did they ever want you to doctor this book up to sell better or something?
BARTA: No, they were perfectly happy with this kind of book. This was the kind of book that they wanted to sell. A smaller commercial house has a little bit more flexibility. They don't have to sell as many books as a big New York publishing house.
LAMB: Do you know how many books in the first printing?
BARTA: It's 30,000.
LAMB: How's it doing?
BARTA: Doing very well. Yes, we're very pleased.
LAMB: I notice just around the Washington area that a lot of the book stores have this book in it published by a small publisher. How do they distribute a book like this?
BARTA: It's distributed by national distributors, whoever these companies are that are national distributors.
LAMB: Is this your first book?
BARTA: Yes it is.
LAMB: If you had it to do over again, would you do anything different?
BARTA: Probably not.
LAMB: What did you think of the whole experience?
BARTA: It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it a lot. It was very rewarding.
LAMB: What was the toughest part?
BARTA: The toughest part is right now. The toughest part was not writing it. The toughest part right now is promoting it.
LAMB: Why is that?
BARTA: I don't know. It's just harder than writing it.
LAMB: Did you expect that part to be tough?
BARTA: No, I didn't expect to be doing it, to tell you the truth. I just thought I'd write the book and put it out there. If anybody wanted to buy it, they could.
LAMB: What would somebody get in this book that they might not know about Ross Perot? What would be the value of having this book from what you've seen and what you know that's in it?
BARTA: I think it pulls it all together, that a lot of people have read a lot of stories here, there and yon about Ross Perot and they continue to see the focus on the personality of Perot. I just think this book pulls it all together and shows why Perot was an attractive candidate, why he was a viable candidate, a credible candidate to a lot of people and why they are still involved today.
LAMB: Can somebody, in your opinion, duplicate what he's done in the future?
BARTA: That is an interesting question. They ought to be able to. I think he has paved the way for it, but there is no question that it was a unique combination of a time and a man that produced him in '92 as a credible candidate.
LAMB: How much did the $3 billion that he's got play in this thing?
BARTA: Oh, it was enormous.
LAMB: If you didn't have that money, could you do it?
BARTA: I don't think so, but Tom Luce thinks that anybody who has the ability to go on the talk shows and to have the kind of media appeal that Perot had could do it_somebody like Ted Turner or Bill Cosby or anybody like that. I don't think so. I think that Perot got credibility originally because he had the money, that he could spend as much money as he wanted. That gave him instant credibility, and that's primarily why people were willing to talk to him and have him come on their shows. The force of his personality then, of course, took over, and he was sort of a media star there for a while.
LAMB: Have you gotten any feedback from the Perot organization or Mr. Perot himself about your book?
BARTA: From the organization, yes. Sharon Holman, for example, was pleased with it and glad that somebody had written a book really about the grassroots campaign. I've had several inquiries from United We Stand people across the country, how they can get a supply of the book because their people would like to have it.
LAMB: Where did this cover come from?
BARTA: The cover was commissioned by the Summit Group. An artist in Wichita Falls did that. I don't know his name.
LAMB: That's the book, “Perot and His People: Disrupting the Balance of Power” by Carolyn Barta. We thank you very much for joining us.
BARTA: Thank you.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 1994. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.