While Donald Trump often gets credit for making the idea to reverse foreign trade deals popular with voters, H. Ross Perot was warning people about the “giant sucking sound” of American jobs being lost to Mexico 25 years before the president took office. Not only that, but the one-time presidential hopeful liked to use unconventional campaign strategies like infomercials.
Perot and Trump share similarities in several areas and not least was their ability to work the public. According to Yahoo!, the billionaire businessman launched his campaign on CNN while speaking with Larry King by saying that he would run if the public managed to get him on the ballot in every state in the U.S. They did, and he made good on his promise. It also made him the focus of popular culture, with Dana Carvey repeatedly playing a folksy Perot on Saturday Night Live.
During his campaign, he spent $72 million of his own money to get his face in front of the public, which ultimately earned him 19 percent of the popular vote in the election – the best result for a third party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.
Perot and Trump also align in their approach to trade. Perot famously fought against the North American Free Trade Agreement, which was going into effect not long after his 1992 presidential campaign. He warned people that once it took effect, Americans would see their jobs being sucked into Mexico.
President George H.W. Bush, left, talks with independent candidate Ross Perot as Democratic candidate Bill Clinton stands aside at the end of their second presidential debate in Richmond, Va. on Oct. 15, 1992. | Photo Marcy Nighswander pic.twitter.com/ROsEbcxRI6— AP Images (@AP_Images) July 9, 2019
Perot also pushed against the ballooning national debt.
“The debt is like a crazy aunt we keep down in the basement,” Perot famously said. “All the neighbors know she’s there, but nobody wants to talk about her.”
Like Trump, Perot wasn’t afraid to say what he was thinking. He once called the Navy a “Godless organization” rife with partying and drinking. He also lashed out at his former employer, General Motors, after leaving the company.
“I come from an environment where, if you see a snake, you kill it,” Perot said. “At GM, if you see a snake, the first thing you do is go hire a consultant on snakes. Then you get a committee on snakes, and then you discuss it for a couple of years.”
Perot wasn’t afraid to throw his money at a cause he cared about. He once tried to deliver 26 tons of Christmas gifts to troops in Hanoi and financed his own military operation in Vietnam and Iran.
Perot died on Tuesday at the age of 89 after a short battle with cancer.