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ELECTION '96 / The Presidential Campaign

Perot Claims Scandals Will Dog Clinton


Reform Party presidential candidate Ross Perot continued a recent barrage of criticism he has directed at President Clinton by claiming Friday that the Democratic incumbent is burdened by "criminal problems" that would paralyze him during another term in the White House.

Perot, who lost to Clinton as an independent candidate four years ago, went on to say that the president would be spending a second term struggling to "stay out of jail."

Winding up a tour of California, Perot added that reelecting Clinton would be akin to making 1930s bank robber Willie Sutton president of the Bank of America.

"Guy knows banks. Right?" Perot quipped to Stanford University students in an hourlong lunchtime address devoted mostly to attacks on Clinton.

"Wake up," Perot exhorted the students. "If I broke my word to you again and again and again, as [Clinton] has, why in the world would you even consider me as a candidate for county coroner, much less the most important job in the world?"

Perot's campaign has struggled after being shut out of last month's presidential debates and unable to obtain access to his favorite medium--the paid half-hour network television infomercial.

Thus, Perot has gone on the stump the past two weeks to give at least a dozen speeches, including some on college campuses and one to the Los Angeles World Affairs Council. Perot is to give a final speech on network television Monday night.

In recent days, the emergence of questions about a series of donations the Democratic National Committee received from sources linked to foreign interests has played to one of Perot's favorite themes: campaign finance reform.

And Perot has used this issue to focus his fire on Clinton. Perot's standing in polls has taken a spurt upward after being mired in the single digits for months. His support now has risen to 10% or more in several surveys (a survey by The Times released earlier this week showed Perot supported by 12% of those interviewed).

Ever since he first ran for president in 1992, Perot has claimed that the two major parties are beholden to the special interests on whom they rely for campaign funds.

Perot also promised to campaign on issues and to bring honesty and openness to the political arena. But many of his comments Friday were similar to the sort of negative campaigning he had denounced. Many of his statements were based on a variety of allegations that have been denied or not proved.

For instance, Perot seemed to assume the truth of allegations that Clinton representatives solicited a $15-million contribution from the ruling party in Taiwan--something that would be illegal and a charge that both Taiwanese and administration officials have denied.

Nevertheless, Perot said the Clinton quest for money may have put American military forces in jeopardy.

At the time, Perot said, Chinese forces on maneuvers appeared to pose a threat to Taiwan.

"Then guess what?" Perot said. "We sent the 7th Fleet aircraft carrier over to tell China to leave Taiwan alone."

Perot then asked the students: "Do you want a commander in chief who will put our armed forces' lives at risk in exchange for $15 million for his presidential campaign? Because if you do, you don't want me."

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