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Perot fails to unseat Buchanan

  • Good News: Ross Perot's behind-the-scenes scheming to undermine Pat Buchanan in the Reform Party's presidential nomination have failed on all counts.
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By Clayton Potts

While the process of nominating a candidate is under way, the Reform Party has removed two major barriers facing Pat Buchanan:

• Ross Perot, the party's founder and twice a candidate, has refused to run in spite of pressure to do so from Buchanan foes; and

• Reform Party officials refused to include a "no endorsement" option on the primary ballot, which had been sought by Perot as a means of denying the nomination to Buchanan.

This means voters in the Reform primary can choose either Buchanan or John Hagelin or nobody. But the Reform Party will have a candidate.

"We decided that [the "no endorsement" option] wouldn't be consistent with the rules," said Michael Farris, chairman of the party's presidential nominations panel, in rejecting Perot's plan.

Opponents had recruited Hagelin as their last great hope but are worried that some may not hate Buchanan less but hate Hagelin more -- thus the failed "no endorsement" effort.

Hagelin, founder and twice candidate of the Natural Law Party, argues that transcendental meditation will solve society's problems by "rehabilitating" ax murderers and developing the "inner creative genius" he attributes to all students (SPOTLIGHT, July 10, 2000).

Some in the Reform Party object to Buchanan's outspoken views against homosexuality and abortion, which are among various social issues on which they have chosen to remain silent.

If nominated, Buchanan said, he would leave the Reform Party platform -- with its silence on social issues -- intact, but voters have a right to know his own views on those subjects. He will prepare a statement about his views on those subjects, Buchanan said.

"We are not going to change a line in the Reform Party platform -- I promised the folks that," Buchanan said. "What the people do have a right to know is where Pat Buchanan stands on the Supreme Court, where he stands on Bosnia, where he stands on immigration."

Buchanan again stressed the need for a new presidential choice in November.

Ballots are being mailed to thousands of Reform Party supporters. Buchanan is far ahead in delegate counts, but winning the primary balloting is also important.

Under Reform Party rules, convention delegates, who have been chosen at the state level based on who they would support for the nomination, can reject the primary winner by a two-thirds vote.

If Hagelin somehow rouses enough meditators to win the primary, he would spend the rest of the presidential campaign calling himself the "people's choice" and trying to discredit Buchanan. With many ignorant, uninformed voters, that would be an easy task.

The three members of the nominations committee were unanimous in rejecting Perot's "no endorsement" proposal, Farris said.

"If Ross Perot was allowed to have a line marked 'No Endorsement,' how could we prevent someone else having a line marked Colin Powell?" he asked.

Party officials expressed doubt that Perot, who won 19 percent of the vote in 1992, making him the strongest third-party candidate in generations, would have a role in this year's election. Officials said they are not even sure if he will attend the convention this year, scheduled for Aug. 10-13 in Long Beach, Calif.

Gerry Moan, party chairman, expressed support for the ballot decision.

"I was not a fan of the no-endorsement option," Moan said. "There is an opportunity to do a no-endorsement at the convention. My feeling is that we invited Buchanan into the party and he's tried to play by the rules."

Perot, despite objecting to Buchanan, resisted pressure during a day-long meeting to put his name on the ballot to stop Buchanan, said his spokesman, Russell Verney.

Perot resisted such a "negative reason" for running and also thought it would be unethical to accept the nomination but not really seek the office, Verney said.

Perot, who recently turned 70, would be on the ballot in about half the states in November. Buchanan is expected to make the ballot in all states.