You wouldn’t think people would spend money to watch a presidential candidate on video, but 1992 is such an unpredictable campaign that you may find them lined up to get their copies. Unfortunately, A Conversation With Ross Perot could discourage anyone from taking an interest in politics this year.
Conversation, featuring executive producer-director Sue Ann Taylor, is more infomercial than interview. Her method is to mention a topic and let Perot flap his lips until he runs out of words many minutes later. In this cassette, you see Perot at his best as a salesperson, an inspirationalist, and a man with a clear idea of where he wants to take the nation. You don’t see the politician with the spicy zinger from the evening news. Yet whether you agree with him or not, what comes across is an effective personality, a man you dismiss at your peril.
In this tape, what you get is what Perot wants you to know about him. He’s considerably more lifeless here than on talk shows, where he’s challenged more. Neither questioner asks for specific memories of his growing up or the things he did to build his companies, information that wouldn’t have been controversial but might have been interesting and informative in the way his sales pitches about the state of the nation are not. In the end he remains the same impressive but elusive figure he was before you pressed play.
The video is also dated already. In the months since the interview was conducted, battalions of reporters have been digging into Perot’s life and asking questions: Has he used detectives to get dossiers on people who get in his way? Does he have a weakness for spy games? Does he really mean that he wouldn’t appoint anyone to a high position who has ever had an extramarital affair? Perot is obviously an able man who can speak convincingly to these questions and others about himself and his past life — but not on this tape, which don’t contain the full Perot story.
It may have its use in the Perot campaign, however. The man has shown he can energize people who have never voted or who dropped out of political activity in disgust. Doubtless Perot supporters will be holding parlor meetings and coffee klatches to recruit more people for the cause. They’ll have a use for this tape, particularly the Taylor offering, which can be used to convince others that H. Ross Perot may be the man for them. D+