Amid signs of continued restlessness among American voters, one-time independent presidential candidate Ross Perot convened a wide-ranging forum Friday on issues of the day that promised to attract thousands of supporters and a pantheon of national political leaders.
Perot, who pledged to form a third party to protest approval of an international trade agreement last year, refused to discuss his political plans but shared the limelight with another opponent of open trade agreements who has publicly toyed with a third party run: Jesse Jackson.
Speaking to an overwhelmingly white audience made up of members of Perot’s United We Stand, America organization, Jackson spoke out against federal overspending and corporate mergers, and recalled the opposition he and Perot shared to the North American Free Trade Agreement and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
“Perot and I were termed the odd couple for opposing it,” Jackson said, speaking of the NAFTA pact. “But everything we said turned out to be true. Wages plummeted in Mexico and jobs were lost here.”
Jackson, a past contender for the Democratic presidential nomination, voiced his consistent concern about the plight of the poor and conditions in urban America but also seemed to tailor his message to a broader audience by calling for cuts in defense in Asia and Europe.
Perot, in opening remarks, described the three-day conference as an attempt to arm average voters with enough information to prevail over financial contributors to political parties and their candidates.