DALLAS -- Launching the final round of his multi-million-dollar TV ad blitz last night, presidential candidate Ross Perot unleashed the fire usually reserved for President Bush at Democrat Bill Clinton as well.
In a half-hour commercial that aired on NBC and ABC last night and will be rerun tonight -- "Chicken Feathers, Deep Voodoo and the American Dream" -- the Texas billionaire pulled out charts, statistics and his "voodoo stick" to take apart both his opponents' records but made no mention of the remedies he has in mind for the country.
In his most scathing attack on Mr. Clinton to date, the independent candidate portrayed Arkansas as a small, backward, economically ailing state that, after 12 years of Clinton rule, still ranks at or near the bottom in terms of education, environment, income and children's issues.
"What are the odds that a person who has been unable to make more dramatic change than this in 12 years in a tiny rural state would be able to face and solve the problems of our great nation?" Mr. Perot asked after running through a parade of his trademark charts and graphs.
The Texas businessman had called Mr. Clinton's experience as governor of Arkansas "irrelevant" during the final presidential debate. In similar fashion, he said in last night's commercial that if Arkansas were a business, it would rank 248th on the Forbes 500 list, "behind Toys R Us, Quaker Oats and Chiquita Brands. So you might say the governor's running a medium-sized business."
Mr. Perot also gently mocked the state's poultry industry -- hence the "Chicken Feathers" -- saying that one out of five jobs in the last 12 years created in Arkansas was created in the poultry business.
"Now, this is not an industry of tomorrow," the computer titan said. "If we decide to take this level of business-creating capability nationwide, we'll all be plucking chickens for a living. . . . So I guess you could say, the chickens keep on clucking and the people keep on plucking after 12 years of Governor Clinton's leadership."
The Clinton campaign issued a five-page point-by-point rebuttal of the Perot ad, saying: "His 11th-hour attack on Bill Clinton and the people of Arkansas is nothing but a multimillion-dollar smoke screen. . . . With his latest 'infomercial,' Ross Perot demonstrates that George Bush is not the only candidate in this race who can lie about Bill Clinton's record."
The second half of the Perot attack ad focused on Mr. Bush and what the independent candidate called "the hands-off, close-eyed, hands-over-the-ears management" of the last four years.
"If you can take four more years of this, God bless you. I can't," he said, flipping charts that dealt with the national debt and loss of manufacturing jobs.
Once again, he attacked the Republican president for "coddling" such leaders as Ferdinand E. Marcos, Manuel Antonio Noriega and Saddam Hussein, saying: "We have paid a tremendous price for George Bush's mistakes."
Noticeably absent from this and, in fact, all but one of Mr. Perot's many commercials is any mention of the severe measures -- such as a 50-cent-a-gallon increase in the gasoline tax over five years -- that he's proposing for mending the economy.
Ironically, last night's spots competed with "60 Minutes," the highly-rated CBS program on which, just last week, the longshot candidate hurled unsubstantiated charges of dirty tricks at the GOP. The charges, offered as the reason he quit the race in July, stalled whatever post-debate momentum he had been enjoying.
By this past weekend, Mr. Perot's level of support had dwindled to about 15 percent in national polls while his unfavorable ratings were on the rise. He still trails in every state and is not favored to win a single electoral vote.
Yesterday, he attended rallies in Long Beach and Santa Clara, Calif., where he attacked pollsters and naysayers and promised to stage a "November surprise" with a victory at the polls tomorrow.
Mr. Perot plans to close his abbreviated and highly unorthodox presidential campaign with a final rally today here in his home city.