The national tea party movement seems to be doing well, but time will tell how it will affect the country, government, and November elections, Texas billionaire Ross Perot said Tuesday.
The former Reform Party presidential candidate also said he wouldn't be offering the group advice anytime soon.
"In a free society, you're entitled to do whatever you want to do. Time will tell how effective it is," Perot told reporters in Kansas City, where he was receiving a leadership award from the Army's Command and General Staff College Foundation. "Just as a layman looking at it from afar, it seems to me they are pretty well organized and getting the crowd."
The foundation supports the Army's college at Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Perot has pledged $6.1 million to the foundation for the college's programs in interagency cooperation and military ethics.
"What I do for the military is done from the heart. It's something I feel very strongly about," said Perot, a graduate of the Naval Academy.
Perot attracted a following when he ran for president in 1992. His message as an independent, calling for balanced federal budgets and fiscal restraint, influenced the election, taking 19 percent of the vote.
"If we could have gotten people to listen then, we wouldn't have dug the hole as deep as it is now. It's done now and we've got to fix it. The sooner we start, the better off we'll be. But we've gotta be careful."
Perot's supporters were typically white, middle-class Americans who felt squeezed by Washington and a growing federal government. Perot's views on trade and business practices, despite his success at the polls, remained part of the political landscape for years.
Republicans coaxed many of his supporters to their fold and in 1994 recaptured both chambers of Congress in midterm elections.
The tea party movement generally unites on the fiscally conservative principles of small government, lower taxes, and less spending — also Perot's ideals.
Perot said it would be wrong to increase taxes to increase the size of government. Perot recommended lowering taxes on the wealthy to stimulate job creation.
It remains to be seen if the movement would evolve into a third party in U.S. politics or if a leader of the loosely organized group would emerge.
Shifting the conversation back to his reason to be Kansas City, Perot expressed his admiration for the leadership, ethics and morals of the military. He said there is a chance that veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan can lead the nation to economic recovery, much like those who fought in World War II.
"The stress of a business situation is insignificant compared to the stress on the battlefield," he said.
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