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I first “met” Ross Perot on the telephone at work one morning in early 1990. “Mr. Malcolm?” said the voice in a clipped Texas twang that would become familiar to the nation in two later presidential campaigns. “This Ross Perot.”
“Mr. Malcolm, listen,” he ordered. “I read your article about the service members who died in Panama. God bless them.”
I had indeed written a lengthy page one piece in the previous day’s New York Times with the help of colleagues reconstructing the personal lives that had brought those troops to the deadly war zone in Panama.
President George H.W. Bush had ordered the U.S. invasion the previous month to oust de facto Pres. Manuel Noriega. He’d been a well-paid CIA informant for years, including those when Bush ran the intelligence agency.
But in 1989 with his country already in partial control of the Panama Canal, Noriega was helping drug runners launder money and drifting toward the Soviet Union. He had rejected Pres. Reagan’ request to step down, crushed two coup attempts and ignored election results.
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