Vital StatisticsPARTY: Reform Party
AGE ON INAUGURATION DAY: 56
HOMETOWN: Washington, D.C.
FAMILY: Married to Kay, two college-age stepsons; married previously
EDUCATION: B.A., University of Texas; Ph.D., University of Oklahoma
CURRENT JOB: Founder, Manufacturing Policy Project (1992-present); hosts "The Week Ahead" radio talk show.
POLITICAL PHILOSOPHY: Economic nationalist
PET ISSUE: Anti-free trade
BIGGEST PLUS: Articulate spokesman for ideas
BIGGEST MINUS: Political unknown
CAMPAIGN HEADQUARTERS: Perot Reform Committee, PO Box 96, Dallas, TX. 75221
WEB SITE: The Reform Party
Waging his populist pitch against the entrenched Washington establishment, Ross Perot has made an unlikely vice presidential choice in Beltway insider Pat Choate. This virtually unknown, Washington, D.C., native has spent the last decade peddling ideas in print and over the airwaves and has zigg-zagged between the public and private sectors since the '60s.
Choate, 55, claims the mantra of the outsider. "I know Washington, and I know that it cannot be changed from the inside," he told those watching Perot's half-hour infomercial Sept. 11.
This native of Maypearl, Texas, is an independent thinker unafraid to ruffle establishment feathers. With a doctorate in economics (focused on the role of government and industries in economic development), Choate has made his biggest splash attacking free trade. In 1993, he co-authored with Perot the best-selling "Save Your Job, Save Our Country: Why NAFTA Must Be Stopped -- Now!" and he coached Perot before his 1993 televised debate with Vice President Al Gore on NAFTA.
Choate, in defiance of most mainstream economic thinking, argues that open markets have cost millions of American jobs. That stance made him a source of intellectual firepower for another prominent protectionist, GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. In fact, Choate likes Buchanan too and contributed to his 1992 and 1996 campaigns, although he supported Al Gore's 1988 White House bid.
Choate has staked out other lonely positions as well. His 1990 book, "Agents of Influence," a take-no-prisoners analysis of foreign lobbyists, earned him the scorn of many fellow economists and accusations of xenophobia for accusing the Japanese of spending millions on lobbyists to influence U.S. trade policy.
It's been a circuitous path to the Reform Party ticket, to put it mildly. After growing up on his father's cotton farm, Choate got his B.A. from the University of Texas and then his doctorate from the University of Oklahoma on a R.O.T.C. scholarship.
In 1965, Oklahoma's Republican governor, Henry Bellmon, hired Choate as an economic planner. After a brief stint as regional administrator for the Commerce Department's Economic Development Administration, he left to head Tennessee's Department of Economic and Community Development, where he pressed a wildly unpopular agenda of foreign investment.
In 1975, Choate moved to Washington, D.C., to direct the Economic Development Administration's Office of Economic Research, then was ousted when Jimmy Carter's team took over. After a brief stint at the Office of Management and Budget, he was hired as economist for TRW, a defense contractor where he worked from 1981 to 1990. But following the publication of "Agents," TRW, with some $400 million in annual sales to Japan, fired Choate.
After TRW, Choate went on to found a small think tank, the Manufacturing Policy Project, where he currently works, in addition to hosting the weekly "Week Ahead" radio talk show. The Project is funded by textile mogul Roger Milliken, union-supported foundations, the auto industry and profits from his NAFTA book.
Other Choate books include "The High-Flex Society" (on industrial competitiveness), "America In Ruins" (on America's infrastructure), and "Being Number One: Rebuilding the U.S. Economy" (on problems in U.S. manufacturing).
It's hard to see what political benefit Choate brings to Perot's ticket. It's certainly not name recognition, certainly not political experience and certainly not business experience. The man who once exclaimed "Policy! That's what my career is about" has never held nor sought elective office and never run a business. He even -- horror! -- violates Perot's longstanding pet peeve that no employees wear a beard. Choate, portly and professorial, sports an impressive shock of facial hair.
Perot was unsuccessful in luring more prominent names to his ticket, such as former Sens. Warren Rudman (R-N.H.) or David Boren (D-Okla.). But in Choate, Perot at least has at a more formidable advcoate of ideas than his 1992 pick, retired General James Stockdale. If he gets the chance to debate the other vice presidential contenders Al Gore and Jack Kemp, Choate could well offer a spirited and articulate defense of Reform Party ideas.
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