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Ross Perot tried to put a nice face on his abandonment this past week of thousands of volunteers who had rallied to his cause. Try as he might, it was ugly.

He had promised to run for president if volunteers would get his name on the ballot in all 50 states. They were in the process of doing it, yet he ran out.He had promised to name a candidate for vice president. He didn't.

He had promised to come up with a detailed program for curing the nation's economic woes. He just ran out.

His excuses were many, and they were all bad. He said that "the overriding change" that had led to his pulling the rug from under his volunteers was "the revitalizing of the Democratic Party." Modestly, Perot took credit for that, saying that both parties were now squarely addressing the issues he and his volunteers had raised. Nonsense.

"It would be disruptive for us to continue our program, because this would put it in the House of Representatives and this would be disruptive," was another exit line. Well, bless your heart, of course it would be disruptive. Perot's candidacy has been disruptive from beginning to end, but that was what he was selling. He was selling an end to business as usual and he wound up endorsing business as usual.

He has let down and embarrassed those who stuck their necks out for him. Perot's awkward retreat is a blessing to the Bush campaign. It had become obvious that Perot had attracted more Republicans than Democrats and despite Perot's assertion that the revitalizing of the Democratic Party was the No. 1 reason for his quitting, his action helps the Republicans.

While the lip service he paid to Democrats may mean a little to those whose only basic goal is "change," he fell far short of endorsing the Democratic ticket. Such is his credibility at the moment that his endorsement wouldn't mean much.

It would take 12 years, he had concluded, to end the economic mess in which our government finds itself. He had obviously spent some hard time studying the nature of our debt, our entitlement programs, our international trade deficit and our job market. He had concluded that nothing radical could be undertaken without the danger of completely shattering consumer confidence, the confidence of banks to make loans, the ability of the economy to function.

Having looked at it hard, he decided it wasn't all as easy as he had made it sound. He may have had the stomach for it, but he didn't have the stamina for it. He ran out. When he had been ahead in the polls he laughed and said he didn't believe in polls. When the polls showed him plummeting, he became a believer. He quit.

"I will look back on this with the fondest of memories," he said, referring to the thousands of volunteers who had given of their time and energy because they believed in him. He patted them on the back verbally while kicking them in the backside. They will not look back on him with the fondest of memories. They will look back on him as the man who, when the going got tough, ran away.