On Jesse Ventura

Published by marco on

Jesse Ventura is a former pro wrestler and action movie star—he famously starred in Predator with Schwarzenegger. He claims to have been in the Navy Seals—though it turns out he was in the predecessor to the Seals and never actually saw combat in ‘Nam, though he trained for it. He was elected governor of Minnesota as an independent and went on to write a book about conspiracies to accompany a TV show about conspiracies. He’s a self-professed 9–11 truther.

He sounds like a joke, really. A typical American celebrity who leveraged being in the right place at the right time into a full-time career.

And then, he opens his mouth.

That’s where it gets confusing, because every time I watch an interview with him, I’m prepared to watch him cram his foot in his mouth, but he always comes across as reasonable, relatively well-informed, willing to admit when he doesn’t know something and able to distinguish between opinion and fact. All sterling qualities and all unexpected considering his undeserved reputation as an all-out wacko.

For example, he recently gave the following interview:

Jesse Ventura on Real Time with Bill Maher on April 16, 2010 (YouTube)

Not that it’s a contest, but Ventura blew Maher away. Maher came across as a pompous, conceited, condescending jackass (as usual, as far as this author’s concerned). Far worse, however, his argumentation was glib and dismissive and seemed intended less to make a point than to make a soundbite.

Ventura, on the other hand, argued well. He started off with a plea for California to legalize marijuana and argued convincingly that it would drastically lower crime. “All you’re doing when you prohibit something is letting criminals sell it and get rich and powerful.” On the next topic—third-party candidates—Maher argues the common line that voting third-party is “throwing your vote away” to which Ventura counters:

“No, you’re throwing your vote away if you don’t vote your heart and conscience. Voting is not a horse race, you’re not there to pick the winner: you’re there to pick the person that most represents you.”

Maher dismisses this with “but this is all theory” and looks so condescendingly at Ventura that I’m surprised Jesse didn’t just take a crack at him. When Ventura talks about adding “None of the above” to the ballots, Maher again dismisses it as “Tea-bagger talk” and “vague anger” whereas Ventura was right in the middle of talking about “taking small steps” toward improving America. He sounded neither angry nor vague, actually, but clearly wasn’t hewing to Maher’s script.

I guess you could say that Maher is so bad that even Ventura looked good next to him, but it seems to be more than that. Ventura’s last several interviews (that this author has seen) offer no evidence of any ranting or raving. Instead, he went on to talk about enhancing democracy by getting rid of the Electoral College—a completely out-dated institution shared by no other country on the planet—and by arguing for unicameral legislature at the state level. When Maher argued that America should go unicameral at the federal level as well—effectively getting rid of the Senate—Ventura disagreed, for the reason that “otherwise, California would run everthying.” Which is an excellent point—it may not be the final point in that discussion, but it’s not based on crazy or ill-informed arguments.

Maher, on the other hand, suggested getting rid of the Senate when he’d just minutes before accused Ventura of offering non-constructive solutions (adding “none of the above” to the ballot, in that case). He seemed either oblivious or uninterested in the blatant inconsistency.

It’s not like Ventura’s Chomsky or anything—and it’s not like this author is starting a fan club—but at least he’s thinking.