Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Don't Start the Revolution Without Me! by Jesse Ventura and Dick Russell

Rating - 2: not worth reading (skip it)

Mid-way through this, I realized that Jesse Ventura has a more impressive electoral record than Barack Obama (having served a full term in a statewide office), is competitive with Hillary Clinton (also having a mayoral election, compared to her senate term plus two years), and has more executive experience than all the presidential candidates combined.

This is a political memoir from Jesse Ventura, recounting anecdotes mostly from his term as governor of Minnesota, framed by a cross-country journey to Baja, Mexico. Governor Ventura recounts his views on the media, the two-party system, JFK's assassination, tax relief, the Clinton and Bush presidencies, and the war on terror.

The opening question for this book is whether or not he should run for president. He may be the only person in America asking that question.

The tone is conversational. The organization is conversational too, which is in some ways unfortunate, since it wanders without especially going anywhere. That also characterizes Governor Ventura's description of his administration: interesting high notes, but ultimately little accomplished because it rails against structure instead of working with it.

Jesse Ventura is not a cerebral fellow. His most consistent political philosophy seems to be that anything with the prefix Big is bad (Government, Business, Oil, etc.). He describes himself as governing based on personal experience. In practice, this means his stances are scattered, ad hoc, idiosyncratic. He does not like big companies that homogenize restaurants in small towns or move factories across the border, but he does like international trade that puts Minnesota corn in Mexican beer. Politics as usual is a problem, except when he explicitly tells his Senator to bring home pork; a taxpayer-funded stadium is a boondoggle, while taxpayer-funded mass transit is a good pet project. He is disgusted by American authoritarianism and the CIA but speaks well of oppressive but personable nations. American treatment of the Indians was abominable, but Che Guevara's death camps are no barrier to having his picture on Governor Ventura's mirror. It places personality above principle.

You lose respect on some of these. After you mention tanks running over students in China, that might play a bigger part in your assessment of their government than cleanliness and good food. Governor Ventura ribbed his security for not being able to move crowds like Castro's, apparently missing that whole "you and your family in prison" thing. Or take the argument against a US border wall with Mexico, citing the failure of the Great Wall of China in 1644; there must be a better argument than "it will only work for 18 or 19 centuries." I am not going to touch the conspiracy theories or paranoia about how "they" are out to "destroy" him.

And yet. There are some very sensible comments and policies. Do I think that just because I agree with them? Governor Ventura recognized the problem with having hundreds of volumes of laws, more than anyone could read, when ignorance is no excuse for breaking them. Taxpayer-funded stadiums are giveaways, and corporate lobbyists do write laws. Trade is a good thing. Marijuana decriminalization would reduce total harm. Governor Ventura was mostly aware of his policy ignorance, and he appointed the best people who would work with him, to the irritation of his less qualified loyalists. There have been far worse administrations.

You would be insane to say that Jesse Ventura is the best person possible for whatever elected position. But he might not be worse than the candidates you have running.

Amazon link

1 comment:

Gary Baumgarten said...

Jesse Ventura will be my guest on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com Monday June 16 at 5 PM New York time.

To talk to Ventura or just listen click on the link to the show on my blog at www.garybaumgarten.com