A man of many titles, Jesse Ventura is a politician, actor, author, US navy veteran and a former professional wrestler. He does not associate himself with either side of the political establishment. Jesse Ventura won the seat of 38th Governor of Minnesota as an independent candidate. He believes the same luck may push him to the top of American politics - to become president of the United States.
Sophie Shevardnadze: Hello Jesse, nice to have you on the show today. Now, you want to run for presidency in 2016. Realistically, do you think you can win?
Jesse Ventura: First of all, I didn’t say that I was running, but I felt that the opportunity was there for a 3rd candidate to be successful, in the light of the fact that the way that our two parties have operated in the last few years, in the last decade, they truly have alienated the people to the point when the approval rating of the Congress is at ten percent. That’s astounding – nine out of ten people dislike them and don’t approve what they do. So I just stated that in the situation of a third candidate you always wanted in a year, where there’s not an incumbent and 2016 would provide that year, there will be no incumbent, and that’s where he could be the most successful. And I stated that if I did run, I would run under one premise and I believe I could win on this alone – in light of the way things are today in the U.S. I would run and give the American people the opportunity to make history and to elect the first president since George Washington, who does not belong to a political party – imagine that. We’ve had only one president who wasn’t attached to what I refer as “political gangs” and I believe the public sentiment today is that candidate could win on that alone, because people are so sick and tired of the way these two parties have governed and the way that they’ve ran our government into the ground and what we stand for today.
SS: So, not belonging to either of the two parties, or “gangs” as you call them, is clearly a major handicap for people – because who will give you money to finance your campaign for instance? Would you be able to raise the money if you’re not Republican or Democrat?
JV: Well, that’s the difficult thing, because they’ve created a system that is completely based on the concept of bribery. Now, if you do that in the private sector, you go to jail – if you bribe someone. But the public sector, the entire system these two parties have created, is the system of bribery. You pay off the politician, and you get an audience with them. When I ran for the governor of Minnesota, I only raised $300.000 when the Democrats and Republicans raised and spent $12 mn at that time. And that was over a decade ago – they probably spend twice as much as that today. And I prove that you can win an election on ideas rather than money – in fact one of the reasons I felt compelled to do that, and I’m probably the only candidate in 50 years who can make this statement – I actually made more money doing a job as governor then what I spent to get it. And I did that because when I was a 16-year old growing up I came home one day and my father said to me that all politicians are crooks. And I said to him: “dad, you can’t make a statement like that, they can’t all be crooks, you can’t make a blanket statement” and he goes “Yes I can”, and I said “Why?” He said – “Here’s why: because they spend the million dollars for a job that only pays a hundred grand.” Now think of a simplicity – my dad only went to 8th grade, WW2 veteran, but what he said was completely correct – in the private sector you would never spend more money than what you’re going to make doing the job, and I can honestly say if my dad would’ve been alive, he could have looked down at his son and realized that his son wasn’t a crook, because when I got elected in Minnesota, I made more money doing the job, than I spent to get it. Now could I do that for president? Yes, I could, but I need someone like Howard Stern with me to do it.
SS: But here’s what I’m thinking – because being elected governor and president – it’s different things, because of a whole new level, and you’re such a great man and you have popular support, but – wouldn’t it make more sense and wouldn’t it be more realistic to actually work for someone who is seen as a more realistic candidate and through him you can push your ideas through.
JV: No, I don’t think so. As long as these two parties are in charge…it’s like a late great Jerry Garcia of the “Grateful Dead” said once - “If you’re made to pick the lesser of two evils, it means you are still picking evil, doesn’t it?” So the problem we need to fight for is the abolishment of these political parties, we need to abolish them. George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams all agree with me, they’re pretty good supporters of that position, and they created this country, so who would know better than them – we need to abolish these political parties, make them political action-committees, and the easy way to start that process could be done locally. Why do we put political parties’ names on election ballots – put just the name of the candidate, don’t put the party he’s affiliated with, just their name. That could be a huge step in a right direction, but you’ll notice they will never allow that to happen.
SS: Jesse, in a nutshell – what would your ideas for presidential campaign be? The main ones?
JV: Simple. My main one would be to give the American people the opportunity to elect the first president since George Washington who doesn’t belong to one of these two political parties, allow people to pick their president – the people don’t pick the president now, these two political parties pick your president. They decide whom you’re going to get to vote for. If I ran as a complete independent, the people of the U.S. could vote for me, and it wouldn’t be decided by these two political gangs, because they’re the ones who give you the two choices, so in essence you have no choice.
SS: But, the power lies not just with the government, but with big money – those two parties are also heavily relying on big money. What are your solutions for that?
JV: My solution is that I have the means to do it without spending big money. Let me explain this – when I was governor of Minnesota for 4 years, I never met with a lobbyist once, because lobbyists didn’t get me elected, the people did, and I only took 25$ and 50$ donations from individuals, I didn’t accept PAC money, I didn’t accept special interest money whatsoever, but the point is, and let me get back to this – I’m not running for president, I never said that I was, I simply said that 2016 would be the most opportune time to do it. I’m selling books now; I’m writing and doing a lot of other things now, I just simply commenting that 2016 would be the time to do it. I’m also stating how I could do it and be different from the status-quo is and I believe I could win.
SS: But just to be clear – are you going to run or not, or you haven’t made up your mind yet?
JV: I haven’t made up my mind yet, no. The media likes to talk about it, the media likes to ask me about it, and I answer their questions, and I’ve already explained, I need someone like Howard Stern – because his radio-show to save money so I can campaign on his radio, it’s not governed by the FCC, which, when I ran for governor, they made me go unemployed for 6 months because they took me off the air. With Stern I wouldn’t have to come off the air, I could be on the air every day and get my message out, plus, he has the ability to raise the money without selling my respect and my soul out to special interest. That is the point, I have to do it my way, I have to do it to keep my integrity if I’m going to do it. So it has to be done with unorthodox methods and not the status-quo. When Jesse Ventura runs – if he does – you won’t see the status quo made in the campaign, because that is not how you win, and I’ve already proved, I won twice, I know how to win.
SS: Now you have spoken to a lot of media, including the mainstream, at this point – what are your feelings; do you feel like everyone is open to what you have to say about running for presidency, you and Howard being running mates?
JV: No, they take it as a joke naturally, and they are always trying to marginalize you any way that they can, just like the current book tour I’ve been on – it’s a book about Kennedy’s assassination – I can’t get on NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX news or MSNBC and I assume it’s because of the content of the book. I’m not going along with the fact that Lee Harvey Oswald killed John Kennedy, I don’t believe it, I think that when you study the Warren Commission it’s laughable what they sold to the American people, I’ll give you an example – they totally disregarded – the Warren Commission – the testimony of Governor John Connally and his wife Nelly, who was the governor and the first lady of Texas. They ignored their testimony because both of them clearly stated they were not struck by any bullet that hit Kennedy, which defeats the magic bullet theory which then sends the Warren Commission right into the toilet.
SS: So you do feel like the majority of the media is actually limited in its editorial choice?
JV: Let me give it to you this way: I’ve written seven New York Times Best Selling Books that have made the New York Times bestseller list – not one of them has ever been reviewed by the New York Times. The very company that has the top-10 list and I’ve made it with seven books, they’ve never reviewed any of my books – why is that?
SS: Jesse, I’m going to read out your quote – “revolutions don’t have to be violent.” Again, that’s what you’ve said – which revolutions have inspired you that weren’t violent, actually? Do know a revolution that has actually worked?
JV: Yeah, I think when the Philippines took back their country from Ferdinand Marcos, it took them about 20-30 years to accomplish it, but I believe Marcos was taken out of power with no violence, there was a revolution in the Philippines that took that dictator out. I was actually in the Philippines physically back in the early 70s when Marcos declared martial law and became a dictator of the Philippines, and 15 years later they got him out of there, and to the best of my knowledge there was no bloodshed in the way that they did it, so the Philippine people can be very proud of what they’ve accomplished. You could have revolutions without bloodshed – especially here in the U.S…
SS: Is that what you want – you want a revolution in America?
JV: Yes, absolutely. I do not want a government run by Democrats or Republicans.
SS: How do you see revolution happening in America?
JV: Of us destroying these two political parties, of marginalizing them and taking them out of the system. We should have elections that don’t have political parties, where you run as an individual and you don’t have to be part of the gang, in which to serve your country you have to join a gang to do it. That’s what we need a revolution for and both Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and George Washington – they all warned us, if you read what they’ve wrote when they created the U.S., they warned us that the downfall of the country – especially John Adams said that it would be when the political parties take over the government – well, I think we’re already there. You’re seeing it right now, and its best or worst, however you want to view it. They’ve put their parties first – look at all the decisions that are being made in Washington today. They are not being made for the benefit of the U.S., they are being made for the benefit of the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, it’s the two parties and then who are they beholden to? They’re beholden to their money people, the corporations, so we are really the United Corporations of America today, not the United States of America. That’s the revolution I’m calling for.
SS: What I’m thinking is that the U.S. is Number 1 consumerist country – is any revolution possible in such a society? It seems people are only interested in being entertained and comfortable.
JV: I don’t know, we’ll find out, won’t we? I guess if people want to continue down the road we’re going, if they think the U.S. has got it’s best years ahead of it – it’s the first time in my life right now that I’ve looked to the future and not been optimistic. It’s the first time in my 60 years as a patriotic citizen of the U.S. that I look to the future and I don’t see it as being better, I see it as being worse and the only people I have blame for that are the Democrats and Republicans because they have been in charge for 150 years. Look at what they did when they raised the debt ceiling – ok, they voted and raised the debt ceiling, what’s the first thing they did – they gave billions of dollars of our money to Pakistan. So Pakistan gets the money, and the U.S. pays the bill for it. I got news for you – if Jesse Ventura became president, foreign aid would end, because all foreign aid is an extension of their bribery. They give foreign countries, they bribe them with money so that they’ll stand behind the positions that we want to push throughout the world.
SS: Let’s talk about foreign interventions for a minute. When you spoke to Larry King recently, you made a claim that the war in Syria started because President Assad was reluctant to let a pipeline go through the country. Where did you get that from? It’s the first time I hear something like that.
JV: Really, I’ve heard that from an interview from an Arab who lived over there, I think it was on Al Jazeera or something like that, when I heard them talk about how they certainly wanted to put a pipeline through Syria and Assad is not being cooperative in doing so. Let’s look at the situation…the U.S. today is governed by the corporations, it’s not government, it’s what corporations want to do out there because our Supreme Court gave them the same rights as citizens which I find astounding. How can a corporation have the same rights as me? If they are going to be the same as me, then let them pay the same tax rate that I pay. Why should corporations have a separate tax rate from citizens, if they are granted the same rights by the Supreme Court? Then let’s be the same!
SS: If you were president – would you cut down on defense spending, just like on foreign aid?
JV: Absolutely I would cut down on it. The U.S. today spends more on defense than the other top 26 countries in the world combined and 25 of them are our allies? How many times can we blow up the world? Why is our military on bases in 170 countries throughout the world? I would shutdown those bases and I would bring our young men and women home and it would be the “Department of Defense”, it would not be the “Department of War” which it is now. We would defend the U.S., we would defend the U.S. to no end, but I would follow the teachings of Major-General Smedley Darlington Butler, a two-time congressional medal of honor winner, who said the U.S. military should never go over 500 miles from our coast, and I agree with that. We have the technology to go anywhere in the world now, we don’t have to send our men and women throughout the world to be the policeman of it.
SS: So Jesse, you’re not afraid that terrorists are going to attack America from any side possible?
JV: Terrorists? I think the bigger question to ask is why are the terrorists attacking us? Can you answer that for me? Why is the U.S. under attack from terrorism, I’ll ask you that.
SS: Why, you tell me?
JV: That’s the question that’s not being asked, is it? Why these people want to attack us - isn’t that what we should be finding out? My view is that let’s get out of the Middle East, completely, that’s my view. I’m going to have fun with you now. When Columbus came to the U.S. and discovered it for the Anglo-Europeans, what was he doing? He was attempting to find another way to India to avoid going through the middle east; well, science at the time said he might fall off the face of the Earth if he went that way – Columbus was willing to take that risk because he wanted to avoid the Middle East, now what does that tell you? That was 7 or 8 hundred years ago, this guy was trying to avoid the Middle East. Why are we bothering with the Middle East? Let them do what they want to do, why does the U.S. needs to be involved over there, if we weren’t involved over there, we wouldn’t have to worry about terrorism, would we? You don’t see Middle Eastern terrorists attacking Sweden, do you?
SS: I see your point; it’s a valid point, although I don’t know that the problem with terrorism would be completely taken care of once the U.S. leaves Middle East, because it’s something much wider than the Middle East, but…
JV: Wait a minute. Terrorists are simply bad groups of people located throughout the world. , no different than, say, a motorcycle gang, or what have you, that is involved in bad activities. You’re not going to solve that problem by invading countries, overthrowing governments and occupying countries – that’s an insane solution. You’re going to win with good police work and intelligence gathering, that’s how you’ll defeat terrorism, they are just simply little pockets of bad people throughout the world you have to deal with, and creating Empire and occupying nations with military is not the answer.
SS: Fair enough, but on a different note – when you say America just needs to get out of all those countries, stop invading other countries and take care of its own business. I see it also from the other side – the U.S. is the richest country in the world and it is the strongest country in the world, and with that comes a certain responsibility. And what happens to other countries that really need American help?
JV: Well, first of all, we’re broke. We can’t help anybody; take a look at our debt. Let’s bring this down to basic terms – if you as a family are losing your house due to foreclosure, you’re 3 car payments behind, and your uncle Bob calls you and wants 500$ - are you going to give it to him? No! We are broke; we are so far in debt. A baby born today in the U.S., when it takes its first breath of air, it is 50000$ in debt. Is that ringing home? We have no money to give anyone, how can you call us the richest country in the world when we’re trillions and trillions of dollars in debt? How can you make a statement like that?
SS: But what is your solution to get America out of debt, because it is a catastrophic problem.
JV: Excuse me; you’re not answering my question…
SS:Oh, no-no, I’m just playing a devil’s advocate here.
JV: When we’re so far in debt that every child born in America starts its life in 50000$ hole, how are we supposed to give money to other countries, explain that to me!
SS: No, no, I am not saying America should give money to other countries, I’m just playing devil advocate and telling you, you know, some people would say “America is the richest country in the world, they should help poor countries”, that’s all I’m saying, because I won’t be the only one asking that question if you became president.
JV: We’re not the richest country in the world, look how far in debt we are, how much money do we owe China right now.
SS: Alright, fair enough, so I am asking you, do you have a solution to your debt problem, because it is a very bad problem, it’s catastrophic right now, and do you have a solution?
JV: Yes, I just told you two major solutions – stop foreign aid, and cut down defense spending.
SS: Also, there’s one topping which I want to touch upon…
JV: Excuse me, did I answer the question?
SS: Absolutely. I think everything you say is right, but I’m just playing devil’s advocate here, because I want to hear your answer on the questions you will get if you run for president.
JV: I’m prepared for them; I ran for the governor, I know what it’s like.
SS: I want to talk a little bit about Snowden and Bradley Manning – because, you’ve said that if you became president, the first pardons that you will make will be Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden. Everyone whistleblowing on a governments’ wrongdoing is a hero – that’s what you’ve said. But would you feel different if it was your government being undermined?
JV: No, because it’s not my government being undermined, it’s my government breaking the law. My government was breaking the law, and Mr. Snowden brought that to public attention. Now, my government should be punished for breaking the law, not Mr. Snowden. He’s the one that showed the people that the government was violating the 4th amendment rights, that the government was spying on them and that the government was lying to them when they were saying that were not doing that. How much more clear can you be on that? Whistlelblowers, who blow the whistle on government law-breaking – and the government needs to uphold its own laws and they need to live under the laws that they make us live under. After all, they are us. Here’s the problem – we’ve lost the sight of the fact that we’re the boss. The government works for us. They’ve somehow, through osmosis, reversed that, and made the people feel that somehow they lord over us and we work for them, and people like Snowden and Manning should not be in jail, they should be pardoned immediately for standing up for peoples’ rights against oppressive government, and government wrongdoing.
SS: Jesse, I really hope that you’ll make up your mind and run for the presidency. Thank you very much for this interview. That’s all for today, our guest was Jesse Ventura, a former Minnesota governor. See you next time.